LIFE + ME’S MEDITATION SPECIALIST, NIRAJ SHAH, DISCUSSES THE BASICS OF MEDITATION AND HOW TO GET STARTED…
As you’re reading this on Life + Me you’re very likely to be familiar with the term “meditation”. Maybe you’ve tried an app, a local class or course, or perhaps you haven’t tried it but have an idea in your mind of what meditation is. It’s been around for centuries so why’s it become so popular in recent times? Going back just a few years meditation definitely wasn’t on the cover of Time Magazine and regularly in the press!
I think a primary driver is the rise of stress and anxiety in recent years that’s been attributed to the always-on, overstimulation fuelled smartphone and social media world we’ve created. I got into meditation myself because of a couple of stressful work and life situations. It really helped me manage those situations better and then I realised it could also help me to sharpen my edge in business. I’ve been obsessed ever since.
SO WHAT IS IT?
We refer to “meditation” in the singular because that’s convenient but it’s actually an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different mental practices. The correct analogy would be with “exercise”. Different meditative techniques develop our mind in different ways, just like swimming develops our bodies differently to weight training. Any anatomically safe and high quality exercise session will benefit our bodies in a general sense; likewise any safe and well constructed meditative practice will benefit our minds in a general sense.
WHAT CAN IT DO FOR ME?
At the most practical level it will give you a break from the outside world and start turning on your body’s resting and healing systems. This is via triggering your parasympathetic nervous system and inducing the “relaxation response”, a term coined by Dr Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who pioneered the mind/body research in this area.
In bygone eras that consistent deep rest would happen automatically, now we need to do it on-purpose. Things that used to be just activities are now being called “mindful” activities to the point where the very word mindfulness seems to continuously be getting hijacked and abused. From what I can see all that they really mean is that you need to pay attention to get the most out of that activity, which has some utility now that our attention spans are under attack and being decimated from many angles.
Beyond triggering deep rest, with more practice and depending on the specific type of meditative practice a whole host of benefits are achievable. For example, systematically training attention and focus so that we can get more done without distraction, changing our relationships with situations so that they’re less stress inducing and anxiety causing, all the way to significantly boosting our creative ability.
One meditation session is as likely to change your life as doing just one exercise session. However just like one exercise session, as long as it’s delivered safely and you’re not currently suffering from mental illness or deep trauma it will definitely benefit you. The key thing is getting started and making it a habit.
WHERE CAN I START?
There’s a lot of meditation around if you know where to look for it. There’s loads of meditation apps and your local yoga studio or buddhist centre is highly likely to have meditation sessions. An internet search should yield results.
If you’re looking for a non-religious, “no crystals, no mumbo jumbo” science backed, fully guided approach then come and see us at a Meditation: Unlocked drop in session running in beautiful venues in Central London or join our online community to get the best meditation resources that we find on the web. Sign up at www.medunlocked.com.
You can view Meditation: Unlocked events on Life + Me’s What’s On? events page and see details to receive a special 15% off sessions.
I believe that for most people generic meditation is not going to be harmful. If you know you have a relatively healthy mind then there’s no need to be cautious, in the same way that generic physical exercise is fine if you are not suffering from an injury or condition.
If you’re suffering from more than what would be considered typical urban levels of stress or anxiety then meditation can definitely help, but I highly recommend you have a bespoke programme created by a specialist, the same way you would work with a doctor and physio for a physical injury.
Niraj Shah is the founder of Meditation:Unlocked, an event series and community designed to nurture mental wellbeing for modern life. A sudden, serious stroke at the age of 30 forced Niraj into yoga, which led to meditation. After a 10 year corporate career taking in high pressure roles in London and Hong Kong, he started a property business which he has ran for the last 6 years. Meditation and other mental techniques have become a secret weapons that helped him sharpen his edge in business and life. He created M:U to help others discover and integrate similar benefits into their lives.
Niraj is Life + Me’s Meditation Specialist. If you have a question for Niraj for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like him to cover, email [email protected]