British School of Meditation Blog
If your mind and thoughts are scattered and you feel like your head is all over the place, you need to anchor and ground yourself in the present moment. The brilliant news is that there is a shortcut - YOU CAN USE YOUR SENSES to bring you back into the NOW.
1. For one minute, look at something (anything!) - properly focus on it, what do you notice about its shape, appearance, texture, colour? What can you see now that you’re studying this object that you’ve never noticed before?
Article on creativity and meditation
Do you know what Richard Gere, Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Russell Brand, Leonard Cohen, Sir Paul McCartney, and Novak Djokovic have in common? As well as being extremely famous, successful and creative people, they have all spoken about how a daily meditation practice has made a huge difference to their lives.
Russell Brand ‘Meditation has been incredibly valuable to me. I literally had an idea drop into my head the other day while I was meditating which I think is worth millions of dollars’ The New York Times, April 10th, 2011. Russell Brand
The list of famous authors who have accessed their inner creativity through meditation includes: Victor Hugo, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Deepak Chopra and quite probably Shakespeare who frequently alludes to meditation in his plays and sonnets.
He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
To visit him to-morrow or next day:
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be moved
To draw him from his holy exercise.
- William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third
So how can developing a meditation practice help you to be more creative?
Meditation can be the key to unlocking your creativity. Many writers struggle with writer’s block and cleaning the dirty windows can seem a pleasurable chore in comparison to sitting looking at a blank piece of paper; the words won't come, don't come. So, what can you do when you are stuck? I think anyone who writes or is engaged in creative pursuits knows this feeling of frustration; this sense that the brain has seized up.
Many people, including writers, have discovered the power of meditation to calm the mind and access creativity. If you don't already meditate how do you start?
So many people tell me that when they try to meditate they find it impossible to stop their thoughts and very often give up because they feel they can’t do it or they aren’t doing it correctly.
How to start: you can find a teacher and learn the techniques from them. Teachers who have trained with the British School of Meditation are fully qualified, insured and have signed our Code of Ethics and Practice. www.teaching-meditation.co.uk/findateacher
Or you can develop your own practice at home. There is no need for complicated equipment, most people find sitting on an upright chair works for them. You certainly don't need any incense or statues of Buddha. All you need is a quiet space and some time. Not endless amounts of time. Start with five minutes and then gradually extend the sessions to about twenty minutes.
What you now need is a focus: it can be your breath, or a mantra. A mantra is simply a word or a phrase you repeat silently in your mind. When your attention drifts, which it undoubtedly will, just keep bringing it back to your point of focus. Simple but not easy! It takes practice. Your mantra could be something like: ‘words flow easily’.
Read what some other writers have said:
My friend, Sue Johnson, is a writer, poet, creative writing workshop facilitator and published author. This is what she says about meditation and the creative process:
‘Meditation can be seen as a doorway between our inner and outer worlds.
It is this inner world that creative writers, artists and musicians need to access for their work. This state of mind – between the worlds – has been described by Dan Brown,(author of ‘The Da Vinci Code’) as like being between sleeping and waking.
For a creative person with a day job that involves mainly left brain activity, meditation can help with switching to creative right brain activity as well as giving the brain a much-needed rest. This need not take up more than ten minutes and the benefits will very soon be seen with greater output and a better flow of ideas. There are many techniques that can help improve concentration when meditating. For instance, some people find that focusing on an image or colour that features in their current project can help to block out the endless ‘chatter’ of the mind. Alternatively, a scented candle can help to draw the writer or artist into the right space to begin their creative work.’
Sue Johnson, www.writers-toolkit.co.uk
Albert Einstein said, “The really valuable thing is intuition. Through meditation I found answers before I even asked the question.”
Alice Walker, (The Color Purple) says: ‘At one point I learned transcendental meditation. This was 30-something years ago. It took me back to the way that I naturally was as a child growing up way in the country, rarely seeing people. I was in that state of oneness with creation and it was as if I didn't exist except as a part of everything.’
Meditation takes you to the space in your mind where your true creativity resides. It is where you find your authentic voice. You are bringing yourself to the page, and this helps you to engage with your audience in a very profound way. I wish you happy meditating and joyful writing.
©Mary Pearson 2019
Meditation and pain management
There are a variety of reasons why people decide to learn to meditate and one of the reasons can be for chronic pain management. We therefore have to ask ourselves does meditation really help reduce pain.
