My meditation journey

The world of ‘Wellness’ has undergone a seismic explosion in recent years with meditation emerging as one of the key everyday life tools.

With its origins approaching a thousand years it is as relevant today as it was in that distant millennium for the significant wellness benefits it brings.

These are the most asked questions I receive when talking about meditaion

When did I start meditating?

I tried to start meditating a few years ago using the headspace app to try to help with mindfulness and getting some calm in my life whilst actually practicing and taking it into my everyday life. I found it challenging but managed 10 – 20 mins a day. Then I moved on the Jon Kabut Zin’s app. I really liked his voice, but I wasn’t making it a regular thing.

During a long trip to India I experienced a peace and enlightenment that put me back in touch with my roots. A day after my return I was working with Michelle Langer on the final touches of a TV show. Michelle asked me how the trip had been. I was totally overwhelmed as it had been truly life changing. Through my tears I told her I was trying to work out how to keep the spiritual connection I had experienced on my trip back in this, my real world. It was then that she told me she was a meditation teacher and that meditation would be the answer.

I trusted in this moment and embarked on a meditation course with her that has completed my wellness journey. In a short-time I have taken to meditation in a way that has always eluded me, quickly incorporated it into my routine and am constantly reaping all its wondrous benefits.

How does it make me feel?

The practice of letting thoughts go and repeating my mantra get me into a state in which I am no longer in my body. I can feel euphoric and sometimes feel like I am giving myself a loving hug which can move me to tears. When not in the blissed out ‘gap’ I am able to process some issues that have arisen, trouble shoot them and go on to implement solutions and actions. Every experience is different, and I do not question it but absolutely and wholeheartedly go with it.

What has meditation done for me?

Meditation has given me a sense of calm and acceptance of what life is about. It has opened a way to love and nurture myself that I can access any time I choose. It has helped with any anxiety and thoughts that previously span me out. It brings me evermore close to my children and the great joys in my life. I’m no longer speeding around but take my time- no longer do I feed negative thoughts but let them go. It has made me feel extremely well.

When do I find time to meditate?

I meditate for half an hour in the morning and evening every day. I set my alarm clock for half an hour before I need to get up to fit it in unless I have the luxury of waking up naturally. I prop myself up in bed or remain laying down which, I’ve found to be amazing in practice. I never lay down to do it if I am tired. I don’t want to fall asleep!  In the evening I do it after dinner with the boys and after everything is cleared away so I have the rest of my evening free. I have meditated in taxis, on aeroplanes or actually wherever I feel like it. If I need timeout I just grab it.

How has my journey been?

My experience of self-discovery has been a really long journey. It started with exercise, detoxing my body, travelling, making big changes in my personal life, forgiveness and meditation. The more I do it the more I am connected to the person I once was as a child before the struggles and hurts and I realise I am still there which makes me so happy. I don’t need to defend or fight but rather ‘just be’ and I feel great strength in that. These feelings are integrated into my everyday life now and they have become brilliant tools for living.

What has my experience been like?

My experience of meditation is of great beauty. Its visually incredible with the kaleidoscope of colours that transport me from my body, the weightlessness brings me deep calm and the best thing is I feel held and the exciting part is I can do that for myself.

One last note

Everyone I speak to about meditation says the same thing, “I can’t stop my thoughts” or “I can’t do it I’ve tried” well it is called practice for a reason. You have to commit to it work through it and the more you do the better you get at it, like everything. We all have many thoughts; the practice is not to block them out but simply observe them and let them go. It really is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon yourself and the rewards are great.

Meditation comes from the Latin root “meditatum”, which means “to ponder”

I asked Michelle about her discovery into this wondrous teaching of meditation

What is meditation?

There are many different types of meditation but fundamentally it is a journey from activity into silence.  In our busy, technology filled lives we rarely make space for stillness.  Meditation is the opportunity to step off the rollercoaster of thoughts and activity and connect with the calmness buried inside.  Over time we learn to use that inner calmness in our everyday lives.

What is the aim of meditation?

Over the last 40 years there has been a huge amount of scientific research into the benefits of meditation which includes reducing anxiety, helping sleep, focus, concentration, memory, boosting immunity, empathy and serotonin levels (natural happiness drug) and most recently it has been found to have anti-ageing properties.  In the West meditation is known as the ‘antidote to stress’ and that’s why a lot of people try it but on a deeper level it helps you connect to your inner purpose and to recognize what is most important in your life and goals.

Overall it helps you to be present, to experience less distractions from thoughts about the past or worries about future events that may never happen.

I have read that meditation could make you healthier. Is it true and why?

Research has shown that it boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, aids digestion and normalizes blood pressure plus it gives the body deep rest which is its natural heeler.  In one study meditation increased levels of antibodies to the flu vaccine and reduced the severity and length of colds by activating genes related to boosting our immune system.   According to Harvard Medical School 90% of visits to the doctor are stress related, whether it causes an illness, prolongs it or makes it chronic.  As meditation reduces stress it benefits health overall.

Michelle Langer

Some people are skeptical about meditation and its benefits. What would you say to such skeptics?

Meditation takes commitment, so I would never want to force someone into it if they’re not ready, but the benefits can be experienced after just a few days so if someone is interested enough to read this then why not give it a try.

As a meditation teacher, could share some tips or even a short lesson on how to meditate?

If you can breathe you can meditate.

There are many approaches to meditation that all use a different anchor for your focus.  This could be focusing on a chant, the breath, sensations in the body or a mantra which is a word without meaning.  World leading mind body expert Deepak Chopra taught me to teach a mantra-based meditation which I find most effective.  Readers could try this approach using the mantra ‘So Hum’ or ‘I am’.  Sit comfortably with back supported, close your eyes and take a few moments to check in with your body noticing where you might be holding tension and using each exhale to gently release.  Spend a couple of minutes visualising each part of the body from head down to toes and telling each part of the body to relax.  Then gently start repeating ‘So Hum’ or ‘I am’ silently in your mind.  After a short time, you will naturally feel distracted by thoughts, sounds or sensations in the body. This is perfectly natural but when you become aware that your focus has moved away from the mantra gently start repeating it again.  In every meditation we swing between mantra, thoughts and distractions.  Over time it’s easier to let the distractions go.  Start by doing this for 5-10 minutes a day and then increase the time when you feel comfortable to a maximum of 30 minutes.  The key thing to remember is that it’s not a competition, don’t enter your meditation with expectations or judge what happens during the meditation itself.

Michelle is a wellbeing instructor who trained under Dr Deepak Chopra and The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. She has been teaching wellbeing, mindfulness & meditation courses for over a decade, helping companies and individuals to handle stress and achieve their full productive potential. Michelle is an accredited member of the Association of Facilitators.

Those who would like to try it out are welcome at Michelle Langer’s next Tranquillo event at Soho House in London on September 6thth.  This is a unique wellbeing treat, a 45-minute experience combining guided meditation with live cello from one of the world’s leading cellists in a space infused with calming essential oils.  For more information and tickets go to www.tranquillo.co.uk .  Details on Michelle’s courses and sample meditations at www.michellelanger.com