It was a cold, busy weekday evening. My day was filled with people, emails, numbers, lunch, coffees, long queues, lifts and public transport. I made my way across London after work, fighting the rush hour crowd - ironically on my way to a beginner's meditation class.
Rigpa Meditation Centre has a relatively small shop front and was surprisingly large when I walked in. I was lead into a room with around 8 people sitting on a mat and cushion. A softly spoken lady then talked us through the basics of meditation:
Correct meditation posture is to cross the legs with one foot over the opposite leg facing the ceiling. Many beginners find this uncomfortable, and it can take some getting used to. Back is straight and alert, hands are placed gently just on or before the knees and eyes are gazed at about 45 degrees.
The lady explained that our aim in meditation is to let go of all of our thoughts and just 'be'.
"Think of a jar full of mud, where our mind is the jar and thoughts are the mud. If we are too concerned with our thoughts, the jar remains cloudy. If we forget about them the mud eventually settles at the bottom and the jar is clear."
One minute meditation
We were given 1 minute to sit and observe our thoughts. A bell was rung at the end of what was one of the longest minutes of my life! I found myself running through events, to-do lists, the time I would have to get up in the morning- it was ridiculous! Life can be so busy that we don't realise we're running at 110 mph all the time. This was why I wanted to try out meditation in the first place.
We were reminded to focus on our breathing, and not to get too stressed about having lots of thoughts. This helped me to relax and focus more on being present in the moment.
The 'Sit in'
The sit in was in the main shrine room. The room was peaceful- very silent and still. At times it became uncomfortable- I wanted to move or cough, or even tuck a strand of hair behind my ear- yet it was awkward to even move. However by the second 15 minute session, I had forgotten my surroundings. I was still thinking, but not about my day or my short term issues. I was thinking very deeply about the broader context of my life and the people in it, about the future. When the bell rang to signify the end of the second sit in, it even caught me by surprise and jolted me out of my vivid day-dream.
There are many benefits to practicing meditation:
- Increases positive emotions
- Boosts immune function
- Increases memory
- Improves attention
- Improves empathy and compassion
- Increases resilience in hard times
- Decreases anxiety, stress and depression
I attended Rigpa Buddhist Meditation Centre.
Have you ever tried meditation? Do you practice it regularly? Comment below!