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Meditation Bournemouth Groups
NEW from September 2019
8-Week Mindfulness & Meditation Intro Courses
Wednesdays 7,30pm from 18 Sep
Sundays 7pm from 22 Sep
Weekly Mindfulness & Meditation Support Groups
Thursdays (Christian focus) 7,30pm
Mindfulness Workshops for Yoga Teachers
Saturday 28 Sep – Cheshire
Saturday 12 Oct – Ipswich
Saturday 19 Oct – Waterlooville, Hampshire
Mindfulness at Work Workshops
Friday 22nd November – Bournemouth
Guest Appearances & Talks
Saturday 23rd Nov – All Us Men Bournemouth Retreat
Please contact me if you’d be interested in joining the Mindfulness & Meditation Bournemouth intro course. Details below….
My definition of meditation is “training the mind to achieve higher levels of consciousness”. When we meditating we are doing something, but also doing nothing. It is about letting go and surrendering to our experience rather than distorting it. Within meditation, we are being rather than doing, and allowing positive states of mind to flourish naturally.
Meditation is a popular tool used by people to train their minds to become more aware, accepting, concentrated and Present. Meditation practice can be planned or spontaneous. By planned meditation, I am referring to consciously setting up the conditions including a place, time and technique. An example of this would be meditating whilst sitting on a cushion or chair in a peaceful spot at home at a given time. By spontaneous, I am referring to meditation that can take place at any time, in any place without making prior arrangements. An example of spontaneous meditation is looking at a simple object such as a table and giving it your full attention without labelling it in any way.
Planned meditation is not essential to make spiritual progress, but for many people, it is a great help. Given that meditation has benefited millions of people over thousands of years, it is well worth considering whether we should integrate it into our practice. Learning to meditate is a big challenge for most of us as it opposes what the egoic mind would prefer to do, which is to get lost in thought and create stories. Our conditions must be right in order to establish a regular and planned meditation practice.
We must find our own balance when it comes to meditation. For some people, that balance is no meditation whilst others may spend a substantial part of their lives meditating. Many people choose a regular meditation practice of between five to sixty minutes each day. It is helpful to adjust our practice as circumstances change, and remember that every moment outside of planned meditation also provides an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness and Presence.
One of the key benefits of meditation is the clarity it provides. Generally speaking, the clearer we see things, the less we suffer. Suffering is created from an intellectual or emotional misunderstanding of how the universe really is, leading to misalignment and resistance with the present moment. Many people find that the clarity enabled through meditation leads to more energy, happiness, concentration and effectiveness in daily activities.
Occasionally I reflect on my meditation practice, but I never analyse it too much and tend to follow my intuition regarding changes. I meditate most days and I’m okay if other priorities mean I skip a day here and there. The days when I do not meditate provide reassurance that I can manage just fine without it. I also enjoy finding ways that I can integrate spontaneous meditations into the gaps between my various activities, which typically range from thirty seconds to fifteen minutes.
The conditions leading up to meditation and the time of day we meditate influence its quality and our ability to stay Present. Our energy levels fluctuate during the day so it is a good idea to select a time of day when we are usually alert. My mind is generally sharper in the mornings so I meditate then. Certain activities make our body tired and more prone to drifting off during meditation. I find it difficult to stay alert after eating a substantial meal or partaking in outdoor exercise. It is usually over-indulging in things that causes my tiredness. By staying aware and reflecting on how meditation progresses, we can understand what activities help and hinder us leading up to meditation and take this into account when we plan our day and choose a time to practise. Getting the conditions and timing right for meditation is as challenging as the practice itself.
Occasionally, it is beneficial to meditate when we are feeling tired. Remember that the work we are doing in planned meditation is preparing us to be Present in our day-to-day activities. It is likely that we will experience tiredness at times when we do not have the opportunity to rest or sleep. So learning how to work with tiredness and continue to be Present until it passes is all part of the training. If my conditions do not allow me to meditate in the morning, I will meditate later on in the day. If I meditate of an evening, it is more challenging for me to stay alert. My mind is more inclined to wander off into a dream-like state. I observe this and then make an extra effort to bring myself back to the present moment by anchoring to the breath. I have learned to observe dreams for a short period of time whilst being aware of the fact I am dreaming. Being Present means being alert and relaxed simultaneously. A moderate amount of alertness is sufficient unless there is a good reason to amplify it under challenging circumstances. We can play with this balance of alertness and relaxation in our meditation and observe how it influences our practice.