I have used meditation to help with pain. I have just recovered from having two fractures in my knee, this meant I was none weight bearing for about five months, it took sometime as well for the fractures to be diagnosed but that’s another story. As you can imagine my knee was very painful. As a meditator I tried to meditate on the pain in my knee, and I really found this helped, somehow it took the pain down several notches and this in turn meant I needed fewer painkillers. All I did was go into my quite space in my mind, and turn my attention to the pain and really that’s all it took. I have written the meditation in more detail at the end of this blog.
I am including a link to a YouTube video about a lady who said that she was in chronic pain and found that Mindfulness meditation really did help her, whilst it didn’t take it away completely, the pain was less and, in some ways, took the sting out of it. The clip shows her brain scans before and after meditating on the pain, have a look at the clip and see the outcome.
Danny Penman PhD, has written an interesting article about Mindfulness Meditation and pain, he makes the point that sometimes the struggle to fight the pain can make it even worse, and the effect of exploring the pain through mindfulness meditation can really help. He states that: -
Such an approach forms the core of a new treatment for chronic pain and illness that is based on an ancient form of meditation known as ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent. Accomplished meditators can reduce it by over 90 percent.
Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself, so that patients no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Many say that they barely notice it at all.
My meditation to help with pain.
For this meditation, sit or lie in a comfortable position for you, this will be guided by the discomfort/pain you are feeling. When I have my fractures in my knee, I had to always sit with my feet up, so this is how I meditated.
Gently close your eyes, take a few breaths focusing on the coolness of the air as you breath in and the warmth of the air as you breath out. When you are ready turn your attention to the various areas of your body, starting at the head, and working you way down to your feet, as you focus on each area try to relax the muscles and let any tension go.
Now turn your attention to the area that is painful to you, for me it was my knee, so I just (and this is the only way I can explain it) watched and observed the pain. I tried not to judge it or even to think about what was causing it. The first time I tried this I only focused on the area for a minute or two, as I practised my meditation over time, I increased the length of time that I focused on my knee.
When you are ready turn your attention back to the breath again focusing on the coolness of the air as you breathe in and the warmth of the air as you breathe out. I always like to end my meditations by becoming aware of my feet and my connection with the ground.
This meditation is in no way to replace any medication you have been prescribed by your health practitioner.
Loving Kindness Meditation
As Christmas approaches, I thought I would focus in this blog on LovingKindness.
As Sharon Salzberg says Loving Kindness is the recognition that we are all connected and that everyone matters. Loving Kindness is a favourite meditation with many of my meditation students. Here is the meditation:
· In this meditation we are going to focus on loving kindness for yourself and others as a way to enjoy happiness and good health. The more love you can give the more it will fill your being.
· Begin by finding yourself in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Switch off the phone, take this time for you. Sit on your favourite meditation chair with your feet flat on the floor. Straighten your spine and allow the chair to support you. Relax your shoulders and gently close your eyes. – Begin to focus on your breathing -------just gently become aware of breathing in and breathing out – don’t change your breathing just observe your breath. -------------
· Let your body settle and begin to relax---------just take this time for you ---we lead such busy lives rushing from one task to another and forget to take time to just be ---- to just live in the moment – so just take some deeper breaths and begin to relax mind and body ----- enjoy this feeling of peace
· Now gently bring your attention to your heart------imagine that your heart is a beautiful flower just beginning to open up------choose a flower now-----and see the petals gently beginning to open----- ------
· Now silently repeat your name and place an image of yourself in the centre of the flower-----in the centre of your heart ------ begin to send love to the image in your heart and now begin to visualise yourself as your own best friend ---- see yourself as the warm, kind loving person you truly are ------the person who cares deeply and wants only what is best for your family and friends. We often judge ourselves much more harshly than we judge our friends ----- yet when we are more loving towards ourselves we begin to blossom into the loving, compassionate beings we really are. So, allow this image to grow in your heart – see yourself as kind, loving, warm and compassionate -----acknowledge all your good qualities and praise your successes, however small------ and just enjoy this feeling of being truly loved just as you are -----accept yourself -----none of us is perfect – but we can all be kinder and gentler to ourselves.
· Now silently begin to repeat: ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me’;------- ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me’ --------and just continue to silently repeat these gentle, loving words. Allow your heart to fill with loving kindness for yourself. As we begin to feel more loving and kind towards ourselves then we can become more loving and kind to all the people in our lives. ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me.’
So, during this season of Christmas, remember to spread loving kindness, and don’t forget to include yourself!
Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a successful 2019.
