Always on the lookout for things to help give life a little extra glow, I went to a meditation workshop at the weekend with a good friend. At first I was a bit worried because this friend and I have been asked to leave exercise classes before due to uncontrollable giggling, so we are perfect partners for catching a comedy show or having a good night out, but a meditation class? Well, it could’ve been a disaster, so we had to promise each other we would act like the proper grown-ups we are. We also sat ourselves near the exit so we could make a quick getaway if we had to chant, as we knew that OM-ing would probably tip us over the edge. Surprisingly enough though, we were very sensible and floated out of the workshop on an air of calm serenity.
The Instant Meditator Workshop took place at Earthlife Wellbeing & Fitness Studios in Kew and was run by Karen Young, who had a senior career in corporate management before becoming a teacher in meditation and other holistic therapies. Throughout the day, Karen covered the theory of meditation and gave us some accessible and practical meditation techniques which would fit into everyday life and could be followed anywhere. Since I’ve honestly found myself feeling a real sense of peace since the workshop, I feel it’s only fair I share some of my favourite tips from the day with you so we can spread the glow together!
* The quickest way to relaxation is to stay in the present and the easiest way to be in the present is by focusing on your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste or touch. Research has shown that most adults spend about 55 minutes, in every hour, thinking about the past or the future. By using your senses to the full while in the present, you are inducing calm whereas thinking (about the past or the future) induces anxiety. Take five minutes to listen to the ticking of a clock or the sound of noises in the street, or eat a piece of chocolate and be aware of sensations, smell, taste – how does it feel on your tongue? What is the aftertaste like? Maybe put a drop of your favourite scent onto a tissue and close your eyes, take in the scent, focusing on your breath for a moment or two to calm and still your mind.
* My particular favourite technique which works immediately for me, is positive sighing. Breathe deeply, feeling the expansion of your lower ribs and diaphragm as well as your upper chest. As you breathe out completely, release a sigh softly – not in the exaggerated way you would let out a sigh of frustration – then feel the pause as your abdomen softens until you are ready to breathe again. Try this a few times and as each breath gets deeper than the last, you send messages to the brain that you’re feeling relaxed and calm. I love this as I can do it in the car, or while I’m helping with homework and I can literally feel the stress drain away!
* Reconnecting with your body during The Body Scan is a wonderful exercise for listening to your body, since we all too often ignore it. You can do this sitting up in a chair or sitting or lying on the floor. Systematically focus on each muscle area of your body, starting with your scalp and continuing down your face to your forehead, temples, eyes, jaw, mouth. Continue through your neck and shoulders, upper, middle and lower back and now through your arms to your hands. Extend focus through your chest, abdomen, pelvic area, thighs, knees, calves and feet. At each point, if you feel tension during the scan, take a slow breath and visualise the muscles in the particular area relaxing and releasing tension.
I’ve taken away a lot of the useful advice Karen gave us, not only on meditation but on ways to embrace the positive and am delighted with how it’s helped me feel so much more calm and lighter inside. Don’t get me wrong, when Little Teen can’t find her school shoes, the dog’s been sick in the kitchen and My Boy hasn’t finished last night’s homework, I can’t see myself doing an impression of the Dalai Lama and smiling through the chaos, but every little thing helps…as Edina from Absolutely Fabulous will show you here…
For further information on meditation courses and therapies offered by Karen, visit her website www.theurbanmeditator.com