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7 Popular Types of Meditation: the Beeja Guide

beeja guide

 

At Beeja, we believe in the life-changing impact of the mantra-based practice we teach at our meditation centre in London. History is on our side; the method we share is derived from Vedic meditation, one of the oldest meditation traditions in the world. And this trust is reinforced every day by the people we’ve taught, who tell us how they’ve benefited from Beeja meditation.

Beeja meditators include students and celebrities, kids and parents, creative self-starters and multinational company executives. They report a multitude of physiological and psychological benefits as they access new stratospheres of success in their personal and professional lives. Transformations regularly reported back to us by alumni from our courses and classes include thinking more clearly, concentrating more deeply, and enjoying healthier relationships, as well as the body functioning better, with changes like easier digestion and improved sleep. This coheres with the growing scientific evidence base documenting the wonders that mantra meditation can work.

However, we are cognisant of the fact that the Vedic method we favor is just one of the infinitely diverse array of possible practices. We also understand that familiarising yourself with all the different types of meditation in order to choose the one that’s right for you can feel like an impossible task. We’re not shy about extolling the advantages of the Beeja method (unless, of course, you ask us during our practice time itself, in which case we’re, er, quietly confident!). Nevertheless, to help you get started exploring meditation, we’ve put together this handy guide to introduce you to the fundamental characteristics of some of the most popular techniques.

 

Zen meditation

 

Zen is of the most bandied-about concepts that you’ll find when you enter the realm of meditation exploration. Your first impression is likely to be that it is a mental state, which meditation of all types is, in some oblique way, the means of accessing. In fact, “Zen” means concentration or meditation, and relates to a traditional Buddhist practice which originated in 7th century China. It is a silent practice which helps promote acceptance and awareness.

Zen meditation involves sitting still, usually concentrating on the breath. By noting the thoughts that come up without self censorship, you can learn more about the workings of the mind. Zen meditation can be practiced without the breath as a focal anchor, simply noting the thoughts that arise during practice – in either case, it is important to treat the practice itself as the end goal, rather than as a process that you hope will be transformational. Zen meditation is frequently practiced in groups, and silent retreats devoted to this type of quiet contemplation are popular worldwide.

 

Mindfulness meditation

 

Mindfulness meditation practice is aimed at helping you develop skills to use in everyday life, to protect your mind against getting dragged out of the present moment by any trains of thought that pass through it. Although noticing that we’ve been distracted and coming back into the room is an ability that we all have already, mindfulness practice can help you hone it, learning a variety of sophisticated techniques that help you to categorise – and distance yourself from – different types of thoughts that crop up.

Your practice can be geared towards cultivating particular qualities and abilities, such as openness, generosity, or diffusing anger. People practicing mindfulness often rely on guided meditation, in which each session consists of a recorded voice taking your mind on a journey.

 

Vipassana meditation

 

Not for the faint-hearted, Vipassana meditation involves training yourself to curb your reactions. Practice typically takes place over a number of days, in which your time is spent sitting cross-legged, with silent breaks for eating and sleeping. As time progresses, you become more adept at enduring inevitable psychological and physical discomforts that arise. 

Your aches, pains and qualms will ebb and flow as you meditate, in a specific order, on how different parts of your body feel. This exercise is called a body scan. Vipassana meditation increases your resilience, readying you to approach any challenges that arise in life with the same strain of stoic non-reactiveness.

 

Metta meditation (loving-kindness)

 

The purpose of metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is to increase your propensity for compassion. An extended form of mantra-based meditation, the practice generally involves directing energy towards oneself first, and reciting a sequence of phrases related to wellbeing. For instance, “may I be free from suffering,” “may I be healthy and strong,” and “may I be happy.” 

A heart-opening practice, you then go on to extend these same wishes to others, by repeating the same phrases while thinking of a loved-one, followed by someone from the fringes of your circle, someone with whom you have a difficult relationship, and finally all beings. During your practice, paying attention to the feelings in the feelings in your heart center is recommended, as this is where – in the Buddhist tradition which metta comes from – the transformational changes associated with practicing loving-kindness are activated.

 

Chakra meditation

 

Stemming from early traditions in Hinduism, the chakras are various points in the physical body which store particular psychological and spiritual energies. Each chakra is denoted by a different colour. For example, the root chakra (red), is located at the base of the spine and governs your sense of connection to the wider world, and the security you feel in terms of accessing fundamental needs like food and shelter. The sacral chakra (orange), is located just below the naval, and governs your sexual appetites and creative energy. 

The philosophy of chakra meditation is that, for good emotional and physical health, each chakra must be unblocked, so that energy can flow freely through it. Blockage of any given chakra is believed to cause a surplus of energy to flow to the functional ones. Any given chakra being blocked can be identified by analysing the problems and/or physical ailments affecting a person. Guided meditations are often helpful to those starting out with this form of meditation, to learn how to spotlight each chakra. Intuition about which chakras need opening during your practice is understood to develop over time.

 

Focussed attention meditation

 

Traditionally a Buddhist practice, focused attention meditation involves a sustained period in which your attention is directed towards a specific external stimulus. Other thoughts may come, go and hover in the background, but the goal of the practice is to remain, as much as possible, fixated on your stimulus of choice. Your focus of choice may be a sound, such as the tick of a clock, or a visual entity, such as raindrops on a windowpane or a candle flame. This type of meditation helps improve your focussing skills generally, by increasing your ability to note and disengage from distractions, and to return to the task at hand.

 

Vedic meditation

 

Stemming from the advanced Vedic civilisation in northern India around 10,000 years ago – the culture which gave us other enduringly intrinsic facets of human existence like mathematics, surgery and yoga – Vedic meditation is a mantra-based meditation technique. A form of Vedic meditation, known as transcendental meditation (TM), became popular in the West in the 60s and 70s. 

An aspect of TM which is particularly well-loved by the people who practice it is its simplicity. Not only is it really easy to take up, but you also typically begin to feel the benefits of meditating almost immediately, rather than needing to go through a grace period in which you persevere, wondering if it’s ‘working.’ This is the technique which we teach at Beeja, personally identifying an ancient Sanskrit mantra for each person who visits us. 

In keeping with being the oldest and easiest technique, all you need for Vedic meditation is your mantra. Free from reliance on recordings or the devices that play them, this gives you the opportunity to unplug and head out and continue your transformation – with your blossoming confidence and your tool for expanding it – anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in discovering whether the oldest and simplest meditation practice in the world could be for you, check out our classes and courses in London.

This entry was posted in blog.

Heart health and mediation: how does Beeja meditation help keep your heart healthy?

meditation for a healthy heart

 

Although meditation has been understood to promote vivacity for millenia by some cultures, its link to robust heart health has only recently received scientific recognition in the West. In 2013, the American Heart Association issued a report showing that transcendental meditation (TM) – a mantra-based practice derived from Vedic traditions which we teach on our center in London – can lower blood pressure. They concluded that TM should be considered in a treatment plan for lowering high blood pressure and managing or preventing cardiac disease. 

An extensive and diversifying scientific evidence base has since been built, delineating the ways in which meditation is helpful in safeguarding a well-functioning heart. Understanding the various ways in which meditation can help keep your heart healthy and help manage heart disease is a powerful motivator for incorporating it into your life. 

This introductory guide covers some of the key bodily mechanisms which benefit from the stress-diffusing effects of meditation. For anyone invested in boosting their vitality, recovering from heart-related illness or promoting longevity, these heart health benefits are dynamic incentives to embark on a meditative journey. 

 

Stress and cardiovascular disease: what’s the link?

 

To understand the complex link between practicing meditation and preventing or redressing cardiovascular disease – also known as heart disease – it is necessary to first define cardiovascular disease, a blanket term describing an extensive range of conditions. These include problems with the blood vessels such as narrowing or developing blockages, and issues with the heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm (arrhythmias). These issues can lead to the development of heart-related chest pain (angina) and potentially life-threatening problems such as stroke and heart attack. 

