Blog Post

A Journey into Mind Relaxation and Meditation

At this time of a self- reflection, we have a great opportunity to get in touch with great gurus/experts who are the members of our community to give us some good advice as you can see in our previous blog/newsletter.

When we talk about meditation, it sounds like an easy thing to do, but in reality, with the hectic of our everyday life, we always have an excuse put the plan to get into the subject of meditation on hold. Even though meditation has so much benefit for us. This time, we would like to thanks the guidance of Alistair Shearer, Cultural Director of Neeleshwar Hermitage and author of the recent book TheStory of Yoga (Penguin Books), for giving us great advice to start our journey into mind Relaxation and Meditation.

“The Covid 19 pandemic is making every one of us reconsider what is really important in our lives, and forcing us to assess our true priorities, and these are certainly necessary and useful things. One commonly agreed conclusion is the need for some training in basic techniques of wellness and mental wellbeing to help alleviate the anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in.”

Please bear in mind that Shearer mentioned that you cannot learn meditation from a book, an app, a video or any indirect or virtual source. The real meditation must be taught one-to-one by a qualified teacher to a willing student, so that individual monitoring and adjustment of the practice – whichever one of the many existing types it may be – can take place. This is a very subtle interaction and, after all, we are dealing with the mind here, and so we cannot just be casual or irresponsible. In addition, the teacher should themselves have been trained in a trustworthy and genuine tradition, because only such a time-honoured lineage has the necessary wisdom and experience, accumulated and matured over many generations, to present meditation in a suitably wholistic context and well-balanced way and to deal with whatever may come from the practice. Behind every meditation lies a world-view, and it is important that this philosophy should be life-supporting and in harmony with the cosmic life.

Having said which, it is certainly possible to teach and learn relaxation remotely. And relaxation, although it is not as profound or as transformative as meditation, is a useful and beneficial preparatory step on the path. Relaxation can sooth away many of the anxieties that we feel day to day in challenging situations and environments. So, with that in mind let us look together at some simple steps that will bring some beneficial relaxation to mind and body and ease feelings of distress.

Here are six techniques that can help you evoke the relaxation response and reduce stress.

1.            Breath focus. In this simple, powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Breath focus can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders to help them focus on their bodies in a more positive way.

(NB This technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory ailments or heart failure.)

2. Body scan. This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally let go off any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection.

(NB If you have had a recent surgery that affects your body image or other difficulties with body image, this technique may be less helpful for you.)

3. Guided imagery. For this technique, you imagine soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. Search your memory for times you felt especially happy or contented or were with people who made you feel especially valued and gave you a positive vision of yourself.

4. Mindfulness. This practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. This form of meditation has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.

5. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These are three ancient arts that combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements. The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance your flexibility and balance. But always be very careful not to strain or overdue things. Yoga is not gymnastics, (although it is often taught as such these days) and any physical routine should be supervised by a qualified teacher who has experience and understands that each student is different and needs individual tuition.

6. Repetitive prayer. If you have a religious faith, your chosen tradition will be able to give you some short prayer or phrase. You can silently repeat this at regular times, say in the morning before beginning work and the evening when work is finished, and you can also focus gently on your breathing while repeating the prayer. You could do this in a gentle and unforced way for ten/fifteen minutes each session, although even just a few minutes can help.   

You can experiment and sample these techniques to see which one (or more) works best for you. Start with just a few minutes as you feel most comfortable.The longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.”

This article is made possible with the help of Altaf Chapri, the owner of Neeleshwar Hermitage and Alistair Shearer, the cultural director of Neeleshwar Hermitage.

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