Oprah Winfrey started doing it in 2011. Hugh Jackman has been doing it since 1995. Paul McCartney discovered it in 1967. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Hemsworth, Novak Djokovic and even former Special Forces soldier Matthew ‘Ollie’ Ollerton have harnessed it’s power. What are we talking about? Meditation, that’s what.
Mention meditation to most of your friends and they will immediately think of all kinds of people, visualising monks, tree-hugging hippy types, spaced out arty types or new-age and free-love types. We bet you did you! We won’t lie … for us it was a new-age-hippy combo. And isn’t that dreadful?! Admittedly there are many types of meditation, with some being rather full-on and probably too much for most of us, but why are we dismissive of something that is so helpful?
If I said to you we could help you calm the voices in your mind, help you relax and improve your general focus in life, you’d sit up and be interested, right? Well that’s what it does – it hands you the key to personal restoration, so maybe it’s time for you to discover the power of meditation.
Maybe you are aware of popular apps such as Calm or Headspace. You might even be one step ahead of us here and have already downloaded them to one or more of your devices. But that’s as far as many people get because they hit a hurdle or barrier. They’ve got that magic key, but something is stopping them from popping it into the lock and allowing mediation into their lives.
My barrier was fear of the unknown. I was worried about what my friends and family would think of me if I confessed I had started to meditate. So I put off using the app for a while, as I didn’t want them to type-cast me as I had done. I was also a bit scared of the process itself. What was it going to feel like? Would meditation make me sleepy? Was it going to take up chunks of my days when I was already struggling to get things done.
Life sorted it all out for me in the end. I hit a period in my life where the atmosphere at work, toxic relationships with a few people in my life and perimenopause symptoms all created the perfect storm of personal misery. Mindfulness was becoming a ‘thing’ and the ‘Calm’ app was on my phone. I had nothing to lose so I went for it.
After a bit of research, I realised that the kinds of people who were benefiting from mindfulness and meditation in particular, were not raging hippy types, but were people like me. Take the fame and fortune away from the pop stars and the actors and they are just the same as us, trying to cope with living their lives and raising their families in this modern world that we live in.
I also discovered I didn’t need to dedicate hours of my day to meditating. The ‘Calm’ app provides a ‘Daily Calm’ for example that is 10 minutes long. We can all spare that – you are taking around the same time to ready this blog, and you found the time for that, didn’t you? I often complete my ‘Daily Calm’ before I even get out of bed and will admit it’s a lovely start to my day.
Learning to meditate isn’t easy because at first you can’t ‘control’ or ‘focus’ your mind. We are so used to our thoughts racing around reminding us of all the things we haven’t done, that we often find it too hard not to think about the shopping list, the ironing or the work projects we have on the go. The ‘Calm’ app has taught me to control the thoughts that pop into my mind. I either focus on a black dot I can only see when my eyes are closed, or for the really persistent thoughts I visualise myself popping them onto a cloud that is passing by in the sky – I watch them float away, my mind pipes down and serenity resumes.
Many people worry that mediation makes them feel sleepy, when often they are feeling the long forgotten sensation of relaxation. I have found it to help improve my sleep, and for the days it doesn’t I have the option of indulging in a bedtime story. You see, these mindfulness apps offer much more than just mediation, and many will offer programmes to follow and music. ‘Calm’ even offer a walking mediation enabling you to combine exercise and mindfulness … that’s a winning combo right there. In fact, apart from music and streaming apps, ‘Calm’ is one of the very few apps I am quite happy to pay for.
Mediation and mindfulness were not something anyone would associate with me at all and probably still don’t. But the world we live in, now more than ever, challenges us. In fact you could go as far to say that COVID-19 isn’t the only global pandemic ou there as many of us now also suffer with stress and anxiety. Mediation is natural, restorative and free. It’s easier than you think. Experiment with it, try out some apps and find a tool that works for you. In fact, when you find the key, it will actually work wonders and do you the power of good.