Top ten tips for City meditators
I have an admission to make: I meditate more than I do “yoga”… Shock horror! Ideally, I would be up at 4AM, practise 1 hour of yoga asanas, then 20 minutes of meditation, then have breakfast, commute half an hour and be at my desk at the bank by 8AM. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic in today’s world, and sleep is one of the things we are most deprived and need the most. I still do yoga, and as my recent post “yoga for bankers” demonstrates, it’s still a passion very close to my heart.
So, for the meditating City professional, what tips and advice can I offer?
1. Try to meditate at the same place and same time every day. I am convinced that we are all creatures of habit. Most of us also love structure and develop patterns in our behaviours. By meditating in the same place and at the same time, you honour your intention to meditate. This will become a habit and then form an anchor in your life – activate this anchor by stepping into surroundings you are familiar with, at your usual time, and come out of it feeling calm, clear minded and confident. Soon that anchor will give you a spring-board to start your day.
2. Don’t rush into or out of meditation. It’s important to “set the stage” before you begin your practice. Likewise, coming out of meditation should be a gradual process. I like to give myself 2 minutes. I have found with my practice that I get a headache if I arise too early after meditation!
3. Do something creative after meditation. Ok, going to work may not always be the most creative outlet, but you may notice some subtle difference in your work. For me, meditation is a source of inspiration for my blogging, and often it is when I am at my most creative.
4. Record your thoughts that come during meditation. Hang on, meditation is not meant to be about thinking? But thoughts do come, and often insightful ones. Solutions to problems or dilemmas frequently come to me during my meditation. They are often thought-provoking too. The human mind is so complex that things can sometimes only be accessed during different states. Rowan Gillies, coach, consultant and co-founder of blu-dot, calls this “downloading”. The theta state regularly generated during a deep session of meditation is a source of many of our inspirations, ideas and creativity in general.
5. Light a candle. In the dark winter months, a candle can provide a source of inspiration and hope. It can also form the centre of your meditation practice (yogis then call it tratak). As you emerge from the meditation, observe the candle and its gentle, yet randomly flickering flame. The luminous effect of the candle light against statues and other ornaments (especially Bronze Buddha heads) sometimes gives me an insight into the true nature of reality. I find it quite special.
6. Stay put after meditation (for a short while). Meditation is an experience – yes, one that can be defined by the length of your practice, but it’s the acknowledgement of the subtle changes in your perceived environment as a result of meditation that can really make the difference. I always like to observe the objects around and in front of me and notice how I feel in relation to them. It also gives me the platform to move on from my meditation back into the day.
7. Don’t be hard on yourself. I hear so many people complain that they ‘can’t meditate’. Well, here’s something: often my meditations are completely dominated by my thoughts too, and I have to work hard to keep focus in my meditation. But as internationally renowned expert on mindfulness and meditation, John Kabat Zinn notes, one of the foundations of meditation is a ‘beginner’s mind’. Bring to each practice a fresh state of mind and explore the infinite realm of possibility that each practice brings, in each and every moment. If we are kind and compassionate to ourselves and acknowledge the fact that we have taken the time away from our busy lives, then this will bring a fresh perspective to your daily working life: A time to stop, take stock and breathe.
8. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on the floor. You don’t need to shave your head or wear Buddhist robes either. Seriously, the modern practice of meditation is personal and for me, I like to feel comfortable. If my body is comfortable, then my mind takes care of the rest and they work in synch with each other (since body and mind are one and the same). I don’t like sitting in a room on a cushion without back support (maybe I’m a fake in some people’s eyes, but it’s the truth). Be comfortable, find a nice chair or sofa with back support and go for it. The modern City meditator can meditate anywhere (well, perhaps not on the floor of a busy tube carriage! :-)).
9. Get a meditation app or timer. 5, 10, 15 or whatever minutes – it’s easy to measure this with a timer or app, allowing you to fit your practice neatly into your daily busy City life. Of course, being City professionals, we are competitive to some degree. The apps these days keep a log of all your practices and produce statistics. My ongoing record, which until recently stood at 147 consecutive days (which was sadly recently broken for only a day, as a result of preparing to go into hospital for some routine examinations), was something that kept spurring me on. It also gave me the discipline that I had to fit in my daily practice – somewhere and somehow. Shallow perhaps, but it serves me and my practice well.
10. Find a style that works for you. There are many different styles of meditation. From more mindfulness based practices such as breathing meditation and body scan, mantra based to practices focusing on creative visualisation. It can be quite overwhelming given the generic nature of the word “meditation”. If you need further guidance, I would suggest attending a class or seeking the guidance of a specialist teacher. My teacher, Maggie Richards, offers some unique classes in the City. Or, for a more Buddhist perspective, the Kadampa school runs many classes dotted all around London, all with friendly, welcoming teachers. I have experienced all sorts of different styles, but have found the TM practice to be the one that works for me. For a small fee (given the life time benefit), you can learn the ancient art of Vedic meditation. The most important thing is to find the style that works for you; and stick with it. Diligently.
I hope that you find these tips helpful, or perhaps even inspirational. Happy meditating, City folks.