I don't know about you, but I used to pop the kettle on and then go off and do some other things around the house. About 10 minutes later, I would suddenly remember I had boiled the kettle, feel the outside of it to see if it was still hot and then decide to boil it again.......... And then of course I would wander off again and do some other things around the house, forget I had switched it on again.....blah, blah, blah.....repeat, repeat, repeat! When I had finally made the cup of tea, it would be too hot to drink and so I would leave it on the side while I while I would, again, go off and do other things. Eventually, I would remember about my cup of tea, have a couple of sips and then leave it on the side to do more things. Later in the afternoon, I would find half a cup of cold tea sat on the side!
“We can bring a wonderful awareness to the present moment as it unfolds”
The beauty of mindfulness is that we can bring it to every day tasks and slow them down to bring a contemplative nature to the experience. By doing this we are able to notice our reaction to the encounter and bring a wonderful awareness to the present moment as it unfolds. We spend so much of our lives on auto pilot, we have forgotten to notice. With mindfulness we are noticing through our senses - what do you feel, smell, hear, taste and see?
Mindful tea drinking
Over the last week, in the advanced meditation groups, we have been bringing mindfulness to drinking a cup of tea. Here are the step by step details, should you wish to give it a go:
by Sarah Presley, British School of Meditation Teacher Trainer (South West)
This blog originally appeared on www.sarahpresley.co.uk
See also Thich Naht Hann
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.
Hugh Jackman says "Nothing has ever opened my eyes like Transcendental Meditation has. It makes me calm, happy and well, it gives me some peace and quiet in what's a pretty chaotic life!"
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.
Does our Meditation Practice keep our feet on the Ground?
I attended a Meditation retreat with Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki http://www.ihreiki.com.
During the course of the retreat we discussed how modern Meditations were based on ancient practices. Take for example the following meditation, which is probably the most taught meditation in the west.
‘Focus on your breath as you inhale, feel the coolness of the breath as it passes through your nose, and on the exhale focus on the warmth of the breath as it passes through your nose, when your attention wanders just bring it back to the breath’
This is just one example, but there are lots of variations on this theme. When this was first taught many years ago, people lived a very different life to how we live today. We worked the land, grew our own food, walked everywhere, went to sleep when it was dark and rose when it was light, we lived by the seasons. The human race you could say lived in harmony with the Earth, and the seasons. The Human race was part of the Earth.
These days in my view we live on the Earth, our lives are so far removed from the way ancient people existed, we live now very much in our heads, you just have to see people walking down the street with their phones, to see that the are just walking on the Earth and not part of the Earth. They live their lives to some extent in cyber space.
So, I feel we need to ask is the meditation focussing on just the breath and those meditations that are similar just allowing us to live in our head, without our feet firmly on the ground? Perhaps when teach Meditation and please don’t get me wrong this meditation is an excellent meditation to start with, we should also focus on other parts of the body, maybe a body scan.
In Martial Arts, the practitioner focuses on the energy centre which is found two finger widths beneath the navel, this can be known as the Hara or it can be known as the Dantian. By focusing the attention on this area, it gives the practitioner strength and helps ground them. Perhaps when we teach Meditation it would be good to bring this area into our meditations to ground us and help us to become more balanced.
One simple way of grounding ourselves, is to imagine that we are sending our breath to the hara, as we inhale, imagine the breath traveling to the hara, and as we exhale imagine that breath traveling out though your body to the area surrounding you.
We could also imagine the breath going to our feet, and as we exhale feel the connection with ground.
Another interesting article. https://www.osho.com/meditate/meditation-for-busy-people/hara-centering
On Saturday 3rd November I visited the Mind, Body and Spirit Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
I have attended these shows in London, but this was the first time I had gone to one at the NEC.
We went by train and walked from Birmingham International station to the NEC. The venue was much smaller than we had anticipated, and it was very noisy because the acoustics were dreadful. We struggled to get something to eat and drink and, in the end, had to go out of the show to find a café.
However, we did walk around all the stands and came across the Isbourne Centre based in Cheltenham. They were promoting their workshops and courses.
We also went to some free talks and especially enjoyed two. We went to a talk with Tim Wheater and joined in some lovely chants. It was very powerful.
On Tim’s website there is lots of information about him and his music.
Last fm https://www.last.fm/music/Tim+Wheater/+wiki says on its website:
‘Award winning composer, flautist, vocalist, teacher and public speaker, Tim has presented his acclaimed inspirational music, talks and demonstrations all over the world. He has co-presented with some of the finest renowned authors, healers and spiritual teachers including Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dwyer, Neale Donald Walsch, Julia Cameron, James Redfield and more recently His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His uniquely melodic and distinctive music has also led to recording opportunities with The Eurythmics, Donovan and the Grateful Dead; as well as receiving an invite to perform for HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip; plus the King and Queen of Sweden.
