23 February 2015

The stillness of meditation – the key to stress-free stress management

Some people suggest meditation needs to be free of effort; that if we make an “effort” to meditate, then the meditation can become just another source of stress. Yet many people seem to work very hard at meditation.

So this week, let us examine how to make sense of effort when it comes to meditation; and the 3 main benefits that flow from stilling the mind, but first

     Thought for the day

To be nobody but your self

In a world which is doing its best, 
Night and day, 
To make you everybody else,

Means to fight the hardest battle 
Which any human being can fight;

And never stop fighting.

           e e cummings 

Some people would tell you that meditation is all about letting go and going with the flow. Some give the impression there is nothing to do; again, just let go and allow yourself to be.

My sense is that this is a bit like saying to a young athlete – basketballer, footballer, runner, whatever – just wish to be a great athlete, no need to work at it, just go with the flow. Look at the great athletes; they make it look so easy!

When I was a teenager, my chosen field was athletics and I marvelled at the natural talent of many of my fellows. While not greatly talented myself, I worked hard. Trained hard. Studied. Listened to my coaches. Did all they told me to do and more.

As the years went on, many of the "naturals", relying on their natural talents, felt little inclination to train hard. So in fact, as we became older, the hard work overcame the natural talent and I began to shine. However, I never became a great athlete. To be that you really need both great natural talent and the hard work.

My experience with my own meditation and with observing thousands of others meditate is just the same as this. Some do have a natural talent for meditation. It just seems to come easily for them. But maybe even more so than with athletes, with meditation, beginners generally benefit greatly from making concerted, intelligent, well-guided effort.

Now, to be clear, when speaking of meditation, I speak of learning to relax deeply in a physical sense and keep still, and then to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a deeper stillness. These skills  can be learnt. Reliably. When we work at it.

So why bother? Well one thing that meditation helps to make abundantly clear is that the mind has two aspects - the active thinking mind and the still mind.

The thinking mind is the domain of many skills, including stress. Most reading this post will identify with Shakespeare’s quote

There is nothing either good or bad
But thinking makes it so.

The thinking mind regulates how we perceive things, how we interpret things. It analyses, visualises, discriminates, categorises, conceptualises....etc. In doing so, the thinking mind determines the stress we may or may not experience.

The still mind is beyond all this. The still mind is calm and clear. The still mind is the domain of deep, natural peace.

How then to help the thinking mind let go of stress, to become clear and calm, to become stress free? Meditation! For meditation provides a reliable way to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind and to directly experience the stillness of our mind. And in doing so, meditation offers 3 major benefits: Profound Peace, Natural Balance, and the View.

Profound Peace speaks for itself. There is a natural ease, an inner clarity and confidence that comes with meditation that provides a profoundly effective antidote to stress.

Natural Balance is the inevitable product of this profound peace being combined with deep physical relaxation. This is how meditation diffuses stress and anxiety – with a return to a natural, healthy balance.

Physically our body chemistry and physiology regains its natural balance. But there is more! This natural balance flows on to be experienced as emotional balance as well as mental balance; there is even a deep sense of connectedness, knowing what is right for us, and a natural inclination to be more loving, compassionate and altruistic – a spiritual balance.

And perhaps even more profoundly, meditation offers a new perspective. We begin to see the world, and our life, not just from the perspective of the ever-changing “thinking mind” and it's emotional patterns, but also from a more profound vantage point –the calm, clear still mind.

The View describes our perspective in a very full sense of that word. The View is how we view the world, how we interpret what is happening in our life. What meaning and purpose we experience in this life. Our View is tied up with our values, our ethics, our habits, and our beliefs. How we live our life.

Often times it seems as if we can get stuck with a somewhat rigid view of ourselves, our world, and our place in it. However, when our View changes, there is the potential for everything to change.

If we have a problem, as we see it, and we fixate on it, it is like holding an egg to our eye. With an egg that is very close to our eye, we can see nothing. We cannot even recognise that it actually is an egg and it is obscuring our capacity to see everything.

However, if we change our View, it can be like taking the egg away from our eye and holding it at arms-length. Now there is the possibility that we may recognise the thing for what it is. It is an egg! And as we know, an egg has loads of possibilities, loads of potential.

So meditation offers three great gifts: profound peace, natural balance and the view.

Truly meditation offers a unique pathway to being stress-free.


Pre- EASTER MEDITATION RETREAT with Ruth and Ian Gawler

Meditation in the Forest   March 27th to April 2nd  2015   Yarra Valley

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the understanding, but moreso, the actual practices and techniques. A time to rest and rejuvenate.

All amidst the magnificent big trees of the Upper Yarra Valley.

Accompanied by high-quality organic meals and juices, optional Yoga or Feldenkrais.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. Deeply regenerative. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here 


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Beautifully presented in a raw silk lined box, easily rechargeable, elegant mini MP3 players complete with their own earphones and specific meditations.

       Calm Pearl for stress management

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