Symptoms of heart disease may include shortness of breath, angina – which may involve tightness or the sensation of pressure in the chest – numbness or weakness in the legs and arms due to poor blood circulation, and/or pain in the groin, jaw area, neck or back.

Stress negatively affects all areas of health. It should therefore come as no surprise that living in a state of nervous tension translates into tension within the nervous system, affecting the heart. Not only does being in a constant state of high alert place unnecessary strain on the heart’s delicate mechanism itself, it also increases the risk of other factors that are known to put a strain on the heart developing or worsening. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), high levels of cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. 

 

Meditation and high blood pressure

 

Blood pressure rises when we are stressed. The body’s automatic stress response sets the heart pumping faster, to send more blood flowing to the muscles. This is primal programming designed to ready us to escape from predators by putting the body in “fight or flight” mode. Repeatedly raising the blood pressure can cause a person to develop hypertension, a condition which strains the heart, in which the blood pressure in the arteries is consistently elevated.

How can meditation lower blood pressure? Meditation lowers the blood pressure by reorganising activity within the nervous system. Although the exact mechanisms by which this effect is achieved are not yet fully understood, it is thought to calm the sympathetic nervous system, preventing the blood vessels narrowing in response to stress. Meditation has also been found to increase activity within the parasympathetic nervous system, which facilitates the dilation of the blood vessels, regulating the speed of the blood flow. 

 

Meditation and cholesterol levels

 

Experiencing stress aggregates the body’s levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in food and also synthesised by the body itself. While having a certain level of cholesterol in the body is inevitable, it is important to take measures to ensure that your cholesterol intake is mostly good (HDL, or high density lipoprotein) cholesterol, rather than bad cholesterol (LDL, or low density lipoprotein). 

Stress is a prime catalyst for the buildup of LDL cholesterol within the body. Being stressed heightens all the risk factors for high cholesterol levels, including increasing the likelihood of having unhealthy dietary habits and a higher body weight. A diet high in trans fats encourages the body to make more LDL cholesterol. Excess cholesterol circulating in the blood contributes to poor heart health in a number of ways, including increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and angina (pain in the chest). 

How can meditation reduce cholesterol levels? Cholesterol – in healthy amounts – helps repair damage to the cells, which is caused by stress. However, when we are stressed, the body over-produces cholesterol to compensate. By calming the nervous system and helping the mind learn to process stressful situations in a way which avoids triggering our ‘fight or flight’ response, meditation directly decreases the body’s cholesterol. 

 

Mediation and chronic inflammation

 

Numerous studies have been conducted investigating the link between psychological stress, inflammation and the development of various forms of heart disease. The body becomes inflamed when it is fighting off infection, but being stressed can send the body into a state of chronic inflammation. When this occurs, the immune system goes into overdrive, causing inflammation when there is no infection to fight, and the blood vessels and tissues become permanently engorged. The normal functioning of the heart is obstructed, contributing to poor circulation and increasing the likelihood of heart disease. 

How can meditation reduce inflammation? Practicing meditation regularly has a modulatory effect on the way our genes are expressed within our body; in particular, regulating the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. Studies have found that meditators have lower levels of biomarkers related to inflammation in their blood, reflective of their decreased propensity to develop inflammation. 

 

Stress and plaque in the arteries

 

Stress causes changes that promote the buildup of plaque deposits in the arteries by compromising several systems at once. It reduces the efficiency with which the body processes toxins, and also commands the body to produce more of certain cells and substances than needed – for example, cholesterol – which function as harmful agents, forming plaque when there is a surplus. 

Stress also causes dangerous changes to the composition of plaque. If it is formed when the body is under stress, it is increasingly likely to contain additional immune cells that cause inflammation, produced by the body under stress. This heightens the risk that plaque deposits will cause an extreme blockage resulting in a stroke or heart attack.

How can meditation prevent clogged arteries? The formation of plaque in the arteries requires several different systems within the body to be compromised by stress, notably our cholesterol production, our ability to process waste and our immune system. By soothing the whole body with meditation, we can ensure that each of the systems that could contribute to the buildup of plaque functions optimally. Meditation thereby offers significant protection against clogged arteries, and with it, peace of mind. 

 

A holistic approach to heart disease: meditation and longevity

 

Consider the emphasis we place on the heart in terms of defining our emotional make-up. The heart is a nexus that connects our physical and psychological health. From being broken-hearted to wearing your heart on your sleeve, and from being open-hearted to hard-hearted, there are so many ways of feeling which involve the circumstances we find ourselves in tugging on our heartstrings. Life events and the way we process them steer us either to compassion and loving-kindness, or to anger and its steadfastly deadly sidekick, stress – capable of ringing the changes on the physical workings of the heart.  

A heart needs to be free from disease to be healthy. The ever-diversifying body of research into meditation and heart disease elucidates the plethora of ways in which our psychological profile directly physically impacts the workings of the body, and in particular our heart health. Learning to manage stress and negative mind states can reduce its effects and help promote a healthy heart – treating the underlying problem that underpins all forms of cardiovascular disease, before it develops.

If you are currently undergoing treatment for a heart condition, discuss integrating Beeja meditation into your treatment approach with your doctor, and find out more about our classes and courses in London.

This entry was posted in blog.

How Mantra-Based Meditation Can Liberate You From Toxic Positivity

 

Positivity is what we’re all aiming for, isn’t it? Everyone strives to be decked out in the stylish Mackintosh of a mindset that protects you when you get caught in the emotional equivalent of rain – and drenched by the splash of a passing car – always to emerge smiling, albeit three shades damper and a whole lot less dapper than you were before. If you’re doing life correctly, you may be telling yourself, then your inner reserves of positivity should, by rights, be such an indomitable force that they carry you through the big stuff as well as the small. Divorce? “Keep smiling!” Job loss? “Everything happens for a reason!” Low self esteem, anxiety, depression? “Can’t help you there, sweetheart, this shared headspace is ‘positive vibes only’!”

 

If something about this onslaught of injunctions to “look on the bright side” feels a little bit off to you, you are not alone. Something is indeed rotten in the mindstate of on-trend default delightedness. The reality is that not all positivity is positive: there is such a thing as positivity-gone-bad, or as US psychologist Dr. Whitney Hawkins Goodman terms it, “toxic positivity.” Toxic positivity is the willful ignoring and invalidating negative emotions, in the hope that, by denying them a platform, they – and the problems they pertain to – will vanish. 

 

Mantra-based meditation can help you develop the wherewithal to recognise toxic positivity in yourself and others, and give you the tools to tackle it head on. With a clearer head, you can learn to lean into the negative emotions that it tries to mask, rather than fearing them. On our courses and classes in London, you will also discern the tools to expand the compassion that you direct towards yourself and others. This can protect against the initial development of negative feelings, and is also instrumental to learning to deconstruct them when they do arise.

 

What makes ‘toxic positivity’ so toxic?

The ready availability of items billed as opportunities to make ourselves happy has given rise to the pervasive idea that we can, on some level, “choose happiness,” by the paths we take and the purchases we make. This messaging is so powerful that, if you are already diligently submerged in products billed as the ultimate innovations in “self-care,” and you still feel unhappy, you are highly likely to blame yourself, and to be reluctant to admit it. 

 

Phrases like “stop being so negative!”, “just be happy!” and, worst of all, “good vibes only!” may appear to be helpfully banishing the blues, but in fact they all too often have the opposite effect. Whether we find ourselves applying toxic positivity to our own thoughts or dismissing those of others, its root cause is the same. Schooled to believe that negativity, no matter what it stems from, is somehow shameful, we are keen – both outwardly and inwardly – to curate the impression that we approach life with a smile every minute of the day. 

