By Dr Deborah Quinn
Mastering the art and reaping the rewards!
The mind chaotically chattering away can be exhausting. It by nature seeks to be full of thoughts, but has no quality control!
Let us look at a few practises which encourage relaxation of the mind: a letting go of some of the worries and mundane chatter.
All these thoughts literally tie you up in knots!
The first approach is to better master the art of relaxation as a precious part of your day, so we will be posting about some great tools to help you start the process.
This is an introduction to meditation for beginners. For the more experienced, please look to our future posts for further understanding and inspiration.
Photo by TJ Holowaychuk
Join a class, listen to direction from a download/book or just take some space sitting comfortably….
Here is a brief outline of what to could seek to observe and aim for, as you try this practice over time.
Stage One: Learning to observe
To observe what does run through your mind when you aren’t busy with your hands…When you listen to your own thoughts you begin to realise what a waste of airspace some of them are!
And they are not without consequence, all the worries and grinding observations you listen to 24/7 knot you up! Your body takes direction from your thoughts. Worries can create tensions throughout your body. The more tension you can release from your body, the more comfortable and energised you could feel.
Stage Two: Understanding the impact of your thoughts
To observe with interest how these thoughts make you feel! Here are some feelings you may identify… unsettled, anxious, bored, fearful, uncomfortable, unmotivated, angry, distracted…
So, some of your daily thoughts are not making you feel good?
Stage Three: Letting go
Try and empty your mind for just seconds at a time…. To think of nothing (the most difficult thing to do!!!). Try and be amused by persistent thoughts, not frustrated as this creates even more tension and defeats the purpose!
Stage Four: Enjoy some mastery
Aiming to ENJOY the practice of creating some space in your mind for tiny bursts of time. Observe how relaxed you may feel when this occurs. Observe how your body feels when this happens.
Stage Five: Feel the change
Listen to more creative thoughts that may start to enter your mind when it is given a little space (the tiny moments of silence can help encourage these new thoughts to pop up).
Aiming to experience more relaxation, mentally and physically, may appeal as a better way of daily living. It doesn’t mean you won’t achieve anything. With this state of mind you may achieve much more…..
However there are many tools to try and achieve a more relaxed state. If this one doesn’t suit you, look to our next step in the journey… Everyone is unique and what suits one person or feels useful may not suit you. Trying a number of different practices will help you discover your preferences.
A note from Natalie
Natalie is the resident writer, but not an expert. For expert advice, please book a consultation with Dr Quinn
Imagine a successful meditator: a graceful picture of calm collectedness…
Image from The Art of Unity.com
Then picture the antithesis of that, and meet me as a beginner!
In my defence, I expect this is the experience for many people. I think the reason for this is because of a misleading concept about meditation that makes us all assume it has more to do with a wider belief system or lifestyle, and not what it actually can be: creating a moment once in our day to just be still and do nothing.
Even that’s not easy.
It goes against the myth of modern living, I know, but you do actually have plenty of time.
So, let’s assume you’ve grabbed yourself a window of opportunity and you’re all alone… You’re about to hit a second obstacle: your own mind.
Image from theidproject.org
The hideous monkey-mind oft spoken about and constantly chattering away. You do not want to try and switch your brain off because it’s running more complex functions than we can estimate, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel less… attached to all that banality?
That’s really the point – not to change your personality, not to master the art of total non-thinking. It’s just to practice the fine art of letting stuff go.
Trying to keep track of ALL the thoughts dashing around my skull, I’m actually failing to really connect with ANY of them.
Thoughts are like scudding clouds racing across the sky. Put into that kind of perspective, it’s easier to view thoughts as one thing and you as something quite separate. The observer rather than the speaker. The audience rather than the play.
Photo by Joshua Earle
Whether you use visualisations, or a guided meditation, the hardest part is sitting still and not worrying about what you should be doing, or if you’re doing it right.
You may not like what flashes about your head when you first pay attention to it… Sitting still in the beginning seems to bring the most chaotic and mundane thoughts into focus.
But it passes.
I didn’t feel like I’d fully got the hang of meditation. But I noticed I was performing differently. Concentration was much easier for me. I started to notice other small changes too:
- I felt like my memory was getting better (no longer forgetting pretty much all words and having a thesaurus tab open on the computer at all times)
- No more falling asleep on the train and ending up in Bedford
- I felt less frustrated, bored, listless and in a vague way, less at the mercy of moods and emotions – i.e less overwhelmed
- I even started to skip my afternoon slump!
The more I practised those early 5-10 minutes of unplugging from the world and gazing inwards, the more aware, alert and calm I felt.
Aware of how nice it is just to be breathing and alive…
Letting thoughts go and dedicating a block of time just for being alive and not having to document it or excuse it for anyone…
Image courtesy of http://www.burningnightscrps.org
It’s true I’ve not reached enlightenment. My mind still has its monkey days, and it amuses me that it still tries to get me to do anything but sit still and quiet, but overall, the world seems a far more nurturing place than it used to.
Life is surprisingly attractive when it’s not flying by at the rate of a bullet train!
Read more in Relaxation Part 2