Week 6Developing an Independent Meditation Practice
We’ve also explored advanced practices in which we focus on thoughts and emotions.
This week we’ll introduce a meditation on pain, and conclude with suggestions on how to further develop your meditation practice.
Meditation on Pain
When I use the word pain I’m not just referring to things like a backache or injury. I’m referring to the full gamut of painful experiences; from mild emotional pain (e.g. boredom) through to intense physical pain (e.g. a migraine or worse), and everything in between. Defined in this way, pain is something we all experience frequently. You might even say that the experience of pain, and the desire to alleviate it, is the primary reason we’re drawn to meditation.
So why meditate on pain?
Most of the time, we do our best to avoid pain. We take a Panadol when we’ve got a headache, we down a beer or two when we’re feeling stressed. Unfortunately, these strategies rarely help us to deal with the causes of our pain, and may actually make it worse.
In this meditation, we introduce strategies which help you to explore discomfort with an open mind. Instead of avoiding pain, you’re encouraged to examine it. By doing so, you begin to identify the thoughts, emotions and attitudes which amplify your experiences of pain. You can then modify your responses in ways that alleviate it.
How to get what you want from meditation.
Meditation is not as hard as it’s sometimes made out to be. You can certainly develop the ability to relax your body and calm your mind within six weeks — and if you just want to relax and sleep better you can get good results with just a few minutes a day.
Overcoming anxiety, chronic stress or entrenched patterns of negative thinking will require greater commitment. You will need to be clear about your objectives and set a plan in place to achieve them.
So, to start, ask yourself:
- Why do I want to meditate?
- How much time am I prepared to invest?
- How, where and when will I do it?
The clearer and more detailed your answers are to these questions, the more likely you are to succeed. At the very least, you will need to spend 10 minutes writing down your answers to question three.
Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to develop a new habit. Be proactive.
Here’s a basic plan to get you started.
- Whenever you feel stressed, do the 7 Deep Breaths meditation or some mindful movement.
- Create at least one trigger (e.g. a red light, being put on hold) that reminds you to do a short version of the 3 Point Check.
- Pick a place (on the train, in the car) where you commit to a 10 to 15-minute daily practice (that you really enjoy).
- Integrate moments of mindful walking, eating and exercising into your day.
- Do a longer breath or bodyscan meditation two to three times a week, even if only in bed at night.
This plan will require about 20 minutes a day, and it needn’t interrupt anything else you do. The challenge is simply to remember to do it, and to keep doing it.
Time spent reading about meditation, or talking about it with a friend or teacher, is also very useful. Make use of the guided meditations we have available, along with the recommended Apps, these course notes and the many additional articles. This list of our favourite books on meditation and mindfulness might be a good place to start.
See if you can find a casual meditation group to attend post-course, or do a refresher in a year or two. Most people need some kind of repetitive guidance for months before they can really do it well on their own. For ongoing support of this kind, feel free to join our Tuesday evening online practice sessions.
If you follow a plan like that outlined above it can be enormously valuable. Just to be able to relax consciously whenever you need to can turn your life around. It can give you immediate relief from insomnia, migraines, anxiety and panic attacks. It will help you enjoy life more and be more balanced and focused during the day.
Where to from here?
Keep in mind that it will take some time to consolidate the basics. Also, recognise that they are just the basics. There’s more to meditation than what we can cover in six weeks. Ultimately, you’ll probably want to let go of the ‘training-wheels’ and develop your own independent meditation practice, which doesn’t rely on any particular technique, nor the guidance of someone else. This is what we endeavour to teach you on our Mini-Retreat.
Here are some further options to consider:
- If you’re not confident guiding yourself, listen to some guided meditations.
- Repeat the course some time in the next six to twelve months in order to consolidate and develop your learning. (You’ll probably be surprised at how much easier it is, and how much you forgot!). (As repeat students you’re entitled to a $35 discount).
- Look out for one of our Mindful Mini-Retreats, a full Sunday of meditation practice designed to enhance and develop your skills.
- Learn how to be kinder to yourself on one of our Self-Compassion Courses, taught by Beth Milner.
- Enjoy the support of a teacher and community of meditators by joining one of Beth’s Meditation & Reflection Groups.
- Dive much deeper on one of our longer retreats, held in March and November each year in the beautiful Yarra Valley and in North Queensland during Melbourne’s cold July.
- Learn to teach others on our Meditation Teacher Training program.
- Subscribe to our newsletter for hints and tips, free guided meditations and other useful stuff on meditation.
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