What exactly is Meditation?
You might be a bit sceptical about this topic at the start but once you realise how easy and beneficial it is, you’ll want to meditate every day!
Meditation is a practice that involves relaxing the mind and being in a state of mind that is different from when we are awake. It is used to clear our mind from the millions of thoughts that go through it every day and to help us to stay in the present moment instead of worrying about the past or the future. It helps to get rid of our stresses and anxieties. However, you don’t need to only meditate when you are feeling down. It’s just like eating healthily- you don’t eat fruit and vegetables only when you’re ill. You try to eat it daily so that you can avoid becoming ill in the future. Meditation is similar to this- the earlier you start meditating, the less problems you will have in the future. Depending on how much time you have available, you should meditate every day (preferably twice a day, once in the morning before you wake up so you get up feeling refreshed and once before you go to sleep). If it’s too difficult to meditate for an hour every day, then you can meditate for around 10 minutes every day. A little meditation is better than no meditation and the sooner you get the hang of meditating, it will slowly become a habit and then you’ll see that you can’t go a day without meditating. There’s no limit.
How do you meditate?
- The first step is to make sure you don’t have any distractions. Turn your devices such as your phone and TV off/silent.
- Turn off the room lights or maybe light some incense sticks/candles to set the mood
- Think about why you want to meditate- do some visualisation of your aims and goals. What do you want from meditating? Close your eyes and visualise yourself somewhere beautiful, for example a large green field or forest, surrounded by nature. If you can actually be in nature while meditating, that’s even better!
- Sit somewhere comfortable, on a cushion or on a chair, with your legs crossed and your back straight. And if you are pregnant, it depends on the size of the bump in pregnancy- make sure you are comfortable!
- Close your eyes and your mouth and relax all of your muscles. Focus on your inhaling and exhaling. We’re sure as a first timer, it will be very difficult to hold your concentration for very long- the important thing is to not force anything otherwise it will create resistance. If you lose focus, just slowly return your mind to focus on your breathing.
- You can find some calming meditation music on YouTube with a timer, to help you focus, especially as a beginner. We personally find that listening to music really sets the atmosphere and helps to keep you focused and relaxed.
- Keep inhaling and exhaling with your mouth closed and stay in the present moment at all times. Thinking about the senses sometimes helps with this- eg. what can you hear? What can you smell? What can you feel? What can you see?
- When you finish meditating, take some time to write in your Mindful Dreams gratitude journal. You can note down what experiences or thoughts came up for you during the meditation session as well any feelings, emotions and hopes for the future. This will be sure not only help cultivate happiness but also fill our lives with love and appreciation. The perfect way to end a meditation!
Guided Meditations make meditating a ‘peace’ of cake!
Once you’ve learnt the basics of meditation- inhaling and exhaling- then you can start to explore guided meditations which are very specific meditations for particular situations, positive or negative. They also have prepared visualisations so that you can just focus on the words being said rather than trying to visualise something on your own. Guided meditations are great for problems you have whether its physical or psychological. For instance, if you have a headache, you can search on YouTube ‘guided meditation for headache’ and you’ll find a spoken word meditation (rather than just music) specifically tailored for that.
Here is a link to one of the first guided meditations that one of our team members listened to that really calmed her down. It is around 40 minutes long so make sure you have that time available:
Is Meditation good for pregnancy & babies?
According to Healthline, stress during pregnancy can negatively impact fetal development. It can also affect cognitive, emotional and physical development throughout infancy to childhood. This is very serious and if we can help prevent this just by meditating daily, then that’s great!
Mindfulness is a type of meditating that is about noticing and paying attention to your emotions, movements, thoughts etc. while being present at the same time. Being mindful is being completely focused on the activity you are doing rather than letting your mind wander. So it’s a bit different to meditation in the way that with regular meditation, you are clearing your mind but with mindfulness you are being ‘mindful’ of the moment you are in.
New research on mindfulness meditation is suggesting that it can be extremely beneficial for expectant mothers or generally any parent with a child, as you know there are too many stresses of being a mother! It may also lead to fewer developmental problems with babies as they are growing up. A 2008 study of 31 women that were in the second half of their pregnancy took part in an 8-week mindfulness meditation programme called Mindful Motherhood. The study concluded that there were reductions in the participants’ anxiety as well as less depression, stress and negative thoughts/feelings. Another study found similar results as well as women expressing that they learnt to just accept things as they are and think about the situation before they act out impulsively.
A perfect description of the benefits of meditation expressed by one mother:
‘With each passing day that I meditated, I could feel my stress and anxiety fade away. All the concerns I had previously didn’t hold as much weight anymore, and instead, I was able to see things in a more positive light. This not only affected the way I looked at myself but the way I connected with my baby and husband as well. Each day I practised meditation, I became closer and closer to the life growing inside me and those moments till this day are some of the most memorable of my entire pregnancy.’ (MORI blog).
