I’ve written on here previously about alternatives to traditional meditation, as the whole sitting still and clearing your mind thing never really worked out for me. However, since most of us now find us stuck at home, with the threat of health anxiety snapping at our heels and with more time alone for self-discovery than we usually have – I figured now is a good time to really give the original kind of meditation another shot.
Coincidentally, I was recommended by a friend with the same idea to try out Deepak Chopra’s (Oprah-approved) meditation challenge – and so, I made this a key part of my quarantine self-care routine.
After 3 weeks, I feel compelled to share some lasting lessons that I learned during this (third?) eye-opening process – and encourage you to also consider taking up a simple meditation ritual as an anxiety-melting and mind-nourishing practice.
Here are a few key reflections to get your mindfulness ball rolling:
My 6 lessons from Deepak Chopra’s Meditation Challenge
1. Have gratitude for the abundance around you
Abundance, as a spiritual term, refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for mind, body, and soul. To live an abundant life signifies a contrast to feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction. This focus on what you have rather than what you don’t – acknowledging the abundance both around you and within you – is another dimension of the practice of gratitude that you can consider.
“Abundance comes from within; It comes from thought, intention, attention, and expectation.” Deepak Chopra
Try to acknowledge the abundance in your life each day – either silently during meditation, or by physically writing out your thanks in a gratitude journal. Just this simple act of recognising what you have an abundance of in your life – whether that’s health, love, friendship, or creativity – is a transformative way to maintain a grateful, content, and overall positive mindset, regardless of whatever negativity you may be facing.
2. To take, you must first give
Think about it — in nature, from your own skin or blood cells, to the animals and plants holding up the earth’s countless intricate ecosystems, all natural systems have a give-and-take balance that keep them ticking. And every living organism — including you and I — is in constant motion, simultaneously giving and taking from the elements around us.
And so, as human beings, we also exist and thrive on movement and interaction. As much as we may not feel it so much anymore, in a world of technology, motorways, and apartment blocks, we remain as dependent on our surroundings as the animals in a jungle. Not only for the obvious reasons of food, water, and oxygen – but also for more abstract needs such as love, connection, and mental stimulation.
If you want to experience more joy, try making more of an effort to inspire joy in others. If you want to receive more love and compassion, then offer those to the people around you as a starting point. And if you pursue professional or material success, then support the success and genuinely celebrate the achievements of others. If you give out negativity to your surroundings: hate, resentment, or bitterness – then this is what you will get back in return. Abundance is in constant flux: what you give out, you will receive.
3. Everything you need is within you
In this materialistic and appearance-obsessed world, we constantly seek happiness and fulfilment from outside ourselves.
“If I earned that much, I’d be happy.”
“If I had that body, I’d be happy.”
“If I lived there, I’d be happy.”
“If I had a girlfriend/ boyfriend, I’d be happy.”
Chopra’s teachings stress that everything you actually need for fulfilment is already within you. No material possession, physical feature, or status will truly change the baseline contentment we all have. Sure, they may give us a temporary ego boost, but every single thing that brings superficial joy quickly becomes stale – you soon crave something more.
Remember how elated you were when you got into university? Or got your first job? Suddenly, these things aren’t enough. You need a certain grade or a certain pay rise in order to maintain that high. If you retrain yourself to feel content and at peace with whatever you have right now – even If you acknowledge room for improvement and (rightly) still have motivation for self-development. Once you stop punishing yourself for your present reality, your goals actually seem a lot easier to achieve – as you know you’ll be happy either way, but simply want to keep challenging and stimulating yourself as a form of self-care.
4. You Own your thoughts and emotions
As discussed in my previous article on the power of positive thinking, true freedom and contentment follows the realisation no one can affect what goes on inside you- only. This means that you have some level of control over your emotional reactions. Although you can’t always foresee what goes on outside of yourself, you have full authority over what happens within, and how you let it get to you.
For instance, if something objectively sad happens, although I am not suggesting that you become an unfeeling robot, you have some flexibility to choose in what way you respond to the tragedy. Do you wallow and isolate yourself? Do you become enraged and lash out? Whatever reaction you may feel compelled to take, there is no absolute right or wrong option – although some are more harmful and less constructive than others. As long as you are aware that this is your decision and take a degree of control over your emotions, you will feel mentally stronger and more grounded to yourself.
5. A short meditation a day can transform your wellbeing
From general relaxation, to clearing the mind and separating yourself from the distractions and worries of daily life – whatever your personal motivations to experiment with meditation, it can work wonders for your ability to reconnect with yourself and your senses, and to encourage your mind to stop its incessant whirring for just a moment. To close the tabs. To pause, and reboot. Our minds are under constant strain – both when we’re awake and during sleep.
And so, if we don’t take at least a little time out each day to allow it to rest, then like a computer it can eventually break down or burn out. Just as you take care of your skin, hair, or digestion, you must also take care of your mind. Invest time and effort into keeping it at its best. It is your most valuable possession and your only window to the world.
6. There are no rules for meditation
The main takeaway from all of this is that the most successful way to meditate is to do so without self-criticism. It doesn’t matter how you’re sitting, or if you’re lying down. You could do it in the bath, or when you’re in bed ready to fall asleep or about to get up. It really depends on you, how you feel most relaxed and comfortable, and when you can get the most out of the practice.
It doesn’t matter if rogue thoughts enter your head, either. You haven’t failed. The more you stress about having a clear mind or focusing on one thing specifically, the more these intrusive thoughts threaten our inner calm and distract us. Let your thought processes flow naturally while gently guiding them towards the key mantra or focus of your practice (one of the first 4 points above would be a good option), and encourage all other chatter to at least quieten to a soft hum.
“Make your own well-being the start of global wellness.” DEEPAK CHOPRA
Have you been meditating at all during the lockdown? Has it helped you? Are you tempted to give it a try?
Let us know in the comments!