There has never been a more important time to master the art of stillness (even when we're moving)
We live in crazy times characterised by one word - FAST. We're exposed to more information, more bad news, more advertising and more change at a faster pace than at any other time in history and it's not slowing down anytime soon.
In his book 'Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything' James Gleick says "Marketers and technologists anticipate your desires with fast ovens, quick playback, quick freezing and fast credit. We bank the extra minutes that flow from these innovations, yet we feel impoverished and we cut back - on breakfast, on lunch, on sleep, on daydreams."
The importance of carving out quiet, mindful moments is important to our physical and emotional health.
Meditation has been around for ions but it's only in the past few decades that science has provided an insight into its profound benefits to mind and body. Meditation and Mindfulness go hand in hand to enhance our happiness and overall wellbeing.
What is meditation?
Firstly it is not a religion or a philosophy, it does not require faith, just practice. You can start with as little as five minutes a day. Glenn and I try to do two 20-minute TM sessions each day, morning and evening. I've been practicing TM since 1994.
The medical dictionary defines meditation as "a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth." After trying many different styles I found TM - which is a mantra style - most effective.
Meditation can be as simple as sitting comfortably with your back straight and your knees tracking over your feet (which are flat on the floor) and focusing on your breath. Thoughts arise, often incessantly, reciting things you need to do, reasons you shouldn't be sitting doing 'nothing', future plans, past disappointments - it's what is sometimes referred to as 'monkey mind'. The undisciplined mind is always moving, judging, craving, dictating. It is relentless. There is no peace.
The practice of ongoing meditation slowly detaches us from the chatter in favour of simply being present and affords us greater equanimity - calm - especially under pressure.
Have you tried and failed to sit still?
Modern Western culture is not attuned to the art of stillness, so while you get accustomed to it, you can also practice a type of meditation in movement with the same principle - being present. Every time your mind wanders you bring it back to the now, whether that be running, cycling, swimming, walking, climbing, wingsuit skydiving or everyday life. Your breath is your anchor. You become an observer of your thoughts rather than an active participant. As they come you just let them go, rather than following them or adding to them. The more you practice, the better you get, and the more you begin to recognise and not feed thought patterns that do not serve you.
It's easy to be fully present on a wingsuit skydive, completely immersed in the activity. That is one of the things I love about it. Beyond the plane door, is the promise of focus and flow. I think you can feel it in the video included with this Blog. Most wingsuit videos you see are FAST, frantic even. On this jump Glenn was moving fast, but he was solid and steady. Every movement was slow and deliberate and because there are no clouds or objects to measure the speed against and because I was mirroring him, it appears as though he is floating. You can feel the focus in the movement.
Whatever you are doing the more you practice being present in it, constantly arresting the mind when it wanders, the easier it gets and the greater the benefits. Your performance also improves.
Benefits of Meditation
- Lowered Blood Pressure
- Improved immune function
- Increased energy
- Reduced anxiety
- Decreased feelings of stress
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Positive affects on aging - increase of DHEA, Melatonin and HGH.
- Increased focus
- Increased productivity
- Enhanced creativity
- Enhanced self concept
- Enhanced social abilities
- Enhanced left brain/right brain balance
- Increased base happiness
- enhanced self esteem