Another major benefit of meditating is that meditation makes childbirth less painful as it helps you to breathe and stay in the present moment, which takes the focus away from the pain and can help with dizziness when pregnant. A study was conducted on a four-day mindfulness meditation training programme where participants were able to decrease the intensity of a pain stimulus by 40%. Can you imagine having the power to control your mind and using it to take away your pain?
In utero communication is a kind of communication that mothers have with their unborn child whilst pregnant
You might think its silly or weird to talk to your belly, and you may be worried that people will think you are crazy! However, in utero communication is extremely important. According to research, a fetus can hear sounds from the outside world as well as being able to create memories of them after they are born. Meditating is a wonderful way to know your unborn baby. The mind is extremely powerful and so sending positive and loving thoughts through meditation and visualisations to your unborn baby will create a special bond and will ensure your child grows up into a good, kind person with self-esteem. A 2014 study from the Hong Kong Buddhist Institute of Enlightenment suggests that ‘infants born to women who meditate had a better temperament at 5 months than those moms who didn’t get the habit’ (Louise Carr) suggesting that meditation can really aid in your baby growing up into a calmer and more creative person. Furthermore, this can be emphasized with the use of mantras in your meditation as according to the Mayo Clinic, your baby may be able to start hearing after the 16th week.
Ultimately, this means that since you as a mother, have a huge impact on your child’s future, you have to be extra careful with what you say to your ‘belly’ as well as being careful with what others say when they are around you.
I’m finding it difficult to meditate- what can I do to make it easier?
Here are some tips to help you meditate easier, especially if you are a beginner:
- Choose a specific place to meditate every day as well as a specific time so it becomes a routine.
- Meditate as soon as you wake up- don’t leave it until later because chances are, you will probably forget. Especially for you parents who have a busy daily schedule. Plus, meditating in the morning will ensure you start the day positively and in a good mood.
- Let your siblings/family members know you will be meditating so that you aren’t disturbed. Tell your dogs and cats too!
- YouTube is your best friend- there is a whole UNIVERSE of videos that will help guide you, like the guided meditations as mentioned before.
- Set the atmosphere. This is key is helping you to feel calm and relaxed. Many people tend to light candles and incense sticks, close the curtains to make the room slightly darker.
- Most important thing of all- be comfortable! Don’t focus on the generic positions people meditation it, like having your back completely straight with your legs crossed. Sit straight but not too much as that will take your focus off clearing your mind. Find a comfortable spot on a chair or even a sofa.
Brahma Kumaris is a Spiritual centre located in many countries around the world, including a couple of centres in London. Our team member attended this centre for more than a year so they know on a personal level how important and beneficial meditation is. Brahma Kumaris offers many different things such as a range of classes and seminars as well as yearly retreats. At this centre, visitors can expect to learn about their true selves. They learn how to focus and quieten their minds from negative thoughts, through Raja Yoga meditation- which is basically meditating but with your eyes open instead of closed so that you can learn to meditate in all kinds of situations and to practice your concentration.
The best thing about the Brahma Kumaris centre is the many different things it offers, and the fact that they are all completely free of charge.
Some examples of what Brahma Kumaris offers:
- Spiritual retreats around the UK where people gather around and meditate several times a day
- Short courses
- Festivals such as ‘Peace in the Park’
- Celebrations such as the Hindu celebration ‘Raksha Bandan’
- Online services including videos and podcasts
- Bookshop full of books, CDs and posters related to meditation/spirituality
One of the courses we would suggest to attend, if you are a woman is the ‘Women and Spirituality’ course which runs every Tuesday morning in Willesden Green. This course enables women to discover their spiritual identity and discuss practicing meditation in daily life.
On the other hand, if you are a man/male parent, we would suggest to attend the ‘Spirituality and Men’ course which is run for men of all different backgrounds to come together to explore their inner spirit through reflection and meditation.
Brahma Kumaris also offers the ‘Family Meditation Hour’ which is great for parents and children over age 4 to meditate and relax and practice Raja Yoga meditation together on the 3rd Sunday of every month. Family fun!
Brahma Kumaris introduced many people we know to meditation, and ever since, their lives have completely changed. Now they can’t imagine a life without meditation and we believe you will have the same opinion after you start meditating and start seeing all the benefits.
When will I see the results of meditation????
There is no specific time frame in which you can ‘expect results’. Meditation is a unique experience for each individual and the results depend on how often you meditate and how much you truly believe it’s working. You shouldn’t think too much about having an aim or a goal to reach. Instead, take each day as it comes and just focus on creating a beautiful life for yourself and for your children every day, while always remaining in the present moment!
And as always, don’t forget to give thanks and express gratitude in your Mindful Dreams notebook!