Weekly Review Emails
I hope you enjoyed the first week of our meditation course. Here are the key points we covered:
- Meditation can be thought of as relaxing the body and calming the mind.
- Physical relaxation is a necessary pre-requisite for mental and emotional calm.
- There is no ideal posture in which to meditate. You can meditate whilst sitting, lying, standing, or walking.
- You don’t need to try to stop yourself from thinking. Doing so usually results in unnecessary struggle, strain and disappointment.
- Meditation doesn’t require 20 minutes alone is a quiet room. You can do it anywhere, and at any time.
Feel free to integrate them into your day in whatever way feels natural to you. Note however, that remembering to use these techniques may be the hardest part of meditation — so it pays to be deliberate. Make it a habit to ask yourself: “Could I meditate now?” It doesn’t matter where you are, what time it is, or who you are with.
It’s also useful to develop triggers that remind you to meditate. This week make use of waiting time.
For example, you could meditate:
- whilst stuck in the traffic or waiting for the lights to change
- whilst waiting for a train, tram, or bus to arrive
- whilst waiting for a friend to arrive or a meeting to start
- while you’re left on hold during a phone call
- while waiting for a lift (or during your time in the lift)
- whilst in a queue (e.g. at the supermarket or bank)
- as the kettle boils or you wait for the toast to pop up
It’s easy to underestimate the value of these short meditations. They may not seem like ‘real’ meditation. Don’t make that mistake. Numerous ‘spot’ meditations sprinkled throughout your day are much more likely to make a difference than the occasional long meditation.
Course notes for Week 1 are available in the Student Resources section of our website.
Also, if you can’t make your usual class, you’re welcome to attend any other class that week. Check the course schedule for times and locations.
JUST FOR FUN
Here’s a quick summary of the week one material put to music, courtesy of Lemon Jelly.
This week you were introduced you to some key concepts in meditation. Most importantly, you learnt that meditation involves shifting the mind from an exclusively thinking mode, into a more passive, and inherently relaxing, sensing mode. Keep this principle in mind as you practice this week.
We also explored the nature of our ‘normal’ mind in some detail; so it could be possible that you notice more acutely when you get trapped in stress cycles. This too, is beneficial. In fact, becoming aware of the causes of stress in your own life — as well as the physical, emotional and mental signs that accompany it — is a prerequisite for learning to effectively manage it.
THIS WEEK’S TIP
Look for opportunities to shift into sensing mode — deliberately look, listen, touch, taste or smell. When walking, feel the touch of your feet on the ground. Pause, now and then, and let your mind rest in the soundscape. Give your full attention to the taste of your coffee. Be creative. You can invent your own meditations. And keep it light. Meditation can be fun — a hobby you enjoy rather than a discipline you force yourself to practise.
And consider this. When someone makes a good decision why is it we say: He’s come to his senses?
P.S. If you haven’t already, grab yourself a Guided Meditation CDs, some mp3’s, or some reading material, to help you on your way. These are the ‘training wheels’ that will — often quite dramatically — expedite the learning process.
Meditation can seem complicated. Hopefully, by now you’ll have discovered that it’s not. In fact, regardless of the type of meditation you do, you’ll find that you’re engaging in a very simple three step process:
- Lose Focus
What’s important to realise is that ALL THREE steps are equally important. Being focused all the time is not the aim. Indeed, it’s impossible to maintain perfect focus because the mind is wired to keep track of changes in the environment (both within and around us).
In fact, what happens when you lose focus may be the most critical part of your meditation, because it’s here that you need to make decisions on how best to relate to the thought, emotion, or sensation that has arisen.
Trying to force yourself to remain focused and calm doesn’t work. What’s more useful is:
- to give yourself permission to experience whatever it is that is coming up (a cascade of thought, irritation or agitation, interruptions from outside)
- to be curious about what arises from moment to moment (as well as your reactions and responses)
- and to be gentle, rather than forceful, with yourself
If you adopt these kind of attitudes you’ll find that you can navigate your way more skillfully through the inevitable ‘distractions’ you meet as you meditate. You’ll also find that you gradually become more mindful (or aware) — you make friends with your mind.
This week, try out each of the meditations from our Six Spot Sequence.
Course notes for Week 3 are available in the Student Resources section of our website.
JUST FOR FUN
Let Spike from Meditation Kick’s Ass give you a quick run down on How to Meditate.
This week, we delve more deeply into relaxation, and we look at ways in which we can integrate meditation and mindfulness into our lives. For more information on both of these topics, and for a quick recap on what we’ve covered so far, refer to the Week 4 notes.
A FEW TIPS
As you may have discovered, meditation is easy to learn and easy to do. The hard part is remembering to do it. This is where you’ll need to be both disciplined and creative. You’ll need to come up with strategies that become habits. Once you’ve developed a meditation habit, your new-found skills can really start to bear fruit.
