Neurological studies have proven that meditation changes the brain, promoting wellbeing across mind, body and soul.  In our chaotic world, could meditation be the answer to all of our problems?

In this week’s wellbeing blog I’ll share my own journey into meditation and the three guided meditations I use with clients; one to relax, one to balance and one to heal.

“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment.”

Headspace

“Meditation is a catch-all word for a myriad varieties of contemplative practice, just as ‘sports’ refers to a wide range of athletic activities….Keep in mind that as gaining a new skill in a given sport, finding a mediation practice that appeals to you and sticking with it will have the greatest benefits.”

D. Goleman and R. J. Dvaidson, The Science of Meditation, Penguin Life, 2017

360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) My Journey into Meditation 

I want to start this blog by telling you a little bit of my story, my journey into meditation.  For at least the past 25 years I’ve had a deep intuitive feeling that meditation was one of the key disciplines that I needed to have in my life.  I felt it had the answer to questions I didn’t yet know, I was convinced it would help me gain greater control over my worrisome mind.  As much as I kept trying, I just couldn’t quite ‘get into it’.  How did you meditate?  It felt like a complete mystery.  I read articles, googled meditations and still struggled.  So I gave up for a little while, but the sense that I needed to do it kept coming back to me through all manner of channels.
I want to take you back a bit further, this was important for my journey and it might be important for yours.  As a child I was shy, and often the centre of unwanted attention from the other children.  I remember vividly the dread that would rush into my mind and body when it came to break time, even as far back as infant school.  Back then I would dash over to the dinner lady, who was on playground duty, and cling to her side for all I was worth.  Over the years I’ve put systems in place and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone countless times in a quest to overcome the shyness, the discomfort in large groups and the anxiety that builds in new groups.  The other thing you should know, which might at first seem a strange point to bring up in a blog about meditation but bear with me, is that I’m a womb twin survivor.  I hadn’t even realised it was a thing until a couple of years ago when I read an article about it, and subsequently found a website and research project dedicated to the cause.  It was at that point that I found out what some of the psychological manifestations are of womb twin survivors, it was quite a revelation.  By way of explanation, I want to share some extracts from their free e-book (found at the bottom of the linked page):

“Womb twin survivors are often extremely sensitive to their environment, especially certain chemicals, foods or stimulant drugs such as caffeine. They have acute hearing and general awareness and are easily distressed by too much activity, stress or stimulation going on around them”

“They are acutely aware of other people and very sensitive to their moods, particularly where this involves sadness or hurt. They react strongly to the atmosphere generated within a group of people.”

“As children they may suddenly become withdrawn and feel a dark mood of despair, a fear of death coming upon them for no particular reason…..The whole demeanour of womb twin survivors changes with their moods, which can oscillate wildly between despair and joy over a short period of time.”

A. Hayton, Could you be a womb twin survivor, pages 11-15 

So I learnt that womb twin survivors suffer all kinds of unexplainable psychological symptoms, that is until they become aware of the fact that this is the root cause, this is the first step to healing.  Another step is to connect with your story, work out intuitively what happened in the womb to help you let go of the attachment, and deep subconscious guilt.   Enter meditation again.  Meditation gives you a channel to connect on an emotional and  spiritual level to your story, a person, emotions, physical feelings; and  soothes through a process of awareness (or mindfulness) and acceptance.

Whether a consequence of my ‘womb twin survivor’ psychology or otherwise, my life has had it’s fair share of challenges and, at times, taken it’s toll on me mentally and emotionally.  Then one day, I found a way to meditate that worked for me.  That was over 2 years ago now, and the change has been profound.  Friends and family who have known me for a long time have noticed the shift, and I can feel it.  I started with guided meditations and still use them today, although I also meditate without guidance too.  I have 3 meditations that I teach as part of my holistic practice; aimed to support people to relax, balance or heal, and I’ll share these with you in this blog.

360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) Meditation and the Mind

Our root causes to fear, guilt, pain, repression etc. will all be different, and as you have read, can start even before birth.  Left alone, these conscious or subconscious feelings will start to show in mental health symptoms such as anxiety, worry, phobias or depression.  Mindfulness meditation is a route to stabilising the mind; studies by the University of Oxford found that after only a few weeks of mindful meditation, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression were reduced.  Meditation, over time and with consistent practice, is able to change the brain so that traits such as compassion and kindness become permanent traits, negative emotions can be removed and our minds calmed and soothed from anxiety and fear; this is known as brain plasticity.  With the development in neuroscience technology they have actually been able to prove that this change happens with prolonged meditation practice. 

“Meditation activates the CEO of the brain. · Both the quality and habitual focus of our attention directly shape the brain. · By becoming more profoundly aware of our awareness (i.e., through the development of meta-awareness), we can activate the parts of our brain that contribute to the highest levels of human achievement and social contribution.”

E. Thompson, The Neuroscience of Meditation, An introduction on the scientific study on how meditation impacts the brain

360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) Getting Started with Meditation

Choose a meditation style that suits you.  When you’re starting out guided meditation can really help and there’s tons on YouTube or you can try a few for free at Headspace, which is exactly how I got started.  Bear in mind that even guided meditations differ massively, so keep hunting until you find the one that you like.  The voice of the guider is important, as is the tone, pace and meditation subject.

Find a place and time where you can relax and be undisturbed.  Seasoned meditators can meditate anywhere, but when you start out (and still for me), peace is important to help you stay focused.

If at first you don’t succeed… don’t give up.  It takes most of us quite a bit of time and practice to remain focused during a meditation.  Our brains often flit to something else, get distracted.  Just be aware that you’ve been distracted and gently bring yourself back to the meditation.  It doesn’t matter how many times you get distracted, just bring yourself back, calmly and without judgement.

