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British School of Meditation Blog

British School of Meditation Blog

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The power of mantras

The power of Mantras

This morning I meditated using my TM mantra. I have been practising TM for nearly 20 years now, and it has served me well. I am not alone in doing TM. Since it was introduced into the West by the Beatles in the 1960’s a great many people have adopted TM as their meditation practice. Some famous names include: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman, Goldie Hawn and Jennifer Aniston. Famous people who meditate

When you learn TM, you are given a mantra to repeat silently twice a day for 15-20 minutes. Practising helps me to feel calm and centered and enables me to cope with whatever life may throw at me. TM website

There are however, many other mantras you can use successfully. Meditating on Lovingkindness involves repeating loving words silently in your mind, such as ‘May you be well, may you be happy’

One of our trainers, Sarah Presley, recently wrote about how a mantra helped her in her recovery from illness. She silently recited: I am strong, happy and healthy.

‘Calm’ is a wonderful mantra and for many it brings a sense of calm and well-being.

The most basic mantra is Om, which in Hinduism is known as the "pranava mantra," the source of all mantras.

Frans Stiene, http://ihreiki.com says this about mantras: ‘The main point of chanting a mantra is to stay mindful, with a single pointed concentration on the mantra itself. Thus, if we start to recite the mantra from memory, rattling it off while at the same time we follow our thoughts to the past, present, and future, then the mantra is in reality doing nothing at all. The real key in chanting mantras is that we stay single pointedly focused on the mantra itself. This is why sometimes if we learn a mantra and, after a lot of practice, we start to feel that we are just rattling it off by memory, we might need to refocus our concentration again. We can do this by focusing, for example, on the syllables of the mantra. Or we may need to begin working with a new or longer mantra so that our concentration becomes more single pointed again’.

So, mantras are powerful tools for meditation, however, they are a type of meditation not the only way to meditate. We all need to find the best form of meditation for ourselves, sometimes by trying several until you find the one for you.

Spring blog

SPRING BLOG

JENNIE HOLVEY

Hello everyone.  For those of you who do not know me, I am Jennie Holvey and along with my partner I run Engra Holistics offering meditation classes and workshops as well as other holistic therapies.  

It is very difficult to write a blog at the moment without mentioning in some shape or form the current very strange and challenging situation we all find ourselves in.  However, in my opinion if there is one thing that can take our mind off all this it is the wonderful season of Spring and particularly so at the moment as we are enjoying some beautiful spring weather.  I live in Devon and it is gorgeous at the moment although I believe that large parts of the country are also enjoying blue skies and warm sunshine which is a welcome relief after the very wet winter we have just experienced.   I feel as though Mother Nature is showing us that the world is still a beautiful place.  

I appreciate that for those of you for whom spring heralds the start of the sneezing and nose blowing time of the year, you may not feel so excited about this season as I do and as you sneeze for the 15th time today, I am sure you may well stop reading at this point.  For me though it is the most energetic of seasons with a real sense of aliveness.  All things green bursting into life, colourful flowers appearing everywhere in the gardens and hedgerows, and animals who have been hibernating have woken up and are eagerly seeking food and perhaps a mate although at this time of late spring they have probably busying themselves looking after their young.    

I love to write meditation scripts and have a particular fondness for guided visualisations focused on the natural world.  The season of spring (although closely followed by Autumn ) is for me the most inspiring of seasons.  It is a season when growth is rapid and that can be quite nice for us more impatient mindful people. I planted some seeds the other day and I can already see tiny green shoots beginning to emerge from the earth.  This however is a perfect focus for a meditation, imagining yourself planting seeds and watering them and then seeing the little green shoots grow taller, leaves forming and then buds and flowers, taking notice of the colours and shape of the plant as it grows, perhaps even imagining in this meditation that you have planted seeds of hope, happiness or peace and as you tend and water them the plants will hold this energy as they grow.  

Spring is a real assault on the senses and it is an amazing time to make full use of our senses and bring them into our meditation experience especially if we can spend some time meditating outside.  However even inside if we practice a spring guided meditation we can focus on the senses one by one.  Imaging the sound of bird song and insects, and the feel of grass or a flower and warm spring sunshine, the sights of butterflies,  and lambs in the fields, the taste of fresh air and the smell of freshly cut grass can instantly bring the season of spring into focus in our meditation.