HOW TO DEVELOP A MEDITATION HABIT
Identify the times and places where you are most likely to choose to meditate. Are you drawn to a formal morning practice? Could you meditate on your commute to and from work? Could you arrive early (for example, when you pick the kids up from school) somewhere and then meditate in your car, or a park? Or perhaps you like to jog, cycle, swim or work out? All these activities can be made into meditations too.
You may also like to set yourself reminders, particularly if you have a very busy schedule. There are numerous smartphone apps that will both remind you of opportunities to meditate and offer you guidance. (Feel free to follow us on Twitter. We tweet a meditation tip or reminder once each weekday). Alternatively, you can make use of environmental triggers, and do spot meditations when you see something or someone. (e.g. someone wearing red, the sound of a siren, a particular item of food). Get creative. You could take a deep breath each time you see someone driving the same make or car as you. Or do a quick scan to see what parts of your body feel most tense each time you see the McDonalds logo.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT
This week pay close attention to your body — while sitting, standing, as you walk etc. Notice how it feels, where it’s uneccessarily tense, where and when it feels good. During meditations see if you can identify all the little signs that the body is relaxing — muslce tension releasing, the breath becoming soft, discomfort becoming apparent, little vibrations and movement within the body.
And if you have trouble sleeping do a bodyscan each night, even if only for a minute or two, in bed as you go to sleep.
JUST FOR FUN
Here’s a meditation to do when you don’t feel like meditating. Check it out. It might just be the highlight of your week!
Hopefully, by now you are developing some trust and confidence in your ability to find a degree of calm and balance when you need it. The next step is to use these skills as a stepping stone from which to develop a greater capacity to tolerate — and learn more about — your thoughts and emotions. In other words, instead of using meditation only as a means of calming down, you can use it as a means of self-understanding and exploration. This, I believe, is the most effective long-term strategy for developing a genuinely healthy relationship with yourself.
The recommendation this week, then, is to give some attention to your thoughts and emotions. See if you can start to identify what occupies your attention most frequently. What are the most common themes or ideas that concern you? What emotions do you experience most frequently, or intensely? Which ones do you have the most trouble with? The intention here is to start developing a greater awareness of your mental and emotional worlds, to begin making finer distinctions (e.g. are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful, important or trivial), and to develop the capacity to welcome and learn from all your emotions, including the one’s you may find quite difficult to tolerate.
Further notes, and guided meditations on thoughts and emotions can be found in the Week 5 notes.
If you found the meditation on emotions intriguing (or confusing) you may like to listen Karla McLaren explain the principles in more detail. And if you’re interested in understanding and exploring emotions in greater depth I highly recommend Karla’s book The Language of Emotions. And if you’d like to explore your thoughts in greater depth, there are a number of articles I’ve written available online.
Finally, here’s a passage from Lorin Roche and his wife Camille Maurine, on being tender with yourself: “During meditation your nervous system is engaged in sorting through experiences, transforming the negative into the positive. That is why having thoughts in meditation is healthy. Experience metabolises whenever your body is resting deeply. Life wants you to thrive and puts your instincts to work for healing. During meditation you invite the process to happen naturally, without conscious interference. If you are very tired, fall asleep if you have time. If you are crying, allow the tears to flow. If you are worrying, give yourself room to be with your worries. Learning to flow with this natural healing process is a major part of learning to meditate.”
Congratulations. You now know how to meditate. You understand the basic principles, you’ve tried a range of different techniques and you know roughly what to expect. On the other hand, keep in mind that while you have a good foundation, you are still very much a beginner. Learning to meditate is a bit like learning to walk. It will probably take roughly 12 months to get competent. Over that time, however, you will be slowly but surely developing the ability to manage your thoughts and emotions with far greater skill.
How are you going to make sure that you get the best out of meditation now that your course has ended?
Here’s what we recommend:
1. Practice daily, even if only for a minute.
2. If you’re not confident guiding yourself, listen to some guided meditations.
3. Repeat the course some time in the next six to twelve months. (You’ll probably be surprised at how much easier it is, and how much you forgot!)
4. Look out for one of our Mindful Mini-Retreats, a full Sunday of meditation practice designed to enhance and develop your skills and to free you from dependence on external guidance.
5. Dive much deeper on one of our short retreats, held in March and November each year in the beautiful Yarra Valley.
6. Learn to teach others on our Meditation Teacher Training program.
For casual guided group meditation classes, we can recommend Madam Heap in Middle Park on Wednesday nights.
We can also provide meditation sessions, or meditation and mindfulness training at your workplace.
You can find a summary of this weeks material and more suggestions on how to develop your meditation practice in the Week 6 notes.
We’d be very grateful if you could leave a review on Facebook.
From the Team at MMC.