Meditation and Mindfulness with Louise Bladen

June 1st, 2020
I love meditation as it is the only way to allow our mind to have some space and to really rest. Due to our constantly frenetic and overscheduled lives, I think we are living in a time when our minds need this more than ever before.  We are all so caught up with our busy lives and despite all the labour saving gadgets we have, anxiety seems to be a growing problem, and that includes for children.  The digital devices at our fingertips so easily encourage and extend that constant mental activity, entertaining ourselves endlessly with online shopping and internet searches.  Despite the obvious advantages of all of this, we are becoming more and more addicted to mental stimulation.  Because communication is so easy, there is simply too much of it going on.  With social media I think we are actually communicating less and less, more and more often to too many people!

Children in particular need resources to help them deal with the digital world they have inherited and meditation is a great antidote to general screen and social media overexposure.

My first career choice was that of classical pianist.  I used to do long hours of practice everyday.  While I was so mentally and physically focussed, I noticed that if I started the session with a gripping emotional pain (such as a breakup with a boyfriend etc), it was much lessened or even forgotten by the time I finished.
Later in life when I first came into contact with meditation, I noticed a similar effect.  By the end of a long day teaching classroom music, I used to feel that I was shattered into 600 tiny pieces That is, each child that had come in to my classroom had taken a little piece of my sanity with them out the door.  I used to stress and worry about everything, especially all the performances we had to do.  Meditation was the only thing that really helped me to relax.  I loved it so much that I have been attending meditation courses and retreats ever since.  I had an immediate sense that whenever I meditated, life just ran more smoothly in a general, serendipitous way.  Strange little coincidences occurred and things fell into place more easily without huge amounts of effort. 

The two main techniques I practise are breath and mindfulness meditation.  These can be done formally or informally.

I usually do 2 ‘sitting’ or formal session per day, morning and evening.

Breathing meditation involves placing your mind on the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose as you breathe in then out.  At the end of each breath you count until you reach number 10.  Then start the counting again.  The counting itself is not important but rather just a mechanism for keeping your mind on the object of the meditation.  You can think about the length of each individual breath, the depth, the difference in temperature as the air goes past your skin etc.  The point is to keep your mind on that topic and not to let it think about the past or the future, the day’s events or what is ahead of you.

It is important to sit in a comfortable but upright posture with your head nicely balanced and mouth closed with tongue touching the upper row of teeth and eyes can be half open or closed but not focussed on anything in particular.

However your mind was feeling before you sat down to meditate, it will be feeling much calmer after 10 mins of breathing. Even if you are still stressed, it will be less than it was. This practice is not an instant miracle cure, lightning bolts and flashes of bliss are not going to hit you!  However, the more regularly you do it, the more it will help you to be calm and relaxed.

As long as we are breathing, we can meditate anywhere (ie informal meditation): in the traffic, before an exam, on the train, at the doctor’s, when our computers crash!

Mindfulness is a different technique where you look impassively at the thoughts that are arising in your mind. You use part of your mind to look at the other part of your mind, the ‘thinking’ bit!  Any thoughts that arise, just label them ‘mere mental activity’, without letting them distract you from the awareness you have (ie of continuing to just look).  Don’t follow the thoughts, or allow them to distract you, just watch them arise and pass.  They may do this quickly or slowly, it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes your thoughts are multi-layered and come so fast that you may feel your mind has exploded!  Don’t worry, it hasn’t!  At other times, you may not have so many thoughts and there may even be a space in between them.  That is great, notice the space and just enjoy it.  Be in it. 

Most of our anxiety is caused by either worrying about what might happen in the future, or, what has already happened in the past. If you practise this technique, you will also notice that whatever thoughts are there, good, bad or crazy, they will pass.  Even if you want to, you can’t hang on to any thought.  

Whatever anxiety you have, it too will pass.  That is the point of What’s In Your Mind Today?

You can do mindfulness meditation anywhere.  In the midst of a busy day, ask yourself, how am I feeling?  What is my mind doing?  Am I in the present?  You can give your mind a minute or two to reflect and this can have a calming effect.  I remember the first time I noticed anger arising in my mind (ie before I actually lashed out verbally at someone!). Noticing the anger had the immediate effect of being able to step away from it.

If you see something beautiful like a tree in full bloom, take some time to really admire it, enjoy it. Being caught in the rain can be a glorious thing, smell it, feel the drops, remember what a miracle it is.  Every minute of our lives can be a celebration, no matter what is going on. Mindfulness can help with acceptance of whatever is happening in the present moment, chores can become a pleasant activity and even really scary difficult situations can be diminished.

What's In Your Mind Today?

No matter what kind of thoughts we have in our minds, there is a way to let them all go. 
A fun and gentle first guide to mindfulness and de-stressing for children and adults alike.

find out more
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