The James Bond 5 Minute Meditation

A James Bond meditation needs to be sexy, tough and intense. This trakata meditation develops the skills needed to be James Bond, improving your memory and your focus. Direct all your concentration on one single point, a candle flicker. By concentrating on fire, you can attract brightness and strength into your life.

 

Step One. Gather a candle and a match and matchbox.

 

Step Two. You can begin the meditation, with your eyes open as soon as you are in a comfortable seated position with the three objects in front of you. You might want to be sitting down on the floor and having the candle on a coffee table in front of you.

 

Step Three. Pick up the match and hold it against the matchbox, ready to strike. As you flick your wrist to light the flame, notice the way that your body moves. As you reach the match to the wick of the candle, notice the movement of your hand and the heat of the fire. As you light the candle, notice how the flame is transferred from the match to the wick. Once the candle is lit, blow out the match, paying attention to the faint smell of smoke in the air. Place the extinguished match down safely. Commence looking into the candle flame. We will now begin a deep focus meditation.

 

Step Four. Focus on the way that the candle flickers. Keep your eye on the area near the flame, (but if you feel more comfortable, you can transfer your gaze to the candlestick). Let your eyes decide where to look, and focus on the object, noticing its appearance. Anytime your mind or your vision wanders from this focus, bring your attention back to your point of reference.

 

Step Five. After a minute or less, your eyes may wander, may water up or become heavy, or you may notice flecks of colour appear before them. Close your eyes and picture the shape of the candle. Recall exactly how the candle looks. Sit still, observing: seeing, watching, noticing the image of the candle in your mind. Reopen your eyes and look at the candle. After a minute or less, when your eyes become heavy, close your eyes again, recalling the image of the candle. Repeat once more, looking at the candle then picturing the candle.

 

Step Six. Opening your eyes once more and look at the candle. Take a few deep breaths and avert your eyes from their focus, looking a metre away from the candle. Gently return your gaze to the space before you and blow out the candle. Notice how the candle shape has changed.

 

Note - check with your doctor or optometrist before practicing trakata. Keep the meditation to 5 minutes for safety and have the candle arm’s length from you.

Camille WoodwardComment
The Anti-Resolution for Meditators: 5 Vows You Can Keep

Are you guilting yourself into meditating this year? Making yourself do 20 minutes of meditation every day so you can be as successful as Steve Jobs and Oprah?

Well, here are five meditation vows that you will want to do. You won’t be running off guilt, you can plunge deep into hedonism while still enjoying the benefits of regular meditation!

Number 1: Eat more chocolate.

 

Chocolate meditations are a blend of sensory indulgence and mindfulness. Try this meditation if you are seeking joy and indulgence in everyday experiences and you want to experience simple things with intense awareness. To prepare, buy at least one chocolate Lindt Ball of any flavour (I’m a chocaholic so I usually eat about four). Enjoying the textures and tastes will remind you how much fun eating is and how lucky you are to eat every day.

The Lindt Chocolate Meditation

Step One. Place the chocolate Lindt ball in its wrapper into the palm of your hand. Notice how it feels against your skin. Take a look at the wrapper carefully. Consider how heavy the chocolate is.

Step Two. Pick up the wrapped chocolate between your thumb and fingers. Can you feel how hard or soft the chocolate is? Can you feel it warming or cooling as you hold it?

Step Three. Start to unwrap the chocolate and notice the sound of twisting the wrapper. With the wrapper underneath, take a good look at the chocolate. Notice any contours and the texture of the chocolate. What markings does the chocolate have? Is it the same colour all the way across its surface? Is it shiny or dull?

Step Four. Now hold the chocolate under your nose and notice if the Lindt chocolate has a fragrance.

Step Five. Place the chocolate in your mouth and on your tongue. What is its texture in your mouth? What does it taste like?

Step Six. As the saliva moves across your mouth, you might notice the casing of the chocolate pop as the second layer of the Lindt ball comes to the centre. Feel free to bite the chocolate and pay attention to the flavours and the feel of the chocolate in your mouth.

Step Seven. As the flavour intensity diminishes, keep noticing all the small sensations in your mouth. As we come to the end of this chocolate meditation, focus on your breath. As you inhale and exhale, consider how you can take close attention to the joys of sensory meditation throughout your day.

Number 2: Enjoy swearing. Get angry, get even tempered.

 

When I come home from work and I am angry, I like to do a hip-hop angry purge. After the hip-hop meditation I feel like my anger has been expressed and am ready to enjoy my time at home. Try this meditation when you are frustrated, annoyed and angry. Get to a clearer mental state so that you can enjoy time at home and not carry stress on to loved ones. Not only will you be purging angry thoughts, but you are also developing your focus and letting the day’s stresses recede.

To prepare, download two hip hop songs you like. Consider if offensive language will be therapeutic or off-putting and select according to your preference. Queue your two songs. It is best if the first song has some interesting or angry lyrics. Queue the next song to have a rhythmic beat or some bass to it.

The Hip Hop Meditation

Step One. Make yourself comfortable. Take three deep breaths.

Step Three. Press play on your music. Close your eyes. Focus your mind on the song lyrics. As your mind wanders, bring your mind back to the lyrics. Concentrate on every word.

Step Four. For the second song, concentrate on the beat of the music. Let the lyrics wash over you as you hear for every beat of the song.

Step Five. Once the songs finish, take 3 deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

Number 3: Sit on the couch more, just like Bridget Jones.

 

New years resolutions insinuate that you are not good enough as you are. Are you scared to dream, scared to fail and scared to succeed this year? Change your mindset from contraction to expansion with this Bridget Jones meditation. In Bridget Jones’ Diary, Colin Firth says the ultimate compliment to the lazy ambitious, “I like you very much. Just as you are.” So how do you inspire yourself while still appreciating yourself? This Bridget Jones meditation creates a win-win because you can dare to dream but you can still justify your position at the end of the year as having lived by some worthy values.

The Bridget Jones Meditation

Step One. Sit on your couch. Take a few minutes to breathe, observing the breath in, and out.

Step Two. In your mind, think of a dream you have. What are the reasons why you haven’t been moving towards that dream? Is your self-belief holding you back?

Step Three. Think of three good values that are holding you back from your dream. For example, humility, stability and comfortability. Now replace each value with another value you will need to develop to achieve your dream. For example, resilience, perseverance and dedication.

Step Four. As you end the meditation, commit to putting these new values into practice. What is one task you can do today that will demonstrate a step towards your dream?

Take a chance on your dreams! And if you never hit the goal, be your own Colin Firth, love yourself just the way you are.

Number 4: Stop feeling guilty by others, peel off your band aids.

 

Feeling shame is hiding, concealing, covering. This visualisation meditation puts an image to the feeling of guilt and frees yourself up to peel away the shame.

Are you regretful of hurting others or feeling a sense of foreboding and disharmony? Let’s re-examine shame as a short term problem, you have control of how you feel. Discover how other people’s expectations have also been put onto you but you can peel it off.

The Band Aid Meditation

Step One. Think of a time you felt shame and imagine putting a small thin band aid on your skin, wherever you feel the emotional pain. Think of another time you felt shame and again, place a small thin band aid. Continue until you feel like you have explored the occurrences and the people who you felt shame from.

Step Two. In your mind’s eye, look down at your body and see the small band aids. Select a band aid, and gently peel it off. Scrunch the band aid into a small ball and throw it into the bin. Look down at the patch of skin and see how it looks fresh and in a few hours it will look unmarked and unblemished.

Step Three. You can peel away more band aids, if you feel ready or leave the remaining band aids for another meditation. Recall how the band aids are held on loosely and some of the band aids may have been put on you by others. But they are easily peeled away.

Number 5: Skip the gym and go to sleep peacefully.

 

Do you lie in bed thinking about all the activities you have to do the next day? Thinking of all the stuff you have to pack into your gym bag? And then you get stressed because you need to stop thinking and fall asleep to have the energy to get through the day. When you feel like a self-saboteur at night, having relentless thoughts, this counting meditation helps stabilise your mind.

What I like about the zen ten is that you create a win-win situation so that sleeping or not sleeping are both beneficial. There are only two modes in this zen exercise: meditating or sleeping and these are both healthy. A disclaimer, it is remarkably similar to counting sheep.

The Zen Ten Meditation

Step One. Get comfortable in bed, in your sleeping position.

Step Two. Begin a counting meditation. After you breathe in and out, count one. You just say the word one in your mind, not aloud. Breathe in and out, two. Breathe in and out, three. Continue breathing and counting. If you lose your count, start at one again.

Note: There is no need to fixate on the number; you are just letting the numbers and the breaths, wash over you. You are breathing and counting and relaxing. If you count up to a high number, you are honing your focus skills. If you keep starting at zero, you may be drifting into sleep. There is no pressure, no worries. Just relaxing.

Camille WoodwardComment
Mindfulness: the good, the bad and the ugly

 

Is mindfulness different to meditation?

First of all, what is mindfulness and is it different to meditation?

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Meditation can be thought of as a heading and the sub headings would be types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, insight meditation, sensory meditation, mantra meditation etc. On the other hand, if mindfulness is our topic, mindfulness meditation is just one part of living mindfully. Mindfulness is made up of doing mindfulness meditation and also by living in the moment. If you want more information about mindfulness, there are some soothing, picturesque quotes about mindfulness from the experts here. Of the list, my favourite is this from Sharon Salzberg, whose personal story overcoming childhood trauma is inspiring.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

— Sharon Salzberg

The good

Benefits: Just Do 25 Minutes For 3 Days 

Matthieu Ricard is a French scientist and meditation expert who extensively researches meditation and the brain. He is the author of the bestseller, The Art of Meditation. He talks of the intuition that comes from practicing meditation and how this clarity of mind can present itself in our daily life. He said, “Let us live simply in the freshness of the present moment, in the clarity of pure awakened mind.”

Can you get the benefit of clarity by meditating for just a short time? Yes, even a short term meditation practice can reduce stress levels to contribute to more clarity. In a 2014 randomised control test, 66 people were put into either a control group or into the meditation group. The meditation group completed a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation training program. The results were that the brief mindfulness meditation training not only buffered stress reactivity, but it also increased cortisol reactivity to stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation fosters greater coping, resulting in reduced stress and greater cortisol reactivity during social stressors. There is a taming of the mind as meditation teaches us to reduce the impact of stressors, quieten our thoughts and remain in the present.

Good News For Students Who Need Self Discipline And More Focus

Did you know even short-term mindfulness meditation training can improve focus, attention and self-regulation. A study was done in 2007 and after only 11 hours total of mindfulness meditation over a month, the subjects improved their attention and self-regulation. That’s great news, the participants only did 11 hours of meditation in total and still experienced the benefits.

 

 

 

The ugly. When your friends point out that you aren't mindful of others. Or when you feel like everyone else is centred, at peace and you are the only one struggling in a mindfulness class. Image from http://www.pmslweb.com/the-blog/crazy-friday-the-tgif-madness-is-strong/17-funny-doughnut-meditation-cartoon/

 

The bad

 

Meditation is generally not recommended for people with bipolar, psychosis or with PTSD. However, what if you have are unaware you suffer from bipolar and start a meditation program? It is similar to exercising while unaware you have a weak heart or eating a food you are allergic to but don't know.  Kate Williams, a PhD researcher in psychiatry at the University of Manchester and a mindfulness teacher said that, “Longer periods of meditation have at times led me to feel a loss of identity and left me feeling extremely vulnerable, almost like an open wound”. I think the bad side of mindfulness meditation can be reduced by discussing your meditation practice with a medical professional and stopping meditation if it is causing you anxiety. Bad things can happen from good things. I see meditation as similar to exercise. Exercise can cause injuries.  But generally, it is beneficial to most people.

The ugly

Mindfulness seems like aiming for perfection - to be non-judgemental and in the present moment. Point number 4 of Julia Cullen's list of why mindfulness sucks is funny. Julia Cullen is a corporate development consultant and she writes,

"Some mindful people have very high expectations from everyone (and themselves), but unfortunately fail permanently to live up to it themselves. So maybe better not talk about it so much, and accept we all are human."

I Am Sick Of Hearing About Mindfulness 

This overtalking about mindfulness reminds me of vegans. When you type into Google, "why do vegans always talk about being vegan" there are 12.5 million results to the search. If you click through a post on Quora, an online counselling company has written a cheeky comment to the thread saying, if anyone is struggling with their friends always talking about how they are vegan, they can consider online therapy because you are worth it.

In summary,

  • Even a short term mindfulness meditation practice of 25 min for 3 days can reduce stress levels, giving you more clarity.
  • Good news for students wanting more focus. After only 11 hours total of mindfulness meditation over a month, peoples improved their attention and self-regulation which are the two factors needed for focus.
  • Some people can get trapped in chasing perfection, being perfectly mindful and non-judgemental. 
  • Meditation is not recommended for people with bipolar, psychosis or with PTSD
Camille WoodwardComment
Meditation: Proven results for companies

It’s no secret that some global companies are leading the trend with meditation in the workplace which has showed the increase in the workplaces productivity.

 

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a pioneer by introducing meditation to Apple many years ago. As a daily meditator himself and the relationship he had with the practice along with the benefits it gave to him. He introduced this to his workers by giving them a 30 minute  break for daily meditation and classes to learn the art of meditation.

 

Google

Google introduced their meditation practice called Search Inside Yourself since 2007 to their employees, which transformed the way that the company worked. Along with their mindful lunches and walking meditations Google is training their employees to be more mindful have higher productivity which makes them higher revenue.

 

Nike

Some other companies leading the trend are Nike, HBO and Intel to name a few, with more companies on the Forbes 500 list which are introducing workplace meditation every single year.

 

Celebrities

Some well known high profile individuals are regular advocates of meditation. To name a few such as Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Jennifer Aniston, Clint Eastwood and Arianna Huffington.

 

As quoted by Arianna Huffington,

“Although I’ve known its benefits since my teens, finding time for meditation was always a challenge because I was under the impression that I had to ‘do’ meditation. And I didn’t have time for another burdensome thing to ‘do.’ Fortunately, a friend pointed out one day that we don’t ‘do’ meditation; meditation ‘does’ us. That opened the door for me. The only thing to ‘do’ in meditation is nothing.”

 


 

 

 

6 Meditation Benefits According to Research

 

Introduction

 

Many top 500 Forbes companies have regular meditation practice for their employees because of the increase in productivity and wellbeing. This report presents the proven scientific benefits including studies that used random control tests and were peer reviewed to ensure better quality of research.

 

To study the effects of meditation, studies have been made on meditators using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and EEG (electroencephalography). The results  showed the positive changes within the brain and bodily changes, (Tang YY, Posner MI).

 

The 6 key benefits of meditation are:

  1. Better focus and attention

  2. Stress reduction and anxiety

  3. More energy

  4. Increase in creativity

  5. More clarity

  6. A growing sense of peace

 

1. Better focus and attention

 

A study with very experienced meditators who had practised for over 10,000 hours, found  evidence of the meditators having a high degree of gamma activity in the brain (Lutz et al., 2004). Gamma waves are related to focused attention. Meditation training can eventually help reduce the effort it takes to focus your attention. Ultimately, sustaining focus becomes effortless.

 

However, even short-term meditation training can improve attention and self-regulation (Tang et al., 2007). After only a month of mindfulness meditation (only 11 hours of practice in total - a half hour, 5 days a week) the subjects improved attention and self-regulation.

 

Meditation can change both brain activity and structures, and may give us unique control over attention by promoting broadening and focus, (Fernandez et. al, 2013). The well renowned meditation author, Sharon Salzburg, stated “training attention through meditation opens our eyes.”

 

2. Stress reduction and anxiety

 

In the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction study (Department of Epidemiology) it was proven that meditation induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice.

 

In this study they systematically reviewed the participants for evidence of the secular mindfulness techniques for the function and structure of the brain. This was controlled from MRI throughout the study to state the conscious changes. The results showed increased activity, connectivity and volume in all of the participants. The overall findings gave an increased emotional and behavioral changes which overall benefited the participants.

 

A clinical Trial of Meditation for Work Stress, Anxiety and Depressed Mood in Full-Time Workers was conducted from 2002 to 2003 in Sydney Australia (Pirotta MV.) During the trial 178 adult workers were to compare mental silence approach to meditation with the benefits they received. The findings showed that during and after the trial it reduced work stress and the depressed mood state, with resulted in more productivity.

 

3. More energy

 

Dr Brett Steenbarger is a clinical psychologist who has specialised in the psychology of stock market traders and recommends meditation. He advises people to “think of life as a gymnasium and the obstacles we encounter as the weights we must lift to get stronger. When you can view challenges or resources toward development and not as unfortunate obstacles to be avoided, you'll be well along the path toward brain fitness.” Meditation rewires the brain by strengthening concentration so our energy is not wasted by distractions.

 

If we don’t meditate, Deepak Chopra, warns we will face a lack of energy. “The worst curse to befall anyone is stagnation, a banal existence, the quiet desperation that comes out of a need for conformity.” When you meditate you spring clean your mind so that you have more energy for tasks that are useful.

 

4. Increase in creativity

 

The creative process is a roller-coaster of creative blocks and sudden inspirations. Steve Hagen is the author of Meditation Now or Never and sees meditation as a way of living. He says, “If you can get past resistance to meditation, nothing else in life will be an obstacle.”

 

Creativity is deviating from past experiences and known procedures. To increase our creativity we need to create space for new ideas and meditation releases old stagnant thoughts which allows fresh ideas to surface. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, "all true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness".  Deepak Chopra advises “you must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible”.

 

In a university study, 40 individuals participated and had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks (Lorenza, 2014). They performed better in divergent thinking after mindfulness meditation. Divergent thinking is a method of creativity and is allowing new ideas to be generated.

 

5. More clarity

 

Matthieu Ricard is a French scientist and meditation expert who extensively researches meditation and the brain. He is the author of the bestseller, The Art of Meditation. He talks of the intuition that comes from practising meditation and how this clarity of mind can present itself in our daily life. “Let us live simply in the freshness of the present moment, in the clarity of pure awakened mind.”

