I had heard from lots of different places that meditation was really good for you, but I didn’t have time for it. I was working long hours, looking after the family, seeing my parents more as they began to fail etc, etc. The usual stuff. I just didn’t have time. However, I did have a morning yoga practice, although this was very often just laying on my beach towel, (I use a towel to practice at home rather than a mat). Sometimes it was nice just to roll from side to side hugging my knees.
So I thought ‘why don’t I start with just 5 breaths at the end of my yoga practice?’. And so I did. Just 5 breaths, whenever I remembered, just after rolling about on the floor pretending to do yoga. This stuck for a long time. I got derision from the family, ‘How can you call that meditation? You are only doing 5 breaths!!’. But I carried on and sometimes, maybe a Saturday or Sunday morning, I managed a few more. Then I found the Insight Timer App and began to time myself for 2 minutes, then 5 minutes. After a while 5 minutes was not enough and I stretched to 8 minutes.
During this time I was working hard as a manager in the NHS and there were crazy deadlines and all sorts of different stresses. The family were moving away from home and my parents were declining fast. I began to feel as though I had a protective layer around me. I would describe it like bubble wrap all around me. The stresses didn’t hit me as hard, I was able to stand back a little and take time to make decisions, I was less reactive. I put this down to the meditation.
I must add here that I cherish my garden and each year I mix it up and plant new plants or move plants around. I have lots of pots of plants on my patio and they need constant watering, even if it has been raining as the leaves stop the rain water from getting to the roots held in the container. This needs consistency to keep on every day, sometimes a couple of times a day, to make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out. If this happens the soil shrinks away from the edge of the pot and when you do water it just runs down the side. Consistency is key.
I must have been doing something right with the watering as this year is the first year I had blueberries growing in the garden. I have had the blueberry bush for 5 years now and only had a couple of berries growing. Some years there has been nothing at all. This year it was wonderful to pop out the back door with my gloopy breakfast of yoghurt and porridge and drop a couple of fresh berries on the top. Yum.
Nowadays, life is very different. I am semi retired and I have more time for meditation. I am lucky enough to be able to fit it in most days. The duration has slowly extended, all with the help of the Insight Timer app. I guess I now average 20 minutes each morning. Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation, other times simply music, if it is early and quiet I can sit and meditate without any aids. I am so grateful that I have been able to develop this practice. Overall, it was down to being consistent. Showing up at the same time every morning, if I could only do 5 breaths then that was all I did, I never changed my goal, my goal has always been to do 5 breaths. 5 breaths before breakfast and after a little of my yoga, which of course is sometimes simply rolling about on the floor. Now I am beginning to learn what this practice is bringing into my life. A lovely article I read recently by Jason Gutierrez* states that meditation has been shown to:
· Relieve stress, calm your mind, and help you relax
· Reduce anxiety and anxious feelings
· Promote habit change through self awareness to unhealthy behaviours
· Increase awareness of surroundings, help you to appreciate the simple things, and be more present
· Provide clarity and techniques you can use in everyday life
· Improve focus, memory, self-control, happiness
Looking back, I can now see that I had inadvertently put some things into my regular practice that his article made me aware of. I always practice in my back room and look out into my garden, so when I open my eyes all I can see is the garden. I have a safe, favourite, comfortable place to practice. I linked it to something I do already, in my case that was my morning session of yoga but it could have simply been whilst my morning cuppa was brewing. I set my goal at 5 breaths a day practicing meditation, that is still my goal. It has been found that setting small, achievable goals is very helpful when you want to develop a new habit.
What about those crazy thoughts that go round and round as you sit there? Well, that is okay too. That is all part of it. If you bring your mind back to your breath just once during the time you are sitting there then you are on your way. The mind is the toughest muscle to train. My mind still wonders off and it is good to spend some time focussing on one thing. Then you bring yourself back to your breath and for a moment there is total peace and you can feel your body relax and let go. I do hope you will give it a go.
* How to Meditate Daily and Form a Lasting Habit Jason Gutierrez