Having travelled millions of miles around the globe Tim has lectured and performed in theatres, festivals and stadiums in many major cities, which include Esalen, Open Centre, The Omega Institute, alongside The Whole New Life, New Life and Mind Body Spirit festivals. Tim has also performed at fundraising events for organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wide Fund for Nature’.
We also attended a session with Mr and Mrs Brilliant and heard some wonderful chanting. You can find examples on their website.
So, even though the venue was noisy and uninspiring we did have a good day.
Is Chanting a Mantra a form of meditation?
In my view yes, it is, during the practice you are focusing on sound vibration. Chanting is very simple and easy to practise.
As part of our training course, Meditation Teacher Training, we look at and practise Chanting meditation. To some of our students this is a new experience, to others, who practise Yoga, may chant at the end of a yoga session.
Is there any science behind Mantra chanting?
In an interview with Jonathan Goldman author of Healing Sounds by Vandana Mohata, states that:-
There are a number of different “sciences” behind mantric chanting. Some of these are the “hard” science—physics, psycho-acoustics, etc. Some of these are spiritual sciences such as the different yogic practices that work with sound. I write about many of them in Healing Sounds.
On one level, one can see that mantric chanting, as observed years ago by Dr. Herbert Benson, helps induce the “relaxation” response, causing reduction of heart beat, brain waves and respiration. On another level, as Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa believes, mantric recitation enables the tongue to stimulate the acupuncture meridians inside the mouth (particularly on the roof), thus enhancing help. Dr. Ranjie Singe found that the chanting of specific mantras caused the release of the hormone melatonin and is investigating the importance of this in the healing process.
He writes about this in his book Powerful Self Healing Techniques.
How do I practise Chanting Meditation?
Sit in a comfortable position, feet firmly on the ground, back straight, shoulders relaxed, you can close your eyes or gently focus on a spot about three metres away. Before you start just gently check for any signs of tension.
Take a deep breath in through you nose, expanding your tummy as you do this, and as you exhale begin your chant, just let the sound flow, you may say the mantra once to every breath or you might be able to say it several times.
A good mantra to start with is Om, this is traditionally chanted at the beginning and the end of yoga sessions. In the Hindi tradition Om is said to be the entire Universe in a sound, the unification of Mind Body and Spirt.
Another Mantra you might like to try is Om Mani Padme Hum. There is lots of information about this Mantra and perhaps you might like to read up about it, but in essence it’s about compassion to yourself and others.
Can I chant on my own?
Yes, you can Chant on your own as part of your practice, or you might like to find a teacher who would help you, please see our list of teachers on our website.
There are also lots of mantras on YouTube for you to listen to.
A book and CD worth a look at is Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrands
Quote from https://shiftyourlife.com/the-science-behind-mantra-chanting-by-jonathan-goldman/
Last year I joined a writing group run by Patricia Fleming www.writingyourself.co.uk
Pat has a first class honours degree in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham and a Post-graduate Certificate in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes from the University of Middlesex/Metanoia Institute.
I attended a course she ran at the Isbourne Centre in Cheltenham where we looked at a variety of different written forms including poetry to help us unlock our own creativity.
Pat then suggested setting up a group to meet up once a month. I really enjoy the sessions and it has encouraged me to do some more writing including some poetry. I have to admit that poetry isn’t my favourite form of writing and when Pat told us we would be writing a poem during the session I did feel apprehensive.
This is the poem I wrote last week. We were asked to close our eyes and visualise a special place, a place where we felt safe, at home. Not surprisingly, my special place is my meditation room. Here is the poem:
Away from home, I think
about my meditation room.
I look forward to my return
to the haven of peace I have created.
I sit on the train, homeward-bound,
close my eyes, and visualize
the altar I have created,
it brings me home to peace.
The statues, pictures and candle
evoke a sense of tranquility,
a reminder in the midst of busyness
of what is important.
The silence the renews,
empowers and brings me
back to me. Deep peace,
evocative, stillness, being.
What is your favourite place? We had a variety of different ideas and some beautiful poems. It just shows you what you can do when you are persuaded out of your comfort zone.
The British School of Meditation has been established to train teachers in meditation techniques to meet the growing demand for highly trained and accredited meditation teachers throughout the UK including: the Midlands, South West, Wales, North West, North East, London and the South East.