A good posture is helpful for the body and especially useful when it comes to sitting meditation. We may build up our meditation practice and spend long periods of time sitting. As well as supporting and strengthening our body, a good posture allows us to cultivate a quieter mind. The mind and body are closely related. If we are experiencing bodily discomfort during meditation, there is a risk that we resist it, which leads to us being lost in thought. Meditation is about being aware of our experience and also accepting it. The intention within meditation is to keep the mind still, relaxed and alert. To help the mind enter this state, we invoke the same qualities within our bodies.
It is possible to lie flat on your back and meditate. I am yet to meet somebody that has maintained a regular and effective practice using this method, as the tendency for many is for the mind to drift off, or to fall asleep. Personally, I choose to integrate an occasional meditation whilst lying in bed. I do this once every few weeks and start the meditation session a few minutes after waking in the morning. I am more alert at that time so there is less chance of drifting off. This has helped cultivate a habit of doing the same in the moments before I sleep and immediately after I wake up. I find falling to sleep and waking up with meditation to be most enjoyable. It sets us up well for a good night’s sleep and greater awareness during the day.
For our planned sitting meditation, the first decision to be made is where to sit. For example, we can use a chair or sit on a meditation cushion. Wherever we sit, it must be possible to be still, relaxed and alert. If our body allows us, we should maintain a straight back and relax our shoulders. If we opt for a chair, we should select one that helps to maintain an upright-seated position rather than a chair that encourages us to slouch. If we try and meditate in a chair that is too relaxing, we may drift in and out of a dream-like state or fall asleep. Our body needs to be at right angles when seated on a chair. We observe a right angle between our torso and thighs and another right angle between our thighs and calves. Our feet should be planted firmly on the ground and the bottom of our back pushed against the back of the chair for support. We may need to bring the top of our back forward slightly on some chairs in order to establish the right angle and a straight back. This adjustment requires a small amount of work from the abdominals, back and legs to maintain an upright position, which helps keep the mind alert. We can places our hands on our lap or adopt a mudra of our choice. A mudra is a hand gesture that may symbolise an intention, such as concentration or awareness. We can use our own mudra or select one from a religion. We should ensure that our hands and arms are comfortable and promote the balance between relaxation and alertness. Our head should be evenly balanced during meditation and point straight ahead and slightly down.
We must try our best to stay very still during meditation. A still body cultivates a still mind. If we feel discomfort in our posture, such as an ache or pain, we may want to stay with it without moving for a few seconds or minutes as it will often pass without any adjustment. If we do need to move our bodies, we do so mindfully and then return to physical stillness. It helps to become comfortable and get any fidgeting out of the way before we begin.
Meditation is easier if the body is prepared beforehand by having enough sleep, exercise and eating a balanced diet. We must be prepared to have our meditation interrupted by digestion if we eat shortly before sitting. It is helpful to visit the toilet beforehand and make any adjustments with our clothing to ensure we are comfortable. It is inevitable that our bodies may interrupt us in various ways during the meditation. If this happens, we simply acknowledge the interruption whatever it may be and then turn our attention back to the meditation technique we are practising.
When selecting a location for meditation, we should consider noise, aesthetics and temperature. Ideally, an area of planned meditation should be free or nearly free from noise. Background noise can be a distraction and trigger feelings and thoughts. It is helpful to have some occasional background noise and to integrate that into our meditation. The awareness and acceptance we cultivate needs to be applied outside of planned meditation where we find millions of distractions. So the odd distraction here and there as we sit can be used as a training to bring awareness to accompanying feelings and thoughts. We can then let go and regain concentration. Personally, it has been difficult for me to find silent locations in which to meditate over the years. I have often experienced noise from neighbours and household appliances. Even meditation retreat centres can be noisy due to activity around the centre’s location or from sounds that others are making when meditating within a group. I have used earplugs for many years during meditation and they have done a great job keeping the distractions to a minimum. Keep in mind, that for most of us, the main distractions we experience are internal in the form of our own thoughts. Thoughts represent far more of a challenge in meditation than the odd external distraction such as some temporary noise from our external environment.