 

This impossible task inevitably involves lying to ourselves and others, as we strive to shut down any feelings that would add shadows to our perma-smiling persona, becoming an exhausted participant in a perpetual game of emotional whack-a-mole. Dealing with emotions in this way is problematic because, when less-than-sunny feelings are invalidated – rather than acknowledged and given the space to unfold – they brew within us. Toxic positivity can become a many-headed monster in terms of its effects on the psyche. Refusing to let it rain once in a while is a surefire route to harbouring an emotional thunderstorm that – no matter how firmly you hang on to your party hat – will manifest somehow later on. 

 

In the meantime, the tension between our inner emotions, and the emotions we wish we were feeling and are attempting to project, creates a powerful internal conflict. This often goes hand in hand with “coping strategies” that take us even further away from an honest engagement with how we truly feel – for instance, staying at the pub when every “cheers!” feels more hollow than the last, until the bell tolls for final orders. 

 

Diffuse your internal conflict

The more frenziedly you tell yourself that you’ve “never been happier” and “everything is wonderful,” the more keenly the negativity bottled up inside you will search for an escape route. At the heart of this dynamic lies a determination to self-edit, pushing particular thoughts and feelings away. This tactic is based on the hope that this will result in their eventual, if not immediate, disappearance. Unfortunately, it amounts to displacing, rather than processing, the difficult emotions, which can result in the development or worsening of anxiety

 

Mantra-based meditation is a powerful antidote to internal conflict, in part because it makes you less prone to “black and white thinking.” Each feeling or thought that comes to you is then less likely to be instantaneously categorised as “good” or “bad,” which means you are more likely to let it develop in full and give it due consideration, rather than pushing it away. The more open you are to feeling your feelings, the better you will become at working with them rather than against them, meaning that the potential for toxicity to accrue diminishes. 

 

Rediscover authenticity 

When you’re trying not to seem – let alone be – too negative, you’re operating from a place of inauthenticity on a deep level.  This can add yet another unwelcome nuance to the inner conflict that toxic positivity causes, as you inwardly critique everything that comes out of your mouth, doing your best to ensure that a slip of the tongue doesn’t accidentally connote the negative mindset that you certainly aren’t experiencing. 

 

Mantra meditation can give you a space in which to feel – and tame – your feelings, breaking this cycle. When you’re freed from censorship of your inner state, you will also become liberated from the task of policing your verbal output. Without simultaneously feeling an additional sense of shame about your negative emotions when they crop up, your low self-esteem will improve and you will become comfortable vocalising your woes or worries, rather than caught up in a soul-destroying struggle to mask them. 

 

One result of verbalising your true thoughts to yourself and others is that you can begin a practical approach to any problems you may be experiencing. Acknowledging a problem is a necessary prelude to solving it. If “toxic positivity” was an Instagram filter, it would be a blurry, rose-tinted one that renders reality unrecognisable. Mantra-meditation can give you the clarity to notice the presence of this filter and switch it off. 

 

Repair your relationships with others 

Relating to others in a healthy way requires a general attitude of acceptance. One of the most insidious aspects of toxic positivity is that it can seep into the psyche of a collective. Without anyone directly verbalising it, a smiles-all-round stance can develop. Everyone tacitly understands that this must be upheld at all costs, no matter how painful the internal perambulations are for each individual keeping the Good Ship Positivity afloat. 

 

Mantra-based meditation is often a life-long journey, rather than a rapid route to inner peace. Even on an early stage of this process, however, you will find that your ability to engage fully with your own emotional landscape increases. This will leave you better able to navigate shared headspaces and group mindsets in a way which brings real positivity to the situation, rather than perpetuating a toxic positivity culture. 

 

Crucially, your capacity for empathy will develop with meditation. The celebrated researcher of shame, vulnerability and empathy Dr. Brené Brown describes how empathy lends us increased flexibility in terms of putting ourselves in others’ shoes, validating one another’s emotions in a way which facilitates real connection. “Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable one,” explains Brown. Unless we make that choice to empathise – which involves acknowledging negative emotions in others and finding a point of reference within ourselves – it is all too easy to slip into the stock phrases of toxic positivity like “cheer up!” or “you’ll get over it!” which minimise suffering and alienate, rather than comfort. 

 

Expand your capacity for self-compassion

We are part of a culture which is obsessed with unlocking the secrets of happiness. This can leave you feeling like you’re doing something wrong if your day-to-day routine isn’t transporting you to Ibiza-style levels of euphoria. Toxic positivity sits directly at odds with our increased cultural recognition of the importance of looking after our mental health. 

 

Although depression, for example, is surprisingly common – with more than 300 million people affected worldwide according to the World Health Organization – many people feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health, let alone accessing initiatives to help improve it. A culture of toxic positivity directly contributes to mental health conditions functioning as invisible wounds. Unaddressed, they benefit from no healing agents and consequently fester, causing increasingly deep-rooted problems. 

 

Your mantra will function as the password to a widened horizon, where you can contextualise your thoughts and feelings within the expansive and undulating cosmos that makes up your psyche as a whole. Whether you feel blue on the odd occasion or more regularly, regular meditation practice will deepen your understanding of the mechanics of your mind. This is a vital first step to processing your thoughts rather than plastering over them, opening up a window of opportunity to treat yourself with the compassion you deserve.

If you would like to find out more about how Beeja meditation could help you access your most authentic self, you can visit us in London, or book a course.

This entry was posted in blog.

5 Magical Ways That Meditation Helps With The Little Things in Life

 

Due to its ability to alleviate all kinds of psychological and physical problems, mediation is very often described as “life-changing.” Indeed, if you Google the phrase “‘meditation changed my life,’” you’ll get over 23,000 results. These relate to people extolling its transformational effects – celebrating their freedom from a multitude of previously debilitating issues, from social anxiety to stomach-churning digestive conditions. 

 

The chances are, if you’re contemplation-curious, or have recently begun practicing, you have heard about the benefits of meditation, and are keen to ring some big changes in your own life. Maybe you’ve been feeling sluggish and want to maintain a razor-sharp focus throughout your working day, unaided by caffeine? Or, perhaps you like the sound of never feeling stressed again?

 

From the transformational to the tiny…and back again! 

Rave reviews of meditation have led you, tantalised, to a seated position, incense sticks aglow. The great news is that they’re telling the truth – you will benefit in innumerable ways from embarking on your meditation practice. The not-so-great (but actually, better than great!) news is that its benefits will be unique to you. 

 

This means that the benefits of meditation that you experience won’t necessarily bear any resemblance to the effects described in the case studies that reeled you in – or that you’re looking out for. 

 

Starting meditation often involves periods of feeling disheartened, particularly if you were on the lookout for results like feeling born-again, (complete with admiring comments from family, friends and even passersby, of course). The reality is that you may not notice any perceptible changes in the way you move through your day – especially not at first. 

 

When your meditation practice does begin to work its wonders, these are usually much less obvious than you would necessarily expect. Every day is, at its essence, a sequential series of moments. When you meditate regularly, you will start to find that – in more and more of these moments – the ways that you feel and act will begin to surprise you. These changes may be so incidental that they do not necessarily register with outsiders, but they will make a world of difference to you. 

 

They may be minute, but the following types of micro-milestones are signals that your practice is working, and that you are advancing victoriously on the path to an unknown, and exciting, new you. 

 

1. You will ditch your perfect plans – and embrace the unscripted 

Our inbuilt stress response – in which we go into a state called “fight or flight mode” – is perfect for life or death situations, such as escaping from the pursuit of a sabre-toothed tiger; the kind of tight spot in which our ancestors would once have used it. Missing an Uber, or getting home with not a nanosecond to spare – only to realise that you’ve forgotten one of the crucial ingredients you’ll need in order to cook the perfect risotto – are prime examples of miniature-scale calamities that can propel you into a state of primal turbulence.

