Meditation – My Journey in a Nutshell
So meditation – that’s for a yogi guru sitting alone on a mountain top in a loincloth, who’s about 400 years old and who hasn’t eaten for the last 200 of those years – isn’t it?
Hmmmm…seems that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about meditation and I thought that I would introduce you to my personal practice. This little glimpse into my private life is because I really believe that everyone should have access to learning, and actioning, a meditation process – it can be a transformative experience. And, for the record, I am not 400 years old, nor do I (regularly) run around in just a loin cloth, and I ate food at least 5 minutes ago….although I am prone to sitting on a mountain top as often as I can get away with it !!
I first learned about meditation about 20 years ago. I was a University and signed up for a class in meditation at the Uni recreation center. I distinctly remember this because I was studying in my final year of a degree in Linguistics, as well as my 2nd year of a degree in Geology – and I had a big, kick-arse Linguistics exam just 30 minutes after the meditation class. I remember being so clear of mind, and so peaceful after that class, that I went into my exam, sat down and completed the whole thing in less than an hour (for a 3 hour exam) and coming away with a 90%+ pass rate. True story!
I dabbled with meditation on a not-so-regular basis until several years later when I was living in Scotland. There I found a yoga practice and a real-life laughing Buddha named Ian. Ian lead our yoga group and he was a short, very round, very bald Scotsman and he was amazing. I learned to breathe for the first time in my life, and I finally understood that yoga and meditation were a way of living, not simply an exercise routine as I had previously experienced. I had been a yoga devotee for years – dedicated to Bikrams Yoga and falling in love with what it did to my body – but missing entirely the role my mind and spirit had to play!
Do you practice yoga? What’s your favourite style? I use Gaia for my daily practice
So fast forward a small number of years (OK, we will say about 18 years because I am not afraid to say I am approaching 46!!) and now I find myself intensely drawn again to meditation. And, now, meditation beads. Up until a few months ago I had not used them in any meditation practice. But I can honestly say that they make such a difference to my focus, my concentration, to my sense of peace and clarity.
What is Meditation and Why Practice It?
In essence, meditation is a way to clam and quiet the mind so that you can listen to the message that your heart has for you. Your heart thinks, in a sense. It has an intelligence all of it’s own (it even has brain-type cells in there that communicate with the head brain….crazy
or what!!??) and it has a message for you. In our day-to-day life we are dominated by what is called the Ego – the thinking self. This is the systematic, pragmatic, version of self that has developed in response to all the conditioning, fears, influences, biases and interpretations that we have been exposed to – even from before we were born. The mind/ego loves to protect us from anything that might hurt us (read: anything that challenges the status quo) and it will enlist a myriad of tricks to keep you listening to it.
In lots of instances, the mind/ego serves us really well. It is great at keeping us from physical harm and danger, for instance. But, with it’s very persistent voice the mind/ego stops us from hearing the other reality – the reality that our heart, our soul, our connection to the universal energy (some call this God – I don’t mind at all what you call it) offers us. To hear THIS reality takes effort – more and more effort as we get older because of the accumulation of filters that the mind/ego adds over time. Meditation is a beautiful, simple technique that has been used for thousands of years (under a variety of names and labels) for quieting the mind/ego and allowing that other voice to be heard.
In my experience, meditation goes through different stages. The first stage is the settling in stage. This is where I allow myself to be aware of the chatter of my mind. I sit quietly and just try to be an observer of my thoughts. I don’t challenge them, I don’t judge them, I try not to follow them (easier said than done – requires practice). When I become aware that I have drifted off with my thoughts, I gently bring myself back to the position of an observer by focusing on my breath.
The second stage I call “watching the clouds”. Now, as my ego becomes aware that it am not following it down the rabbit hole, it can get a bit desperate. This is where a lot of people get sick of meditation and give up. This is actually the ego getting it’s own way (remember, the ego is also you…don’t judge yourself in this process!). I find that the thoughts get more and more intense – even my body begins to fidget, cramp, want to move. So I choose instead to watch the clouds. With my eyes closed I watch the shadows and colours moving against my eyelids. Sounds weird, doesn’t it – but it is a lot like watching the clouds moving and changing on a summers day. After a while doing this, my mind/ego realises that I am not going to follow it, it relaxes and it sits quietly waiting for me to come back. So onto the next stage.
