Meditation for People who Can’t Stop Thinking!

Meditate by Frogarythm on FlickrHave you tried meditation but just feel that you don’t really ‘get it’? Do you sit there searching for a Zen-like calm but within seconds you’re planning your shopping list or analysing the plot of last night’s telly programme?
You are not alone!
I too am challenged in the Zen department!

The Zen Challenge

Although I have a lot of experience with hypnosis I have only got into meditation very recently. In January I began practicing mindfulness with Leo Babauta’s Sea Change program, including a brief mindful meditation each morning. His Zen Habits blog also has plenty of tips and info about meditation. The Sea Change program suggests starting small; meditate for 5 minutes – or 2! But make it a daily habit. I decided to make my habit something I do upon waking up.  I’ve tried breathing, staring at a candle and chanting.
My mind still wandered a little though so then I experimented with listening to guided meditations. Leonie Dawson has a free meditation to listen to here Meditation for Healing.
Then I began going to meditation sessions at my local Buddhist centre. The centre I go to is a big house, not a temple. There is a community of about 8 Buddhists living there. They have a public classroom for meditation and a separate public cafe. The weekly classes include a talk, each one with a different theme. I’ve found it to be very relaxed and informal and it gives me plenty to mull over on the bus home.

Have you got it yet?

Finally, this week I tried using the Headspace Meditation App (a guided meditation and mindfulness app.) Take10 is their free meditation programme that gives you a taste of meditation in just 10 minutes a day for 10 days. Andy from Headspace says, “That’s less than 1% of your day, so even the busiest person can squeeze it in.” The important thing that I learned from this app was that I was trying too hard to meditate. I was sooo concentrating on getting it right and achieving something and doing it correctly – my mind wasn’t relaxed at all! So the blue sky animation really helped me to understand that even on a cloudy day – the blue sky (clear mind) is still there… “Rather than trying to create blue sky, a state of happiness and calm, it’s more a question of sort of setting up a deck chair in the back garden, just sitting back and waiting for the clouds to pass.”

Why bother?

Yes it’s something you learn slowly and progress with over time. So is it worth the effort? I stumbled upon this article Should Meditation be included in the Education of Our Youth?

“Now these students are doing light-years better. In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly.”

Meditation is not a quick-fix for my whole life, it is a new habit that I’m forming. But after years of not really ‘getting it’ I think it was Andy at Headspace who finally made me understand.

“Remember that idea of the blue sky, nothing to achieve, nothing to create, it’s all about stepping back and just allowing the mind to unwind, in it’s own time and in it’s own way.” Take 10 programme, from Headspace

Trying too hard

Are you trying too hard? Do you need to let go and just ‘be’? Who’da thought that chilling out could be this difficult?! What have you discovered when you tried meditation? Let me know in the comments below.

PS. I am not an affiliate of Headspace. I just like it!

Thanks to Frogarythm on Flickr for the meditation image.

Learn a quick and easy technique for appreciating the little things in life with this free 10 day e-course.

Warning: This idea could make you happy

Patient AcceptanceThey say that life begins at 40 and recently I realised that perhaps it’s because by the time you’re 40 you’ve known at least one or two people who have died too young. You get to a certain age and realise that not everyone enjoys the privilege of growing old. So maybe that’s why in their 40’s some people have a good go at making their dreams come true.

Yesterday I had a perfect day. I didn’t know it was going to be perfect but I did hope that it would be good. I started the day by sticking a post-it note on the bathroom mirror that said, ‘I love you.’ The second one says, ‘How can I make you happy today?’ (These are ideas from You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.) It made me cringe to do it and it makes me cringe to write it, because I’m embarrassed by the thought of such airy-fairy new age love-yourself stuff. After all, most people think that kind of thing doesn’t work, right?

But the reason I’m sharing it here is because I think that little thing made a difference that day.

Admittedly I already had quite a nice day planned. Let me tell you what I did yesterday.

