What does it mean to meditate and be mindful? Well there’s a question which could be answered in a hundred different ways, in a hundred different countries, by a hundred different cultures. But Jackie Heffer-Cooke lives in Norwich, in 2017, here is her 5-step interpretation on what is means to meditate and be mindful in the modern world.
Like a lot of people, I have a busy mind
Like a lot of people, I have a busy mind. A mind which gallops off in all directions, pulling and pushing my emotions along the way. Some days the mind is productive, sometimes it’s critical, at times confused and occasionally downright punishing. Years ago, I suffered with insomnia when loops went round and round and round with no end. Exhausting.
Crutches we try
I have always wanted to be a more happy, content person, and have tried many things to self-medicate; counsellors, cigarettes and alcohol. The counselling was helpful, I talked, she listened, I got some things off my chest, but I didn’t have any answers. Cigs and alcohol, well usually fun at the time, but those substances aren’t ever really going to find you proper inner peace, particularly not when you are sober and once again alone with your thoughts.
I found meditation quietly through the back door…
I found meditation quietly through the ‘back door’. When I started training with the MTI in massage 10 years ago, meditation was very much part of the journey, although it wasn’t obvious as such. But it was enough to make me wonder about how the mind and body hold tension, in their own sometimes destructive ways, and to start to learn techniques which would, quite literally, change my life. Now meditation and yoga is an integral part of how I cope with the busyness of life, and the stresses and strains of modern life.
Meditation for me is a few things.
- Getting to know your unique mind-stuff. What thoughts and emotions mean, and are, to the individual ‘you’, and that this ‘you’ has its intensely unique way of seeing the world.
- Spend some time in the present moment. It is ‘getting out of your head’, grounding yourself into your body and into the present moment. Consider how many times you think of the future and the past, how many times are you actually in the PRESENT moment. And do you know what, the present moment is the ONLY experience we EVER have. So why not be in it more? Yoga helps me with this, so does ‘body focused’ meditation like yoga nigra, mindfulness and just opening your eyes on a present moment and seeing the colours of the leaves on the trees.
- It is observing tugging, nagging, needless emotional thoughts, which aren’t in the least bit useful, to wind them back, see where they come from, and give them the attention they are so desperately after, in order to calm them down. Just like a toddler tugging on your dress, demanding attention, so your thoughts will do the same until you study them and see either a solution, an outcome, or simply are able to file them neatly away for good (this one not a tactic you can use on a toddler). We spend so long looking out, it becomes really meaningful when we look in…
- Understanding I am NOT in control of the world, other people do things, say things, I cannot control. Some people will like me, some people will not, some people will do the best by me, some people will not, the weather may be sunny, it may rain. One of my favourite meditations is So Hum – which in Sanskrit means ‘I Am That’, no better, no worse. When you can truly realise that, you may begin to find some inner contentment. Some days I remember, some days I forget. So Hum. But I am moving in the right direction.
- It is learning to look at myself with loving kindness. Not to criticise and self-punish, but to understand when I need to ‘give myself a break’ and just be nice to my Self. For this we practise Mettabhavana meditation, which is intensely beautiful. Fantastic for practising over Christmas as we remember that whatever your religion, Loving and Giving should be what the season is all about.
Meditation has ‘processes’ for all the above…
Improving focus, centring beyond the senses in ‘the quiet gaps’, turning the attention inward, to that MASS of you; imagination, thought, hopes, dreams, sadness, darkness, and light! and eventually promising eternal energy and enlightenment, although I’m not sure I will get there in this lifetime!…
Meditation has not solved all of my own, or indeed the world’s problems, but it has certainly helped…
It has assisted me to self-study and recognise why, when, and how to do things differently, to not follow the old limiting patterns. To be more mindful. And I know it has brought great outcomes… I am a better person, definitely a better mum, even a better wife (mostly) and hopefully a better friend. I don’t have deep complete inner peace, one day maybe (for now my schedule is too busy for that ;-)) but I do have more focus, a brighter energy, I’m kinder and less cynical, I have an inner calm and an ability to see things more clearly. And I have a tool that I can use when times get tough and my head goes fuzzy and my emotions get tuggy. That will do for now… J
Take the leap and join one of Jackie’s pragmatic, warm and friendly classes in yoga or meditations. Regular classes run on a Monday evening at The Norwich School for girls. For more information and to book see here