My word for 2020 is presence. As a novice meditator for the past 15 years presence has not always come easy to me.
I've spent quite a bit of time travelling around SE asia and I can't help but appreciate the beauty and serenity within the buddhist culture. It's inspired me to want to learn more about meditation. Plus the scientific findings of the benefits of meditation are now undeniable. And as a long time scuba diver I personally experienced the power of my breath to control my nervous system especially when face with shark infested water or being attacked by a novice diver under water (another story)!
On land however, I'm a fidget. A mind that never stops and emotions that change quicker than the UK weather. When I began to practice yoga it not only saved my knees but helped tremendously to calm my mind. Incidently this is exactly why those clever yogi's invented the physical path of yoga. They learnt that meditation was tricky and that repetitive, intense movement help to quiet the mind. Today our Western experience of yoga is mostly the physical fitness but yoga was designed to find stillness and connect to the divine and higher consciousness. As a moving meditation it allows us to witness to our patterns of thinking and sensation and with experience we learn to tap into something behind them. In those brief encounters we tune into a source of space within. With practice this helps us to step back from the drama of the external world. It also encourages us to zoom in and notice the details of ordinary life, such as the colours hidden in a loved ones iris or how their smile begins in the eyes. These moments become an opportunity to experience awe, beauty and joy and again lead us ultimately to connect with divine presence.
Habits are however, difficult to cement and let go of, and whilst practice is always the answer, this year I'm throwing all I can at developing presence. These are my tips so far.
Morning meditation - a mindful morning routine is like taking a spiritual shower and sets me up for the day. I release from the day before and avoid (if only for a short while) sinking into the distractions and treadmill of external life. I enjoy guided meditation from www.insighttimer.com or practice my mantra sacchidananda - I aim for 8-15 minutes practice.
Join a meditation group. The collective energy of group meditation can be inspiring, it can also be distracting (choose wisely), Accountability in groups is helpful when you want to develop a practice and you get to share tips and experiences with the community. At the moment my mediation group is the Kailash Buddhist Centre in Wirral.
Nature. Spending time is nature is naturally healing. We are human beings after all and we didn't evolve to sit in air conditioned office blocks for 9+ hours a day. I hike most Sunday's. I enjoy the heart pumping climb, challenging my breath and the battle with the elements. Local fauna and flora opens your eyes and the change in height changes perspective. My go to at the moment is Snowdonia where you can enjoy a variety of hikes from beginners to nail biting climbs.
Attend to feelings. My pattern is that I tend to focus on big feelings as they erupt and that's because I've gotten good at ignoring the slow build up of pent up tension or resentments. My antidote is to slow things down and tune into my body. I process sensations via pranyama (breathing exercises), a movement and chakra alignment.
Read lots and listen to podcasts. The practice, the scientifc understanding and the physical benefits of meditation intrigue me. Sam Harris is my favourite source for information on the practice and science of meditation and Russell Brand talks alot about the spiritual benefits of meditation on his website https://www.russellbrand.com Meditation last thing at night. It's hard to do every night. I notice that when I stop my habits return. Again my chosen app is www.insighttimer.com
Perspectives. As David Thoreau put it, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” When we begin to see our purchases through the lens of exchanging life, then we can better appreciate their full cost.
Metaphor. An experienced meditator suggested to me that I begin to see my mind as an open wound. 'Toxins' such as jealousy, hate, greed etc can begin to fester in the mind and hese powerful patterns of thinking are detrimental to myself, (and yes it's not nice to be on the receiving end) poisoning my body with hormones and creating sympathetic nervous system over-drive.
Distractions. Releasing yourself from distractions - material or psychological is essential. I've experience three house downsizings so I'm pretty low on stuff. However there is always room for improvment. I'm currently reading Goodbye-Things-New-Japanese-Minimalism
"Don't beat myself up." I'm human, I forget sometimes! I will always be a beginner when it comes to being human - not met anyone yet who has mastered the art of being perfect.