New Year Yoga Holiday

December 2017 29/12 - 05/01 £695
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Meditation and Mindfulness – Day 2

Starting your practice.

You don’t have to have a regular time or place to practice, but, without that initial regularity, it will be difficult to maintain a meditation practice. There will always be a reason why you can’t sit, even just for ten minutes.  Having that structure of time and place, creates a positive, habit reinforcement, so that your meditation practice becomes second nature to you, just like brushing your teeth.

You could choose to practice first thing in the morning. Great as a way of preparing you for your day. Or you could practice before going to bed, especially useful if you suffer from broken sleep.

Set aside a quiet corner of a room as your meditation area. If you don’t have a permanent place, you could make it a ritual setting up your spot to practice. I have a lovely rug that my daughter gave me and just the action of setting up my space, puts me in a state (reinforced by a regular practice) that is conducive to my sitting quietly. The more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Traditional zazen position for meditation.

The next step is to sit comfortably. Though this would seem an easy thing to do, for many, it is not as easy as it sounds. The main problem is accepting the compromise that ‘it will do’ and then trying to tolerate the discomfort. If you are not comfortable at the beginning, then you won’t be comfortable after 5, 10 or 30 minutes! If you are not sitting comfortably everything else will unravel pretty quickly.

If you don’t have a traditional zafu (meditation cushion) then any cushions, pillows or bolsters will do. Sit with as much firm support under you, so that the spinal column can lift up effortlessly. You can then, also support the bent legs, taking pressure off the knees and hips. In the beginning, you might also consider supporting the back of your body against a wall.

If sitting on the ground really isn’t an option, then sitting on a chair with a supportive back is good. Have your feet hip width apart, support your back if you like and rest your hands on top of your legs.

However you choose to sit, make yourself as comfortable as possible and very importantly, make sure you are at a comfortable temperature. Now we are ready to begin.

Take a few moments to scan through your body, making any last adjustments for comfort.

When you have settled down, just come to that ‘moment to moment’ awareness of your bodily sensations, feelings and thoughts. This means, observing how things unfold from one moment to the next, from one breath to the next. Each time you ‘sit’ it will be a unique experience. No two meditation practices you do, will ever be the same. On some occasions time pass effortlessly and in a flash, at other times it can feel like a Herculean task to get through a single minute! In the beginning, as we begin our journey into meditation, many things can (and will) distract us – an ache or an itch, an insect flying, a sound, a thought.

You may have heard the expression ’empty mind’ and believed that the aim of a meditation practice was to empty the mind. An ’empty mind’ is the side effect of practicing, not the aim. In your practice it’s OK to have thoughts, that’s just what happens. Don’t try to push thoughts out of your mind, as you will find it gives them more energy to rebound back in. When you realise that you are thinking, you could just simply say to yourself  ‘I am thinking’. The thought will fade away. Maybe another thought will rush in, to take its place. At some point after you have become consciously aware that you were thinking, there will be a little space or gap in the thought process, a period of stillness. Bring your attention back to observing your body. Notice if the spine has collapsed and gently re-lengthen it if it has dropped. Become aware that you are breathing.

With regular practice, you will find that the number of thoughts decrease and the still spaces or gaps between the thoughts increase.

Don’t be over ambitious. Start  with 5 minutes. If you have a ‘smart’ phone set your timer with a gentle musical tone to bring you out. (P.S.set it on flight mode!)