1. Introduction to meditation

Welcome to the Introduction to Meditation!

This course is perfect for anyone who is interested in learning how to meditate. It is a simple, easy to follow, 5-day course that will help you develop your own personal meditation practice. 

Throughout this series, I’m going to introduce you to the purpose and benefits of meditation, while helping you discover your own style. Each meditation we’ll cover something new before I guide you to a state of calmness, heightened awareness and energised relaxation through breathing and mindfulness exercises.

The point of this series is to help you discover meditation and learn what it means to you. Meditation is different for everyone. I’m going to help you understand how you can make meditation work specifically for you.

The first thing I want you to do today is let go of any preconceptions you have of meditation. Let go of any negative or positive connotations. Release any scepticism and any expectations. Let’s get back to the basics. Meditation is not teaching yourself not to think, nor is it blocking out your thoughts, or sitting still for hours. Meditation is not something you are good at or bad at. Meditation is a skill. It takes practice. It is a process. Some days will be better than others. But every effort you make to build your meditation practice will bring you closer to understanding yourself, calming your mind, and learning to love and trust yourself. You are going to redesign your mental roadmap - rewiring any destructive subconscious thought processes and replacing them with moments of stillness.


I hope you enjoy this guided meditation and that it helps you relax, brings you peace, and allows you to get the most out of your day.

2. Creating a ritual

This meditation will look at habits and understanding how to create our own personal meditation ritual.

You know that meditation is beneficial for you. You’ve read all about the health benefits. You know it will make you more focused, more self-aware, less stressed, give you more energy, improve your relationships... the list is never ending. But why is it so hard to stick to a regular meditation practice? Could it be that you are putting too much pressure on yourself?

You don’t have to meditate every day. Of course, meditating every day will be extremely beneficial, but skipping a day or a few days is no reason to stop altogether. Meditation is a skill, and every single time you practice, whether once a day or once a week, you are improving. Be patient with yourself. You don’t need to meditate for 20 minutes, especially not straight away. In this series we are building up from 5 minutes to 10 minutes of meditation to let you ease into it.

Creating a habit takes 66 days. Have a think about why you want to meditate - why will it benefit you? How will you feel right after meditating? How will you feel after a week of meditating regularly? How will you feel after a month? How will you feel once you have established a regular meditation practice and made it part of your everyday life?

What time of the day do you prefer to meditate? Is it first thing in the morning before your head gets clouded with thoughts? Is it during your mid afternoon slump? Is it after work, or before bed to make sure you get a good night's sleep? Where is your favourite place to meditate? Do you like to meditate alone?

Now that you know how you like to meditate, let’s identify some barriers to your practice - what stops you meditating? Is it thinking that you don’t have enough time, not being somewhere quiet enough, getting bored or distracted, being too tired?

I want you to think about what might stop you from meditating, and then figure out how to realistically remove that obstacle. There is a solution. You just need to find it.

What rituals could you put in place to help your meditation practice flow more freely? Could you set up a space in your home devoted to meditation? Could you light a candle to signify the start of your meditation? Could you do some exercises or stretches to bring awareness to your body and breath? Could you set up some cushions the night before so you wake up in the morning and get started without thinking about it? Could you put on comfy clothes that you make you feel relaxed? These are your triggers, the things you will come to start associating with meditation.

For example, I lay out my yoga mat as soon as I wake up in the morning and spray some of my own homemade meditation scent - a combination of relaxing lavender and grounding sandalwood. As soon as I smell it I am instantly in my meditation zone!


Start exploring and find what works for you.

3. Discovering mindfulness

Today we are going to explore mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about being present in each moment.

While we are meditating, our aim is not to count the seconds until our meditation is over. We want to enjoy the moments of stillness we have set aside. Try not to think about what you will do once your meditation is over. Be right here right now. This goes for everything you do throughout the day. By taking hold of our consciousness consistently throughout the day, mundane tasks become a joy.

As you wake up in the morning, take a moment to be still before jumping out of bed. Remind yourself where you are. As you shower, remember where you are and what you are doing. On your way to work. While ordering your morning coffee. Or serving the kids breakfast or folding the washing. We can often float through life on autopilot as we do the same mundane tasks over and over. But by being mindful, we can begin to find pleasure in the mundane.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains it perfectly “while washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterwards, so you try and get them out of the way as soon as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes. When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life.”

Once you adopt this outlook, the feeling that any task is  a nuisance will disappear. It is great to be mindful during meditation, but try to take this mindfulness into the rest of your day too. Mindfulness will help you go through life alert and focused. You will be more productive so your work skills will improve. You will be a  better listener so your relationships will improve. It’s not about discipline, it’s about pleasure. Finding enjoyment in everything you do. Live fully, each moment of your life.

 

4. Understanding your thoughts

Today we are going to look at our thinking patterns.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a process used to understand and change the way we think. By becoming aware of your thought patterns, you can figure out whether they are, or are not, serving you. And if they are not serving you, you can learn to change them.

I have found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the single, most effective way to help me regulate my moods and overcome stress and anxiety. It’s more than just simplistic “positive thinking”. It’s freeing yourself from negative thought patterns and opening yourself up to acceptance.

Here are some examples of negative thought processes:

Catastrophising

When you think that a bad situation is going to get worse and worry about potential bad scenarios. For example, you get a sore throat and immediately assume you are going to be sick for a week.

Mind reading

Thinking you know what someone else is thinking. For example your friend tells you she doesn’t mind that you cancelled your plans but you assume that she is angry anyway.

Over generalising

Just because something happened once, it happens always. For example if you fail one test in a particular subject, you assume you will never be good at that subject.

Black and white thinking

Things are either great or horrible - there is no middle ground. For example you miss the train and automatically begin to think you are having the worst day ever.

Do any of these sound familiar?
 

Today we are going to meditate to learn more about our thoughts and how they affect our emotions and actions. When we objectively consider our thoughts, we gain more self understanding.

5. Learning to breathe

Today we are going to explore the seemingly simple act of breathing.

If I said I was going to teach you to breath, you might think I’m crazy, as you obviously already know how to breath. But what if I told you you were doing it wrong?

Over time, the stresses of daily life cause us to change our breathing patterns. We begin to breath shallowly, into our chest, when really we should be breathing deeply into our belly. We touched on this in our first meditation, but now we are going to explore it a little deeper.

Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduces the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is what will send you into "fight or flight" mode. The balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems regulate how the body deals with stress.

Although I call it deep belly breathing, what we are really doing when we breath deep into our stomachs is maximising the use of our diaphragm. When we use our diaphragm properly, we are able to use our lungs to their full capacity and therefore breathe as deeply as possible.

Breathing deeply maximises the amount of oxygen that is entering your bloodstream. Benefits of deep belly breathing include mental clarity, increased focus and alertness, relaxation and calmness.


Now we’re going to learn how to add this to our meditation practice. I recommend you lie on your back for this one, as this will be the easiest way to measure your breathing.