Create the time for meditation

While we may have heard a daily meditation practice brings with it many benefits to our overall happiness and wellbeing, there’s often resistance to committing to it. Common resistances include thinking ‘I don’t have time’, ‘It’s boring to just sit still’, or ‘I am not good at it, my mind just runs the whole time’. These last two examples are similar to expecting an untrained puppy to sit still the first time it is asked. Whereas the first, simply requires you to have an honest conversation with yourself about what your priorities are, and perhaps shift the expectation of exactly how much time you need to dedicate towards mediating.

Just like your asana, meditation is a practice, not a performance. So a good place to begin is removing any outcome you perceive you need to achieve, which may be ‘successfully meditating’. I know this is one I’ve had in the past. Benefits and blessings will come to you over time, but for now, all you need to do is sit down, try to be still, and practice the meditation technique shown to you. If you don’t have one already, don’t worry, there is one included at the end of this blog.

Initially, sitting still for a period of time can be challenging, especially because we’re so use to ‘moving’ and ‘doing’ constantly. In our modern world, it seems even sleeping is becoming something we ‘do’, rather than being really enjoyed. So to begin, simply designate a specific time window, duration, and place to practice on a regular basis. Begin with five minutes, and set a timer so looking at the clock won’t distract you. Commit to practicing meditation before you have your breakfast in the morning, in a quiet corner or room in your home. Another option is to close the door at your office, and practice your meditation at your desk. Otherwise, you may choose to commit five minutes at the end of your yoga class, when you’re in savasana. Regardless of where and when, we can all create 5 minutes of space in our day. Over time, you can gradually lengthen your practice.

For most people the normal state of the mind is a constant chatter. Don’t be put off by this; Rather, use the stillness, use the quiet, to bring awareness and observation to how much your mind chatters. With repetition of practice, you can use this awareness to soften the chatter, and delve deeper into your consciousness. The associated benefits to this such as a calm mind, eased stress, anxiousness, and depression, healthier sleeping patterns, increased creativity, improved relationships, and self-appreciation and respect, make the practice even more enticing, and even easier to commit to.

Again, just like your asana practice, meditation will bring with it a new experience each day; some will seem ‘easier’ than others. If you a miss a day, feel distracted throughout, or finish early, just start again. Have faith your mind will come to settle down and feel at ease with regular practice and eventually longer periods of sitting. Be as gentle with yourself as you would a puppy you love, and allow your mind to learn to release in the same way it has learned to hold on.

Meditation Technique:

Sit or lie comfortably, with your spine straight. Set a timer on your phone or meditation application (we recommend 1 Giant Mind, or, Insight Timer) so as not to be distracted by looking at the clock. Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths in and out of your nose to calm your body down and prepare for meditation.

Next, place extra attention on your breath. Stilling breathing by your nose, bring your inhale and exhale to the same steady length, and then continue to observe your breath. Feel your chest rise on the inhale, and then the chest fall on the exhale. Feel the coolness of the air on the inhale, and warmth of the air on the exhale. Maintain your focus and observation on your breath. If at any point, you notice your mind wandering, gently come back to the awareness of the breath. For some extra support, you may choose to silently say in your mind ‘inhale’ as you breathe in, and ‘exhale’ as you breathe out.

At the end of your practice, give a statement of gratitude. For example, ‘I am thankful for making the time to do this meditation’, ‘I am thankful for my breath’, ‘I am thankful for how relaxed I feel’, or, anything that naturally arises in to give thanks for.

Some general recommendations to support your meditation practice include, not eating or consuming caffeine/ any other stimulants just prior to meditating, finding a private and quiet space where you won’t be interrupted, and keeping a journal to track your insights and progress.

Let us know how you’re going with your meditation practice. Leave us a comment on this post, share in our facebook group, or talk to any one of us at the studio! We look forward to hearing of how meditation is supporting and enriching you in your life.

Namaste

Not a creative person? Meditation will change that

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  – Pablo Picasso.

Creative people. They’re the rock stars, authors, and artists of the world. They’re the ones we look up to for their imagination and their talent.

They’re special, aren’t they? Those creative artists who create the music, books, and art we turn to when we want to dream.

People flock to La Louvre in Paris, one of the most impressive art galleries in the world, oggling the works of artists like Gericault and Da Vinci. They were people born to create works of creative genius. Many dream that one day they may create works that would be one hundredth the creative brilliance of those paintings adorning the walls of France’s most important gallery.

Yet many think that only those alike to Da Vinci and Gericault were born for creative brilliance,  the rest of us are not. Right? If we were born with creative talent we would surely know about it, wouldn’t we? Talent like that couldn’t be hiding somewhere, unbeknownst to us. Could it?

But what if creative talent isn’t reserved for just the lucky few? What if creative talent is actually inside us all?

Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Sure enough, every child is indeed an artist. Give a two-year-old a crayon and they’ll draw you a picture. True, it might be a mangled mess completely uninterpretable until said child tells you it’s a cat, but they will grab that crayon and they will draw to their heart’s content; they will have a go.