Now I hear you say, this is all very well but what if you are in a city and especially at the moment have had no opportunity to experience a country hedge bordering a field full of gambling spring lambs.  You may not feel like bringing this to mind.  I do however strongly feel that Mother Nature makes herself known to us wherever we are.  I am fortunate to live in the countryside just outside of the city but work in the town centre and also lived in the town for many years.  Even in the middle of the town there will be somewhere to experience the energy and beauty of spring.  I wrote a meditation called the Neglected garden for which my inspiration was a  totally neglected garden in the street where I used to live.  City trees with new fresh leaves and flowers growing up between paving slabs and out of walls are all beautiful sights.  (you may disagree if they are emerging all over your patio)

While handwriting this blog sat outside, a greenfly landed on the page and I was about to sweep it away, a less welcome sign of spring, however I let it stay there and instead focused on it intently.  Its wings, so delicate and its tiny green body were quite fascinating.  I had never really taken notice before.  As I watched it I had another idea for a meditation.  I am sure this has been done before but I had not practised it and so I quickly wrote it down.   A play on loving kindness and instead of focusing on people the focus is on animals and/or plants.   Starting with yourself, then moving on to a favourite animal/plant, then one you are indifferent to, (an example may be the tree in the car park at work or the little conifer sat in a pot in your neighbour’s garden, you get the gist), following on from this focus on a plant or animal you are really not fond of.  This does not have to be the tarantula sized spider you had to get out of the bath the day before.  It could be ivy or bindweed in the garden or flies or wasps, then ending with sending loving kindness to all form on Earth.  I used the phrases:

May you be healthy

May your presence on this Earth be appreciated

May we live alongside each other with kindness and tolerance.

We are now coming towards the end of spring and will be moving into summer which has a different feel again.  I will say finish by sending you all loving kindness and here is a link to a more traditional loving kindness meditation which I uploaded to

 You Tube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4AXS_gArDU&t=615s

Jennie is one of our BSoM Meditation teachers. Contact details:

Email:  engrareikiandmeditation@yahoo.com

Tel: 01392 833205 / 07807 653292

Nearest Town/City: Exeter

Buddhist retreat online

Buddhist retreat

 

Last Saturday I did a mini Buddhist retreat via Zoom. It was run by the Buddhist centre in Cheltenham.

The retreat consisted of two talks and four meditations. Gen Kelsang Opel, the Buddhist nun leading the retreat explained that the purpose of the retreat was to help us let go of fear and anxiety that we might be experiencing at the present time.

We started with a powerful meditation where we imagined breathing out fears and anxieties as black smoke; and then breathing in happier thoughts in the form of white light. It was a reminder that we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are transitory like clouds in the sky. The sky is our mind, the clouds represent our thoughts. This is a meditation I frequently do with my students. Another analogy we can use is the idea of waves on the ocean. The ocean is always there, the waves come and then go.

Our thoughts and feelings are impermanent, and true freedom comes from the realisation that our thoughts arise in our mind not outside of ourselves. Once we realise this we can then recognise, relax and release. It is just a cloud, or a wave and it will pass. One of the most powerful phrases we can think of at the present time is ‘This too will pass’. Nothing lasts forever.

Gen Opel talked about how we can distance ourselves from painful thoughts. That rather than thinking ‘I am very anxious’ we can instead think ‘anxious thoughts are arising in my mind’. We can stop identifying with our feelings/thoughts.

The Buddhists say that all of our unhappiness arises from our attachments. We believe our happiness depends on those external things/people we are attached to, and if we lose the object/person then we are unhappy. We have to realise that happiness is internal not external. Happiness is in our mind not in the external situations of our life.

We can train our minds to be happier through meditation. Loving kindness meditation helps us to be kinder and more loving towards ourselves and others.

Helen has a new vlog for us to watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0IvU45volk

 

Coping in lockdown

Blog post 16052020

This week the advice from the government changed from ‘Stay at home’ to ‘Be alert’. There was some confusion as to what this actually meant at first, but now it seems some restrictions have been lifted.

I went out in my car earlier today and did notice there was a lot more traffic on the road and more people out and about.

