Meditation: Can it help you?

Meditation has so many benefits to the individual it is hard to
dispute its effectiveness, so why not include it in your work/life to limit your stress?

I have two complaints about myself that I feel causes difficulties for me
both at home and at work. The first problem is that my mind is a bundle of
thoughts, which vary from the truly random to the vaguely relevant. Controlling
this onslaught can be quite a challenge. Another complaint I have is that I
sometimes get quite frustrated and stressed in situations that don’t really call
for it. This often leads from the first problem in that if I can’t control my
thoughts and discipline them into an ordered march through my cerebral cortex,
it can often cause me to get stressed about how fast I am managing to get things
done, for instance.

For a reason I can’t remember, I decided to take up meditation classes when I
was living in Manchester. The classes were held at the Manchester Buddhist
Centre
, a beautifully renovated building, having been converted from an old
mill. Walking around its wooden floors, amidst the deep-red interior brickwork,
it can’t fail to have a calming effect on you. The classes were given by one of
the members of the MBC at the time, who addressed a packed room full of people
who were keen to calm down, or just reach their inner self.

I have to admit, I was probably quite sceptical, and also a little nervous. I
mean, you can’t deny you wouldn’t like to fall asleep in a room full of 30 other
people! The teacher was very accommodating and patient, however, and made you
feel at ease quickly.

After continuing attending the classes to their conclusion seven weeks later,
I felt I had achieved a calmness that was difficult to explain. I was still
stressed, busy, prone to frustration, etc. But I accepted it for what it was.
I’d still get into (sometimes heated) discussions with colleagues about
projects, or those close to me, or be subjected to large amounts of work that
was difficult to manage but I would know that my responses to these stimuli were
controlled, tempered by a sense of control I was not previously aware of.

So, then I moved to the Isle of Man, a small island whose beauty is difficult
to surpass – certainly in the British Isles and my practice waned and suffered.
For whatever reason [excuse] I could not find [allocate] time for my meditation,
which is important if one is to maintain a calm and tempered conscious
existence. Sure enough, I felt myself getting wound up again. That mental filter
just was not there to absorb my frustration at situations any longer.

I recently had an appraisal at my place of employment and in it I was as
frank as I always am, particularly with my manager. (I’m a firm believer that if
you’re frank (within reason) with people, people can feel that they can trust
you and this is beneficial to both parties) In it, I said I was unhappy with how
I felt and how I was going to redress it. I was going to allocate a bit of
“me-time” to resume my practice.

My employer has no facilities for meditation, nor is there any obligation for
them to provide any. One has to come up with a solution that works for you both.
For me, this was to find a quiet spot in the office where I felt comfortable,
and have a 20 minutes sit in the morning when I get into work. This really works
for me, because I am in at 7.30 every morning and no-one else is about, the
printers haven’t been warmed up and the phones aren’t ringing. I have my cushion
and a number of meditation CD’s to help me maintain a degree of focus during my
practice.

My personal practice is based on the “Mindfulness of Breathing” practice.
It’s very simple to do and is chiefly designed to control and focus the mind
towards a particular point, in this case, my breathing. By focusing on something
so natural and calming, it can really have an effect on your physical and mental
state. There are other practices, one of which is the Mettabhavana, which
encourages you to produce kindly and loving thoughts to those close to you, who
you disagree with and even further afield, across the world. It can be a very
powerful feeling.

You can find more about meditation and also guides on how to start at the FWBO (First Western Buddhist Order). The FWBO pages are excellent starting points for individuals wishing to dip their toes into the calm and peaceful blueness of meditative practice. (Okay, so maybe that is a little too metaphorical!) I should say here, that while I met Meditation at a Buddhist Centre, and then met Buddhist through Meditation; the two are not necassarily required – no need or pressure for
conversion is necassary!

If you have a Buddhist Centre near you, they will invariably provide
meditation classes or sessions of some form, and often these sessions are also
available from other sources; from doctors surgeries to health clubs. Of course,
we don’t all have access to these (particularly myself, here on the Isle of
Man), so Breathworks do some excellent led CD’s and MP3’s that can guide you through the practice. Finally, if you feel that you are liking the benefits, I strongly recommend Blue Banyan’s site for meditation related products, such as cushions, mats, timers and incense.

In your own practice, I would certainly suggest that you try and develop a
routine. On and off meditation is okay, but you won’t really feel the benefit
unless you develop a routine on which you can rely on. Saying “I’ll do it
tomorrow” is delaying and avoiding it, and is – in a way – a lie to yourself.
Whether or not you meditate at home in a quiet room, or if you are able to find
somewhere at work, you need to make sure that you are free from distraction and,
preferably, background noise. Another mistake people make is they expect
immediate changes to their being, maybe a fundamental or tangible shift in their
consciousness or mental state. This will not happen. It is also not about
entering a trance state, indeed, quite the opposite. The Mindfulness of
Breathing, in particular, aims to maximise awareness not shy away from it.

I’m not going to offer a money back guarantee here, but I am sure that you
will be able to improve your ability to focus on tasks and reduce the tendency
to get stressed or angry if you maintain a routine and quality meditation
practice. Don’t force it, and don’t try to “over meditate”. This will just
stress you out more! Do what you’re comfortable with. I’d be interested to hear
your experiences.

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