Ground control to Major Tom
We live in a very loud Samoa, indeed a very loud world. The buses are loud. The villages are loud and for most of us living with extended aiga, the home is loud. If you spend time alone, the radio may be loud or the TV always on, you may be addicted to your mobile phone, constantly checking social media for status updates, comments or looking at who-ate-what-for-lunch photos – another form of loud. You may have health issues, addictions, or you may constantly ruminate about a past emotional trauma, these things are also loud. You may be stressed about work, money, family or church – Thoughts are the loudest form of loud... They’re loud because they dominate the mind.
Lucky for us, the mind is trainable, just as you have trained your brain to read and write and prefer certain tastes and believe certain beliefs you can train your mind to find quiet and peace. There is a place within you that is without noise or judgement... and there are ways to get to that place often.
When we give ourselves the time and space to have peace and quiet all the things that are loud become clearer and will cause less stress. You’ll find quicker solutions to your problems. Your reactions to stress will be calm. There is a science to this art of mindfulness and the art is Meditation.
There have been many studies into meditation over the years and the science is in, meditation works, and in many people’s experiences, it’s quite possibly the most beneficial thing one can do for oneself, because when you return from your peace and quiet you will be refreshed and you’ll see your life with open eyes.
You’ll see clearly the things that are causing you stress, you will have the clean slate to choose healthful foods, you’ll have the clarity in the moment to not drink or smoke cigarettes, you’ll realise how holding onto negative thoughts are of no benefit whatsoever – your clear minded reaction time will be swift and you’ll be super chill. If your body is in pain with sickness or ailments, meditation may hold the key for your pain reduction as all pain is processed in the brain, you may even heal faster!.
There are many styles of mediation each designed to reach complete awareness and absolute peace is the goal.
Below, I’ve included three meditations I like to walk my beginner students through, for you to try. I’ve had the privilege of teaching meditation to many people from body dysmorphic teens, the Victoria police, Rudolf Steiner kinder kids and staff at Melbourne’s county court – Everybody benefits from meditation.
The techniques below are an introduction to meditation and a great way to start your journey into mindfulness. The key is to see which one suits you (it may be all of them mixed together!).
Give yourself 1 – 2 minutes to start with, as you begin to reap the rewards of meditation you’ll naturally progress to more time.
One sage piece of advice I was given about meditation from a very wise and camp guru friend of mine was:
‘You can’t always have the meditation you want, but you can have the one you’re having, and that is perfect.’ - (Thank you Seb, you saved my sanity when I thought I couldn’t meditate!)
I break that piece of sound advice down to mean: don’t be hard on yourself when the mind wanders, that’s what it does! - with practice you’ll begin to see your constant ‘playback’ and it will become easier to identify your thought patterns. Neuroplasticity is an amazing thing and we can change our brains to become clearer, cleaner, more present and happier.
(Check out: www.meditation-research.org.uk/2014/03/meditation-and-neuroplasticity-five-key-articles/ for some pretty rad brain science research! Fun!)
Read these words below (or have someone read them to you) and then give it a go for a minute or for as long as you like.
* Breath Awareness Meditation
Sit or lie down, get nice and comfortable and close your eyes.
Once you feel relaxed bring your attention to your breathing.
Breathe through your nose and breathe naturally, don’t try and control your breath in any way.
Feel the air as it enters your nostrils. Are your nostrils allowing the same amount of breath in? or is one nostril more open than the other?
Notice the pace at which you draw your breath in.
How much of your lung capacity is being used? - are you shallow breathing or deep breathing?
Does your belly rise and fall with breath?, or does your chest rise and fall? - maybe it’s both?
What is the temperature of the air upon inhalation?, and as you exhale where do you feel the warmth as your breath leaves your body?
Is there a space in between your inhalation and your exhalation?.
Stay with these sensations of breath for as long as you like, your mind may wander at times - just come back to one or any of these breath awareness techniques. Breathing is life.
* Body Sensation Meditation
Lie down on your back, place a pillow under your knees if you’re not used to lying on your back.
Close your eyes. This body awareness meditation is about ‘Seeing into your body with your eyes closed’
Allow your shoulders to spread nice and wide, let your feet fall open and turn your palms to facing up. Roll your fingers into fists and curl and squeeze your toes, hold with all your might for a count of ten, and then let go - allowing your mind to see and feel the release and relief at the unfurling of your hands and feet. Bring your attention to your face. Is your jaw relaxed? Allow it to soften.
Where is your tongue? How do your eyes and the muscles around them feel?
Is your neck relaxed and are your shoulders soft?, allow them to become so. Where are your arms resting? Feel where your head, shoulders, upper back, arms and backs of the hands touch the floor. What does the floor feel like beneath you? Make any micro adjustments to allow yourself to soften. Feel where your hips, buttocks, thighs and calves touch the ground. Where are your heels? And are you feeling any unevenness through the right side and left side of your body?. Do you have tightness or tension anywhere?
Feel you breath enter and exit your body, what parts of your body move with breath?
Can you feel your heart beat? is it slow or fast? - notice how you feel in your emotions when you feel your breath and heartbeat.
Bring your attention to your skin, the largest organ of the body. Can you feel any breeze?. Where are you warmest on or in your body?
Stay with this body sensations meditation for as long as you like. Before you open your eyes, say thank you to yourself and see where you feel those words.
Find your comfortable position of either sitting up of lying down, close your eyes.
Allow yourself to tune into sound. Notice all the vibrations you can hear and visualise the things that makes those sounds, name them to yourself and note you can hear your voice in your head talking to yourself, naming those things.
Listen carefully for a repetitive sound and see if you can focus on that sound and make it louder, tuning everything else out – our ancestors used to do this when they would hunt their swift prey.
Once you have listened to that one sound and made it as loud as you can and played around with the different sounds included in that subject (bass, pitch etc...) move onto another which will last long enough for you to ‘watch’ with your ears (I like to tune into the waves of the ocean or the swaying of coconut palms in the wind). Give your ears thanks, they are beautiful gifts. Choose the music you listen to wisely, does it make you happy and feel peace?
In the beginning, meditation can be confronting and stressful - to see and hear all the mind clutter and you may at times feel like a Space Oddity, wondering if there’s Life on Mars.
Because our brains are always processing everything we see, smell, taste, touch and feel we create a bank of unprocessed thoughts and memories attached to sensations.
The neural pathways of the brain, heart and gut are always firing with stimulus – Mediation has a similar effect on the brain as the disk clean-up function does on your computer. You owe yourself a good quiet cleanse. In my time as a meditation teacher I have learned a lot about myself, I’ve learned to remain in the calm when things go awry, I’ve also learned to not buy into the happiness trap, everything that happens, every moment will pass – meditation teaches us to always remain centred. – Everyone benefits from meditation. I hope these techniques find you relaxing, unwinding and finding peace of mind.
‘You can’t always have the meditation you want, but you can have the one you’re having, and that is perfect.’
On a side note... if you’re wondering why I’ve named this piece ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’ – it was to show how loud a song can be in your mind at just the mention of the title ;) Rest in Love David Bowie x You rocked the world.
Rachel Laulu is a David Bowie fan. She offers private meditation and yoga classes to corporate groups, schools, retreats and individuals. If you have any inquiries or would like to put on your red shoes and dance the blues, please feel free to contact Rachel via email at [email protected] or add her on facebook through her Yoga Samoa group page.