AS we prepare to celebrate World Meditation Day on May 21, it’s important to acknowledge the profound impact that meditation can have on our mental health and overall quality of life.
Speaking from personal experience, I can honestly say that meditation has transformed my life. At a time when I was at an all-time low, struggling with my mental health and feeling stuck, mindfulness meditation was the first thing that began to pull me through and out the other side.
As a mindfulness teacher who works with clients one-on-one, I have seen first-hand the transformative effects of a regular meditation practice in reducing stress, developing self-awareness, increasing self-compassion and emotional intelligence, and improving one’s ability to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and resilience.
So, what is meditation? Meditation is an ancient practice and is practiced in a variety of ways, but always involves focusing one’s attention on a particular object, such as the breath, sensations, a mantra, or visualisations. By doing so, one can calm the mind, reduce stress, and cultivate a greater sense of inner peace and well-being. There is a growing body of scientific research supporting many of the claims that monks and long-term meditators have been making for centuries. It is now proven that it reduces anxiety and depression, improves sleep, increases focus, improves emotional regulation, and improves cognitive function.
In a fast-paced world where we glorify busyness, meditation is counterintuitive.
You achieve so much by doing what, on the surface, looks like absolutely nothing. Yet, by showing up every day, doing the same thing, and practicing regularly, you can experience astounding transformation over time. Although from day to day it might seem as if very little is happening, in retrospect, less than a year later, the change is astounding.
In a world where we prioritise quick fixes and busyness, meditation isn’t necessarily the most alluring or glamorous choice. However, many people come to me because they’re desperate, nothing else has worked, and they have deep-rooted pain that needs to be addressed. Initially, meditation may offer only a momentary respite from the chaos of one’s mind, but over time, it can lead to an increased ability to navigate life’s stresses, feeling more at peace, and many of the aforementioned benefits.
Many individuals come to their first meditation class feeling nervous and unsure, but a few months down the line, they’re saying that it was the best decision they ever made. While others have struggled to meditate at home, they find that in a group setting, their minds finally start to rest. The combination of less distractions, focused time, direct support, and the group dynamic enables them to drop into the meditative space easier and deeper.
Many people believe they simply can’t meditate, thinking their minds are too busy or that it actually makes them anxious. However, the truth is that everyone can meditate, and it just takes practice and patience. The practice isn’t about eliminating your thoughts but becoming aware that you’re thinking, and in doing so, with practice, that takes away the power from your thoughts. If you find that the practice is increasing your anxiety, then try different variations.
You can try doing it with your eyes open, or try a more active form of mindfulness meditation such as mindful walking or mindful painting.
Adapt the practice to suit you, and don’t try to force yourself to do what doesn’t work for you.
So, if you’re ready to give meditation a try, then here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start small: It’s better to meditate for a few minutes every day than to aim for an hour-long session and give up after a few days. Start with just a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time as you feel comfortable.
2. Make it regular: As with any habit, choosing a time of day when you’re most likely to follow through is crucial.
3. Find a comfortable position: You don’t need to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. Find a posture that feels comfortable to you, whether that’s sitting in a chair or lying down.
4. Use guided meditation: There are so many apps and meditation recordings available on platforms like YouTube or Spotify, so look them up, and try different ones until you find the ones you like. My favourite app is Insight Timer.
5. Join a class: There’s nothing like the personalised guidance of a teacher and the group dynamic to help get you into that meditative state.
6. Keep it simple: You don’t need fancy equipment or a special space to meditate. All you need is a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and a willingness to sit with yourself and your thoughts.
7. Be kind to yourself: Meditation is not about achieving a particular state or experience. It’s simply about being present with whatever is arising in the present moment, without judgment or attachment. Be kind to yourself and let go of any expectations or goals you may have for your practice.
As we celebrate World Meditation Day, let us recognise the power of this ancient and simple practice to support our mental and emotional well-being. By taking just a few minutes each day to cultivate mindfulness, we can develop a greater ability to navigate the ups and downs of life.
Mirin Mooney is a mental health coach and mindfulness teacher who teaches mindfulness classes in East Cork and runs workshops and one-to-one sessions online. For more information, visit her website at www.wildheart-wellness.com.