Breathe: Those days when it's hard
So whichever way you chose to vote, I'm sure we can all agree that the last few days have been a bit crazy and that, right now, we have quite a lot of uncertainty. As a result, my anxiety levels have risen a little - I'm not good with large scale uncertainty that affect a lot of areas of my life and are out of my control! Who is?
This means that, when I need it most, I'm finding it harder to meditate.
For me, this is where having a few different meditation techniques can make a big difference. Today, sitting, breathing and gently swatting away thoughts is not working for me. How about breathing techniques? Nope. The brain is still whirling.
So what does work? On days like this I need something that I can really focus on so a guided meditation or contemplation meditation.
Guided meditation is the process of meditating under the guidance of a trained practitioner or teacher. This may be in person, or through a recording or film.
There are many different guided meditations available - there are apps and free videos on youtube that you can try, but I'm a little picky. The voice has to be right for me, otherwise I spend the whole time thinking about how annoying the voice is. If you're considering trying this, I would recommend trying several different practitioners to find a tone of voice and style that works for you.
The joy of a guided meditation is that it gives me something external to focus on, something to listen to and fix on, which in turn stills the brain. By choosing the right one, I can also use it as a reminder of what I should be focussing on and use that to break a negative thought spiral. For example, when I'm particularly over tired and not functioning properly I listen to a meditation that is all about resting, and the reminder that I deserve to rest, that I need to rest.
Contemplation meditation involves choosing an object and gazing at it, contemplating it.
Some people use candles for this, but I find the flickering distracting. Instead, I prefer something with detail like a flower or a small stack of pebbles.
The trick is to run your eye over your object, to gaze at it, to look at those details but without any judgement. With contemplation, rather than concentration.
I set a timer on my phone, and then contemplate my pebbles. Whenever a thought starts to intrude, I refocus my attention on my object.
Initially, I used to beat myself up for not being able to just sit, breathe and clear my mind, but over time I've learnt that, when it's hard, it's better to have a tool kit, a range of different techniques to rely on otherwise, when I need to empty my brain the most, I can't do it at all. I used to think that guided meditations were a bit of a cop out, but now I find them to be a vital part of my meditation practice.