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The Unreliable Guide to… Meditation

By Nat Shepherd on November 6, 2018 in Other

Stress less, by Dorota Dylka

Every man and his Buddhist budgie should know about the benefits of meditation by now. Celebrities from Madonna and Michael Jordan to Jerry Seinfeld and Russell Brand all swear by it. But how does it work? And how do you do it? The Unreliable Guide has some tips and tricks to help you meditate your way to happiness…

Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar insists that 20 minutes mediation is equivalent to eight hours sleep, but how can this be? Ravi states that, “By doing meditation, you can turn your body into
a powerhouse by generating an inner source of energy.” It sounds like hippy claptrap, but science
is starting to agree. Meditation enables us to be fully present in the moment – if we’re not regretting the past or worrying about the future we can react more effectively to situations that arise around
us. Meditation enables clarity of thought; we’re more aware of our inner desires and thus increase our self-awareness.

While sitting cross-legged and chanting ‘Om’ for twenty minutes may sound easy, it is a good idea to have some meditation training. Just a couple of lessons can set you on the right track. There are plenty of teachers out there, but the Buddhist Centre in Camperdown offers great non-denominational training courses in exchange for a small donation of your time or money. Or there is a huge selection of apps you can try. However, like most worthwhile skills, once you’ve learned to meditate you’ll need to practice, preferably every day.

You don’t have to move to Tibet and become a Buddhist or sit cross-legged on an ashram floor; you can meditate almost anywhere. You will, however, need a place and time where you will not be disturbed. If that’s not an option at home, consider attending a class where you’ll also have the support of a group of people on a similar quest for inner peace.

The main point of mediation is to allow the mind to become still and calm. But why should we aim for a calm mind? Surely a busy, active mind is best? Nope, busy means overextended. Think of your laptop – does it work well when it’s trying to process twenty different things at the same time? Nope, it crashes, and so will you. Remember, calm does not equal nothing; it is a state of readiness. A stressed mind will try to predict every outcome, which is impossible, leading to burnout. In a state of calm readiness, like a cat, you can spring instantly into the perfect, appropriate response.

From the common cold to cancer, stress is blamed as the root cause of many illnesses, largely because the chemicals caused by stress negatively affect our immune systems. Recent research has proven that regular meditation boosts the immune system, promoting white blood cell activity and giving you the power to fight off illness. In addition, meditation can reduce anxiety, lower high blood pres- sure, increase concentration and lengthen attention span. It’s also a great cure for insomnia: meditation tidies up mind-clutter, so instead of restless nights fighting ‘runaway’ thoughts, you’ll fall asleep easily.

Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests that the real secret of happiness is not thinking about anything too much, especially not yourself. Go for a walk, look at a tree and think about… leaves. Leaves are amazing!