Introduction to Meditation

Introduction to Meditation

Tue 11 May

For Mental Health Awareness Week, our counsellor Laura Griffiths has put together a general guide to beginning meditation.
It’s great that you have decided to start taking time out to look after you and your wellbeing.
When you decide to start meditating, it’s important to remember that this is about allowing yourself to be in the present moment, rather than trying to ‘achieve’ an immediate outcome. Hopefully by the end of your meditation you will feel calmer, though this too can vary from practice to practice.

Meditation is not about trying to turn off your thoughts and emotions, or creating a ‘blank mind’. It's about gaining an awareness of the present moment and learning to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

It may take a little time to get used to - after all, the pace of life nowadays can be intense, so taking time to get ‘out of our heads’ and be in the moment is bound to feel strange at first.

Please don't put pressure on yourself to be ‘good’ at meditating - that's kind of missing the point! Just try and take it as it comes, and notice what goes on for you with curiosity rather than any kind of judgement (something we are not used to doing!) It’s important that you approach meditating with self compassion and patience. Everybody will experience it differently, and it might take a few practices before you start to settle into it, and start feeling the benefits.
How often should I meditate?

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, meditation is a great tool to help calm and soothe the nervous system. It is incredibly grounding, and hopefully you will begin to feel the benefits of accessing this calm part of you almost straight away.

However it does require practice, and building it into your day tends to be the biggest challenge. One ten minute meditation a day can be enough to bring these benefits; hopefully you'll agree this is a worthwhile commitment.

If a ten minute daily practice feels a bit daunting when you're starting out, you could start with a short three minute meditation and build up from there, to get used to the process.

If you don’t manage to meditate regularly, don’t worry – positive benefits can still be felt from occasional meditation, for example on a day when you are feeling stressed, anxious or just not quite yourself.

When is the best time to meditate?

When you first begin to meditate, decide when it is going to best fit it into your schedule, as ideally this will be something you do most days. Having said that, there will of course be days where there simply isn’t the time, or you forget, and it's important that you don't beat yourself up - it’s life! It would be interesting though to note whether you felt worse, eg more frazzled or stressed, when you miss a meditation.

For some people, it’s a great way to start the day, particularly if you tend to wake up with automatic negative or anxious thoughts - a morning practice can unhook you from this unhelpful loop of thoughts and give your mind a rest. 

For others, a meditation can be a nice way of drawing a line when you get home from work, for example, allowing you to switch off from it.

For people who struggle to get a good night’s sleep, meditation can be an effective way of getting the body ready for sleep, easing away tension and calming the mind down.

It can be helpful to let those around you know when you are meditating so they know not to disturb you, otherwise it can be hard to fully focus. Telling people why you are meditating, and what you hope to get from it, can help them to respect this important time you are carving out for yourself.
How do I meditate?

Meditating is essentially gently focussing on your breath. Sounds simple! But people are often struck by how hard it is to keep their focus on the breath. Our brains are designed to problem solve - anticipating, planning, and reflecting. The mind wandering is so normal that stopping this can feel a bit strange.

During meditation you might realise your mind has wandered off again, and that’s fine! Simply notice where your mind has wandered off to, and gently, without judgement, bring the focus back to the breath. The more ‘mindful’ moments like this you have, the better.
It’s not working for me…

Meditating isn’t for everyone, so if you've given it a few goes and it leaves you feeling more frustrated than relaxed, then perhaps it’s not for you at this time. However please bear in mind that a wandering mind does not mean that you cannot meditate. It's usually a sign that you could benefit from slowing the mind down now and again - one of the positive effects of meditating!

Approach it with patience and self compassion, and if this is a concept that feels alien to you, then meditating is probably going to be even more beneficial!
Guided Meditations…..

You'll find a five minute meditation, and a longer ten minute meditation on our website, both with background music and without.

There are apps available which offer guided meditations and other resources, such as Calm and Headspace. You might find others online, with male or female voices, different accents, with background noise or without - there is no right or wrong. Alternatively you may prefer to meditate in silence; everybody has different preferences.
I wish you luck with your practice, and hope you feel some benefits. Let me know how you get on!

Laura Griffiths, YBTC Counsellor

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