  • I began the day with a mindful meditation. (Never tried this before.)
  • I had a pub lunch with an old friend. We took her kids and my kids – most of them were dressed as pirates! We all laughed and had fun.
  • I treated myself to a massage and manicure as a late birthday present to myself.
  • I decided to start painting again and bought some watercolours and a sketchpad.
  • I spontaneously bought myself a colourful bunch of flowers.
  • When I got home I listened to Perfect Day by Lou Reed, whilst cooking myself one of my favourite meals. I had some glasses of my favourite wine.
  • I watched On the Road [DVD] something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. (I love the book.)

Why am I sharing this with you? Because strangely it was a new idea to me to organise a perfect day for myself. It happened almost by accident, but just asking myself that question in the morning, ‘What can I do to make you happy today?’ made me think about the answer. I was lucky enough to be in a position to give myself things that made me happy. I’ve spent a lot of my life wishing that others would make me happy. This day I experimented with being my own best friend. I wouldn’t say that I loved myself yet, but this was quite a successful first date. I might even agree to see me again…

Stick that question on your mirror tomorrow and see what you surprise yourself with!

Flowers, for me? From me? Thank you!

Flowers, for me? From me? Thank you!

Wish them happiness

So, I went to another Buddhist meditation class; this is now the second time I’ve been. This time there were a lot less people, which was interesting because we got to ask questions of the Buddhist monk, during his talk. This week’s theme was ‘Wish them happiness.’

What is deep happiness?

He explained that much of the happiness we experience on a day to day basis is a temporary happiness: like what you might gain from eating a slice of cake. This kind of happiness comes from external sources; food, addictions, relationships et cetera. As I understood it, deep happiness then is something that cannot be affected by external sources. It doesn’t fade when the last bite of cake is eaten!

How do you get it?

Of course that was our next question. You will be pleased to know that the Buddhist monk did reveal to us how to attain deep happiness: Wish deep happiness on others. Wish them happiness. The more you wish others happiness the happier you will be.

Feathers

He said that when we are seeking these external sources of happiness it is like we are trying to cover the ground with leather: Instead of wearing shoes. This reminded me of an episode of Fingerbobs: A beautiful and mellow children’s program from the 1970’s. “Yoffy” would tell a story using a selection of paper finger puppet animals, such as Finger Mouse.

I remember one episode where he told the story of the town where people loved to dance, but they had no shoes. Shoes hadn’t been invented yet. The land was very stony and hard. Whenever the people wanted to dance they had to lay down a carpet of feathers to dance upon. Eventually somebody came up with the idea of tying feathers to their feet, and then the people could dance wherever they liked!

Was Yoffy a Buddhist?

Yoffy was played by a Canadian actor called Rick Jones. Was this bearded and bald-headed children’s presenter a gentle and wise Buddhist, sharing his wisdom with the children of the 1970’s? Apparently not. According to Wikipedia:

“At the end of the series Jones was so sick of making the show that he destroyed the finger puppets while the camera was still rolling.”

Reasons to be cheerful #R2BC

if you want it I do love Michelle’s blog link-up (affectionately known as a ‘linky’) which is all about being grateful. For November it is being hosted by Becky at Lake’s Single Mum.

I really want to focus on appreciating the good things in life this month, so on Tuesday I went to my first Buddhist meditation class, which had the theme ‘Grateful Feels Good.’

Here are my reasons to be cheerful this week.

1) I tried meditation and I liked it. Gently guided by a Buddhist monk I breathed in golden light and breathed out dark smoke. Random thoughts rose to the surface and burst like bubbles in a drink. I listened to the idea of moving away from cherishing the self, and instead cherishing others.

“Put yourself slightly off-centre. Put others at the centre instead, then you will actually feel happiness and peace.”

2) My house. After 13 years of narrowboat life I now very much appreciate living in a cosy cottage with central heating. I have discovered microwave cooking and relaxing bubble baths. I adore my new washing machine. Turns out 21st century life has a lot going for it.

3) My daughters. My youngest baby turned four years old this week. We celebrated with cake, jelly and balloons. My daughters teach me to be joyful every day.

What is making you cheerful right now?

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Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart