Reviews

 Meditation as medication

 I mentioned meditation and a book I’ve been using recently in my post 2 weeks ago. I was given this book by my mum, (I hope she doesn’t want it back as I’ve now put post it notes all over it!) I’ve been to a few yoga classes and tried some meditation in the past but have never been able to do it. My brain is too buzzy and I can’t focus on nothing as I get random thoughts coming in all the time. I try breathing when I’m getting a massage and acupuncture but still the random thoughts come in, and all too soon I’m thinking of what I need to do and making lists and plans in my head. The only time I can totally switch off is when I’m in the cinema, so this isn’t meditation, it’s just I find watching films at the cinema relaxing. So I am sceptical about the benefits of meditation for me. I have the hope that it’ll work for me as I know I need to switch off more often than the once a week that I go to the cinema. So here goes, new year, new plans new focus.

I started reading the book and realised its split into 4 sections, so I started with section 1, meditations for relaxing and feeling safe. I like starting at the beginning, but this also seemed the most relevant to me at the minute. The other sections are, embracing joys and fears, befriending your anxious mind and body and connecting to the web of life. There is an introduction to each section explaining what the meditations are about and has an interesting section about meditation as medicine with references to 4 different authors who have investigated the scientific findings of meditation and health benefits. The one I was most interested in was Sharon Begley’s book “train your mind, change your brain” which talks about neuroscience showing meditation as training that can change the structure of the brain, this is known as neuroplasticity which is a current interest in phsychology and neuroscience circles (it was also brought up by Dave O’Connor during his mindset training that I attended on Sunday, all very interesting and linked to NLP which I am also  looking at) CBT practitioners also like meditation as it links into mindfulness which they have been promoting for years now. If you haven’t heard of mindfulness my take on it is that it’s about being present in the moment, making yourself consciously aware of your surroundings, smells, sounds, feelings and focusing on them alone, pushing all other thoughts out of your mind in order to challenge feelings of anxiety. I’ve been trying this for a couple of years now since my last bout of CBT and I know it works, but I’m not great at doing it. I found that I was mainly worrying when I was driving, so I started focussing on what I was doing more, listening to new music so I’d have to pay more attention and my brain couldn’t wander. I’m finding that audio books are a great way to do this and it also helps me do some training for my business at the same time 😄

I started by reading through the meditations in the first section, I know from yoga and Pilates classes that guided meditations are best for me as I focus on the person’s voice and the pictures that they are telling you to visualise and can push out my thoughts a bit easier, so I disreguarded the ones like the roadway to serenity where you have to quiet your mind, let your thoughts come and go and focus on acknowledging why you are feeling anxious. I also moved swiftly past the ones that aren’t relevant to me like the safety shield and befriend your panic as I, thankfully, don’t have panic attacks anymore. The ones that I liked the best were sail away and breath and light. I decided on sail away to start with and read it through I few times so I could remember what to do then lay down, put on some relaxing music (found on YouTube, I prefer water and forest sounds and no singing so had to go through a few to find one that I liked) and started the meditation. You have to focus on your breathing to start with, not controlling it, just being aware of it, then you imagine yourself  walking to a river and sitting down on the bank, you have a pile of leaves on one side of you and the idea is to pick up one leaf at a time and write down a fear or worry on it and put it down on your other side. I came up with lots of them and had quite a big pile before I started to get distracted so I moved onto the next action which was to put them in the river. I placed them into the river, one after another and watched them float out of view. This is meant to help you let go of any fears and worries. I really like it and have used it regularly in the past couple of weeks. One day I threw myself into the river with the leaves as I was so frustrated with everything that day! Ha ha ha! This made me feel a bit better and was a fun way of diffusing my tension and stress.

The second one that I like is breath and light. Here you have to focus on your breathing and see light that you breath into your body. You start at your head breathing the light in and visualise it filling up your head, then you move onto your neck and shoulders, arms, hands, torso, pelvis, legs and feet moving down your body. You can do it at your own pace as you move your focus back to the breathing and light cloud if it drifts away. I like to see the light as a floating cloud above me before I start, then it fills up each area of my body as I focus on each area, relaxing it and pulling the light in. I leave the light in my head and pull it downwards from there as the cloud above me gets smaller and the light fills more of my body. This one is a bit harder than sail away for me as there is no inner dialogue during this meditation, I have to stay totally focused on each area of my body as random thoughts come into my mind and I have to let them go and come back to the light and my breathing. It’s very relaxing and I like to do it before I go to sleep as it makes me focus on my body in a positive way rather than me thinking about which bits are hurting!

I’m trying to practise for about 15-30 minutes everyday and I find that I can do it best when I’m in the steam room at my gym or in bed. My mind is so busy all the time and I know I need to calm down and relax more and this is really helping. I’m finding it easier to do as I practise more except for the past few days as I’ve been buzzing with excitement after my weekend away and my birthday. I couldn’t manage it at all on Sunday night, and yesterday I was really struggling when I was at the gym, I couldn’t stop ideas and thoughts coming into my mind so I’m going to try again today and see if I can do any better.

I’ve been doing visualisations for my goals now after seeing Dave O’Connor on Sunday and I’m getting better at this as well. The premise is to think about where you want to be in 5 years, 2 years, 1 year, 6 months and 3 months and visualise how your life looks at each of those times, focus on the feelings, your surroundings, smells, sounds and place yourself in it. This means that you can come back to your goals in your mind whenever you need a boost, and also visualisation is meant to be able to help you achieve them. I’m  giving it a try, visualisation combined with action to achieve what you want in life, so I am visualising myself swimming regularly, going dancing, having a successful business and my own house, having a thriving online stick girl community and being a professional speaker on invisible illnesses and disabilities. So let’s see how it goes…stay tuned.

What are your thoughts and experiences of meditation?

What are your goals and dreams?

I’d love to hear about them and we can discuss, share hints and tips and support each other on our journeys.

Vic xx

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