 

With regular meditation, gone will be the days of panic-rushing to the supermarket to stockpile the forgotten stock cubes, only to begin date night in anguish, five minutes later than intended, through a hyperventilative haze of tears and stray grains of carnaroli

 

It could only take a few weeks of meditation practice to unlock a less flappable version of you. This could be a you who says goodbye to the original plan of having dinner on the table for 8 PM with all the swiftness of a single breath, before contentedly remodelling it into a slightly later, collaborative cooking session. And the private, personal mantra you are given when you take up Beeja meditation practice could well become the secret ingredient in every day’s recipe for less mind chatter and a calmer lifestyle. 

 

2. You will be here, now

Do you ever “come back to earth” only to find that many minutes have passed since your eyes and thoughts wandered away from the book in your hands? “Don’t be ridiculous,” I hear you cry, “I never have time to sit down with a book!” Whether you have the kind of schedule which already incorporates “treats” like reading time, or your day consists of rushing between back-to-back commitments with no time to take the book you’ve been excited to start for the last month out of your bag, chances are you are familiar with zoning out. 

 

Catapulting you into the future or pulling you back into the past, zoning out means getting sucked out of the present moment. You might find yourself spiralling towards a vortex of forward planning, or worse, agonising over the finer details of a conversation you had a week ago. Either way, wouldn’t it be great if there was a technique you could use to pull yourself back into the present, and indeed make drifting off in the first place less likely?

 

You’re in luck; one of the most understated life-perks that your mantra-based meditation practice can help you unlock is the joy of focussing fully on the activity you’re currently engrossed in ‒ be that listening to a set of directions, drafting an email or wending your way, centimetre by centimetre, through a traffic jam. (Which, you are surprised to find, you are navigating while feeling inexplicably boyed up by a previously unimaginable undercurrent of compassion for your fellow drivers… and even ‒ if you’ve been meditating for long enough ‒ for the ones that caused it!) 

 

3. You will let it go

One of the littlest – and most “life-changing” – things that you are highly likely to catch yourself not doing when you get into mantra meditation is getting sucked into pointless arguments. 

 

You are highly likely to have one of your first “that’s the meditation working!” moments when you’re waiting for the rest of your family to finish a “debate” about where to go on holiday, only to realise that you haven’t chipped in once – in fact, you’ve been half-listening to the bickering, with a soft look of cosy contentment. By the time the holiday itself comes around, this moment will have become the first of many. 

 

Two important benefits of meditation are at play here. One is perspective; the ability to zoom out and see the “bigger picture.” The other is compassion; the ability to notice the conflict, and, rather than feeling anger, finding yourself brimming with affection at the various ways that your siblings still find to wind each other up, even as adults. 

 

Meditation holds the key to finding greater fulfilment within relationships of all types. You will discover the ability to tune into the nuances of each moment, without getting caught up in other people’s emotions or consumed by your own knee-jerk reactions. As your empathy deepens in step with your increasing sense of perspective, you will find it easier to relate – and deliver appropriate support – in all manner of situations.

 

4. You will age, elegantly

One of the most imperceptible changes that meditation can bring to your life is also one of its most miraculous. As well as becoming increasingly accepting of the fact that the number of candles on your birthday cake will go up every year – and welcoming the wisdom that this can bring – meditation is believed to be able to pause the physical process of aging for anything from five to 15 years. 

 

Mantra-based meditation works to slow down the aging process on a biological level, with studies indicating that it improves many different aspects of our health and cell regeneration. It can, for instance, help preserve neuromuscular coordination, make us see better, ward of gum disease, and keep mental-health conditions like depression at bay, which become increasingly likely as we get older. 

 

5. You will rest easy…and more effectively 

Many people discover mantra meditation in an ongoing quest for a sound night’s sleep, while battling chronic insomnia. If this sounds like you, you’re likely to perceive your newfound ability to drift off as a change which is dramatic, rather than diminutive. For people who don’t necessarily have problems falling asleep, meditation can nevertheless upgrade the calibre of the sleep you experience. However, the changes in the quality of your sleep will be less overt than the stark difference between sleep and no sleep, and it may take longer for you to notice them. 

 

Changes to your sleeping patterns may include falling asleep more easily, or realising that you now sleep through the night. You may have a perception of sleeping more deeply, which is likely to result in a sense of feeling well-rested. If you are prone to nightmares, and often find yourself rushing to the Dreamland Offices to give a presentation in your birthday suit, teeth falling out all over the pavement as you go, you are likely to find that these reduce in frequency or stop altogether as your overall stress levels diminish. 

 

The big secret that catalyses these little changes

All of the various little things in life that you might find are helped with meditation can be attributed, on a fundamental level, to a reduction in stress. Our contemporary urban existence is full of microcosmic mishaps that – although they couldn’t, technically, be further from a life or death situation – precipitate the same major stress response. Meditation diminishes the body’s general propensity towards the fight or flight response. 

 

The result is that it becomes possible to weather the many different kinds of everyday stressors without being catapulted into a state of disproportionate panic. Learning to notice the ways in which meditation helps with the little things in life will key you into newly discovered levels of subtlety on which it is possible for your consciousness operate. No matter how “normal” you seem on the outside, it’s time to marvel at what the inner you can do. 

 

If you are keen to find out more about how meditation could help you make the little changes that make a big difference, join us on our meditation courses and classes in London

Words by Rosalind Stone

This entry was posted in blog.

How Meditation Can Enhance Your Creativity and Productivity

How Meditation Can Enhance Your Creativity and Productivity

 

Be honest: how many new creative projects have you started in the last year, and how many did you finish? If you find that you start many more projects and ideas than you ever complete, do not worry – you are not alone! With the bewildering pace of modern life and the stress of competing demands on our attention, it is all too easy to get side-tracked when you start thinking about doing something new and creatively challenging. 

Meditation can help. Evidence indicates that meditation not only enables us to think and act more creatively, it can also give us the focus and concentration we need to see our ideas through to the end. 

 

Boosting Your Creativity

 

You may have noticed that recently there has been a subtle shift in our language around creativity. People whose work requires them to think imaginatively and provide new solutions often describe themselves as creatives. But we are all more than capable of being creative and thinking creatively. Put another way, creativity is not only a noun, naming a particular type of person, but an adjective – a word that can describe or apply to anyone. 

It means the fundamental human ability to be creative, to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships and the capacity to create meaningful new ideas. We all need to be creative at one time or another. But it is easier at some moments than others – indeed maintaining consistent ‘creative flow’ can be incredibly challenging, not least when considering the chronic overstimulation of our modern lives. 

The pace and complexity of society today excites our nervous system in an unhelpful way, making us stressed and anxious. You may have heard of the ‘reptilian brain’. It is the oldest part of the human brain, concerned with survival and fight or flight, as opposed to more reflexive, conceptual thinking. This part of the brain is primarily activated by anxiety and adrenaline – our stress hormone. At the same time, the constant demands on our time and attention, along with an ever-pressing series of deadlines, often make our thinking more programmatic, as we cycle through our day and routines.

Meditation can offer a mental and physical space for being more intuitive and thinking more creatively. Studies have shown that when people practise meditation regularly the neo-cortex – and particularly the pre-frontal cortex – is activated and, incredibly, even starts to grow denser. This is the part of the brain responsible for creative thinking, problem solving, reflexivity, hypothesising and so on. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the ‘newest’ part of the human brain – that is, the modern, most newly (‘neo’) evolved part. There have also been studies done specifically to measure the so-called cognitive ‘rigidity’ of people who meditate and the ability to solve problems in novel ways. The research shows non-meditators had greater cognitive rigidity than regular meditators – that is, the way they thought tended to be more patterned, and they also had a tendency to apply outdated solutions to easy problems. 

This was not the case for people who meditated: regular meditators tended to approach problems in far more creative ways and come up with novel solutions. Equally exciting was the finding that meditators also worked more productively with others. Far from being a purely individualistic process, meditation enhanced social relationships and greatly strengthened interpersonal empathy. 

