If you’re anything like me, I used to think meditation was all about emptying your mind, chanting away in a white lit room all while sitting on a lush mountain of cushions from India by enlightened souls…
Luckily, I met yoga and meditation teacher Lis Cancio and soon learnt that I could easily incorporate meditation into my oh so hectic life.
Even as a new mum. The result? A small piece of zen and clarity we could all benefit from.
Yes, even you.
To break it down for you, we’ve asked Lis all the what’s, how’s and why’s.
What is Vedic Meditation and how does it differ from other styles?
Vedic meditation (VM) is a natural and effortless practice done twice daily, sitting comfortably for about 20min. The technique is easy to learn and incredibly rejuvenating. In VM we use a mantra. This mantra is designed to settle and calm the mind. As the mind de-excites the body also profoundly relaxes, research on VM demonstrates the body shifts into a state of rest deeper then sleep! Meditation completely resets your nervous system dissolving accumulated tension so we become clear, centred and ready for action.
There are a myriad of meditation styles, some practices involve concentration on the breath or parts of the body, contemplation on some imagery or self inquiry. These are task oriented techniques that require effort and control of the attention. VM differs in that we practice surrender, we master the art of letting go of thoughts, expectations, judgements and control. The effect is the mind can relax beyond the surface to deeper levels of peacefulness. This easy going style of thinking is enjoyable and liberating to practice, it enhances our ability to be adaptive “stay and play” rather then reactive “fight or flight”.
Why meditate? What are the benefits?
Meditation is a life skill, it supports our ability to act calmly and creatively to the dynamic and fast pace lives we lead. Most people desire to be healthy, feel love and support in their relationships and excel in their careers. What hinders our ability to be at our best is the overload of stress, fatigue and anxiety. Meditation is the antidote to stress as the practice creates powerful shifts in our body and brain. The significant decrease in adrenalin (stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate promotes repair, digestion and balance. The brain becomes more organised and coherent during meditation, establishing clear and insightful thinking.
Some other researched benefits include;
- Reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue
- Improved concentration & clarity
- Increased vitality and resilience
- Enhanced creativity & motivation
- Ability to stay calm under pressure
- Strengthens the immune system
- Normalisation of blood pressure & cholesterol
- Improved sleep & relief from insomnia
- Reduction of addictive behaviours
- Helpful for asthma and allergy symptoms
- Improves relationship with self and others
- Reversal of ageing
- Normalisation of weight
Most people say they cant sit still or empty their mind so they avoid it, what do you tell them?
There is a misconception that meditation is only about emptying the mind, it’s like expecting the ocean to always be still. Stillness is one of many experiences in meditation, like the ocean it has calm days and wavy days. Any time you try and suppress or reject a thought it creates more activity, sometimes even compulsive thinking, this can be both exhausting and frustrating.
In VM we effortlessly think a mellifluous sound (a mantra), this triggers the attention to relax and descend inward beyond the busy thinking surface. There is no resisting of thoughts or sensations, it is a very natural and gentle style of thinking that feels expansive and enjoyable.
The practice of being flexible and non-attached is a fundamental skill we experience through meditation. It creates for more adaptability so the demands of our day do not shock us, and allows for more creativity to interact with change and challenges ‘stay and play’ response rather then the fight/flight response.
How do you start?
The best way to start is to attend an Introductory talk on Vedic Meditation, they are about one hour and free. These sessions are informative and interesting for anyone curious about learning or understanding more about meditation.
Where can I learn? Do I have to do a course or can I just start?
There are so many amazing studios and teachers you can learn from. To learn this meditation you would attend a course conducted over 3 consecutive days, there are 4 x 90min sessions, I myself teach VM from My Asana Yoga Studio in Vaucluse.
The course develops a theoretical understanding of the technique, covering topics such as the nature of the mind, body, stress, thoughts and the exponential benefits that emerge from regular practice. There is also practical experience of meditation to refine the subtleties and verify your experience, ensuring you feel confident and competent to integrate the technique into daily life.
What about the pregnant or new mamas out there? How is learning during this phase different to other times?
Learning to meditate when you’re pregnant is an incredibly precious tool for both mother and baby. A soon-to-be mum can experience all kinds of apprehension around child birth, concerns for the health of the baby or anxiety transitioning into motherhood. In the same way nutritious food and exercise are important for physical health. Meditation can support mental stability, serenity and attunement to the new life evolving within her.
Postpartum depression or ‘baby blues’ commonly occurs due to rapidly shifting hormones, lack of sleep and the increased demands of caring for a new infant. Meditation significantly decreases stress hormones, this balances emotions, curbing anxiety and depression. Establishing a meditation practice as a mother completely reinvigorates the body and mind, mothers are better prepared to care and enjoy her baby and family.
So was it learning meditation while pregnant the reason why I had such an easy birth and a baby that sleeps? Maybe, maybe not. But I am not going to stop to find out!