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Health & Fitness

How I started meditation

Mwende Stardust
Mwende Stardust. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A year ago, I started meditation by chance. It was after an abrupt end of a relationship. It was either I swim or sink. I figured that I needed to find activities to keep me occupied. Yoga was first on my list. It would get me on the path to mental recovery and help me to lose weight.

I went to a yoga class and discovered that it goes hand in hand with meditation. Meditation is a non-religious practice of calming the mind by reducing or monitoring your thoughts.

Soft music crooned in the background, the yoga teacher, who was in her 60s had a body that was perfectly compacted in flexibility. I struggled with a few yoga moves while she did them effortlessly.

Then she started the meditation session. The music faded, leaving a healing silence in the room. We sat still with eyes closed, taking deep breaths. My mind wandered, but in little snippets of time that it calmed and my heart rate slowed, I felt a deep relaxation that was beyond anything I had ever experienced.

Benefits

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I meditate for 15 minutes every day and its greatest benefit is that it has helped me be less stressed and anxious.

After adopting a regular practice, I found a sense of calmness that makes me unfazed by issues, even if they are upsetting. It also improves relationships because attention gradually changes from finding fault in others, and one is more focused on self-mastery.

Meditation also increases one’s ability to focus, reduce memory loss related to aging, and helps fight addictions.

But meditation is tough for everyone when they begin and it is a skill that is not mastered easily. You do it once and you feel irritated because you have a thousand errands to run, but here you are —just sitting.

The first week, I was shocked at the utter busyness of my mind. There was always something brewing, something popping up, something dragging my attention. The more I tried to quiet the mind, the funnier or more intense the thoughts became.

At some point, my inner thoughts would burst into a song and it took a few minutes to get it back to focus.

As days progressed, the mind got calmer. By the third week, not even a boss could piss me off. I become a happy bunny.

Meditation is not so much about emptying the mind. There are times when I get a minute or two of blankness. But there are days when the whole 15 minutes of meditation is taken up by thoughts of my childhood crush, or the beans in the fridge. On those days, I meditate to track my thoughts, whether they are positive or negative.

If the thoughts are negative, the session will soothe me. For instance, if I am trying to meditate but I find myself cursing my friend Sussi who talked nasty about me, I will guide my mind into good thoughts like: ‘It must have been a misunderstanding.’ ‘Even if she said that, doesn’t mean that Sussi is a bad person.’

You will realise that the mind has plenty of mental chatter, most of which is useless. An easy trick I learned is to close my eyes and focus on the darkness at the centre of my closed eyes. And even when an exciting though comes about, stick with the darkness, do not take your mind away.

You can also focus on external sounds near you, like the buzz of the AC or the fridge.

You will also notice how sitting without doing anything goes against your learned need to always been doing something. We have all learned through time that it is a lazy habit to just sit and do nothing. Meditation is the habit that takes you away from the need to fill your every moment with things and activities.

Meditation is like sinking into yourself. Imagine a river that flows just underneath your thoughts, so that if you were able to cease thinking for even a microsecond, you would find that a universe abounds within yourself.

For beginners, start with five minutes every day and gradually increase the time as the mind becomes calmer and more focused.

I will not be melodramatic and claim that meditation will resurrect your dead cat, or repaint your car. But it will change your life. Your face will glow, and people will ask you what it is that you are doing lately. When they do, just smile coyly and say: “Not much, just meditation.”

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