So, if you want to calm your mind, unlock your inner creative genius and work more empathetically and productively with other people, you should consider meditation.    

 

Focus and Concentration

 

Boosting your creativity is one thing – but to see your new idea or project through, you also need to be able to focus and concentrate. Once again, meditation can be vital. We are all prone to mental ‘chatter’ and ‘white noise’. Our brains are constantly processing complex sequences of information and the various competing stimuli of contemporary society are all constantly (and purposefully) vying for our attention. But if you find it particularly hard to concentrate, a concentration-based meditation practice may not be right for you! 

Beeja meditation is based on the oldest form of meditation in the world, in which you concentrate your mind on silently thinking your own personal mantra. Thoughts are spontaneous and actively trying to resist your stream of consciousness can be counterproductive. The benefit of Beeja is that, by repeating your own unique mantra, you can bypass your busy mind and get into a more relaxed, mentally clarified state.

This is not simply about ‘switching-off’, though: it is precisely through the calming results of meditation that you experience less excitation of the nervous system, meaning less of that trivial, day-to-day noise in the mind, and more focused concentration, without having to struggle. The less scattered our nervous impulses and the more coherent our thinking, the more capable we are of simultaneously processing competing demands, allowing us to stay evenly on-task.

Neuroplasticity research confirms that the brain functions of frequent meditators change for the better and that meditators are less likely to find themselves at the mercy of distractions and an unruly mind. This is at least partly down to the way that meditation affects our neurons – cells in the brain that transmit electrical nerve impulses. When neurons transmit a current there are, as scientists call it, ‘neural oscillations’. 

These are broadly categorized as gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta waves. It has been shown that meditation can increase alpha waves. When alpha oscillations or waves are prominent, your sensory inputs tend to be minimised and your mind is generally clear of unwanted thoughts, meaning that you are better able to concentrate on the task at hand. This means that people who meditate are more likely to complete tasks than those who do not. This is true over both the short and the long-term, covering everything from your day-to-day routine to that huge new canvas you are going to paint.  

 

Conclusion

 

We are all prone to repeating the same cognitive patterns over time and to distraction – it is part of the way our brains and the modern world work. But with meditation, you are more likely to think creatively and to keep concentrated on the task in front of you. So next time you are planning that big creative project, why not make some time for meditation, too? 

 

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Yoga and Meditation: What is the Difference?

yoga and meditation: what's the difference

 

Yoga and meditation; meditation and yoga. Of all the holistic activities in the zeitgeist, there are none that are mentioned together more frequently than yoga and meditation. Indeed, they’re combined so frequently that they’ve come to seem, at first glance, like the cheese and crackers of the contemporary wellness diaspora – a natural pairing. Both are feel-good pursuits that – let’s paint with the broadest possible brush strokes possible at this stage of discussing them, and their relationship to one another – have something to do with syncing the energies of the body and mind. 

However, the constant pairing of the words “yoga and meditation” can be misleading. They can be synergistic concepts, and indeed can be practiced simultaneously. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that, as individual terms, both “yoga” and “meditation” contain almost infinite multitudes of different techniques, lineages, and ways of thinking. These myriad meanings are accrued across millennia and cultures. To make matters even more intricate, most recently, these words have, separately and together, undergone a process of fathomless diversification in the Age of Social Media. 

Defining these terms in a way that means something to you will empower you to engage with them on your own terms. This space voyage through the cloudy cosmos of “yoga and meditation” will introduce each of the two concepts, in its most basic format, paving the cosmic highway for you to explore their relationship, as well as deciding to take up yoga – or meditation – independently from one another. 

 

Yoga and meditation: define your terms, or save your prana

 

Mentioning yoga and/or meditation without specifying types and contexts is the height of mindlessness; they are such broad terms that they have ceased to be semantic signifiers. In short, without more details being provided, both terms are obscured by an ever expanding nebula of possible identities, meaning that it’s totally okay – indeed, to be expected – if you’ve heard them together, or separately, and haven’t the foggiest idea what the actual practices entail. 

Depending on who’s using the words “yoga and meditation,” they might be purposed on conjuring up conceptions of Buddhist monks or trendy Silicon Valley tycoons – with the listener independently conceiving of something else entirely, like yummy mummies in yoga pants. It doesn’t help that the clan of concepts contains relative misnomers like “kundalini yoga,” which, with its heavy focus on meditation and the chanting of mantras is, essentially, a physically intensive meditation practice. 

The right pairing of yoga and meditation could be like cheese and crackers, but these two words connote so many different modes of practice that an alternative combo could just as easily be like chalk and cheese. Let’s start by stripping away the sociocultural layers, to reveal the base definitions of both yoga and meditation – turning them back into words you can work wonders with.

 

Yoga: a way of living

 

In its purest essence, yoga is a way of life. It is one of many possible approaches to healthy living, but it encompasses more than just physical health. Traditional yoga, or Ashtanga yoga has eight branches, also known as limbs or steps, which together, target aspects of your being in a totalistic sense. As well as your physical health, yoga, in the true sense of the word, curates your overall mental wellbeing, moral fibre and deep inner world. 

Eight limbs sounds like a lot, but there’s no need to get them in a twist. The eight steps, or elements, of a life yogically lived are as follows: 

 

  • Yamas – your codes of self-conduct; how you see and move through the world, including making commitments to truthfulness and nonviolence
  • Niyamas – your practices of self-discipline; for example, maintaining your studies and cleanliness
  • Asanas – the postures you practice regularly to attain strength, stamina and boost your overall physical health 
  • Pranayama – the art of learning to control your breath, the life-force which sustains you
  • Pratyahara – focussing your senses inward, to develop your inner self
  • Dharna – learning to concentrate deeply
  • Dhyana – in order to meditate effectively, in order to achieve
  • Samadhi – the sensation of transcendence; the ultimate goal of yogic meditation

 

Many people have a misconception that the term yoga refers solely to the asanas which they might encounter in a class at the gym, perhaps with a smidgeon of pranayama practice thrown in, for “authenticity,” if there’s a particularly well-travelled teacher. 

The fact that people practice the asanas without being aware that they are just one of the eight interconnected wellbeing techniques that make up yoga as a whole is not necessarily problematic. In our contemporary society, people experience all kinds of positive effects from doing what they think of as “yoga.” These include, but are not limited to, improved self-esteem, alertness, posture, digestion, and strength. 

One of the many (octo)plusses to be gained from looking at the asanas as part of the eight-limbed entity that is yoga as a whole, however, is the sense of connection between yoga and meditation becomes apparent. 

 

The Savasana: where yoga and meditation meet

 

Although it is eminently possible to practice the asanas and reap some benefits, without also necessarily allocating time for meditation, one reason that they are often paired together is that they can be synergistic. Moving through a sequence of yogic poses, particularly if you incorporate pranayama breathing techniques into your practice, can help relax both the body and the mind, serving as excellent preparation for meditation. 

Most sequences of asanas end, traditionally, with the Savasana, or “corpse pose,” a position in which you lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides and your palms facing upwards. In this position, you can concentrate on feeling the full force of the vibrations which you have encouraged into your body by the means of your yoga practice. 

This is considered to be an optimal point from which to begin meditation, with many people opting for an “extended Savasana” and spending ten to fifteen minutes in this pose in order to enjoy its meditative benefits. If you’re already practicing yoga poses, and are considering taking up meditation too, the Savasana could be an excellent place to start.

 

Meditation: a way of thinking

 

Meditation is part of the yogic way of life, but it’s also something you can practice in its own right. So, if even hearing the term “downward dog” makes you feel like you’ve had a full body workout you never asked for, there’s no need to look away. In its most basic form, meditation is a means of interacting with your mind. There are many different techniques which constitute meditation, and which vary in complexity, and in the extent to which they coalesce with particular physical yoga practices. 