Trouble is, most adults will not have a go. Give an adult a crayon and they’ll probably just put it right back in the box and tell you to grow up. It’s like the mere idea of being creative seems absurd to them.

We lose our creativity as we grow old. And no wonder. “Stress is a well-known creativity killer,” says psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD. “Time constraints are another.” As we age we are gradually exposed to both increasing levels of stress and tightening time constraints, and our creativity is stifled.

Stress and time-constraints kill creativity in many ways:

  • Stress prevents the mind from being playful, which is essential to creativity.
  • Stress makes us obsess over worries rather than thinking about possibilities.
  • Stress prevents us from living in the moment, cutting off our main source of inspiration.
  • Stress is tiring, sapping our creative energy.
  • Time constraints mean we’re forced to do things the way we know rather than looking for alternatives.
  • Both time constraints and stress make us hyper-focused on action and results, preventing us from looking outside the box, from considering alternative options, and, ultimately, from being creative.

Put all these factors together and it’s easy to see why the modern world is custom designed to kill the average adult’s creativity.

But that doesn’t mean adults cannot be creative. It just means we have to make a concerted effort to actually use our creative powers.

The key to reclaiming our creativity, perhaps surprisingly, is this: We need to chill out.

Sounds jovial. It’s actually both vital and incredibly accurate.

If we want to be creative we have to let our minds play. We have to stop being so darned focused on the time and on productivity and results. “Chilling out” truly is the answer.

To say we need to “chill out” really means we have to let go of stress so we can be more mentally flexible.

We can liken this to yoga.

Physical stress kills a yoga practice like mental stress kills creativity, and for precisely the same reason.

When we are tense (in other words, physically stressed) our muscles are cramped in one position, making it impossible for them to take up an asana.

Similarly, when we are mentally tense (stressed) the mind is too forced in one position, too focused on one way of looking at things, making it impossible to be creative.

We can solve both these problems in the same way.

When we are tense in yoga we don’t immediately stretch out into full expression of standing bow. We begin by helping the body to relax. Only once the body is relaxed we can then move with more ease and grace into the posture.

It’s the same with creativity.

When we’re mentally stressed we don’t pen A Tale Of Two Cities.  Rather, we have to take steps to relax the mind so that we can start to be more creative.

To relax the mind, we meditate. But in a specific way.

The majority of meditation techniques are focused. These are techniques in which we focus the mind on one thing, such as the breath. This, however, is not conducive to creativity because creativity is not about focusing on one view. It’s about being open to myriad different views.

The opposite of focused meditations is Open Monitoring.

These are meditations in which we do not focus on one thing, but rather we extend awareness to the entirety of our environment. It’s as though consciousness were butter in a warm pan. The butter expands evenly to cover the whole pan. Same with open monitoring meditation. Consciousness spreads evenly so we are aware of our whole environment.

If you have ever found yourself fully absorbed in beautiful scenery you will have experienced open monitoring meditation. It’s the state in which we feel one with our environment, when we seem to breathe with the world, when we are calm and yet aware of the fullness of our environment.

Scientific research proves that open monitoring is an incredibly powerful technique for creativity.

Cognitive psychologist Loenza Colzato studied the affect that open monitoring meditation has on divergent and convergent thinking. These are mental processes that enable us to come up with new ideas and bring those ideas together into one cohesive unit (such as when we conceptualise a story, first brainstorming ideas and then bringing them together into one story).

Colazato’s study showed that open monitoring meditation significantly improved these mental processes. This, Colzato said, showed that open monitoring meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for creativity.

The reason open monitoring meditation boosts creativity is, essentially, because it is freeing. It undoes the damage that too much stress and time constraints do to us.

As adults, it is far too easy to become hyper-focused on productivity and results, always choosing the trusted way rather than being free to experiment. It’s a self-imposed cage in which we cannot see the infinite possibilities that are always within us.

Open monitoring meditation opens the mind, limbering us up like those warm-up moves in yoga. It creates mental flexibility and freedom with which we can realise our creative potential.

Why not try open monitoring meditation today. It’s easy.

To do open monitoring meditation:

  1. Go somewhere quiet and relaxing, a place you would want to be one with (such as a beautiful countryside).
  2. Sit or lie down.
  3. Count your breaths up to 50 just to relax.
  4. Be aware of your senses. Listen, feel, smell, taste, and see the environment around you.
  5. Let your consciousness rhttp://dailycupofyoga.com/wp-admin/index.phpeach out so that you are aware of everything.
  6. If thoughts and feelings arise, let them come and go while still paying attention to the environment.
  7. Continue for 20 minutes.
  8. Notice how you feel more open, more relaxed, and freer.

Practice this technique whenever you want to get in touch with your creativity. It will open your mind and give you the mental freedom and flexibility with which to be creative.

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