Throughout November, I set myself the challenge to meditate once a day, every day. Although I’d tried meditation in the past, up until now I was never consistent with it. Since sticking to a daily practice of just 10-15 minutes, I’ve noticed some really positive changes. I’m falling asleep quicker and am finding that my sleep is deeper and less interrupted, which means I’m feeling better (even with those 6am weekday wake-up calls!). I’m also finding ways to stay in the moment and be more present which, in turn, is helping my stress and anxiety levels. All good stuff, so I’ll certainly be keeping it up!
In this blog post, I’m joined by the lovely Natalie Camilla, a 200-hour qualified meditation teacher who gives her professional perspective on meditation and its many benefits. If you’re thinking of trying meditation or want to expand your practice, hopefully this will help!
Can you talk us through your very first experience with meditation. What was it like?
A few years ago, my mum and I went to a meditation retreat. Meditation wasn’t as popular as it is now so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d been having a bad few days so it was perfect timing. We practiced several techniques throughout the day, but a couple of them in particular I really connected with – I felt really peaceful and high. My limbs felt all light and I felt really connected to my body rather than the mess that was going on in my head at the time. Not everyone has this experience the first time, but I loved it and knew it’d changed my life immediately.
And how does it feel now, after you’ve qualified from your 200hr teacher training course?
Exciting and liberating. I studied art and fashion for five years because I loved it and didn’t know what else to do, but something didn’t feel completely right with it. Suddenly, I’m doing something completely different that I hadn’t expected and, as cheesy as it sounds, it feels like everything’s falling into place like this is what I’m meant to do. I love learning so it’s been really fun and there’s always more to learn. I’ve changed a lot as a person too – it’ll do that to you.
What are the known benefits of meditation? How might it be able to help someone?
There’s so many benefits I could easily write a dissertation on it! One of the most powerful would be reduced anxiety (stuck in the future) and depression (stuck in the past), as it trains your mind to stay present – not just during the time you’re meditating, but throughout the day too.
Then there’s how it alters your personality because it teaches you to be less judgemental towards yourself and others, to react to stress and drama less impulsively and intensely, and also to feel more connected to the earth and other beings.
Plus about a million more…
How often should a person practice meditation before seeing these benefits?
Everyone’s different. Some people, like myself, might have a really great experience from their first meditation, whereas others might need to keep practicing to feel the benefits, so try not to give up if it’s not happening quick enough! It’s well worth the wait. But as an average, if practiced twice a day, then it’ll be around a month to start feeling the benefits.
Is there a particular time or environment that works best for a meditation practice?
Ideally, when you first wake up before you’ve had any breakfast or coffee so your body can fully focus on the meditation rather than using energy for digestion. Then later on, either before dinner or before you go to bed. However, any time is better than not doing it at all and consistency is key, so choose two times a day that work best for you that you can do every day. If you can find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed, then that’s great, but if not, then even on the train on your way to work will do!
What suggestions would you give to someone that says they can’t meditate because they can’t switch off or can’t focus?
This is definitely the most common question and is absolutely expected! This is just how our busy brains work – it’s natural and doesn’t mean that we’re failing or that meditation isn’t for us.
Our goal isn’t to block thoughts, it’s to let them come and go without getting caught up in them.
Simply note that you’re thinking and come back to the breath or whatever you’re using as a focus depending on the type of meditation you’re doing. If you keep practicing twice daily, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can return to the present moment and your mind will naturally wander less. But even buddhists who have been practicing all their lives will still experience this, so it’s nothing to feel bad about.
Finally, for someone wanting to begin meditating or broaden their practice, can you recommend any tools to help? Apps/Books/podcasts/blogs/websites etc.
There’s quite a few apps around now which have guided meditations you can follow – Buddhify, Headspace and Calm to name a few. There’s a podcast called Untangle which discusses insights and experiences of meditation.
For books, there’s ‘Mindfulness: The Eight-Week Meditation Programme for a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (also comes as an audiobook) and ‘Body Calm’ by Sandy C. Newbigging. Of course, there’s many more!
I’ve not come across that many blogs and websites on meditation, or perhaps just none that I’ve personally connected with or found hugely helpful, but I will be launching my own in hopefully January or February 2018 so stay tuned!
Thank you Nat! So so helpful and it’s certainly encouraged me to keep going with my practice.
Make sure to check out:
School of Greatness interview with Andy Puddicombe (Founder of Headspace)
The science behind meditation over at Headspace