If you’re not yogically inclined, but you do like the sound of some of the benefits of meditaiton – which include reduced anxiety and increased awareness, improved creativity, boosted mood and inner peace, to name a few – you might wish to explore one of the forms of meditation which is entirely effective in its own right, such as mantra-based meditiaton. 

An entirely self-contained process which contains the formula for a more fulfilled self, mantra-based meditation can be practiced any time, anywhere: all you need is your mind and your mantra. In Beeja meditaiton, which is based on the oldest form of meditation in the world, your mantra is specially chosen for you from among thousands by dedicated meditation teachers, ensuring that, when you come to your practice, you are in full posession of the one and only tool you need to succeed. 

If you would like to explore Beeja meditation, whether this is your first encounter with yoga and meditaiton, or whether you’re considering adding this technique to your existing yoga practice, you can visit us in London, or book a course.

Words by Rosalind Stone

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Staying Positive While Trying to Get Pregnant: Meditation for IVF

meditation for ivf

 

For many of us, there comes a time where suddenly all our friends are starting families, and our social media feeds become a deluge of happy announcements and chubby-faced cherubs. But when we decide to take the plunge ourselves, falling pregnant doesn’t always happen as easily as we might have imagined – and if you are facing fertility issues, you are far from alone. 

Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, with around 16% of couples not falling pregnant after a year of trying. This can feel hugely unsettling – while some of us may have been aware of long-standing fertility issues, for others it’s entirely unexpected. With the majority of people taking extensive measures not to have children for much of their early adulthood, being suddenly faced with a struggle to conceive can be extremely disruptive to our peace of mind. 

For those who have tried to conceive naturally for over a year, (or a shorter amount of time, if they are older) fertility treatments up to and including IVF are often recommended – taking couples of a journey of hormone treatments, hospital appointments, blossoming hopes and lingering anxieties. In amongst this upheaval, using a practice such as meditation can provide an anchor – helping us to find a point of emotional stability at a time when we need it most. 

 

IVF and stress

 

Laura Click, who wrote extensively about her experiences with IVF for Medium, said that this process was “one of the most grueling and gut-wrenching experiences I’ve even been through in my life. And, I’ve ran marathons, started a business and supported my husband through cancer”. While this isn’t necessarily going to be everyone’s experience, it’s likely to ring true for many people who are undergoing IVF – especially if they’ve waited a long time and tried other methods before arriving at this point. 

One of the common challenges people face through the IVF process is loneliness and social isolation. There are still widespread misapprehensions and even prejudices regarding fertility treatments (there are few people who haven’t encountered teeth clenching moments with well-meaning but insensitive phrases like “if you just relax, it will happen” or “at least you can adopt”). And while happy events can cheer us up and provide a break from the daily grind, it can sometimes be hard to attend events like baby showers or kid’s birthdays. 

Feeling that other people don’t understand what IVF truly entails can put many off socialising, and discourage them from talking about their fertility issues. But no matter how strong the urge is to hermit ourselves away, the inevitable result of this feeling alone – something that can worsen feelings of depression and anxiety. It can be really helpful, if this is the case, to seek support groups and couples who have gone through (or are going through) the same thing. 

Juggling our professional responsibilities around frequent appointments and the side-effects of hormone treatment is also very draining, especially as we try to maintain our work performance with so many other things to think about. The notorious “fertility rollercoaster” of hopes and disappointments – complete with seemingly endless waits between consultations, referrals and results – can leave us in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, and stress is a key factor of this experience. 

The comforting news for people understandably stressed out by the IVF process is that, contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that stress doesn’t appear to have any impact on the success of IVF. It’s theorised that this is because, while stress certainly can affect our fertility when we’re trying for a baby, during IVF hormones are administered which override our natural processes in this regard anyway. This vastly reduces the negative influence of stress hormones, so couples needn’t add “being too stressed” to the list of things to worry about. 

Stress does, however, have a very big impact on our wellbeing. While we can’t expect life to go smoothly, (and IVF is one of those moments that many find problematic) we shouldn’t have to put up with being extremely stressed and unhappy for extended periods of time in any circumstances. Meditation lets us feel better in the moment while also helping us to build resilience over the long term, and is an ideal stress-reduction method for couples going through IVF.

 

Meditation for IVF

 

For some, especially if they have already been through many years of fertility treatments and rounds of IVF, the main focus is to emotionally survive the next step on their journey. However, staying positive while trying to get pregnant needn’t be a huge struggle, where you fight against yourself see the best in every situation – and absolutely shouldn’t involve pushing down your true feelings in order just to get through. 

No matter if you are on your first round of IVF with a great prognosis, or facing your fifth and battling to retain confidence, you are going to have worries and this will be an unavoidingly hard time. It’s likely if you have faced fertility issues that you have been recommended and explored a variety of complementary therapies, with one eye how much they may help you conceive, but it may be best in this instance to think of meditation as something that’s just for you. 

With all the aforementioned deluge of appointments to get to, you may have found that you are busier than ever – and with a lot of worries that make the idea of focusing or emptying your mind simply impossible. This is where a meditation technique like Beeja can be so helpful. While mindfulness can be very helpful and may work very well for you, you may be struggling with it, simply because it requires quiet, focus and concentration at a time where your mind is busy with apprehensions and to-do lists. 

Beeja meditation, on the other hand, simply requires you to repeat a personalised mantra in your mind and flow effortlessly into a deeply relaxed state. So rather than trying to body scan, be aware of your thoughts or focus on a leaf, you simply repeat a mantra, and guide yourself back to it if you become distracted. 

The benefits of this for our state of mind and general wellbeing are manifold, and meditation for IVF really can help us stay positive simply by making us actually feel that bit happier and less anxious; we aren’t just telling ourselves to look on the bright side, it’s happening naturally. 

By allowing us to comprehensively escape negative self-talk for 20 to 40 minutes every day, with its regrets over the past and fears for the future, meditation allows us to quieten our irrational worries and accept the things that are out of our control. We find ourselves more able to let the little things slide and be kinder to ourselves, seeing things for how they really are, rather than how we fear they may be. 

For example, rather than spiralling into a spin of panic if your employer mentions that your performance has suffered during the absences and distractions that come with IVF, you can see that this situation a) isn’t urgent b) is perfectly understandable given the circumstances and c) can be rectified. Forgiving yourself for not being at your best and letting go of the small stuff will make going through IVF that little bit easier to deal with. 

Meditation will also help you sleep at a time where an overactive mind can easily keep you up at night. Everything seems that much greyer and more difficult when we are exhausted, creating a cycle of stress that further compromises your ability to sleep once bedtime rolls around. By meditating every day, even those living with chronic insomnia have been able to achieve deep and satisfying sleep and move on from their constant wakefulness. 

With a full nights’ sleep behind you, naturally more positive outlook and fewer worries rushing around your mind, you should also find that meditation makes it easier to connect with and support your partner. Fertility treatment isn’t easy for any couple, and with so much strain it’s no surprise if we sometimes snap at those closest to us. Meditation removes the barriers of stress and tiredness that so often get in the way of true communication, making it that bit less difficult to be giving and considerate when you need to be. 

If you are currently going through IVF and feel that meditation could be beneficial to you, get in touch with a member of our team

 

Words by Holly Ashby

 

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What Not To Expect From Meditation

what not to expect from meditation

 

Mantra to Moksha: 7 Misconceptions about Meditation, Dissolved!

 

Are you intimidated, or perhaps unsure where to begin, when it comes to learning about meditation? Fair enough. The practice of meditation winds gracefully back through the last 6000 years of history, and through the sands of time. It is no wonder, therefore, that the strands of tradition woven through this ancient art subdivide infinitesimally into different lineages; each steeped in its own mythologies. 

The manufacture of myth is an intrinsic part of the human psyche – indeed, it is one of our internal mechanisms of meaning-making. Making up stories which alchemise into hearsay is how we make sense of ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It is no wonder, then, that the mythos of meditation is as old as the practice itself. A facet of this dynamic that is often overlooked, however, is that the mythic lore surrounding meditation continues – to this day – to evolve and grow. 

