This workshop will give you everything you need to start a personal meditation practice. We’ll cover what meditation is (and isn’t), what sitting posture works for you, some simple techniques including walking meditation, and where to go from here…. Once learned, it’s yours for life!
Meditation is a completely normal thing to do. Just about everyone can do it and learn to do it. Throughout history it’s been a core ingredient of traditional cultures and religions all over the world. Meditation is probably more important for us than any other people in history because the pace of life is getting faster and faster. Human beings are wired for being as well as doing, for periods of stillness, aloneness and silence. We need this practice simply to be fully human and to help our communities and society to run smoothly.
When I learnt to meditate in London 1987 I kept it top secret. I was working in politics and most people in my circle then thought it was a weird, if not cultish thing to do. The most common accusation – and misunderstanding – then, was that it was an ‘escapist’ thing to do.
These days meditation is more mainstream, though there’s still plenty of strange ideas about it. The most common one I’ve come up against, repeatedly, and often in the context of people saying that they just can’t or couldn’t do it, is the idea that meditation is making your mind a blank. The goal, apparently, is to completely stop having thoughts and to maintain that ‘fixed’ state for a long time. (Usually whilst sitting in an impossible, uncomfortable position, legs like a pretzel, with forefingers and thumbs touching each other to create a circle.) Meditation is much more interesting than that.
Minds produce thoughts – it’s what they’re built for – and keep producing them even when you’re meditating. You can still become calm and settled by learning to let thoughts go. And exploring your thoughts lets you see what’s bugging you, and even how your mind really works.
It’s fairly straightforward to get started in meditation. It helps to be clear about what it is. It will certainly help you to keep going if you are clear about your purpose for doing it. We meditate with our bodies as much – maybe more – than with our minds. That’s part of the on-going practice and for starters we each need to find the best posture to do it in. If you don’t have pretzel legs, sitting in a chair is fine. Then we learn a technique (or more than one). And then we have the rest of our lives to develop this art, as that’s what meditation is really, it’s not a technique, it’s a way of being.
It takes courage to meditate – courage, gentleness, and a sense of humour. Ultimately meditation is about allowing ourselves to be who we truly are. Rather than striving to achieve an ideal state of mind, or somehow becoming a better version of ourselves, we begin to discover the delights of making friends with ourselves as we are.