06 May The Art Of Being Still
“The truth is, I don’t think I’m good at meditation. I know I’m out of practice with it, but honestly I was never good at it. I can’t seem to get my mind to hold still. I mentioned this once to an Indian monk, and he said, ‘It’s a pity you’re the only person in the history of the world who ever had this problem.’”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Take it from Liz Gilbert – author of the widely popular novel and movie Eat Pray Love – meditation is far from easy. During a remedial year of travel and self-discovery, Liz relied on the practice of yoga and meditation to battle the emotional trauma that was sending her into deep depression. She describes the healing power that meditation has, but isn’t shy in admitting that it can be extremely difficult to still the constant buzzing of your mind.
The healing properties of committed meditation are simply endless, providing your being with a state of profound silence and spiritual peace. In terms of the physical body, it can reduce tension-related pain like headaches, lower blood pressure, boost energy levels and improve your immune system. However, the greatest benefits of meditation occur within the mind.
Buddhist teachings often refer to what is known as ‘monkey mind,’ where the brain is filled with drunken, wild monkeys all fighting for attention. These little monkeys can quickly take over and throw a party, inviting their good friends stress, fatigue and moodiness to come and share in the fun. When standard daily pressures such as studying, full-time work or family commitments build up, it’s quite common to suffer from a case of monkey mind. However, if you’re noticing regular signs of strain and anxiety this could indicate that some part of your lifestyle is out of balance. Most times, there just isn’t enough you time.
Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. Practicing mental stillness during yoga enables optimum union with your supreme self – in other words, your most spiritual, peaceful and content self. Encouraging psychological stillness can assist in managing emotional trauma, stress levels and feelings of anxiety. It can also boost your mood, help you stay focussed by minimising mental distractions, significantly reduce negative emotions and increase your self-awareness. And for those who suffer from insomnia or tend to sleep restlessly, meditation before going to bed can induce a state of calm that encourages a deeper slumber.
It’s all well and good to read about the so-called benefits of meditation, but in order to experience them for yourself you really need to commit to regular meditative practice. You might view it as a chore to begin with but that’s only natural. In Eat Pray Love Liz teaches that she used a simple mantra – ‘Ham-sah,’ meaning, ‘I am That’ – in order to delve deeper into her spiritual constitution. Try deciding on a short, positive phrase to repeat gently in your mind to help you focus your meditation. It could be something personal or even the simple, traditional Hindu mantra ‘Aum’ (pronounced Omm.) Play some meditative music and sit in a comfortable position. And lastly, imagine your mind resting quietly inside your heart.
Be brave and take on the challenge of meditation! For one week, wake up ten minutes earlier than you usually would and devote this time to meditate and feel the physiological, emotional and spiritual benefits it can bring you. Though it may take some time to perfect, the art of being still is a precious experience.