Quiet the Mind; an essay on meditation.
By Matthew Johnstone
I’ve just completed 3 weeks of media interviews for the launch of my new book Quiet the Mind. One question that has popped up several times is ‘why an illustrated book on meditation?’.
I spent 15 years working as a creative in advertising and I’m highly aware of the power of the image; a picture after all is worth a 1000 words, it’s more visceral and can get to the core of an issue in the blink of an eye.
I tend to create my books with the idea being you don’t have to physically read it to ‘get it’ and what I’ve discovered is that adults still quietly love a good picture book.
In researching this book I quickly realised that there were many, many books on how to meditate but why did it take so many books, so many words to describe something that is fundamentally about doing nothing?
I haven’t reinvented the wheel, I’m certainly not a guru, I’ve never been to ashram, I don’t know one charkra from the next, I can’t sit in the Lotus position on the floor and I don’t know the meaning to life BUT what I do know is that life is so much better when I meditate. My point of difference is the images; they are simply visual metaphors to help the reader get into the required space to Quiet their Mind.
I’m currently doing a lot of public speaking to corporations, community groups, professional sporting bodies, farming communities and high schools. A lot of these talks are about mental health, what happens when we lose it and how we can build resilience and mental fortitude. A key ingredient in this equation is of meditation. When I talk to farmers for example and discuss the importance turning inward – some of the looks I get; you would think I’d just asked them to appear on a Mardi Gras float.
The truth of the matter is anyone and everyone can benefit from some regular quiet. It’s not some fringy, spiritual, hippy thing that time wasters do. It has been clinically proven to reduce stress, combat heart disease, help improve depression, decrease pain and more importantly it can give us clarity, improve our mood and our ability to get things done. Personally the greatest bonus is that it makes me so much more present, I feel so much more ‘in the room’ and so much more engaged I truly believe it makes me a much better listener.
The biggest hurdle to get over is yourself and your thoughts. The benefits of meditation are not instant; just as you don’t go for a jog and suddenly you’re fit – it is the accumulative practice that turns positive results.
The other point to consider is that these days no matter how old we are we seem to be busier. Technology has made us more connected than ever before. Apparently one of the most influential groups on Facebook is women over 50. People blog, text, email, tweet, facebook, surf the net then have their day to day lives on top of all that. I think in a world where we’ve become so connected; never before have we been so disconnected. Meditation is the perfect counter balance to the highspeed world we currently find ourselves in.
It brings us balance and it gives time to reflect.
So here’s the abridged version on how to Quiet the Mind:
Step 1: When: 1st thing in the morning. An hour or two before bed or if you can’t sleep – get up and meditate.
Step 2: Use a quiet room and make sure no one or anything like a phone is going to disturb you. If you’re worried about time set an alarm clock for 20 minutes then put it another room so it doesn’t blow your calm feelings when it goes off.
Step 3: Use a comfortable chair with a pillow behind the small of your back. You’re not sitting to relax – you are sitting with intention.
Step 4: Take several deep slow breathes, soften your eyes, your face, your body, your thoughts.
Step 5: Slowly shut your eyes and just be with your thoughts.
Listen to what you can hear outside the room. Then bring your attention to what you can hear in the room you’re sitting in. Then bring your attention to you and the breath that flows in and out of your nose – this is where you want your attention to be.
Step 6: Sitting with yourself in silence can be a challenge your mind is going to badger you with all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t be doing this but try and be a rock in the river and let those thoughts flow around you. Be gentle and kind with yourself, don’t beat yourself up if you have a thought, need to itch or get distracted by a noise. Simply come back to breath … in and out … in and out … in and out …
Step 7: Our brains are built to think so therefore our thoughts given any opportunity our mind will roam. Try not to get engaged, don’t chase thoughts – just let them be. Initially you may have a very turbulent meditation but just sitting still quietly has tremendous benefits and most importantly it DOES get better … in and out … in and out … in and out …
Step 8: With practice you can bring yourself to incredible stillness – your thoughts may still be hanging around but it’s a bit like having a sliding glass door between you and your mental machinations. I find when I enter this place of quiet I’m quite happy to stay in that bubble for as long as possible it is my idea of bliss … in and out … in and out … in and out …
Step 9: When you come out of a meditation don’t launch straight back into what it was you were doing prior, take a moment or two just to sit in silence and observe how you’re feeling, observe the room you’re sitting in. Think about the day you’re about to have or the day that has just been, how you want to be around others & perhaps what you have to be grateful for. Be proud of yourself for giving this a go.
Step 10: If you feel a degree of inner peace take it with you and wear like a comfortable jacket for the rest of the day.
Step 11: Just remember do anything 21 times and it can become a habit and this is a habit worth having.
Omwards and outwards.