British School of Meditation Blog
Impossible is not a fact.
It's an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration.
It's a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is NOTHING.
Recently I watched Andy Murray make a return to competitive tennis, something that had seemed impossible after he limped out of the Australian Open and it looked like his career was over.
He held a press conference and he was in tears contemplating the end of the career he loves and has done so well in. I have followed his career from its early days, and I, too, was in tears listening to him. Andy has been an inspiration in what he has achieved in terms of his tennis career, but also in other ways too. He raises huge amounts of money for charity – Unicef – is just one example.
He has also championed women, appointing a female coach, and taking interviewers, such as John Inverdale to task for casual sexism.
If anyone exemplifies the above quote from Muhammad Ali, it is Andy Murray. Faced with the end of his illustrious career he had a second hip replacement operation and is now back playing doubles and winning. For Andy impossible was NOTHING.
In 1997 my life fell apart and for a time it seemed impossible that I could change it. But slowly and surely, I began to rebuild my life and, in fact, change it for the better. I began to train in different disciplines, including teaching meditation and looked at an exit strategy from school teaching. I sold my house and moved from Manchester to Cheltenham and set myself up as self-employed. It was a struggle at first but gradually and with determination I began to build my new business.
In 2011 I got together with Helen and together we created something out of nothing: The British School of Meditation. Here we are in 2019 with a wonderful team and a Register of members.
So, remember: ‘Impossible is not a fact -------’
See our latest vlog about starting to meditate- tips from Helen on how to start your meditation practice.
In 2010 my first book: ‘Meditation, the stress solution’ was published and together with my good friend Carol Green,(www.carolgreenmedium.co.uk) I organised a book signing combined with a Christmas Fair.
We had a raffle as part of the Open Day to raise money for ‘Help for Heroes’, a charity close to our hearts. I donated a 1-2-1 session with me as a raffle prize. Helen, my now business partner in the School, won the prize.
Helen and I had been acquaintances for several years, but we didn’t really know one another. We arranged the 1-2-1 session in February 2011.
Out of that meeting came the idea for The British School of Meditation. We chatted away and discovered we had a great deal in common. One of us mentioned that more and more people were now turning to meditation for a whole variety of reasons and wouldn’t it be good if there were more meditation teachers to meet that need. Well, one thing led to another and by the end of the meeting we had both decided to go away and explore the idea.
Helen went home and mentioned the idea to her husband, and he said it seemed like it was worth pursuing. We met up again and looked seriously at the concept and at the idea of working together. From the very beginning we have got on really well and from being acquaintances have become very close friends.
We spent most of 2011 putting in all the groundwork. We talked about the format of the course and decided the best way was to have face-to-face training and that we would offer that training in Cheltenham at the Isbourne Centre.
One very important point we decided on from the beginning was that we needed to get proper external accreditation for the course. This took time and effort but eventually we teamed up with the Open College Network and obtained accreditation for our teacher training course. Ascentis has now taken over as our accrediting body.
The success of the School led us to expand and we now have centres in different parts of the country.
See Helen’s vlog about the setting up of the School.
A blog about vlogs
Helen, the co-founder of the British School of Meditation has made a blog on our YouTube page.
Do have a look and find out more about the Meditation School. If you are considering becoming a meditation teacher Helen explains why the British School of Meditation is the best choice.
Is it just me or are you finding this weather is taking your Mo-Jo away? I think that we look forward to seeing the sun and being outside so when it rains for days in the summer and its cold, we just feel deflated. Various friends have said they just can’t be bothered with stuff.
What can we do when we feel like this? In my view this is just the time to give ourselves some Loving Kindness. Don’t put pressure on yourself just relax into how you are feeling and just be with it. I was feeling guilty as I had not some work for the school, then I took myself in hand and thought well Helen don’t do until you feel in the right place, the next day I got all the work done. In the meantime, I had enjoyed putting my feet up and playing our new puppy.
I also practised Loving Kindness Meditation, for those of you that done know this meditation here it is.
First of all, settle in your meditation position.
Be aware of your breath.
When you are ready just say these words to yourself.
May I be well,
May I be happy,
May all good things come to me.
Repeat this phrase as many times as you like.
After a time stop repeating the phrase and just sit. If your attention wanders go back to repeating the phrase.
You can if you wish then think of someone you love and say this in you mind to them, then maybe think of someone who perhaps you don’t get on so well with.
However, it is really ok just to focus on yourself.
Look after yourselves.
Meditation and direct experience.
