I am attempting to meditate every day. It happened that i decided on New Year’s Day but it was not really a resolution so much as a coincidence. There has been some stress affecting me and i thought it might help me to take control of my mood a little, and make me feel stronger and calmer emotionally. I have a favourite meditation on CD that i use: Bodhipaksa – The Mindfulness of Breathing.
No, i am not on commission or anything, but i do recommend it as a simple and no-nonsense version of this classic Buddhist meditation practice. There is no silly music and he has a really nice voice with a Scottish lilt. That said, relaxation CDs are very personal, taste-wise, and you just have to find something that works for you.
The breathing exercise takes you through 4 stages (after the initial relaxing and settling in part) where you focus on out breaths, in breaths, spaces between breaths and then the point where the breath first enters and leaves the body, before widening the focus again to the whole breath and then body. It takes half an hour. I find it very effective and it feels like gentle exercise to me, as it stretches my lungs and i think relaxes my stomach muscles (as deep breathing makes the stomach rise and fall). I think this must be good for digestion/IBS too. I think deep relaxation must be very healing as the body is dealing with less stress, even if just for a short while each day, it must be good – maybe it releases some good chemicals or something! It makes me feel good and that is what matters.
It also feels like an achievement to do it regularly in a disciplined way, as i have done it every now and again in the past but have not stuck to it for long. I find it harder to do when very stressed/low/ill but i think with practice it is easier to get into that state and therefore it should be easier to continue in trying times. I thought it might also help when i get stressed/annoyed when i can’t sleep and help me to focus on myself rather than any snores/distractions coming from the other side of the bed! Well, i can only try…
I wonder if taking some control over breathing, one of the functions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), can help it to re-wire/heal or whatever it needs to do… the brain is supposed to be able to heal and my ANS is obviously not behaving itself well these days. It would be nice to feel i was re-programming or something although my breathing is not really a major problematic area, except when i exert myself. Anyway, just a rambling associated thought there…
When i was at university i used to go to a weekly meditation group for a while, with an actual Western Buddhist Monk! It was the first time i had tried it and I found it absolutely amazing. I used to float down the road afterwards feeling fantastic. I think him being there in person guiding us through it really helped to get into it (despite the freezing university building and numb feet and nose). I tried after that on my own but found the internal/external distractions too much. This CD is the closest thing i have found to having my own monk with me! I have listened to it so many times over the last few years but he has yet to annoy me, which is no small feat.
I am not a Buddhist, but many people practice meditation and take things from Buddhism without being actual Buddhists. I think my capitalisation of buddhist is wrong also, i am sure i read somewhere that it shouldn’t be, because he was not a god, just a man… i don’t know!
I am happy to report that after yesterday’s walk in the snow i have not felt too bad at all today. I did meditate then sleep deeply this afternoon which may have helped, but i am encouraged, and have even dared to make an appointment to get my hair cut on Friday, which i could not face the idea of recently. I hope I stay ok until then. I will try to be good in the meantime!