An Introduction To Meditation
In the age of Covid-19, many have turned to the ancient practice as a remedy to alleviate stress and anxiety. Meditation teacher Karen Argyle tells us more about being in the present.
A lot of us find sitting in silence and doing nothing a challenging task. We presume our busy minds won't permit it. But in the midst of a global pandemic, there has been a surge of mental health and wellness app downloads like Calm and Headspace – evidently, we also want to feel less stressed, more focussed and sleep better.
“Think of meditation as brain training,” says Karen Argyle, meditation teacher and founder of Mynd Harmony. “It is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body, a practice which enables an individual to go beyond thoughts, attaining a state of consciousness more restful that sleep that enables us to gain deep rest and recovery.”
It is also for everyone. Bill Gates does it, as do Oprah Winfrey and Jack Ma, to name a few. “Many religions have traditionally used meditation as a practice for as long as history can record, hence its association,” she explains. “But meditation is innately human, it is not religious and can be practiced by everyone, regardless of religion or belief system.”
Ahead, Karen reveals more about the practice and shares a basic exercise with us.
Why learn to meditate?
It’s the ultimate mental detox where stress and fatigue is released, akin to "pressing the reset button to re-balance our entire system.”
You also gain self-awareness, finding and maintaining balance in your life. According to her, meditators find they gain a healthier sense of perspective. They feel calmer, have more clarity and adaptability. This allows them to “respond to life and its demands more gracefully, therefore life tends to flow easier so it becomes a more rewarding and richer experience.”
It has a tangible effect on our brains and bodies
“Quite simply, meditation is an incredibly powerful healing tool,” says Karen. “The benefits are life-changing."
Scientific research has shown that meditation reduces stress, anxiety and depression; improves sleep and provides relief from insomnia. It has been used to help conquer addictions, and studies indicate that it reduces and even reverses PTSD. By rewiring the brain, people experience greater happiness and overall well-being.
The benefits are also physiological. It can help with weight loss and obesity, energy levels and vitality. Research has shown that it strengthens the immune system, and improves cardiovascular health.
"My favourite is that meditation is said to reverse the biological ageing process," Karen adds. This isn't purely anecdotal – one of the main reasons is because it lowers stress levels, slowing down cellular ageing.
A quick note: mindfulness and meditation aren't the same thing
Whilst they embody similarities, they aren't exactly interchangeable.
"Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment and its interpretation has become a little blurred," says Karen. "Mindfulness is a state of being, it is to be conscious or aware of something. The ability to be fully engaged in whatever we’re doing in the moment, being fully present."
"Every moment of our lives presents an opportunity to be mindful from listening to a person in conversation without being distracted by a wandering mind, to observing the rise and fall of our breath and the sensations we feel in our body, or eating consciously by paying attention to the taste, smell, texture of our food."
"So, mindfulness is a state and meditation is a practice – meditation is a powerful technique that cultivates mindfulness."
Tips for getting started
There are various types of meditation techniques, however, the intent is the same and simple: expand one's awareness.
"And of course, if you’d prefer to learn a technique so that you become completely self-sufficient or you would like to deepen your practice further, I know a great meditation teacher who can teach you."
Meditation can be practiced anywhere you like at any time. "To truly feel the benefits, you should be consistent and regular in your practice, ideally for 20 minutes, once or twice per day."
She adds that the Being or transcendental technique, which she teaches, is not about trying to stay focussed or control a wandering mind. "Indeed, quite the opposite, it is effortless!"
"Thoughts and sensations during meditation are perfectly natural and an important part of this technique, we don’t ever need to resist them. Having thoughts is simply the way the body and mind release stress out of the system."
Try this basic meditation exercise
1. Find a comfortable position to sit in and close your eyes.
2. Start by taking a big, deep breath into the belly, then a further breath into the chest - hold for a couple of seconds, then release. Repeat 3-4 times before allowing the breath to settle into its natural rhythm.
3. Scan the body, notice any parts that may be holding tension – it may be in your face, your jaw, shoulders, hands - completely let go.
4. Now bring your awareness to the breath. Feel the natural flow of breath, in and out. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity.
Effortlessly observe how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation, you may notice the rising in your chest, rib-cage, belly. What sensations does the breath have on your body? Without trying to change it, effortlessly observe the sensations. All that is needed is the innocent witnessing of the sensation.
5. As you do this, you may notice that your mind starts to wander. You may start thinking about other things. This is completely natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered and effortlessly come back to the awareness of your breath and the sensation in your body.
6. Continue for 5-10 minutes, taking the whole experience as it comes.
After learning to meditate herself several years ago and subsequently experiencing such a profound effect in her own life, Karen Argyle gave up her career of 25+ years in the corporate world and certified as a meditation teacher. She is now committed to sharing this ‘gift’ and supporting others in their journey of living a more fulfilled and meaningful life.
Karen teaches meditation via a short course – her next available course is from 28th-30th July 2020, held online via zoom in 3 x 90-minute sessions (7-8:30 p.m.) for $249. Available for all levels.
If you would like to learn a meditation technique to last a lifetime, contact Karen via email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +65 81577745. Learn more about her work on her website, or connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.