 

Even a short term meditation practice can reduce stress levels to contribute to more clarity. In a randomised control test, 66 subjects were put into either a control group or into the meditation group (Creswell et al. 2014). The meditation group completed a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation-training program.  The results were that after brief mindfulness meditation training it not only buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but it also increases cortisol reactivity to stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social stressors. There is a taming of the mind as meditation teaches us to reduce the impact of stressors, quieten our thoughts and remain in the present.

 

As stated by Yi-Yuan Tang, a Texas Tech Neuroscientist), mindfulness meditation has been shown to cause distinct changes in brain structure and brain function. Sharon Salzburg discussed how a meditation practice could promote clarity rather than reactivity. “It is about having a balanced awareness about what’s happening around you, so that you can understand it rather than just react to it.”  

 

6. A growing sense of peace

 

Matthieu Ricard stated that, “while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”

 

An article in the Psychological Bulletin which showed EGG (electroencephalogram) slows down because of meditation. Within the human nervous system of the parasympathetic system meditation slows the individuals breathing, heart rate along with other involuntary motor functions, (Cahn, B. Rael; Polich, John).

 

Eckhart Tolle noticed “People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgements, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on.” An interesting point is that meditation does not block negative things “meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing to do the work.” -Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, Albert Einstein. Meditation offers benefits in our daily lives as we can better solve problems, as we become more aware and less reactionary. Matthieu Ricard stresses the importance of internal peace, “Nothing goes right on the outside when nothing is going right on the inside.”

 

The overall benefits

 

There are so many benefits and scientific research that proves what meditation can do for you. This section it is listing everything you could experience when practicing regular meditation.

 

·    Increases positive emotion

·    Increases immune function

·    Inner peace

·    Decreases stress and anxiety

·    Increases productivity

·    Increases your focus and attention

·    Improves your memory

 

References

 

Tang YY, Posner MI (Jan 2013). "Special issue on mindfulness neuroscience". Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience. 8 (1): 1–3.

 

Creswell, J. D., Pacilio, L. E., Lindsay, E. K., & Brown, K. W. (2014). Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 44, 1-12.

 

Fernandez, A., Goldberg, E. and Michelon, P. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age. SharpBrains, 2013.

 

Leiden University. "Meditation makes you more creative, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141028082355.htm>.

 

Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems. Mindfulness, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0352-9

 

Lutz, A., Greishar, L.L., Rawlings, N. B., Ricard, M., &  Davidson, R. J. (2004). Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. PNAS, 101 (46), 16369-16373.

 

Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152-17156

 

Cahn, B. Rael; Polich, John (March 2006). "Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies". Psychological Bulletin. 132 (2): 180–211.

 

Pirotta MV, Cohen MM, Kotsirilos V, Farish SJ. Complementary therapies: have they become accepted in general practice? Medical Journal of Australia. 2000;172(3):105–109.

 

Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Brain Cogn. 2016 Jul 15;108:32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001

 


Hip Hop Meditation

When I come home from work and I am angry, I like to do a hip hop angry purge. After the hip hop meditation I feel like my anger has been expressed and I'm ready to enjoy my time at home.

Current mood

  • Frustrated, annoyed and angry. It feels like you have been treated unfairly.

  • Needing to vent the build up of stress and to get to a clearer mental state so that you can enjoy time at home and not carry stress on to loved ones.

Benefits

  • Purge angry thoughts 

  • Develop your focus 

  • Let the day's stresses recede 

Preparation

  • Download 2 hip hop songs you like. Consider whether offensive language will be therapeutic or off-putting and select accordingly.

Time

  • 5 minutes

Meditation

Step One. Queue your 2 songs. It is best if the first song is more angry so that you can shake off all your stress. Queue the next song to be a softer idea or softer melody.

Step Two. Make yourself comfortable. Take three deep breaths.

Step Three. Press play on your music. Close your eyes. Focus your mind on the song lyrics. As your mind wanders, bring your mind back to the lyrics. Concentrate on every word.

Step Four. For the second song, concentrate on the beat of the music. Let the lyrics wash over you as you hear for every beat of the song.

Step Five. Once the songs finish, take 3 deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

 

Notes

1. My current favourite songs are Really got It, Jerreau  Swimming Pools, Kendrick LamarLose Yourself, EminemGold, Kiara and What they Want, Russ.  

2. Another variation is to vigorously shake your hands above your head in the first song. You visualise flicking away the annoying things that happened that day. At the end of the first song, you drop your hands onto your lap and feel all the energy shifted in your arms.

 


Chocolate Meditation

Chocolate meditations are a blend of sensory indulgence and mindfulness. Enjoying the textures and tastes reminds me how much fun eating is!