There was also some good news that a new antibody test looks promising and will be able to detect those of us who have had the virus.

Slowly the lockdown is going to be lifted but we still need to be cautious, far too many people have died of Covid 19 for us to think life can go back to normal any time soon, if ever. Commentators are talking about the ‘new normal’ in the belief that life won’t return to the pre Covid 19 days.

We can all do our bit to help. We can make sure we stick to the government’s guidelines, not matter how difficult we are finding these restrictions. One of my friends just became a grandmother but won’t be able to see her new granddaughter until the lockdown is over. My cousin died last week but because he lived in Liverpool and I live in Cheltenham I won’t be able to go to his funeral. Although we were able to follow a service online courtesy of Zoom.

Here are some tips and ideas for helping you cope with lockdown.

  1. Meditation – by focusing on the now we can reduce thoughts of stress and anxiety. Daily meditation can help boost your mood.
  2. Join a choir – there are lots of online choirs. I belong to a choir but we haven’t met since the middle of March now and really miss it but have been practising some of our songs to remind me of the fun we have. Singing is good for us. Gareth Malone has started an online choir
  3. Phoning family and friends – we might not be able to meet up with our loved ones but we can keep in touch with phone calls. Lots of people are rediscovering the joy of the landline.
  4. Online quizzes – once a fortnight my family get together for a light hearted quiz. (I think it’s light hearted!) we get to see one another online from all over the country. We chat, do the quiz, and have a sing-song.
  5. Watch our YouTube channel for lots of tips from Helen  https://youtu.be/A0IvU45volk

Take care and keep safe,

Mary

Boosting your immune system

Boosting your immune system

In this blog we are going to look at ways in which you can boost your immune system and protect your health.

  1. Sleep – getting 7-9 hours sleep a night will help boost your immune system and also help reduce inflammation in your body.

  1. Exercise – a 30 minute walk every day can help the body fight infection.

  1. Healthy diet – a diet full of fruit and vegetables, vitamins, especially vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc. Also take probiotics to help you protect your gut health.

  1. Reduce stress- chronic stress exposes the body to stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol both of which suppress the immune system. One of the best ways to combat stress is to meditate. Meditation helps the body to produce antibodies to fight infection. Find a teacher near you: https://www.teaching-meditation.co.uk/findateacher/

  1. Laughter – a good laugh helps reduce stress hormones and boost white blood cells. So, watch a funny film, comedies on TV, YouTube videos.

  1. Connect with loved ones by telephone, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype and have a good chat, have quizzes, and enjoy yourself.

  1. Take Vitamin D, it is essential to a healthy immune system. We get it from sunlight, but we can also take supplements to support us at this time while we are staying home.

  1. Essential oils – some essential oils may help fight infection and boost the immune system. Ones to try include:

Lemon – anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory

Tea tree – boosts the immune system

Eucalyptus – supports a healthy respiratory system and is a decongestant and expectorant.

  1.  You may want to investigate the Wim Hof system which suggests a variety of ways to boost your immune system: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/
Stay safe and keep well, Mary     
Check out our latest vlog: https://youtu.be/mwY4LcrrDgs

Ideas for self isolation

Ideas for self-isolation

It is likely that many of us will have to self-isolate perhaps for several weeks because of the impact of the coronavirus.

Therefore we have been looking at things we can do at home to keep occupied.

Some suggestions:

  1. Reading – you probably have a pile of books you have been meaning to read when you have the time. That time is now.
  2. Take up a new hobby, look at YouTube. There is an amazing collection of ‘how to’ videos.
  3. Revive an old hobby. When I was young my mum taught me to knit, embroider and sew. I am planning to start knitting again. What old hobbies could you think about revisiting?
  4. Phone friends and family. Connect with loved ones. Discover Facetime, WhatsApp ad other fantastic ways of connecting at a distance.
  5. Exercise – there are lots of videos on YouTube or dig out those DVD’s you bought with good intentions but haven’t used!
  6. Go for solitary walks, preferably in a park or out in the countryside.
  7. Meditate! I would say this wouldn’t I? Meditation can really help us to cope with anxiety and fear.

I found this on Facebook:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

Keep well and take care of yourself. Lovingkindness meditation so useful at this time.

