I first came across the ancient discipline of meditation after a particularly stressful bout of exams. I desperately needed to find some of that much talked about 'inner calm', when a friend suggested we attend a local meditation group. I imagined it would be led by some Zen-like guru, chanting mantras while arranging himself in full lotus position. I wondered how I would fit in, and if I would be able to keep up? I reflected that the only time I had any kind of contortionist-like ability I was still in nappies.
My friend was already a seasoned pro at the meditation game and more than happy to take me through my first tentative steps towards spiritual enlightenment. I was delighted to find my first experience of meditation to be a restful one, with absolutely no leg bendy tricks required of me. However, rather than tagging along with the rest of the group - as they were led through a land of green meadows and rainbow coloured waterfalls - I drifted off to the land of nod. Relaxing yes, but only because I was getting a much needed 40 winks.
I decided to return the following week, determined to listen to the gentle and soothing guidance of the teacher and not my own rambling thoughts. I soon realised that the practices were a way for me to turn off the constant internal chatter in my head. Meditation - over time - has become a necessary tool in my life.
The benefits of meditation are well documented, and are enough to convince anyone that it is worth giving it a go. Just for starters: stress levels are lowered, improved concentration, greater clarity and focus and helps you to live more in the moment. We are all aware of those activities that are good for us and that we 'should' be doing; whether it be joining the gym, investing in a yoga mat, or attending a local meditation class, but it's often a case of not enough time and that really pertinent question, 'Can I really be bothered?'. What I intend to put to you is that meditation need not be a time consuming, money draining activity and that it can work perfectly well, if not better, in the comfort of your own home.
Meditation has become the one ritual I incorporate daily, and it's become as rudimentary as combing my hair or brushing my teeth. I suppose it's like anything really; do it enough over time and it becomes habitual. I'm pleased to say that my daily 10-15 minutes is enough to suffice. I know those who dedicate an entire hour each day to meditation, but that always sounds a bit too hardcore for me!
To begin my session, I sit on a supportive cushion, legs crossed, keeping my spine straight with the edge of my bed for support. As all meditators will know, you can often feel chilly during your meditative state, so I always advise keeping a couple of blankets at the ready. Also, when I say sitting crossed legged, I don't mean trying to struggle into the Lotus position, but if you can, go for it. I know what works for me and have no urge to become the uber-meditator - my little routine fits in quite nicely.
I have tried all different kinds of meditations over the years from guided through to mantra-based, but have recently gone back to my meditation roots and enjoy the simple practice of becoming aware of my own breath. I place my hands on my knees; palms face down, and count my breaths on the exhalation. I go through this gentle rhythmic breathing for as long as I need. After 15 minutes I feel calmer, rested and more focused. I mention this simple meditation for precisely that reason...its simplicity. Less is often more in meditation, and I feel no reason to complicate the practice.
So, if the thought of meditation has always brought to mind those images of the Lycra-clad, wheatgrass guzzling fitness junkies that we associate with such leg bending practices; throw the Zen-like guru stereotype out the window, place your derriere on your chair of choice and simply meditate away...