July 15th 2014
The Spiritualist: Finding the pause button
October 13th 2012 / 1 comment
Sitting in silence used to seem like a waste of time to former beauty editor Catherine Turner. Now that she's learned how to go from permanently on to the peace of om she shares her tips on how to meditate
Om (remember, must buy milk)
Om (forgot to send that email)
This is what happens when I sit down to my morning meditation session: caught up in a loop of never-ending scenarios, questions, worries, as I try to stop the thought train, the more it rumbles on. But recently I've had a revelation; I’ve learned to allow thoughts to come, to continue to sit there, concentrating on my breath, scanning through my body, telling it to relax. Then I can let go of the thoughts and on a good day I get flashes of complete bliss and chinks of mind-blowing clarity.
Recently it finally clicked that my yoga obsession was really about finding that peace within. Through physical postures and lying in Shavasana (the yoga relaxation pose), I was experiencing deep relaxation beyond that fuzzy letting-off-steam feeling of running with the cool rain on my face, melting into sand on a beach or slugging Prosecco with my friends (all, of course, life-affirming essentials too). But they're fleeting, sensual pleasures and will lead to post-run come down, back-from-holiday blues or a hangover. Deeper meditational peace is infinite.
Even six months ago, I couldn't imagine sitting in silence every morning. Frankly, it seemed like a waste of time. (So busy! Too much to do!). There was also fear: you mean stop, do nothing and be with myself? But once I felt an inkling of that complete serenity, I wanted more. I craved the idea of pressing pause on the 24/7 info-overload world. Now, even if it's just 10 minutes, I do it because I know I'll feel happier, more focused and able to cope.
It's been quite a journey and I've not hit nirvana (yet), but maybe some day. Still, I'm loving the experiences I’m having in the process: sitting opposite a Buddhist monk on a roof top in Sri Lanka and high up in the Himalayas beside the Ganges cross-legged chasing serenity. I seem to have taken the scenic route which is great, but not absolutely necessary. Post-ashram I realise that meditative place is in us all the time. No need to be a yoga lover, a Buddhist, Hindu. It's not even necessary to be spiritual, religious or believe in the mystical and magical to be a meditator. There are many ways in, you can find yours by starting here.
Get meditation off your to-do list. No more intellectualising, simply try it. You can start in a very small way. Acupuncturist, Annee de Mamiel started meditating when she had cancer in her late 20s. These days, fully recovered, she encourages her clients to introduce stillness into their lives with a do-anywhere breath technique. "At the beginning of a treatment, I'll tell them to breathe in for three counts, out for five breaths. The quality of breath reflects the state of mind and it's the beginning process, bringing you into the moment. Make it a habit in your day: before you start the car, before you eat, while you are on the bus." You can try the seasonal facial oils Annee uses in her treatments at home to for added relaxation. Just take a few minutes before bed to breathe in the scent and massage into your skin. demamiel.com
No need to get tied up in technique. Don't know your Vipassana from your Tratak? No worries. (FYI the former is spending days in silence focusing on breath, the latter the art of staring at a candle flame). Ex-city high flier, Julie Smith has pretty much tried them all in exotic places from Thailand to Holy Island. Now she runs retreats and workshops through her company Nature Meditations. Her advice? Try sitting for 7 minutes a day for a week using an alarm to time yourself. "Become completely aware of your breath, observe it, and the sensations in your body. This is a simple, mindfulness technique which connects body and breath." If that sounds too hard download Julie's free guided 10-minute meditation to get you started. Her voice is sublimely soothing. julie-smith.net
You don't have to go it alone. The ultimate goal is to sit on your own in silence, but a workshop, retreat or regular class will help you deepen your practice. My yoga route seemed non-scary, cult-free, but go with what resonates, and try different teachers. Jonathan Sattin, founder of triyoga (triyoga.co.uk) runs weekly classes at his London yoga centres. "Sitting crossed-legged can put people off so we use chairs. The technique is to relax the body for 5-10 minutes before turning the attention inwards, focusing on the breath then looking for space between the breath. I always finish with a 10-minute Shavasana as it's good to review and absorb what happened."