This week I joined one of our groups of students training to be meditation teachers with BSoM. We had a very interesting discussion about the scientific research that has been done over the last 30 years or so, on the benefits of meditation. Science has been able to show that meditation can help with both physiological and psychological issues, it has even been shown to help us lay down more neurones in the brain. Science has clearly shown that we can slow down our brainwaves. I have put a few links at the bottom of this blog if you want to investigate further. Part of the course is for the learner to write an essay and give a talk about the science that has been done to support the benefits of meditation.
One our students made the very valid point that we can get distracted by the science, that the benefits are a side issue, important but, possibly not why we meditate.
These are my thoughts on this, science is very important as in the age we live in people expect validation for what they do, they are not prepared to spend time just on an off chance that it may work for them.
So, the scientific evidence can be useful in pointing people in the right direction but it can not tell them what meditation is like. It’s a bit like trying to explain what honey tastes like. You could say it is sweet, and has can have a smooth texture, although the taste can vary depending where the bees have gathered the pollen. It is only through actually tasting honey can we understand what it tastes like, this is a direct experience. I can talk all day about the benefits of meditation and the experience but until someone try’s it themselves they cannot really know what it is like to meditate. Also, within that experience, you have to understand that each meditation experience is different, the same as every jar of honey is different and that this is OK. The important point is that you gave yourself permission to meditate and took time for yourself. through doing this you are giving yourself a direct experience of meditation.
This is the famous walk to Santiago that has been followed by pilgrims and others since the Middle Ages.
This shell is the symbol of the Camino and walkers/pilgrims follow the shell as they walk the route.
Ancient Meditations for Modern Times by Frans Stiene
Many ancient Asian meditation practices have come to the west since the early 60's. But are they of benefit in this modern day and age?
We could say that any kind of meditation practice is of benefit, especially in turbulent times like the ones we are living in now!
However, we also need to look at what some of these meditation practices are doing to our mind, body and energy to see if they are of benefit or not.
One very common practice, currently taught in many meditation schools, is about resting our awareness on the tip of the nose and feeling the breath going in and out of the nostrils.
From an energetic point of view this meditation is more focused on the upper part of our body, mainly the head. Therefore, we also can say that it is helping us to feel our interconnectedness to heavenly energy.
But when this meditation originally was developed and traditionally was practiced, people lived much more in harmony with the earth. They were therefore much more grounded and centred to begin with. They had, and they felt, a deep interconnection with the earth energy.
In our modern society, often we have mislaid this interconnection with the earth. We have lost our groundedness and centeredness due to being more in our heads. In our heads (and often through our mouths), we constantly ask why, how, who, what, when? And therefore we are always analyzing and over thinking things. Living in the head is also due to mobile phones, TV's, computers, etc., all of which distract and take us away from grounded and centred interconnectedness with the earth. But it is not only this: many of us also live in concrete cities, work in crammed offices, and rarely walk in nature anymore.
Thus, by first (and only) practicing a meditation technique which takes us even more in our head, we will become even more ungrounded and uncentred.
In olden times when people lived more in harmony with nature and were not over thinking things, that ancient meditation technique was perfect. But we live in a very different world now. Things have changed. And therefore if we practice one of these ancient practices without first realizing that we need to be grounded and centred before we even start, we might unbalance our mind, body, and energy. This imbalance can happen even as we seek to find balance through the practice, because the practice needs a grounded, centred foundation that it will not have if we practice only from (and in) our heads.
Thus it is of utmost importance if we want to practice these ancient spiritual teachings, that we first work on rediscovering our interconnectedness with the earth.
A tree cannot start by growing leaves and branches; it first needs to grow roots. And if the roots are not stable and the tree grows more towards heaven, it might even fall over and need to start anew. But if the tree has stable roots, then it can create a beautiful canopy.
This stable, grounded and centred feeling comes from bringing our mind and energy deep into our body, just below the navel; this is the centre of our roots.
As meditation teachers, we therefore need to be aware of the effects of our own practice and the changes in our way of being before we start to teach specific meditation practices to others.
And just like the tree with stable roots can create a beautiful canopy of leaves and branches in time, if we as meditation practitioners and teachers work to rediscover and cultivate our connection to the earth, our practice can blossom and grow, literally from the ground up.
Gratitude every day.
Sometime ago I wrote a blog on keeping a gratitude diary, which I still try to do most days (notice the try bit). In this blog I am hoping to expand on this.
I have just come back from visiting my daughter in the US, and I did not have a great night’s sleep last night, most likely still a bit jet lagged. When the alarm went off, I got up, but was feeling in quite a grouch, the first thought that went through my mind was, ‘Why can’t David get up for once and bring me a cup of tea.’ You can see where this thought trail is leading, and I duly followed that trail.
