meditation, wellbeing

Alive!

 

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It’s only the flaming  Moon!

Imagine you have no head. Not like you’ve been decapitated, more as in there’s no distance between you, the rain, your heartbeat and your feet on the pavement.

Normally you’re so trapped in thought that you’re missing life’s vivid experiences. Fully immersing yourself in what’s happening around you brings you back to life. Appreciate the warmth in your hands, the sharp wind, an unexpected stab of anxiety – it’s all so real and most of the time you can’t see it because you’re caught up in your own bullshit.

When you get even the tiniest glimpse of how unlikely and astonishing life is, you’re changed forever.

Open Awareness meditation

This type of meditation asks you to be fully present in each moment. So whatever happens, regardless of your mood, how your body feels or the random thoughts in your head – just notice what there is to notice.

You are the space that all experience happens in.  You’re the theatre and the thoughts, sounds and sensations are the play.

Don’t single out any feelings, ideas or objects,  just let them be exactly as they are. You’re not curating this experience, or presenting it to yourself: it’s being aware of what’s going on that’s important, whether you have an itchy bum, are delighted to be going on holiday or are hurting to the core with grief or loneliness. Let go and receive whatever is there.

If your attention flickers, steady yourself by focusing on your breath. Then take your awareness wide again.

When you stop thinking about it, the world rushes in and makes itself really clear.

The first time this happens to you can come as a thrilling shock. Like you kinda knew it was all there all along, but you weren’t part of it in a meaningful way.

Open Awareness meditation reminds you that you’re as much a part of nature as the weather, birds, planets and the constantly changing light.

This meditation is a radically different way to experience your life. What else are you going to do before teatime?

 

 

meditation, selfhelp, wellbeing

Why Working Your ‘Attention Muscles’ Makes You Happier

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This frog may look serene but he has a marble stuck up his bum to stop him falling over

It’s the noticing that matters

Every time you notice you’re distracted and bring yourself back to what you’re meditating on, you exercise and grow the ‘attention muscles’ of your mind.

So what? 

If you meditate regularly, the area of your brain that you use to pay attention to stuff, changes. How? Well, the more you realise how much of your thinking is ridiculous, repetitive or reactive, the less you’ll do it. You’ll think, “Christ on a bike, I’m still finding ways to make myself feel bad about what happened last Saturday! This has to stop.” The annoying thought will probably return, but you will give it less credibility and will shrug it off easier than you did before.

Watch yourself

When you’re flexing your attention muscles your thoughts become more rooted in what’s actually happening around you, and less focused on your own grumbly musings. And when you’re more present and engaged in the moment, you will spend less time worrying about stuff you’ve fucked up – or might fuck up in future. That alone will make you feel better.

Your concentration levels will also improve when you notice how easily distracted you are. This means you’ll be more immersed and focussed on the things you enjoy doing. And you’ll handle the things you hate with more awareness, which should help you put some space between your unpleasant experience and your thoughts about it.

Remember you’re not trying to clear your mind during meditation, you’re returning your focus to your breath. Noticing stretches the muscles that will make you happier and less anxious regardless of how often you behave like a complete twonk.

fun, meditation, wellbeing

Grimly determined to feel calm?

See meditation as a game…

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A playful attitude to meditation stops it becoming a task

Signs that you’re taking meditation too seriously are: beating yourself up for getting distracted, worrying you’re not making enough progress or that it should be different to how it actually feels. It’s common to bring a work-like attitude into meditation and this can suck out all the joy from your practice. If you’re gritting your teeth through it, reframing your session as a game could turn it into something more enjoyable.

Why having creative approach works best…

  • You forget about time when you’re playing: doing something fun makes time zip past.

  • You don’t have big expectations – you’re meditating because you want to and not hoping to gain anything in particular from it.

  • Playing is relaxing and enjoyable, there is no big effort to get it right. 

  • It’s voluntary. You’re not meditating to impress the Dalai Lama or to make you seem more windswept. 

  • You won’t bad about not meditating. Do you feel guilty if you don’t throw your Frisbee around? (professional Frisbee players aside). It stops it becoming a chore.

  • Playing is the best way to learn anything. If you take the pressure off to achieve, it becomes a place where you can try things out and experiment a bit.

Next time you’re concentrating on your breath remember it’s not meant to be hard work. Relax, let your curiosity take change and just see how it feels. When you get distracted thinking…

“Must remember when the recycling gets collected… hmm, have to do the walk of shame to the bottle bank. That party was too loud… neighbours hate us. Should I be worried about drinking Tequila from that rubber chicken?”

Notice yourself spinning out and smile. It’s not a big deal. It’s kind of funny and when you laugh at your own ridiculousness you’re winning the game!

 

 

 

meditation, selfhelp, wellbeing

Brains Like To Worry About Stuff…

IMG_0800.jpgBecause you’re basically still a caveperson.

One of the more amusing things you will notice in meditation is your brain’s ability to escalate wildly. Your mind has an amazing capacity create much bigger problems. Say, for example, you feel a slight twinge in your back when you’re focused on your breath in meditation. Left to its own devices, your brain will be off and running like this:

Fuck! My old sports injury is back! It took years to recover the last time. My physio is really expensive too, he put up his prices last year. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I’m going on holiday next week and I don’t want to have to put up with serious back pain when I’m in Greece. That will be shite.

All this will take a fraction a second.

Dealing with this in meditation is simple. Notice your mind has wandered off, and gently shift your focus back. But it’s worth noticing the exaggeration process. You’ve gone from a tiny fleeting sensation to an expensive, debilitating condition that’s going to ruin your life. This is what brains do because…

Mentally – you are Stone Age

Your environment has changed enormously in the past few thousand years, but your mind is still wired to think everything is out to kill you. It was a good survival instinct at the time but Captain Caveman still rules your mind today. He’s always scanning the horizon for things that might go terribly, terribly wrong.

Given enough practice, you will get good as spotting when this happens. If you walk into work and your boss is unusually formal with you, you may notice that your brain is running away with itself thinking up reasons to explain why that would be. You can spot the daft theories about your boss not being happy with your finance report, or that HR has somehow caught you binge watching Great British Bake Off when you were working from home.

Catching your mind doing these bonkers somersaults and cheerfully ignoring them is one of the great skills to learn from meditation.