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.

 

meditation, Stark Reality

Are You Waiting To Feel Better Before You Meditate?

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You want to meditate, but not today because everything is rubbish.

You got turned down for a job, you’re worried about money and your go-to behaviours for handling this sort of anxiety are in full swing. You want to overeat, blame, booze, imagine nobody cares, watch porn – choose your weapon.  The thought of facing all that anxious, itchy, tension in your meditation session is not appealing.

Make a cup of tea.

It’s never a bad idea. While the kettle boils, notice the pattern on the mug and watch the steam rising in an effortless swirl. Then make yourself this promise:

You can do all the destructive crap you want but only after you sit and meditate for 15 minutes.

For a simple meditation technique try this.

Drink your tea then sit and meditate. It won’t feel easy, you will be aware of all tension and edgy thoughts  – all that stuff that you’re feeling anyway.

But it will help and here’s why…

If you can sit with your experience and watch yourself squirming away from your feelings, you become a bit larger than them. You make a tiny space between you and your rubbish day.

That space holds the key to you making better choices. And reminds you that’s how you want to live.

meditation, Wise things

I Don’t Have Time To Meditate!

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Cunning ways to stuff meditation into chaotic days…

Are your eyeballs are out on stalks at the thought of another thing to do? Happily there are oodles of ways to squeeze meditation in without making it a big deal.

Maybe try:

  • Meditate for five minutes instead of trawling on IMDB for that obscure film director or scrolling mindlessly through social media.

  • Sit for three minutes in the loo. Generally people don’t want to know what you were up to in there.

  • Plonk yourself on a bench in the park at lunchtime, watch the squirrels for a bit and breathe.

  • Do a quick five minutes sitting in the car before you go into the house. This can be the re-set button you need to stop thinking about work.

  • When you notice you want to punch someone, put your headphones on and listen to your favourite meditation app – lots to choose from here. You can always thump them after.

  • Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning, yes really. Even if you’re not a morning person this is worth a try. Your brain will be a bit quieter and you will feel smug for the rest of the day.

  • Be realistic. Don’t plan to do an hour if your day is frantic. Five minutes is good.

  • Before you go out to the pub, sit on a chair and try this positive connection meditation. You’ll listen to your friends better and be nicer to the bar staff.

  • If you really don’t have any time to sit, try to pay attention to the present moment as this will at least give your mind a breather. Notice the sound of the plane flying overhead until it disappears or give yourself over to the crunch of your pork scratchings and do it with your full concentration.

Meditation doesn’t have to be formal. Squeezing it in where you can will help you just as much as having a regular routine.

meditation, This much i know

Six Things Meditation Has Taught Me / Linda Williamson

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By Linda Williamson

I learned how to meditate at school, which was pretty enlightened for a Glaswegian secondary in the early 80s.

Two Buddhist monks came to my religious education class and led a guided meditation. I was fascinated by the monks (so exotic!) but meditation itself wasn’t a cool thing to do. It wasn’t something I told my friends or family about. Meditation was seen as a bit bonkers, religious and eccentric so I kept my mouth shut about it.

My meditation life has not been a straight path. At times I have been totally committed to it, doing week-long retreats, meditating for seven hours a day and seriously considering joining a Buddhist order. And there there have been long periods when I haven’t meditated at all.  But I’ve never lost my connection to it. I’ve been thinking about the the most important stuff I’ve learned from meditation and top of my list are:

1. I am in control of what I pay attention to.

2. I can find anything interesting.

3. I create most of my suffering.

4. Running away from what’s happening doesn’t help.

5. Left to its own devices, my brain is an endless source of bad advice.

6. Meditation re-connects me to how I want to live.

 

Tell us your six bits of meditating wisdom!
There’s always surprising and helpful things to learn from anyone’s life lessons  – so share ’em!  We’ll stick them then in the blog. Answer in the  comments or ping us an email!

 

 

meditation, Stark Reality, Wise things

Suck It Up!

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Sometimes meditation rubs your nose in painful but ultimately helpful truths.

Inescapable realities:

  • Your mind talks rubbish: anyone who tries to focus on their breath for five minutes knows this.

  • You’re insatiable: have you had enough food, sex, praise, comfort, holidays? Has anyone?

  • Because everything changes, you can’t rely on anything.

  • Your chimp-based evolution has wired your brain to see threats everywhere.

  • You’re going to die (okay, meditation doesn’t show you this directly but it’s true anyway).

You were shielded from most of these certainties when you were young but if you ignore them when you’re an adult you’ll create problems for yourself.

Gimmie the numbing distractions!

Popular methods for avoiding awkward truths include: working too hard,  taking drugs, over exercising, procrastinating, pornography, self-loathing and checking your phone every two minutes.

Meditation removes some distractions so you are gently forced to see how things really are. This can be daunting but sometimes your coping methods cause more problems than facing the truths themselves. Late night drinking to avoid the fact that you chose the wrong career might be causing you more difficulties than actually changing your job.

Of course in many ways drinking will seem like a much more fun option than acknowledging that you’ve wasted time in a job you don’t like.

But before you throw your meditation cushion in the skip…

Remember you can only deal with something if you acknowledge it exists in the first place.

When you accept How Things Actually Are it will be much easier to find a happier way to solve your problems. In the same way you don’t become furious at gravity when you fall off a ladder, accepting that life is a bit shit sometimes, helps you come up with better solutions.

You can also take comfort in the fact that everyone you know, and will ever know, also has to deal with the same crap. It might even bring you closer together.

Meditation can feel a little brutal sometimes but life is tricky enough without deceiving yourself.

meditation, not being a twat

Be Kind To Yourself When You Meditate, You Numpty!

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If you’re not being nice to yourself, you’re flipping well doing it wrong!

There are great skills to learn from meditation: the ability to concentrate, emotional calming techniques, equanimity and how to flap your ears (kidding!) But if you try any of these without being kind to yourself you have missed the point. Because we’re all really good at beating ourselves up, most of us become easily annoyed or disenchanted with our efforts. Even monks who’ve been at it for 30 years get cheesed off sometimes.

But here’s one of the nice things about meditation – there is no doing it wrong. 

Just noticing that you’re distracted is meditation gold. Getting to know how your mind works is what it’s all about. When you appreciate how downright bonkers it is in there, you are in a better position to deal with what’s going on with some grace.

You’re not alone if think if your meditation would go a lot better if your mind would just shut up at your command. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that, but the chatter will settle down eventually if you keep realising you’ve got distracted and refocus your attention. It’s important that the noticing should be done with some kindness, or at least a sense of humour at how crazy your mind is!

If you want to be kind to yourself during your mediation, here are some suggestions…

  • Actually allow yourself five minutes to meditate.

  • Are your shoulders up by your ears? drop ’em cowboy.

  • If you feel a bit strung-out or anxious just accept it and lower your expectation that you should be calmer.

  • Put a sock under your ankle if it hurts a bit when you sit.

  • Don’t hurl insults at yourself when you get distracted.

  • Smile when you hear yourself grumbling.

  • Have a cup of tea after.