Current mood

  • Seeking joy and indulgence in everyday experiences

  • Experience simple things with intense awareness.

Benefits

  • Increases sensitivity to taste

  • Promotes mindful eating

  • Encourages you to find the joys in everyday life

Preparation

  • Buy one chocolate Lindt Ball of any flavour

Time

  • 5 minutes

Meditation

Step One. Place the chocolate Lindt ball in its wrapper into the palm of your hand. Notice how it feels against your skin. Take a look at the wrapper carefully. Consider how heavy the chocolate is.

Step Two. Pick up the chocolate between your thumb and fingers. Can you feel how hard or soft the chocolate is? Can you feel it warming or cooling as you hold it.

Step Three. Start to unwrap the chocolate and notice the sound of twisting the wrapper. With the wrapper underneath, take a good look at the chocolate. Notice any contours and the texture of the chocolate. What markings does the chocolate have? Is it the same colour all the way across its surface? Is it shiny or dull?

Step Four. Now hold the chocolate under your nose and observe if the Lindt ball has a fragrance.

Step Five. Place the chocolate in your mouth and on your tongue.  What is its texture in your mouth? What does it taste like?

Step Six. As the saliva moves across your mouth, you might notice the casing of the chocolate pop as the second layer of the Lindt ball comes to the centre. Feel free to bite the chocolate and pay attention to the flavours and the feel of the chocolate in your mouth.

Step Seven. As the flavour intensity diminishes, keep noticing all the small details. As we come to the end of this chocolate meditation, focus on your breath. As you inhale and exhale, consider how you can take close attention to the joys of sensory meditation throughout your day.

 


Examining Thoughts Meditation

This meditation helps to examine one problem from many different frameworks to prevent blocked thinking patterns.

Current mood

  • Confused about an ongoing problem
  • Circling thoughts but no new ideas on a long-term conflict
  • Looking to explore the issue from different standpoints to understand the situation better

Time

 20 minutes

Preparation

Select a problem that has been on your mind for awhile. During the meditation, you may want to write down insights at each step. 

Meditation

Step One. Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders. Find a comfortable position. Listen to the sound of your breath.

Step Two. As you listen to the sound of your breath, think about a situation or problem you are dealing with right now. A few may come to mind, just pick one you are ready to explore right now. Think about the problem for the next few minutes.

Step Three. With your eyes still closed, let’s start to notice our thinking patterns on the problem. When you think of the situation, are you filtering out other aspects? Try now, to see the whole picture. Think of some positives in the situation. What are some things you have learnt?

Step Four. In this problem, do you think in terms of good and bad people doing good and bad things?

Let’s re-examine the good and bad and put percentages on the outcomes. Maybe a person’s behaviour was 80% unsatisfactory. Maybe, when we think of an outcome it would be 80% good and 20% bad.

Step Five. Let’s take a few minutes to consider the evidence you have on the problem. Do you have enough evidence? Is this evidence coming from one source?

Step Six. Take a deep breath in and out. In this problem you are considering there is most likely a human element. You may have used mind reading to help make sense of the problem. Have you actually asked the person their thoughts?

Step Seven. Take a deep breath in and out. Is this problem actually as catastrophic as you think? What are the odds of a catastrophe actually occurring? Sometimes our mind magnifies fearful thoughts. It’s important to take a step back and get the thoughts into proportion.

Step Eight. Bring your awareness to your breath. Notice your chest and lungs move as you inhale and exhale. Let’s consider if you have personalised the situation. Is it really about you? It is likely that this could have happened to anyone and it is not intrinsic to your personality, it is just a result of factors. Perhaps you were in the wrong place in the wrong time but now you have the opportunity to react to the situation in a way that you can be proud of.

Step Nine. Take a breath in and out as we return to the problem. Does this problem exist because you think people should do things in a certain way? We each have our own values and those values are personal, are you imposing your views on other people?

Step Ten. Now imagine this problem is dissolving away. It is just fading more and more as you start to focus on your breath. You notice each inhale and exhale.

Step Eleven. Start to move your wrists and your toes slowly and when you are ready look at the ground in front of you and slowly raise your head. You might want to have a drink of water and a stretch.

 


Vision Meditation

"Everything is created twice, first in the mind, and then in reality," Robert Sharma. A building is created in the mind of an architect before it is created, the same for an artist producing art. You are your vision, your beliefs, your values, your habits, your actions.

Time

10 minutes


Meditation


Step One. Close your eyes and gently relax your shoulders. Pay attention to the sound of your breath. Hear yourself breathing in and breathing out. There is no need to change your breathing. Just notice the sound and rhythm of your breath.

Step Two. Ask  yourself, what are three values you cherish the most?

