Ever tried and “failed” at meditation? I know I have. I have ants in my pants and tire of staring at my lap pretty easily, but it turns out that meditation refuseniks like me can conquer the practice - you just need to let go of a few preconceived ideas first.
Even the Duchess of Sussex struggled with making meditation stick initially, as she described in a 2015 blog post on her former lifestyle website The Tig. She admitted to finding “the thoughts, the distractions, the boredom of it” “daunting” at the beginning, but this meditation fear quickly took a back seat:
“It soon became the quietude that rocked my world. I can’t put my finger on the why or the how, but I will tell you this much, for me…I am just happier. And meditation has much to do with that.”
Prince Harry also made his love of meditation known on a royal visit this week, stating that he meditates “every day”. This is a practice that Vedic meditation teacher and co-founder of London and New York Meditation Centres Jillian Lavender advocates:
"As a parent, I know how demanding those early months are. The interrupted sleep is one thing. On top of that there’s the new sense of responsibility and the very steep learning curve.
“It’s great that Prince Harry is building in tools like meditation to prepare for those weeks when he’s going to be stretched and sleep deprived. The deep rest of meditation means that he’ll build up a reservoir of energy for when the baby arrives. And he’s going to be calmer, more present, and able to tune in to what’s needed - rather than feeling overwhelmed by stress and fatigue. It means he’ll be a great support for Meghan as well.
“It’s inspiring to see someone in Harry’s position being open about how he’s finding ways to prepare for fatherhood. He’ll have a lot of support of course, more than most people, and yet he’s taking the time to work on himself. In so doing, he opens this up as a possibility for others."
Speaking of which, if you’ve ever struggled to sit down and meditate, Meghan’s preferred form of meditation could be right up your street. Vedic meditation is one of the oldest forms of meditation there is and involves sitting down in a chair for twenty minutes every morning and afternoon or evening, closing your eyes and repeating a personal mantra. It demands the least ‘effort’ of all meditation styles, and in case you’re still not convinced, Jillian is keen to break down a few common barriers to meditation to get you on your way…
1. You don’t need to sit in a complicated pretzel position in order to meditate.
When you look at pictures of people meditating you often see someone sitting with crossed legs, no back support, eyes closed and their arms stretched out in front of them. This position isn’t easy to maintain - it takes a lot of effort. It’s also not necessary. As long as you can sit comfortably with your eyes closed, you can meditate beautifully. You might be sitting in a chair at work, on the sofa at home or sitting up in bed with the pillows propped up behind you. The wonderful thing is that meditation is portable so you can take it on the move. This means you might be on a train on the way to work, on a plane, in a car (as long as you’re not driving!), or on a park bench. Anywhere where you feel safe, warm and supported in sitting down and closing the eyes is the perfect environment for meditation.
2. It won’t take up much of your day
Meditation is an easy to manage daily practice – all you need is about 20 minutes twice a day. Typically you start your day with 20 minutes of meditation and then in the late afternoon or early evening it is time to close the eyes again. By meditating in the morning you start the day clear, calm and energised. Then after a busy day you wash away the stress and tiredness that’s accumulated during the day so you’re able to enjoy your evening rather than feeling wiped out and listless.
Now you might be reading this thinking “I don’t have 40 minutes a day! Where’s that going to come from?”. Don’t panic. Meditators quickly find they gain time because they feel clearer minded, more alert and able to get through their ‘to do’ list much faster. As a result of the investment of meditation time they often sleep less and ultimately get much more done. The ROI is huge.
3. Meditation is for everyone - not just “wellness people”
There are millions of people meditating throughout the world – busy mothers, teachers, company executives, artists and actors, teenagers... you name it, there is someone you know doing it. Meditation brings together the best of ancient knowledge and combines it with a practical, relevant technique for busy people. In this way we have the best of both. It’s ancient wisdom that fits with hectic modern life. It’s practical, efficient and works for everyone no matter what their cultural orientation.
4. Meditation is much easier to do than you’d think
That meditation is hard to master is the most common misunderstanding about meditation. You might be thinking that you couldn’t possibly meditate – “how will I stop the constant thoughts? I can’t concentrate for 20 minutes!”.
Please don’t worry. Correct meditation has nothing to do with concentration or control of the mind. Instead meditation is about working with the nature of the mind. The nature of the mind is to move inwards, in the direction of increased happiness. With the right instruction, it’s possible for everyone to effortlessly settle down their mind and soak up the more blissful, inner layers of consciousness. All we need is a proper technique to take the mind on that inward dive. When we do, the experience of that field of inner bliss and energy is automatic, consistent and extremely pleasurable.
So correct meditation is easy and natural – in fact it’s easy precisely because it is natural. And when something is easy and natural, it’s enjoyable. And when something is enjoyable, you want to do it. It’s much easier to be disciplined about something that you like doing vs something that feels like a grind and leaves you wondering if it’s actually making you feel better than when you started. The last thing you want to do is to get stressed about doing that very thing that is meant to be getting rid of your stress!
5. Meditation isn’t a religious cult or a belief system
Meditation is not necessarily a religious practice, however, it does have a spiritual dimension. Spiritual means your spirit, your essence. At your essence you are consciousness. To be conscious means ‘to be’. It’s the most fundamental level of existence. It’s your least-excited state - a state of being.
For many people life is experienced at the surface levels of the mind and body, with little conscious awareness of something deeper and more subtle. When you meditate you contact your essence - that field of being. Regular contact with that calm, inner state of fulfilment means that you can start to stabilise it in your awareness. This gives you a sense of being grounded and balanced – much needed in this fast-changing world!
There’s no belief system that you need to adopt. You don’t need to change your life in any way. In fact, you don’t even have to believe in the technique for it to work. All you need to do, is do it. When you do it, it works. And the doing is so enjoyable, you’ll want to do it!
6. You don’t have to wait it out to feel the benefits
Meditation is not something you need to do for six months before you crack it. From the very first session you’ll start to notice the positive effects of getting that deep rest and enlivening that inner field of bliss and creative intelligence.
In teaching thousands of people to meditate, I see this time and again. In the first few days of learning to meditate, students report changes. Here’s a comment from a student after just one week of meditation:
“I felt a surge of energy this week that I honestly have not experienced for months. I also feel more focused, patient and less irritable. Above all, I feel hopeful and happy with less anxiety and none of the "free radicals" of malaise lurking that tend to circulate when I am tired and under stress.”
We could all probably do with fewer “free radicals” of stress and if Harry and Meghan are sold we predict meditation going mainstream. Just get your mantra and go.
Find out more about Jillian and London Meditation Centre