Listening to ourselves

ReikiYesterday evening I sat down to meditate, settled myself down and started to use my mala beads to mark my breath. The day’s thoughts ran through my mind and slowly began to settle.

I was sinking into the spaces between my thoughts when a thought went by that aroused a flash of anger in me. The emotion was strong and I knew it was time to listen. We often feel that meditation as a pushing away of thoughts, but I find it a good tool to use to focus on the thoughts that matter. Thoughts like this one that were telling me something needed to change.

So I explored my thought, found the piece that was making me feel so het up. It boiled down to injustice and privilege that led to a lack of understanding in a particular situation. Once I had listened to my Self, my instincts and explored my pain I knew the action I needed to take.

Peace flowed into me and I was sure of my decision. I sent love and light to the situation and people that had caused the hurt, but I knew it was time to move on.

Breath by breath I finished my meditation and felt whole again.

Does meditation have side effects?

I recently came across this article exploring the side effects that meditation, and mindfulness in particular can have:…/23/is-mindfulness-making-us-ill

Mindfulness is often touted as a panacea for many of today’s ills, but is it really a cure all?

I posted the link on my Facebook meditation group for us to discuss, and after 2 hours or so we came up with some questions:

  • Is there anyone for whom meditation isn’t a good thing and why?
  • What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
  • How important do you think it is to have a well trained teacher when it comes to meditation?

I thought I would share my thoughts on these questions here, with you.

There is never going to be one therapy/pill/treatment that works for everyone, we are all different biologically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. There are many types of meditation because the ancients who passed down the traditions of meditation knew that there was more than one path to peace. So you need to find what works best for you.

For instance, someone who is hyper-vigilant or avoidant of their thoughts and feelings are likely to struggle with mindfulness as it reinforces their hyper-sensitivity to the world around or provokes anxiety by asking you to concentrate on the things you are trying to avoid. A better option would be for them to learn first to relax, to not see danger in their thoughts and surroundings, to learn to let go.

So what is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? In Western society we like to find that magic ingredient, that extract that we can remove, concentrate and administer to make us better. Mindfulness is an extract of meditation, it is one quality, one skill that improves our focus, bringing us into the present moment allowing us to stop worrying about the past or the future. Mindfulness meditations can work really well for some people, but not everyone.

Meditation is broader in its scope encompassing different types of meditation and relaxation. It is often set within a religious or psychotherapeutic framework, which allows the meditator a space and the resources to work through their emotional and mental baggage. See my blog: Meditation, is it all just sitting around? for a fuller discussion of this process.

Which brings us to the question of the need for a teacher. A good teacher will help you to find the right type of meditation for you, after listening to what you feel, think about and want from meditation. They might ask about your motivation, the type of person you are and if you have experienced depression, anxiety or mental health issues. They will be able to help, guide and support you through the process, particularly when any emotional issues arise. Most importantly a good teacher will have been there before you, faced those struggles and worked through them. Beware the teacher who doesn’t practice what they preach.





Meditation, is it all just sitting around?

This week I have been working on a short video about why having a meditation teacher is useful, as I often get asked: ‘Well if it’s just sitting with your eyes closed, can’t I do that by myself?’ I won’t go into my response to that here, as you can watch the video, but it does beg the question: Is meditation just sitting down, with your eyes closed and breathing?

The short answer is yes and no.

The long answer involves what happens in the process of meditation. When we first begin to meditate we often worry about having thoughts and/or feelings whilst we meditate. We seek to rid ourselves of the stress, pressure and uncomfortableness in our Selfs. In essence we want to be purified of the things that ail us.

The process by which we purify ourselves, involves self-reflection, a looking inward. At the start of our meditation journey we finally sit and begin to really hear ourselves, mind and body. It is at this point we become aware of the thoughts we have and the sensations in our body, and our first reaction is often to try to expel or get rid of them.

However, if we can make a little space and begin to name the purpose of those thoughts and sensations we can begin to understand something about the nature of our Self. Are we worrying about the future or the past? Do we hold our fear, pain and stress in our bodies? And if so where? We’ve all clenched our teeth before, what emotion do you attach to it, fear/anger/pain?

As we begin to listen and name, we give voice to our pain and suffering and we begin to see what causes that. It may be a job that makes us unhappy, a loss we haven’t grieved for, or a belief we hold about our Self which causes us pain. This process can be difficult and painful; which is often why meditation and mindfulness practices are set within a religious or psychotherapeutic context. We need support and guidance, to know what we are experiencing is a normal and natural part of our inner process.

For some people it ends here, but for others they begin to see the divine (however they define that), in all things, in their hope and dreams, the mundane and the profound.

Sitting and breathing, or whatever meditation technique you use that works for you, is the means by which this inner process begins to unfold. It is in turns, incredibly and deceptively simple, yet complex in its richness and reach into the depths of our inner Self.

If you would like to discuss this further please get in touch:

The Viniyoga of Counselling and Meditation

I am currently doing a course called The Art of Viniyoga, it is about the viniyoga of yoga. So what has this got to do with counselling or meditation? I hear you ask, well it’s like this…

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 3:6 states tasya bhumisu viniyogah

tasya = of it  bhumiuu = stage, level viniyogah = application, progression.

vi = special, intelligent  niyogah = continuous application

The sutra suggests that: Progression requires consistent, steadfast and intelligent application. Therefore viniyoga is about how the tools of a particular discipline are applied specific to the individual.

I have studied many ideas and theories about how the mind works and responds to trauma, stress and loss, as well as how we can help people who are in that place of distress. From Bowlby’s attachment theory, to the Yoga Sutras, cognitive behavioural therapy, Freud, Jung, Fonagy and more. Yet time and again research shows regardless of the theoretical orientation of your therapist, the best indicator for your therapy being useful to you is whether or not you have a good therapeutic relationship with your counsellor. In many ways I think the same is true for meditation.

A good therapeutic relationship, puts the Client at it’s heart, valuing and inspiring them in the good sessions, and the more challenging ones. It goes at a pace the Client can usefully work with, suggesting without imposing, supportive but not intrusive, holding the Client’s best interests and self-determination as a core principle. This is because each therapeutic journey is unique, not ‘better’ or ‘worse’ just different. A good therapist will therefore meet their Clients where they are and enable them to move forward, by taking the path that suits them, not some textbook definition.

The same is true for meditation, there are many types because people are different, some can visualise in full colour HD, others struggle, some find it difficult to work with their overthinking, others just prefer music or silence. If the aim is to help someone develop a regular meditation practice, it’s about meeting the Client where they are, finding what works for them and helping them to achieve their goals.

This is the viniyoga of counselling and meditation, applying each theory and tool individually to the Client, working with them where they are, until they are where they want to be.

So when I see my Clients this week I will not be trying to fit them to some theory, they are not some standardised textbook example. They are human beings with lives, loves and losses. What I will be thinking about is how to best work with them to help them take the next step on their unique journeys.