 

Folklore or falsity: what’s in a myth?

 

Just as it has been throughout history, the word “myth” today is an umbrella term for two different entities: myths are folkloric legends that populate our collective consciousness, and they are also beliefs which are demonstrably untrue, yet inexplicably widely held. Among the meditation myths that just won’t die, for instance, is the idea that you have to have a calm mind to meditate; not true, but regularly reposted nonetheless!

Contemporarily created myths about the ancient practice of meditation abound, confusing and repelling many millions of people who would benefit from it, if only they understood how complicated it isn’t. Although the misconceptions keep being generated, the basic core values of mediation have been the same since its inception. Here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about meditation, which – once deconstructed – should no longer serve as obstacles to taking it up.

 

Myth 1: Meditation requires a clear head

 

The idea that you need a clear head to practice is one of the most pervasive misconceptions about meditation. It stems from widespread conflation between what meditation entails and the effects it can produce. Meditation is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different techniques that involve either occupying, or observing, the workings of your mind. 

As many of the characters in the 7th century BCE Sanskrit epic mythological poem Ramayana find, it is actually particularly useful in a crisis, such as when you’ve been banished to a forest in exile or kidnapped by a demon. Now as then, there is absolutely no need to start meditating with a clear head. Achieving some mental clarity, and the ability to think straight and see the bigger picture, is one of the most sought-after benefits of mediation rather than a requirement for practicing it. 

 

Myth 2: Meditation involves sitting still for hours at a time

 

Although the archetypal conceptual image of meditation involves a person sitting, cross-legged, in tranquil surroundings, one of the principal characteristics of meditation – and a factor in its indomitable endurance as a human pursuit – is the fact that you can do it anywhere, in any context. Although there are some traditional poses which you might like to adopt, the salient characteristic of your meditation position is that you feel sufficiently comfortable in it to concentrate during your practice – this can vary depending on factors like your age, body type, and any physical limitations. 

From Sufi whirling to kundalini yoga, meditation can be practiced in all manner of traditional positions and movements, but – for the less contortion-curious – it is also perfectly possible to access the benefits of meditation by bringing techniques into your consciousness as you move through the day. With mantra meditation, for example, the time it takes to wait for the bus can become a glade of restorative possibilities within a seemingly back-to-back, hectic schedule. 

 

Myth 3: Meditation is a challenge to relax 

 

You’ve set aside time to meditate. You’ve listened to today’s exercise on your new meditation app. Just like you did yesterday. And the day before. And now you’re exhausted, because you’ve been up since 6:30 am. You’re also infinitesimally more anxious by the second about how you’ll manage to do everything tomorrow, on top of everything you didn’t quite finish doing today. If this sounds familiar, you may also be acquainted with a sensation of having “failed” or “missed the trick” to meditation. 

The chances are that, technically, you’re doing everything perfectly, and you are perhaps simply yet to find the right meditation technique for you. The potential benefits of meditation are so great, however, that it’s worth exploring a variety of techniques, and consulting a well-respected teacher, in order to discover your personal pathway into meditation. 

 

Myth 4: Done properly, meditation should stop you thinking about other things

 

Akin to the common misperception that you need to start your meditation practice with a clear head, there is also a widespread myth that your meditation practice is somehow unsuccessful if your day-to-day worries, wonderings and current groundswells of emotion crop up. In actual fact, some forms of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, are specifically designed to interact with whatever thoughts and feelings arise. The technique involves learning to observe your ideas as they burgeon, rather than letting them take you on new journeys. 

Many people consider it easier to jump aboard one particular train of thought than to resist boarding any of the other trains that pass through the station of your mind during the session. In Beeja meditation, which is based on the oldest form of meditation in the world, rather than attempting to not get sucked into any of the tunnels offered by your thoughts, you concentrate your mind on silently thinking your own personal mantra. And, liberatingly, there is no “done properly” to aim for. Your mantra becomes deeply imbued with your personal energy the more you use it, rendering everyone’s meditative experience unique. 

 

Myth 5: Meditation produces instant results 

 

Of all the meditation myths, this is the one that sends most people, confused and a bit disgruntled, into the toxic “tried it; it wasn’t for me” headspace – a realm it can take years to emerge from before you’re ready to dip another toe in the shallows of your higher consciousness. Once you’ve found a meditation practice that works for you, you will start to feel subtle – and then increasingly profound – shifts in your thought patterns and the way you process situations. 

The unfolding of these changes, and your awareness of them, might span days, weeks, or months. There is no set of prefab targets to hit for “effective meditation,” and neither will you emerge from your first session – nor your 120th! – with “all the answers.” Instead, there’s time to chill (even if, like meditation itself, this is an art you’re yet to master…). 

 

Myth 6: Meditation is a surefire way of having ‘otherworldly experiences’

 

From many of the viral depictions and descriptions of meditation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ll leave your body during the session, entering a nebulous starlit hyperspace. 

The keys to spiritual enlightenment will glisten invitingly on little gossamer pillows, you imagine, proffered by invisible, galactic agents of the cosmos. As you reach out your tentacle – tumescent with unfamiliar energies, yet strangely familiar; it’s yours, after all – you will grasp each key with a wave of deep recognition. “Well done,” you’ll say to yourself as your timer beeps and your 20 minutes of meditation is up, “you went for ‘the Classic’ again, and you smashed it.” Unless, of course, you didn’t. Which, for most people, will be the case every time. 

Transcendental experiences in meditation can and do occur, but they’re different for everyone, and very rarely fit – or even remotely resemble – any of the stereotypes. As you get deeper into your practice, it is increasingly likely that new and unfamiliar experiences will open up to you. However, preparing for, or worse, courting, these experiences is a surefire way to be disappointed. Let the cosmos, and any stray cephalopod fantasies therein, come to you. 

 

Myth 7: Meditation is a religious practice

 

There are so many religions, and traditions, which involve meditation, that it’s easy to see where the misconception that it is a religious practice comes from. However, although it is frequently practiced in a religious context, there is nothing religious about meditation itself. Especially, if it is taught and practiced in a secular setting. Becoming familiar with a meditation technique in its own right will allow you to begin reaping the benefits of meditation in a way that is meaningful for you, without reference to any of the myriad religious schools of thought associated with it.

 

From myth to urban legend: Beeja is meditation for everyone 

 

Having thoroughly delineated what meditation is not, we’d like to leave you with an idea of what it is. Although there are as many definitions of meditation as there are traditions and techniques, at its essence, it is a means of befriending your mind. 

Beeja meditation, for instance, is a relationship that you create between yourself, and the words that form your mantra. While other meditation practices out there may draw on religious principles or symbology, mantra-based is truly a technique which is about the individual. It is a personal journey with a holistic focus on you. Contact us today to find out more about how to begin your exploration of Beeja meditation, or to sign up for our courses and classes

Words by Rosalind Stone

This entry was posted in blog.

The Best Spots in London For Summertime Meditation

best spots in london for summetime meditation

 

Meditating outside has to be one of life’s great pleasures – and with summer well and truly settled in, it’s something we’ll get to do a whole lot more in the coming months! Luckily, London is one of the world’s greenest cities, so the opportunity to relax in nature is never that far away. If you would like a little inspiration for taking your meditation practice out into the wider world, here are some of the best spots in London for meditating under blues skies and sunshine.

 

Hoxton Square

Sometimes, the best place to be is right on your doorstep. Our meditation centre is situated on Hoxton Square in Shoreditch, and if we fancy unwinding outside, then the green space outside our door is the perfect place. 

As this garden was laid out in 1683, it is thought to be one of the oldest squares in London. Now a buzzing community hub which is the centre of the arts and cultural scene in Shoreditch, Hoxton Square is rarely quiet – but with our meditation technique, that doesn’t matter.