A good starter time for a meditation is 10 to 15 minutes.

When should I meditate? I mainly meditate in the morning but I also do SOS meditations and sometimes meditate at bedtime too.  Whatever works for you.  If you are typically someone who gets stressed in a morning or takes time to come round, this is actually a great time to meditate.  If you’re someone who has a busy mind and struggles to get off to sleep, then bedtime is a good option.

If your guided meditation doesn’t have music, you might like to try playing some quietly in the background.  There’s lots of meditation music on YouTube, here’s a couple of sound tracks I particularly like – Relaxing Celtic Music and Relaxing Music

Here’s an outline of the 3 meditations I teach to individuals and groups:


360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) A Meditation to Relax

This meditation works with breath and mindfulness to calm and soothe the mind.

  • Sit in a chair where your feet can touch the floor, your upright and comfortable.
  • Take 3 deep breaths:  Breathe in through your nose for the count of 3, so that your ribcage expands with air and your breath goes right down to your stomach. 
    • Hold the breath for the count of 3
    • Breathe out for the count of 3 – breathing through your mouth whilst making a continuous whoosh sound 
  • Close your eyes
  • Become aware of the space around you; the noises, smells, any tastes in your mouth, just notice without thinking about any of them in particular
  • Become aware of your body; the weight on the chair, the contact points on the chair, any sensations 
  • Keeping your breath steady and controlled, count your in and out breath until you get to 10 
  • Now start your body scan.  Become aware of each part of your body, starting at the crown of your head.  Move down the body slowly.  When you come to a part that feels tense (shoulders are often tense), gently and consciously relax that part of the body and then move on.  Work all the way down each part of your body right to the base of your feet
  • Keeping your breath steady and controlled, count your in and out breath until you get to 5
  • Now become aware of your surroundings, your body in contact with the chair, your presence in the room
  • Slowly open eyes, take a minute and be mindful of how you now feel

360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) A Meditation to Balance

This meditation works to balance the central meridian down through our chakras (energy conductors down the centre of our body)

  • Sit in a chair where your feet can touch the floor, your upright and comfortable.
  • Take 3 deep breaths:  Breath in through your nose for the count of 3 so that your ribcage expands with air and your breath goes right down to your stomach. 
    • Hold the breath for the count of 3
    • Breathe out for the count of 3 – breathing through your mouth whilst making a continuous whoosh sound 
  • Close your eyes
  • Become aware of the space around you; the noises, smells, any tastes in your mouth, just notice without thinking about any of them in particular
  • Become aware of your body; the weight on the chair, the contact points on the chair, any sensations 
  • Keeping your breath steady and controlled, count your in and out breath until you get to 3
  • For all of the chakras you are going to imagine the associated colour as a spinning disc, spinning steadily and evenly.  You will then imagine a bright light of the  associated colour joining the disc and enriching the colour.  You will focus on the disc for the count of 3 breaths.
    • Crown Chakra – white light:
      Just above the crown of your head, imagine a spinning disc coloured in bright white light, now imagine a stream of white light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Brow Chakra or 3rd eye – purple-violet:
      Right in the middle of your eyes imagine a spinning disc coloured deep purple.  Now imagine a purple stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Throat Chakra – blue:
      on the soft part of your throat, imagine a spinning disc coloured rich blue, Now imagine a blue stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Heart Chakra – green:
      At the point between your chest, imagine a spinning disc coloured deep green.  Now imagine a green stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Solar Plexus Chakra – yellow:
      At the point at the top of your ribcage, imagine a spinning disc coloured bright yellow. Now imagine a yellow stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Sacral Chakra – orange:
      At the point about 3cm above your navel, imagine a spinning  disc coloured in vibrant orange.  Now imagine an orange stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
    • Root Chakra – red:
      At the end of your spine (coccyx), imagine a spinning  disc coloured in deep red.  Now imagine a red stream of light enriching the colour of the disc
  • Let go of all of the colours, knowing every disc is bright and spinning evenly 
  • Become aware of your surroundings, your body in contact with the chair, your presence in the room
  • Slowly open eyes, take a minute and be mindful of how you now feel

360 Flourish Symbol Transparent XSmall-01 (1) A Meditation to Heal 

This meditation focuses on reiki energy filling and healing your body

  • Sit in a chair where your feet can touch the floor, your upright and comfortable.
  • Reach your hands into the air above your head and hold there whilst you take 3 deep breaths
    • Breathe in through your nose for the count of 3 so that your ribcage expands with air and your breath goes right down to your stomach. 
    • Hold the breath for the count of 3
    • Breathe out for the count of 3 – breathing through your mouth whilst making a continuous whoosh sound 
  • Lower your hands slowly down past your face and rest them palm up on your thighs
  • Close your eyes
  • Imagine the bright light of reiki coming down and through the crown of your head whilst you continue to breathe deeply and evenly
  • Imagine the light filtering down through all of your body, know that is it cleansing and purifying your body, healing your body.
    • Do this for the count of 5 breaths
  • Imagine the light has filled your whole body, every cell.  Now as you breathe deeply for the count of , imagine that the bright light of reiki is coming out of your skin as you breathe out, harmonising everything around you.  Bringing peace and healing
  • Now let go of the image and take 3 deep breaths
  • Become aware of your surroundings, your body in contact with the chair, your presence in the room
  • Slowly open eyes, take a minute and be mindful of how you now feel

If you’re new to this a guided meditation is a good option and 10 to 15 minutes is a good duration. If you want to talk about 1:1 or small private group guided meditation sessions or group events get in touch with me.  When I first started meditating regularly I subscribed to Headspace, you can access sample meditations for free and then if you want full access, it’s around £70 for an annual subscription.  I really loved this app and there’s lots of meditation packs to choose from (no affiliation).


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