Mind the Gap – 6 tips for meditation and mindfulness
In an era where we’ve been expected to be ‘ever ready’, bombarded by policy changes at a national level and challenged by how we come across on zoom (to name just three) it is now more important than ever to consider our mental well being, put our own personal care higher up the list and carve out something for us in these chaotic times.
This blog post is about something we’ve talked about in business networking meetings, on local radio shows, on local TV and in articles online. It was the starting point for our focus on the ‘Work/life balance’ for our clients (and anyone else who will listen!) and underpins everything we do as a business. It is a subject close to our hearts.
John our founder turned to meditation as a route to increased personal awareness and anger management. His increased sensitivity to the needs of others resulted in him training with The Samaritans and becoming a volunteer. He now shares his accessible tips to anyone who will listen! if they’ve got time 😉
This blog post is created as a result of interviewing John about his views and experience.
Meditation or it’s less intimidating cousin, Mindfulness, is our chance to step off the world for a few minutes a day, and just BE. So often we start the day with a sense of impending doom, a never ending to do list, which within minutes at a laptop is obliterated by new requests via email or challenging news, or end the day reeling from exhaustion from those tasks we have accomplished, painfully aware of those many things we didn’t even start. Yes it’s a vicious circle. And the more efficient you are, the more the tasks seem to materialise. So there’s no option for your sanity, other than TAKING SOME TIME OUT. Centering ourselves, if only for just a few minutes.
No wonder its become harder to wind down and recharge when we sleep. We’re used to being on the go all the time. On high alert for the next ‘invasion’ of the mind. Trying to get off to sleep is difficult for many at the best of times, not to mention the current state of flux we’re all in right now.
We’ve (author Helen and John) have found that if we take some time out each day, our reactions are more positive, or accepting of change, our sense of prioritisation is improved. We think of things we’d actually forgotten about,or perhaps see a simple solution to a complex problem, or at least a way of starting the unravelling process. We also react better when the inevitable changes happen. We are on the whole calmer and things flow better. So we are keen to encourage anyone reading this to have a go for themselves. It is even more essential right now.
“I have noticed that everyone comes to meditation from different places, and recently the definition has helpfully broadened from what was quite a strict practice which was almost impossible to achieve for most mortals (so failing, yet again, was on the cards unless you were fortunate) to something which is somewhat kinder to the soul, something which is less rigid and more conscious, the more holistic approach which includes mindfulness, yoga and even, shock horror, ‘moving’ meditation!” says John.
Here’s some of our tips if you are curious to know more. It’s not all ‘woo woo’. It’s quite straight forward really.
1. Be Kind to yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There’s lots of routes to the destination and you need to try them and see which works for you, there’s no end goal. If you gradually enter a calmer less anxious mindset, feel more balanced and are able to offer more mindful reaction to the unprecedented number of current stressors, then you are on the right track. We can’t change what happens to us, all we can do is change how we react to it.
2. You can meditate anywhere and whenever. However for people starting out, somewhere you feel safe and secure is usually more conducive and first thing and or last thing are often preferred initially. I found those times were best for me and helped me start the day more calm and sleep better at night.
3. Preparation. Make an effort to find a comfortable seat, or position on a cushion (anywhere you can be upright and not in discomfort basically) where you are not going to be distracted, the phone won’t go, there’s no additional stimuli. Sit in your spot, and give yourself permission to just be. Be compassionate towards yourself. Be kind. Be present.
Some people find a bell or similar can help them go into a new ‘zone’, and help prepare your mind for what is coming. I find it helpful to have an alarm set, I’ve heard good things about Insight Timer, a free app for your phone, and at first, aim for five minutes to start with and increase it from there as you see fit.
4. Getting started. You might want to pick some simple background instrumental music, there’s loads online, and allow yourself to breathe. And notice your breath. Counting breaths to ten, over and again is helpful for some people, others like to have their eyes open and let their gaze focus on something such as a candle or a crystal, or maybe you’d prefer to listen to guided meditations (which you can find online). A ‘body scan’ is a simple and useful way to enter a meditative state. Start at your toes and take your mind on a journey all the way up your body, checking for tension or pain and noticing everything about your body.
Warning! Be aware that your brain is not going to play ball, it is working against you here. So expect that and don’t fight it or feel annoyed about it. Think of the thoughts as clouds and let them float away out of your sight. And then simply move back to your chosen method of meditation. Your brain is geared up to think all the time, even when you are asleep, and it will fight you when you wish to tame it! Don’t judge, just shelve the idea and resume.
If you enjoy the support of others, consider joining an online community – Headspace and Breathworks are good, or find a regular session with virtual groups, where peer support can be very powerful and inclusive.
5. The less time you think you have for meditation, the more you need it! If you are feeling more anxious than usual this is the time where you need to make more time to meditate. It seems counter intuitive but I’ve found that a few minutes clearing your mind somehow resets it, and when you return to your tasks, something you had forgotten jumps into your mind, or previously unnoticed solutions become evident which make everything work more smoothly.
It’s so easy to become reactive. A few minutes ‘taking time out’ can make all the difference to your productivity.
I use meditation to solve issues, simply ask the universe before the session for help. What I call ‘Ask it then park it’. No need to dwell on it, just carry on as usual. You may then find the solution presents itself at the end or soon after. I now do 15 minutes every morning and I really feel it stops me over reacting to (most) things!
6. ‘Moving meditation’. You can transform a shave, shower, or walk (for example) in to a mindfulness practice by again using your senses as a way to focus your attention on what you’re doing, not what you’re thinking. This shift in focus helps your mind get quiet so you can hear what your inner wisdom is whispering to you. You can turn walk into a moving meditation, drop your attention in to your body and feel your weight transferring, your feet peeling off and then falling back down to the floor, your body moving through space. Walk slowly, staying present to every step, and drop the tendency to think about what will happen when you arrive. Free your mind of excessive worrying and be in the moment, concentrating on what you are doing in essence. It gives you a break. And we all need that right now.
If you want to get in touch about this we’d love to hear from you, please email John@theaccountancypractice.com