Step Three. Bring to your mind the vision you have for your life. Why are you here today?

Step Four. Now think about your habits this week. What actions did you take this week? What activities have you been spending your time on this week?

Step Five. Let it all go. Bring your focus back to the breath. Let it all go. Notice your feelings right now. You may be feeling frustrated, motivated, purposeful or sad. Feelings are temporary. We acknowledge the feeling as it is and let feelings come and go.

Step Six. Come back to the breath. Let the breath be your anchor to the present moment. Focus on the breath, breathing in and out.

Step Seven. With your eyes closed, gently rotate your wrists slowly. Rotate your shoulders slowly. So very gently, open your eyes, looking at the floor in front of you. And then gradually, looking up.


Mountain Meditation

The mountain meditation is famous for projecting stability. If I'm feeling like my life is becoming chaotic, this meditation both energises and stabilises me.

Current mood

  • Feeling imaginative and wanting to use the power of visualisation.
  • Wanting to access your inner strength. 

Time
10 minutes

Meditation

Step One. Sit up straight on a chair and have your chest open. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands. Gently close your eyes. Become aware of your breath. Breathing in, breathing out.

Step Two. Picture a mountain standing before you. Imagine all the details of the mountain. See the green slopes with belts of trees, rocky crags and the snow-capped top of the mountain.

Step Three. Now imagine yourself as solid as the mountain. Imagine becoming as tall and grounded as the mountain. You are still and tranquil. The weather may change, the river may flow, the storms may pass, but you remain stable as a mountain. You observe the changes without judgement, secure as a mountain.

Step Four. As the weather patterns change, notice the emotions that wash over you. Just following the weather and the emotions. 

Step Five. When you are ready, let the mountain drift away and notice your posture, sitting tall as a mountain. Gently breath in and out. As you gently open your eyes, take the stability of the mountain with you throughout your day.


Pain Management Meditation

I use this meditation for emotional pain and physical pain because it gives me a new perspective. By thinking of others, I find it relieves the alienation of facing pain alone.

Current mood

  • Feeling helpless, vulnerable and like no one understands the pain you are in.
  • Wanting pain relief, inner peace and connection.

Time
15 mins

Meditation

Step One. Breathe deeply in and out. Imagine the breath is flowing all through your body. Breathe in from your feet and bring the breath in all the way up to your head and then breathe out from the head and watch the breath flow down all the way to your fingertips and your feet. Repeat breathing deeply. 

Step Two. With a gentle curiosity, notice any pain in your body. Just observing and noticing. 

Step Three. There may be waves of painfulness, but you are deeply relaxed. You are not fighting the pain. Imagine all the other people in the world who are also suffering in pain. They share this experience of pain with you. Breathe into the pain and breathe out of the pain. Repeat breathing in and out. 

Notice how as you become more at peace with pain, and you are more at peace with yourself. There is a deep, pleasant relaxation. Your body feels warm and comfortable and flows with the rhythm of the pain. There is nothing you need to change or do. You are just relaxing and being in your body. 

Step Four. Imagine that the pain is an ocean, with waves that ride high and then crash and disappear. The breath is the wind guiding the ocean. As you breathe deeply into the body; you are the wind, guiding and soothing the ocean. 

Step Five. Continue to feel into your body and to feel your breath. When you feel ready, gently stretch and slowly open your eyes.

 


Sleep Meditation

When you feel like a self-saboteur at night by having relentless thoughts this counting meditation helps stabilise your mind. 

Current mood

  • Anxious about sleeping and worrying that you won't perform well the next day because of a lack of sleep.
  • Wanting a win-win situation so that sleeping or not sleeping are both beneficial.

Time
Unknown and not important

Meditation

Step One. Start lying on your back. Place your hands at your sides. Using your mind, scan your body for areas of tension. How does your body feel? Slowly release any tension in your body by breathing deeply in and out.

Step Two. As your thoughts pop into your head, just let them go. You can handle your day to day tasks tomorrow when you are in the daylight, and your mind is fresh.

Step Three. Now we will begin a counting meditation. After you breathe in and out, count one. Breath in and out, two. Breathe in and out, three. Continue breathing and counting. If you lose your count, start at one again. There is no need to fixate on the number; you are just letting the numbers and the breaths, wash over you. You are breathing and counting and relaxing. If you count up to a high number, you are honing your focus skills. If you keep starting at zero, you may be drifting into sleep. There is no pressure, no worries. Just relaxing.


Heartbreak Meditation

There are millions of emotions, thoughts and physical symptoms during a heartbreak. This meditation is breathtakingly simple and creates space for you.


