By Emily Harrison Call it meditation, mindfulness, being still, present or quiet time – this ancient method of bringing balance and connection is making a modern day resurgence.
From school kids - to Olympic athletes - to healing miracles – Mastery of the Mind is a powerful tool. Even science and medicine are now lining up to prove its benefits.
The list of benefits is extensive. And on the back of this growing awareness an industry is emerging with techniques, books, audio guides, retreats and so on to learn ‘what is’ and ‘how to’ meditate – but let’s look at the ‘why.’
If you think about it we give the outer body a good wash, sometimes several times a day. But how often do we clean out the mind?
We also feed the body several times a day. But how do we nourish our mind?
Meditation does just that. It helps regain control of the mind; it helps to catch the excitable puppy that is running around in circles trying to catch its tail.
Yet what so many people find, then quickly give up in despair, is once they stop and be still in the physical body, they suddenly become aware that the mind chatter is a buzz – racing in circles and just as out of control as the puppy!
It's something the sages of old have known since the beginning of time. As this saying goes:
‘you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day…unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.’
If I remember back to my first introduction to a meditation course – during the first morning of homework practice I had to stop (distracted by hunger) to have a snack…the second morning I discovered there was a leaking tap somewhere….the third day I knew the movements of the neighbours. The point being it can take regular practice, focus and a sense of humour to make meditation friendship with your mind.
It can take time to reign in and train the puppy.
The goal is to be master of the mind rather than be mastered by the mind; to be present rather than playing back what’s been and gone or playing out what could happen next.
And once the chatter has quieted down, it’s in this alert stillness that we have space for insights, ideas and inspiration to come to the surface.
It is where we can tap into our creative potential, naturally, without the use of mind-altering substances.
In next month’s column we’ll look at how this creative potential translates on to the canvas as I talk to an artist about meditation as part of her artistic process and inspiration.
Being in the midst of Winter, it’s a time when we tend to focus more inwardly – a natural turning in as the days are shorter, darker and colder. It can be a period of introspection before the burst of Spring energy entices us out.
So why not use the opportunity of the season to take time for stillness? Take some time to connect with the breath, still the body and allow the mind to de-clutter. But please, play lovingly with the puppy if you find it a little excitable.
Emily Harrison is a yoga teacher and writer who often has a mind that runs like an excitable puppy. She finds taking time for yoga, meditation and relaxation is important to keep the puppy under control (along with a sense of humour). You can read more at iamem.com