I have been following an eight week meditation course. I’ve been doing it at home following a book written by Danny Penman and Prof Mark Williams called Minfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.
I have been interested in trying meditation for a while now and when Danny Penman followed me on Twitter – I checked out his profile and found the link to his book. And because I believe in signs and the book looked good I decided to buy it – and I wasn’t disappointed.
My favourite parts of the book are that it comes along with an audio which has eight meditations, each focusing on a different area – like concentrating on your breath, sound, thoughts, body sensations, physical movements, etc.
What is mediation?
Meditation in a nutshell is being as present as possible, not thinking about the future or past, but being in the now. This is done by focusing on what you are experiencing at this moment – your breath, sounds, what you see, feel, taste.
It’s about observing our thoughts instead of identifying with them. The book provides a good analogy for this – our mind is like the sky and the clouds are our thoughts. Sometimes the sky is clear, sometimes very cloudy, sometimes there are white and sometimes black clouds. To be present is to be aware of our thoughts and observe them as we would the sky, we are the presence behind the thoughts and not the thoughts themselves.
Mediation physically alters the brain
Mindfulness meditation actually physically changes the brain in a positive way in just eight weeks of practice and can help tackle depression. The book quotes a study done on workers over an eight week period. After doing meditation for eight weeks, the part of the brain which is activated when we are happy showed higher levels of activity then before this period, even after the workers were exposed to stress.
Mindfulness increased overall happiness, reduced stress, made the workers less anxious and more energised and even increased their immune systems by producing more antibodies. Research also showed that over several years mediation has a positive impact on the brain and actually changers the physical structure of the brain making you happier in the long term.
You might only have 6 years to live
‘If you are 30 years old, then with a life expectancy of around eighty, you have fifty years left. But if you are only truly conscious and aware of every moment for perhaps two out of sixteen hours a day, your life expectancy is only another six years and three months.’
Make sure you have enough nourishing activities in your life
We need to be doing nourishing activities to balance those that deplete us. An example that is in the book is when busy, most people often cut back on their hobbies, without realising that we need them to nourish us and keep us happy. But cutting out all our nourishing activities, could lead to a miserable existence and depression.
Meditation is hard to explain – to truly understand its benefits you must experience it
For me being present with my mind clear of thoughts is the greatest feeling. Its hard to explain and in fact I never understood the appeal of it, until I actually tried it.
The book ends with a beautiful poem, for as the authors write ‘sometimes poetry captures the soul of an idea more than any number of explanations.’
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
You just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
As long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
Every one of us is ancient,
Every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –
Shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.