The third stage for me is where I can set my intention, and this is where I most often use my mala beads. Sometimes, if I really don’t have a lot of time, or I want to do a micro-meditation, I will dive straight into stage 3…sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t….c’est la vie! I usually have my intention set at the beginning of my practice and I use a mantra, repeating the mantra/intention as I move my fingers over each bead in my Mala. This is like casting a prayer into the universe, being mindful, purposeful and peaceful while doing so. I love this part of my meditation practice.
If you prefer to use a guided meditation practice, I recommend Tara Brach – she is awesome
The final stage is where I sit quietly and observe again. This time, usually, I hear a different voice. This is soft but strong, full of purpose and I know that it is my heart speaking to me. Again, it is observation – there is no effort in this place, but there is always a message. Sometimes it is reinforcement of my purpose, sometimes it is a challenge, sometimes it is wisdom, always it is beautiful.
How to use Mala Beads for Meditation
The above process, for me, takes about 20 minutes. I can get this down to 10 minutes if I skip straight to step 3 and use my mala from the get-go. Don’t tell me that you don’t have 10 minutes in your day to sit quietly…we both know that this is not true! To get you started, take just 5 minutes and follow this simple 8-step process from Gaia that sets it all out for you:
Clarify the intention of your practice and choose your mantra or affirmation.
- Find a comfortable space and sit quietly in a cross legged position.
- Close your eyes and observe the speed and depth of your natural breath.
- Begin to breathe deeply and bring your focus and attention onto your mantra or affirmation.
- Hang the first mala bead gently on the middle or ring finger of your right hand.
- Place your thumb on the guru bead and begin reciting your mantra.
- At the end of the mantra push the mala bead away with your thumb and move onto the next bead for another round. Continue until you reach a count on 7, 21, 27, or 108. (my beads are all separated into sets of 27 with a larger marker bead in between so you know where you are).
- If you wish to do another round of mantras or affirmations, do not skip over the guru bead. Instead, turn the mala around and move in the opposite direction.
I personally use either a mantra or a short phrase/word of intention as I meditate which helps me focus my mind on the purpose of my meditation. If you would like some guidance on the world of Mantras, again, Gaia has a great article for you to read.
Tell Me About the Beads
The beads that I use in my Malas all include at least 2 sets of 27 wooden beads. I make these beads by hand and they are very special, and have a distinct purpose. The wood used in these beads is 100% recycled and has come from homes destroyed following the 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes (Christchurch is where I live and I was here when the quakes hit). The wood is, more specifically, is Rimu – a beautiful Native New Zealand timber. It has a range of colors and thus each bead can be quite distinct from the others, which represents our beautiful uniqueness even though we are all connected.
Additionally, I use the wooden beads to remind me that I am 100% connected to Mother Earth. The beads keep me grounded and offer clarity and connection – which is what I offer to you also. They keep me in the universal energy and, for me, add a beautiful peace when I meditate.
I also use crystal beads for the other 2 sets of 27 beads in my malas. The crystals represent the 7 chakra, or energy centers, in the body. I personally use a set of beads that has adventurine (a lovely soft green) that represents the Heart Chakra, and when I use these beads I often use a simple mantra that resonates with this Chakra too – it reminds me that there is only Love…and
everything else is a construct based in fear (but that’s another story!). On top of that I choose a tassel that represents the crown Chakra (purple) which offers me enlightenment and keys me into my higher purpose. My intention when I use this set of mala beads is that if I am aligned with my higher purpose and my heart, I am on a path that brings meaning to my life (and hopefully to others as well!).
I offer you the opportunity to select a range of crystal beads that resonate with you. If you aren’t quite sure which ones to choose, I suggest starting with colour – most of us are drawn naturally to a colour that resonates most strongly with us…trust your intuition! Alternatively, if you would like to sit down (personally or virtually) with me and we can talk through what is happening in your life, your journey and I can help you find the crystals that will serve you best (there is an additional consultation charge with this service, and you receive your beads for free!). Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to inquire further.