Learn to Meditate: It’s a journey
Most of us have heard that we should learn to meditate, and for many people in the Byron Shire, meditation is a regular part of their lives. But when I first started having some significant health problems a few years back, I had no idea of the benefits that meditation offers. Because standard medical treatments were not working as quickly as I had hoped, I began to do some research online, looking for anything that might help. Meditation was one of the things that kept coming up in my searches. I was really surprised by how much research there was that clearly showed the physical, mental and emotional benefits of meditation. In desperation, I decided to give it a try. It was cheap and you could do it sitting down in the comfort of your own home, so how hard could it be?
Really hard. For someone with a lot of stress in their life, and the racing, busy mind that goes with it, I found it near on impossible. I didn’t know it would be so difficult to ‘just’ clear my mind and sit in peace, and in fact trying to meditate had the opposite effect. As soon as I would sit down and try to still my mind, my thoughts would begin to race like a runaway train. Every ache in my body became pain, and the more I tried to make myself sit still, the more my body wanted to move. I became increasingly frustrated and stressed the more I tried and after a few days I stopped even trying. I didn’t need to be doing anything that just made me feel worse.
A chat with a friend reignited my interest in trying again. They mentioned that there are lots of different forms of meditation and asked me if I had thought about joining a group and trying guided meditation. I had never heard of that so this comment prompted more research. I found out that for people who found it hard to learn to meditate, starting with guided meditations was a really good way to ease into it. Ongoing difficulties with my health prompted me to look for a group that did guided meditation. When I found a group close to where I lived, despite my misgivings, I went along.
The first time I went I was pretty surprised to see how many people were there. I was even more surprised when the facilitator explained to us that not only was doing a guided meditation in a group a good way to learn to meditate, but that many of the people who were there that night were experienced meditators who enjoyed the power of meditating in a group.
That first night was a revelation. I can’t say that I was transported into a state of bliss that first time, but what did happen was that my mind did actually shut up for a few minutes here and there, and I really did feel calmer at the end of it. By having the voice of the facilitator to focus on and by following her gentle instructions, I was able to be in the moment and stop thinking about my problems for a while. In other words, I wasn’t learning to meditate, I was actually meditating! And it felt good.
When I spoke to her afterwards the facilitator explained that guided meditation is perfect for people who have trouble stilling their mind, which I think is most people. By giving the mind something positive and calming to focus on, the person participating in the guided meditation still gets all of the benefits. For me, that was the thing that made the biggest difference and made meditation a lot easier. Doable, in fact.
I began to attend the group regularly and with practice, it got better and better. Yes, there were some times that I was really distracted and that run away train in my brain didn’t have much in the way of brakes, but this happened less and less as time went on. Because I was experiencing the benefits of the meditation I began to look forward to meditation nights. Even if I had been feeling stressed I always felt calmer afterwards, and I always slept really well on meditation nights! I eventually bought a couple of guided meditation CDs that I could do at home, and by doing those regularly, I noticed that my stress levels were a lot lower. I began to sleep better and felt generally more optimistic about my life, and best of all, my health began to improve.
Persistence pays off
Becoming a person who meditates regularly has been quite a journey for me, and at first it was pretty difficult. I am really glad that I persisted though, because regular meditation has really improved my quality of life and I am happier and healthier as a result. I can honestly say that the day I decided to learn to meditate was a very real turning point in my physical and mental health. I encourage anyone who has tried meditation but found it a bit difficult, to persist with it. It is absolutely worth it.
In my next blog I will share some of the practical strategies that I found useful (and some that I found not so useful) in making meditation a regular part of my life.
We have guided meditations at 9.20am for 9.30 start, Sunday morning at Unity House Byron. For more info click here.