My I be well

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be filled with Loving Kindness

Mary

I thought I would write a blog this week about the coronavirus.  This WHO image from the BBC shows the symptoms of the coronavirus.



Today there are 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. The total is expected to rise in the short term, but experts believe that once the temperatures start to rise in spring and summer then the virus will have less impact.


What do we need to do?


There is clear advice from the NHS:

Do

•    Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
•    Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.


Don't

•    Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
•    Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

We can also meditate on feeling calm and centred. LovingKindness meditation could also be helpful. Sending LovingKindness to ourselves and others, especially anyone suffering with the virus.

Be well,

Mary

Acts of kindness

This week is celebrating random acts of kindness. This is a reminder to us that acts of kindness can make such a difference to others.

At the moment the phrase ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind’ is trending on social media as people react with sorrow to the tragic death of Caroline Flack.

Being kind can seem a simplistic idea but it can change the world one act of kindness at a time.

Do you remember the film ‘Pay it Forward’?

The premise of the film and of the book by Catherine Hyde is that you do 3 acts of kindness and ask the recipients to then in turn od 3 acts of kindness to other people rather than reciprocate your act of kindness. It is a way of spreading kindness in the world.

So, this week I will be doing random acts of kindness and remembering that even a smile can make a difference to someone’s day. It costs nothing but could make all the difference to someone.

The meditation on LovingKindness is one of my absolute favourites. Metta or LovingKindness is a powerful way of extending love and kindness in the world. https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/loving-kindness-meditation

We can all be inspired by this meditation to be kinder to one another and also, importantly, to ourselves.

I posted this from Dr David Hamilton on our Facebook page today: https://www.facebook.com/BSoMeditation/posts/2926018600784362?notif_id=1581933347849536¬if_t=page_post_reaction

 

Silent Retreat

I have just returned home from a silent retreat. I attended the Time Set Aside retreat at the end of January at the Woodbrooke Quaker Centre near Birmingham.

There were 12 attendees and two facilitators. We went into silence at 6pm on the first day and remained in silence until a sharing session on the final day.

While on the retreat I thought about what we mean by silence. Is it simply not speaking to other people?

The dictionary definition: absence of sound, abstention from sounding, speech, mention or communication.

Many people have written about silence:

 “Sometimes it’s best to stay quiet. The silence can speak volumes without ever saying a word.” Anonymous

“Silence is a source of great strength.” Lao Tzu

“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” Rumi

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

So, is silence not speaking to other people or is there more to it than that? When we being silent are we still talking to ourselves? I was sitting at lunch one day and everyone was eating their food in silence. However, I did notice that I was observing my fellow diners and, it has to be said, making judgements of them. I did however realise what I was doing and made a definite attempt from then on to focus on my food and not on my companions! It is so easily done, making judgements and then are we really being silent or are we having an internal conversation?

Silence can be much more and can be profoundly beneficial to us. To be silent and meditate can take us to a place of deep stillness that is very nourishing. As Francis Bacon says: ‘Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.’

A wonderful book: ‘Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise’ Through silence, Thich Nhat Hanh reveals, we are free to hear, to see - and just be.

When we practise silence, we can learn to just be, to be more accepting of what is, to be more accepting of who we are. It is an antidote to the noisy world we live in.

Mary

 

Maintaining our practice 

In our latest vlog Helen looks at how our meditation practice can slip when we are very busy. Over Christmas and New Year we can get so busy that maintaining our practice can at times be almost impossible.
We can have family and friends coming to stay or we can go away ourselves. Sometimes with a house full of people it can difficult to find a quiet space and time to sit and do our daily practice. 
Helen had lots of family staying with her this Christmas and in the vlog, she says it was almost impossible for her to find time and space to meditate. I went to stay with my sister, and again it was hard to find time in between seeing family and visiting friends. 
However, it is important for us to realise that just because our practice may have slipped it doesn’t mean giving up on meditation. Once the family have gone or you are back home normal life resumes, and everything gets back to normal. 
It is then that we get back to our daily meditation practice if it has slipped. We don’t beat ourselves up and give up. 
We are all human and one of the things meditation can definitely give us is acceptance of what is. It can help us accept that at times we might not be able to maintain our practice but this doesn’t mean we have failed. We just start again, and again and again. 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCQ6IFUAwk8 

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