After breakfast, which yes, I prepared, more thoughts! I sat down with a cup of coffee, for a few minutes peace and quiet to start my day. I opened my iPad and clicked on YouTube, and there at the top of my home page was a Gratitude Meditation, led by Bob Baker (who I have never heard of before) anyway I thought ‘Helen, let’s listen to this’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRnbKWapfEM
This simple meditation was just what I needed. It reminded me of all the good things in my life, and I have plenty. The meditation worked through gratitude for: -
My five senses, and paused to think about if one was missing what gifts would this bring.
Family and friends
My sense of wellbeing.
The food I have will have today and the farmers that have grown it.
This list went on, and I am sure you can think of other blessing in your life that you have gratitude for.
At times though life can be very tough. My family and I have had to deal with a sudden bereavement which was very traumatic. However, even in the darkest moments I tried to think the blessings in my life. At this time, it was all the family and friends that travelled from great distances who supported us. Without them it would have be truly hard, they made us laugh and we cried together this was a great healing. I thank them and bless them.
A few weeks ago, I went down to Bristol to join with Sarah Presley and her trainee meditation students. They were studying Unit 5 of our Meditation Teacher Training course which looks at how you can start your meditation business once you have qualified as an accredited teacher with The British School of Meditation. We had a really good day and I was delighted to hear from one of the students that he is planning to run meditation sessions within his company once he has qualified. He is also going to volunteer at Sue Ryder’s Hospice in Cheltenham.
At one of the breaks I saw that Sarah had sets of mala beads for sale. Mala beads are used in Buddhist meditation. Mala beads consist of 108 beads which the meditator uses while meditating or chanting. The usual chant to do is ‘Om mani padme hum’. This mantra helps us to invoke loving feelings of compassion. It is the most widely used of Buddhist mantras.
I bought some sets of beads for my meditation students and at our next afternoon session we all chanted using the beads.
We listened to Tim Wheater’s track on his CD Invisible Journeys https://youtu.be/5eFLdqgOw-Q
You can buy the beads on Amazon and Etsy
Why I prescribe meditation by Dr Lisa Thomas
My favourite thing about being a GP is getting to know my patients and finding out what has led to the problem in the first place, then working with them to find a solution. I practice lifestyle medicine as part of my routine patient management, both in the NHS and in my private clinic.
Lifestyle medicine is empowering patients with tools to improve their health and wellbeing through lifestyle changes. This is backed by scientific evidence. My particular area of interest is in using meditation and it’s power to heal.
Through my lifestyle medicine workshops and regular general practice I have been prescribing meditation to patients for a variety of medical conditions. This includes heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and IBS as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Patient feedback is fantastic and most conditions seem to improve with regular practice over an 8 week period.
There is considerable excitement in the scientific community regarding the emergence of more and more evidence supporting meditation as an effective healing tool. Better quality research is being conducted therefore making it more reliable. 8 weeks of daily practice seems to lead to the best outcomes, and this is why I usually recommend a trial of this duration for patients as a starting point. Most patients, however, want to continue with meditation as they feel so much better for it.
Meditation leads to measurable changes in the brain and body. It results in neuroplasticity (the development of new nerve cells in the brain) and so the brain’s ability to develop and change structurally. There is better emotional regularity, more positivity as well as improved memory. Great news for those concerned about conditions such as dementia. Benefits are also seen within the body right down to cellular level. Telomeres protect chromosomes, which carry our DNA and reduce in length with cell replication and ageing. The telomerase enzyme is linked with improved cell longevity through its ability to maintain the telomere. Meditation results in significant greater activity of this enzyme. This essentially means we do not age as quickly or become prone to disease so early. No more looking old and haggard when stressed! Changes are also seen in select biomarkers of the immune system. There is improved immune system function and less stress response. Meditation was even shown to be better than exercise in it’s ability to improve our immune system against the cold virus. It is also effective in improving blood pressure, reducing heart rate and breathing rate, helping us feel calm. Most people are aware it improves conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. It has also been shown to be beneficial in patients with cancer and chronic pain. I believe that it can be useful as part of the management of any health problem.
I do find that I am prescribing less pharmaceuticals as patients favour the option of trying meditation instead. It isn’t that I am anti-medicine, of course not, I just like to offer a low risk, no side effect option to patients and let them choose. As I say to patients, medicines are always there as a backup or to complement the lifestyle interventions.
I have recently written a website to provide more information to the public about meditation as well as start a YouTube channel and Instagram account to harness the power of social media. I also host Revive Retreats, a health retreat centred around lifestyle medicine and meditation. I really hope to spread the message so that this can be a tool for everyone to benefit from.
Given the low cost and low risk of harm it is an exciting possibility that meditation can be implemented in anyone’s life and result in vitality and longevity.
I wish you all health and happiness,
For more information see:
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.