 

Regents Park

We have a particular affection for Regents Park, which combines airy open spaces with manicured gardens and elegant tree-lined pathways. There are more than 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens, and contemplating the perfection of these flowers will put you in the ideal mood to settle down and let your meditation practice take you to a place of pure tranquility.

 

St. James’s Square

St. James’s Square is perhaps one of the most famous, and most impressive, squares in London. With such fascinating history and architecture surrounding this location, as well as admirable public art within it, exploring for half an hour before meditating on the grassy lawn is a great lunch-break option.

 

Epping forest

Head a little out of the city to discover Epping forest, an ancient woodland and former royal hunting ground. There have been trees here since 1000 BCE (which makes you wonder if you’ll spot a Green Man, or even a couple of Ents) and archaeological investigation has unearthed some of Britain’s oldest human activity here, in the form of worked flints. They aren’t many places where you can just minutes from a motorway but feel immersed in glorious countryside, which makes this a great location for nature-loving Londoners.

 

Tavistock Square

Got a spare hour before jumping on a train from Euston or St Pancras? Head to Tavistock Square and catch a bit of a breather. Designed in 1806, the highlight of this square is the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, sculpted by Fredda Brilliant and installed in 1968 – and there’s lots of other art to enjoy here too.  

 

Queen’s Wood

Another ancient woodland situated in Haringey, this nature reserve is another retreat from the city that offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy meditation under a canopy of leaves. This wood is thought to be a descendant of the original wildwood that stretched across the majority of Britain 5,000 years ago, and any keen birdwatchers among you will have the chance to spot one of the three species of woodpecker that live here.

 

Along the Thames

One of the pleasures of living in London is all the fantastic walks you can take along the length of The Thames – the heart of this city. Make this experience all the more wonderful by choosing a couple of particularly lovely places to stop and practice your daily meditation. Not only might you get a bit of a tan in the process, you will also discover places you may never have visited by allowing yourself to wander where the river takes you.

 

Mayfair, Brown Hart Gardens

Found yourself feeling overwhelmed on Oxford Street? Escape to The Brown Hart Gardens, a peaceful raised terraced garden in Mayfair that’s located (rather surprisingly) above an electricity sub-station. This small oasis isn’t as grand or leafy as other spaces in London, but it is beautifully designed and a convenient antidote to shopping stress.

These are just a few of our suggestions, but with Beeja meditation, you really can meditate anywhere you want – the power of your mantra and the simplicity of the technique lets you find quiet even in the busiest of settings. So whether you head to a gorgeous Royal Park or duck into your favourite cafe, you can enjoy the peace and stillness of meditation wherever you are.

Words by Holly Ashby 

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Beeja Recommends: Our Favourite Restaurants in London

favourite London restaurants

 

If you’ve ever been on one of our meditation retreats, you’ll know that we take dinner pretty seriously here at Beeja. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that we spend a good 30% of our time thinking about it. The enchanting alchemy of cooking is a whole constellation of joy, whether we’ve bubbled and stirred to create something ourselves, or have come together to enjoy a meal that another person has lovingly prepared.

Witness people sharing a feast together, and you often see humanity at its most happy, present and generous (well, until there’s only one poppadom left, in which case prepare for some steely-eyed rivalry!). This is why we think that good restaurants deserve recognition – they pour untold levels of energy into creating something wonderful, and in turn they bring out the best in us! Here’s a short selection of our favourites, right on the doorstep in London.  

Note: The majority of our choices are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

 

Ganapati South Indian Kitchen – Peckham

http://www.ganapatirestaurant.com/index.html

Inspired by the home-cooking and street food of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Ganapati is a colourful and laid-back restaurant which really stands out from the crowd. While “authentic” is an overused word, is really does apply here – with their select menu showcasing some of the best of south Indian cuisine. With moreish homemade breads, tangy pickles and luscious curries, there’s so much to enjoy here. 

Ganapati isn’t fully vegan or vegetarian, but everything including dairy is clearly labelled, and much of the food on offer is vegetarian – as well as utterly delicious. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s very popular, so it’s best to plan ahead if you want a table!

 

Spinach – East Dulwich

http://www.spinach.london/

This South London gem is a beautifully designed, vegetable-centric restaurant that serves everything from spinach and cumin pancakes at breakfast time to roasted cauliflower kormas over a leisurely evening meal. The bright and leafy interiors are lovely to relax in, and while (once again) it isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, the meat-free options are varied and carefully considered. 

 

Ottolenghi – Various London Locations

https://ottolenghi.co.uk/

Ottolenghi is such a legend in plant-focused cookery that he should probably be crowned and ascended to a vegetable throne – and luckily he has restaurants all across London! His sleek and well-loved delis serve Middle-Eastern inspired food which aim to showcase veg at its best, and each is slightly different from the other. You can dive into a beautiful bounty of food, with the use of Ottolenghi’s signature spices (za’atar, dukkah, sumac and mahlab) making everything you decide to indulge in sing with flavour. 

 

Caravan – Various London Locations

https://www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk/

Caravan facilitates all-day dining at their five London restaurants. With their interesting fusion menu offering sourdough pizzas, buttermilk hotcakes, chilli-salt tofu and all sorts of other treats, it’s a great place to enjoy something informal and relaxed. If nothing else, it’s very worth popping to your local outfit to see why The Telegraph is raving about Caravan’s cornbread, which the reviewer insists “changed my destiny”. 

 

Hemsley + Hemsley Cafe – Selfridges

http://www.hemsleyandhemsley.com/home/cafe/

Jasmine and Melissa are a pair of foodie sisters who have a passion for nutritious, healthy food, and Hemsley + Hemsley is their first eatery – opened after the success of their books and TV show. Boasting a minimal, Japanese-inspired aesthetic and a menu of organic, seasonal food, everything served here is gluten free, uses no refined sugar and steers clear of hydrogenated fats. But these health credentials are far from the only draw  – Hemsley + Hemsley’s meal are both substantial and delicious, with none of the dry fussiness sometimes associated with healthier cooking. 

Try their golden chai latte for something warming and soothing, and go for their full afternoon tea to experience an interesting twist on an English classic. 

 

100 Hoxton – Shoreditch

https://100hoxton.com/

100 Hoxton is one of the coolest-looking places in Shoreditch and has lots of great morsels – includings plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices. The food is served tapas-style, and the prices are very reasonable so you can fill up your table for a real feast. 

 

Chutney Mary – London’s West End

http://www.chutneymary.com/

Chutney Mary is another exceptional Indian restaurant, with a menu that’s full to the brim with vegetarian goodies. Their food changes with the seasons and is, as described in Time Out, of “astonishing quality” – while the decor is another marvel. Perfect for a special occasion, this upscale restaurant is known for impeccable service and elevated cookery, spoiling diners with gourmet versions of Indian classics. It’s a unique experience, and one that has earned Chutney Mary a certificate of excellence on Tripadvisor. 

 

Deliciously Ella’s Deli – Mayfair

https://deliciouslyella.com/our-delis/weighhouse-street/ 

Deliciously Ella is everyone’s’ favourite wellness writer, and her popularity has continued to soar with her vegetarian London deli. Just 100 yards from Oxford street but hidden on a quiet corner, here you can enjoy guilt-free treats like banana bread, Matcha lattes and an unctuous Tuscan bean stew, and escape the hustle of the city. 

 

Cinnamon Club – Westminster

http://cinnamonclub.com/menus/

The Cinnamon Club is a Westminster institution, serving Indian food in a book-lined dining room that looks only a little less grand than the library in Beauty and the Beast. Providing pan-Indian cuisine to a fine-dining standard, all within the gentleman-club-like surroundings of a Grade II-listed Victorian building, the Cinnamon Club is combines the traditional and innovative in a way which has made it a firm favourite. 

CEO Vivek Singh and head chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair came up with the latest menu after a million pound refurbishment – make sure to check it out if you ever fancy a treat! 

Words by Holly Ashby

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