The aesthetics of the meditation area influences our experience. It can help to keep the environment clean and furnish it with objects of beauty that we have a straightforward relationship with. We should not furnish the environment with objects that promote craving, as these can be distracting. A vase of flowers may be a better choice than a picture of our favourite food or somebody we find sexually attractive. We can use pictures of people or places that inspire us. The colours on display in the area may also influence our state of mind so we may want to select colours that we find more calming.
An office I worked in provided a relaxation and prayer room, which was ideal for meditating. I would go into the office early and meditate before starting work, which became an established routine. I recall occasions where I would come out of the relaxation room at work after meditating and enter straight into discussions with colleagues. On a few occasions this caused problems. People would tune in to the fact that I was in a heightened state of awareness and sensitivity which was different to my normal state and found it difficult to communicate with me as a result. They would ask me a work-related question or want to discuss issues. I would often look at them, smiling for a few seconds in silence, and I had no motivation to think about a response. We should allow space to come out of meditation before interacting with people, as we can be sensitive dependent upon how deep we go during the sit. After meditation we can sit quietly for a while or do something simple such as stretching or looking around. If we switched our phone into airplane mode during meditation, we should resist the urge to bring it back online and start using it immediately. It can help to take a few minutes after meditating to acclimatise before resuming our regular activities.
How we enter meditation is of equal importance to how we exit. We should avoid going straight into meditation after a stressful activity. It can help to sit quietly or perform some simple activities that will encourage the mind to become quieter before starting. Sitting and having a cup of tea in silence may be a good option. Another option is to do something involving movement of the body. This helps us to connect with our direct experience, meaning that we become more Present prior to the meditation. I often water my plants before or after meditation. This is a simple activity with movement and a connection to nature.
Meditating outdoors in the fresh air with natural sounds around us (Meditation Bournemouth is great for this!) is beneficial if there are few distractions. The main hindrance for many outdoor locations is the possibility of overhearing and then focusing on other people’s discussions rather than our meditation. Personally, I find that the odd discussion from people talking as they pass by in the distance is manageable and can be integrated, but sitting somewhere with people close by is distracting. We can select locations that are quiet and remember that we will need a seat or soft ground that provides comfort for the duration of our sit.
The external temperature influences the body’s ability to remain settled and comfortable. It is unnecessary to obtain the perfect temperature, but we should avoid extreme hot or cold environments. We can play around with location and posture for meditation to find a configuration that suits us. We can make changes from time to time to keep things fresh. Over the months and years our environmental conditions and bodies will change, creating the need for us to make adjustments.
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When starting out in meditation, people may shop around and sample a number of different techniques before settling on one or two to practise. Techniques vary from simple breathing practices to more complex meditations involving thought designed to deepen our understanding of spiritual truths. Techniques we find in modern books are often directly lifted from or modified versions of those formulated many years ago within religions.
On a practical level, we can select meditation techniques that cultivate areas where we have a development need. For example, we may wish to be more compassionate, friendly or concentrated. There are thousands of meditation techniques designed to cultivate these and many other qualities. What we really need to be focused on is being Present, because spiritual qualities emanate out of that. If we are Present and there is a requirement for friendliness, we will be friendly. If we are Present and there is a requirement for concentration, we will be concentrated. Whatever is appropriate and skillful naturally flows when we are Present. If we practise a meditation technique that helps us to access Presence, we can manifest all these positive qualities naturally.
Learn more about meditation in Bournemouth via the local Mindfulness & Meditation Bournemouth web site.
Meditation requires an anchor which keeps us connected to our direct experience and grounds us in the present moment. This can be any object within or outside of us, including our breath, a candle or even a sound in the background such as the humming of a refrigerator. We can try different options before settling on a single anchor upon which to establish our meditation practice. The breath is my favourite anchor as it is always available wherever I am or whatever I am doing. The breath has been used as part of meditation practice for thousands of years. If we are unsure as to which object to use for our meditation, then we should try working with the breath. The rest of this section uses the breath as an anchor for illustrative purposes. You will need to substitute and make adjustments where necessary if you are working with another anchor.
Some people choose to keep a meditation journal. This could be paper based or electronic, including mobile device apps. Journals can be used to keep a record of how often we meditate, the technique we use, conditions leading up to the meditation and any specific experiences or concerns we have. Reviewing and updating our journal can then be used as a tool for reflection and learning. A journal can also be shared with our meditation teacher if we have one.
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