Current mood

  • Emotionally shattered by a breakup 
  • Wanting to process thoughts, relieve the physical stress and let the emotions pour through

Time
25 minutes

Meditation

Step One. Sit with a straight spine and with your legs crossed. Your neck is relaxed and straight.

Step Two. Prepare for a prayer mudra. Place hands in a prayer position and bring the tip of the middle fingers up to between the eyebrows.  Your hands are not touching your head, they are a little away from the body. Your elbows are high and forearms are horizontal to the ground. 

Step Three. As you inhale and exhale, look within. 

Step Four. When you are ready, slowly stretch your palms to above your head. Slowly, bring your hands to your thighs.


Mindfulness: the good, the bad and the ugly

First of all, what is mindfulness and is it different to meditation?

Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Meditation can be thought of as a heading and the sub headings would be types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, insight meditation, sensory meditation, mantra meditation etc. On the other hand, if mindfulness is our topic, mindfulness meditation is just one part of living mindfully. Mindfulness is made up of doing mindfulness meditation and also by living in the moment. If you want more information about mindfulness, there are some soothing, picturesque quotes about mindfulness from the experts here. Of the list, my favourite is this from Sharon Salzberg, whose personal story overcoming childhood trauma is inspiring.

Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.
— Sharon Salzberg

The good

Benefits: Just do 25 minutes for 3 days 

Matthieu Ricard is a French scientist and meditation expert who extensively researches meditation and the brain. He is the author of the bestseller, The Art of Meditation. He talks of the intuition that comes from practicing meditation and how this clarity of mind can present itself in our daily life. He said, “Let us live simply in the freshness of the present moment, in the clarity of pure awakened mind.”

Can you get the benefit of clarity by meditating for just a short time? Yes, even a short term meditation practice can reduce stress levels to contribute to more clarity. In a 2014 randomised control test, 66 people were put into either a control group or into the meditation group. The meditation group completed a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation training program. The results were that the brief mindfulness meditation training not only buffered stress reactivity, but it also increased cortisol reactivity to stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation fosters greater coping, resulting in reduced stress and greater cortisol reactivity during social stressors. There is a taming of the mind as meditation teaches us to reduce the impact of stressors, quieten our thoughts and remain in the present.

Good news for students who need self discipline and more focus

Did you know even short-term mindfulness meditation training can improve focus, attention and self-regulation. A study was done in 2007 and after only 11 hours total of mindfulness meditation over a month, the subjects improved their attention and self-regulation. That’s great news, the participants only did 11 hours of meditation in total and still experienced the benefits.

 

 

 
 The ugly. When your friends point out that you aren't mindful of others. Or when you feel like everyone else is centred, at peace and you are the only one struggling in a mindfulness class. Image from http://www.pmslweb.com/the-blog/crazy-friday-the-tgif-madness-is-strong/17-funny-doughnut-meditation-cartoon/

The ugly. When your friends point out that you aren't mindful of others. Or when you feel like everyone else is centred, at peace and you are the only one struggling in a mindfulness class. Image from http://www.pmslweb.com/the-blog/crazy-friday-the-tgif-madness-is-strong/17-funny-doughnut-meditation-cartoon/


 

The bad

Meditation is not recommended for people with bipolar, psychosis or with PTSD. This article outlines some negative side effects of mindfulness meditation. I think the bad side of mindfulness meditation can be reduced by discussing your meditation practice with a counsellor and stopping meditation if it is causing you anxiety. Bad things can happen from good things. I see meditation as similar to exercise. Exercise can cause injuries.  But generally, it is beneficial to most people.

The ugly

Mindfulness seems like aiming for perfection - to be non-judgemental and in the present moment. Point number 4 of Julia Cullen's list of why mindfulness sucks is funny. Julia Cullen is a corporate development consultant and she writes,

"Some mindful people have very high expectations from everyone (and themselves), but unfortunately fail permanently to live up to it themselves. So maybe better not talk about it so much, and accept we all are human."

I am sick of hearing about mindfulness 

This overtalking about mindfulness reminds me of vegans. When you type into Google, "why do vegans always talk about being vegan" there are 12.5 million results to the search. If you click through a post on Quora, an online counselling company has written a cheeky comment to the thread saying, if anyone is struggling with their friends always talking about how they are vegan, they can consider online therapy because you are worth it.

In summary,

  • Even a short term mindfulness meditation practice of 25 min for 3 days can reduce stress levels, giving you more clarity.
  • Good news for students wanting more focus. After only 11 hours total of mindfulness meditation over a month, peoples improved their attention and self-regulation which are the two factors needed for focus.
  • Some people can get trapped in chasing perfection, being perfectly mindful and non-judgemental. 
  • Meditation is not recommended for people with bipolar, psychosis or with PTSD