I am a convert to meditation. It’s not that I was ever against it but I just had never given it a try. Our youngest son, aged 24 years, and many of his friends meditate, regularly. He personally found it really helped his anxiety when he came to sitting his finals. I supported him as I know young men can find life quite stressful. Anything that can help young people with stress should be encouraged.
Introduction to a Buddhist teacher
My son was introduced to someone called Mike who is a Zen Buddhist. He is not a Buddhist monk but an average man, husband and father living in Oxford who has studied Buddhism and wants to share the benefits. He has reached the ultimate level in Buddhism – Enlightenment. Our son met with Mike and walked through Hyde Park. They discussed Mike’s methods of teaching and how it could help him personally. Since that first meeting my son and some of his friends, their parents and grandparents have all taken Mike’s course. They too are converts to meditation and extol the virtues.
How the course works
Mike’s course consists of 4 consecutive meetings of one hour. Our son persuaded my husband and I to take the course last November/December, together with 3 of our friends.
When you meet and talk to Mike you know that you have met someone very special. He is happy, calm, and determined to spread the word. His course focuses solely on meditation and the science behind it. We learned why meditation is so good for us. He helped us to meditate and he taught us how to live in the NOW.
Mike has coached busy Mums and then gone onto, at their request, to coach their husbands. The latter have invited him into their companies to talk to their employees. I understand many CEOs of successful companies now meditate to help them deal with their highly pressurised jobs.
In our group all five of us loved the sessions and we did not want them to end. Mike does not charge for these sessions as his mission is to slowly help mend people’s lives. He teaches them to remove stress, anxiety and fear from their everyday life.
Fear governs the world. It dominates all the mainstream religions, Christianity, Muslim, Judaism. Fear now pervades our politics. Meanwhile stress and anxiety seem to be accepted as standard in our lives. We all know that stress can have knock on effects to our health and relationships so we need to address this.
How it works for me
It took me some time to be able to meditate to any level of success. Blocking out all thoughts is very hard but now I seem to be able to ‘bat them’ away. There is nothing quite like a good meditation session and that does not happen every time, or at least not for me. There are some days when I cannot get rid of all my thoughts. The good news is that my meditation skills are improving and my life is clearing and becoming simpler. It is only 10 minutes twice a day – we can all find the time. I agree there are times when the ‘ego side of my brain’ (the left side) tells me that I am too tired or I don’t have time. You have to bat that thought away, dissolve your ego, and just do it – the benefits are immense.
The benefits of meditation
When you start the course Mike gives you a list of the 79 benefits of meditation. I will not list them all but will share with you the ones that I have benefited from:
- Increases serotonin level, influences mood & behaviour
- Helps with focus and concentration
- Improved feelings of vitality and rejuvenation
- Increase emotional stability
- Improved relationships
- Helps ignore petty issues
- Require less time to fall asleep and much better quality of sleep
- Greater tolerance
Sometimes I break off from work and meditate as first thing in the morning I have a lot to do and I have found meditating harder at that time of day. I should probably do it immediately when I wake up but that reminds me of boarding school. We were abruptly woken with a loud wake-up call from one of the nuns and then we had to kneel down on a hard cold floor and join in reciting prayers. It is a memory I would rather forget and so I should be able to if I am living in the now. But old habits die hard!
However when I have that low feeling of lethargy, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee I go to my special place, the sofa at the end of my bed and I meditate. It is like having a battery re-charge.
Other helpful books and articles
One of the books that Mike recommended is, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I recently heard someone speaking on Radio 4 about this being the best self-help book she had ever read and I have to agree with her. It makes so much sense and having read it once I often pick it up again and re-read a chapter.
At the start of this new year when we may be planning new resolutions I can highly recommend this as a skill that will enhance your life. As I wrote, at the beginning of this post, stress is now inevitable in our everyday life but it need not be and meditation will certainly help to deal with it.
Mike finished our course by saying to us all, “the only true statement you know is… I am.”
For further information read this article from the Harvard Gazette and their research into Meditation.
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