Turning Back to Meditation
When I first started high school, aged 11, I was put in a class full of naughty boys. For that first year we took most of our classes together, except for maths and science where we were setted according to ability. That meant that I spent a lot of time with the naughty boys, who were loud, disruptive and drove our teachers batty, and even reduced them to tears on several occasions. As a shy goody-two-shoes this really stressed me out and it made the first year at high school a big adjustment. Luckily, I also made some good friends in that class and we got through it together, and in later years the majority of our classes were setted according to ability, so I escaped the chaos.
Our religious education teacher, Ms Webb, was one of the many teachers that had to put up with us. I imagine that trying to teach us about Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism when most of the class were intent on making her life miserable was a very tall order. Yet Ms Webb had a trick up her sleeve – meditation.
When she’d had enough she would get us to sit with our heads on the desk and our eyes closed while she very calmly repeated:
“Breathe in, two, three, four … hold your breath … breathe out, two, three, four”
And it worked, no-one said a word during these sessions, which was some kind of miracle. From a personal point of view I enjoyed the opportunity to chill out and it stayed with me. Occasionally, when I was nervous, or couldn’t get to sleep I would use her technique to calm me down.
I haven’t meditated for years, probably not since I left school, but lately I’ve felt like I need that sense of calm again. It’s not that there’s anything major going on and my life is ticking along fine, but I still get a ball of anxiety in my chest. My mind races ahead to the next thing that I have to do, or something that’s happening later in the week, month, year etc. It gets ridiculous sometimes when I find myself worrying about what I’m going to have for lunch in two days time. I’m sure it’s quite normal, but I’m starting to feel very frustrated with myself and want to able to enjoy the moment and not be one step ahead of myself all the time.
So, I’ve started meditating again. After reading a few different articles on the internet I’ve decided to start of simply, so every morning after a few yoga stretches I settle down cross-legged on the floor. I happen to love sitting cross-legged and would sit like that all the time if it was practical, but a lot of people don’t like it, so it’s fine to sit in a chair. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths while becoming conscious of my body and how each part of it feels, trying to relax my muscles where I find tension.
I breathe slowly through my nostrils, counting each breath up to 30 and then count backwards back to 1. Whenever my mind wanders I bring it back by concentrating on how the breath feels – is it cold or warm, is it relaxed? I started off by meditating for 5 minutes (I set the alarm on my phone), but I’ve built up to 10 minutes now. When I’ve finished I open my eyes slowly and take time to think calmly and logically about what my next actions are without worrying about what needs to be done later.
I’ve not been meditating long enough to assess the benefits, but it feels good during and immediately after and I feel like it sets me up for a good day. I’m sure the way I practice will evolve, but I think this is a good place to dip my toes back into the meditative waters.