Sunday, 8 June 2014

What is Meditation? And why bother?

One official definition of meditation is:
focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.

As a teenager, I attempted to meditate once or twice, but was always under the impression that in order to meditate one needed to clear the mind of all thought. That never worked for me! I was constantly distracted by the background noise of my mind; the constant chatter that I never really noticed when I was going along in my day suddenly became very loud when I tried to purposefully quiet myself. I gave up on meditating fairly quickly.

I have also experimented with guided imagery. This, too, is something that I found more difficult rather than relaxing. I can't seem to imagine things with the clarity required of this method (feel the sand between your toes, or the sun warming your upturned face), and always got distracted by a wayward itch or constantly wanted to wiggle around.

These methods of meditating are great for other people, however. If it speaks to you, then go for it! Meditation in any form is beneficial for the body and mind, and I wholeheartedly endorse every form of it. In fact, the scientific research on the benefits of meditation is so vast and overwhelmingly positive, it's hard to believe that anyone wouldn't want to try it! Fifteen minutes a day is all it takes to see wonderful changes in your life.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation is the modality that I have chosen for my daily meditation practice, or sadhana (pr. saad-naa). It involves mantra repetition and physical movements that have a powerful affect on the mind and body.

This power was unclear to me when I first started, about 20 months ago. I signed up for an online class that was a good price (the dollar-to-pound ratio was in my favour!), and started a 40 day practice.

As a quick background to my life, I experienced and witnessed abuse as a child and carried around a lot of anger inside me as a result. This anger always seemed to get the better of me, even when I tried my hardest to overcome it through prayer, repentance, scripture study, etc. I carried around a lot of guilt and shame, especially when my anger was directed at my own sweet family.

After starting my daily meditation practice, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes in the twenty minutes before I climbed into bed at midnight, sometimes first thing in the morning before everyone in the house woke up, I started to change. The darkness inside of me, that I was so scared to process as a child and that I tried to ignore (in the hopes it would go away) as an adult, sort of burst out of me in one go. My anger seemed completely uncontrollable and I was terrified of myself. I kind of thought I was going crazy!

But it turns out that the monster hiding in the closet is not so scary in the daylight. Meditation really was re-wiring my brain and allowing me to process all those scary feelings I bottled up as a child. The anger that I could never truly control had dissipated. I didn't lose control anymore.

Meditation isn't only helpful to people with deep-seeded emotional issues, however. :) It's beneficial to us all. It helps clear the subconscious of all the extraneous "junk" that gets lodged in there from advertising, negative thoughts, random ideas, and so on. It is the window-cleaner for the soul, helping us to feel the Spirit of God more deeply and fully.

Kundalini Yoga is kind of crazy-looking on the surface. Many people wear all white, they wear head scarves or turbans, they chant words in a different language, and sometimes even hop around on one foot. It's all good though. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and in my life, I've seen so many positive and wonderful changes that I can't deny the power of meditation.

As a Mormon (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we have been taught by many church leaders to meditate. It is in our scripture, it is advice given for the past 100+ years. For some reason, meditation gets glossed over when we discuss the need for daily prayer, scripture study, etc etc. I think part of the reason is because we don't know how to do it. Meditation seems kind of new-agey and weird. And Mormons are weird enough as it is, right? It's okay to be weird though. I'm happy being weird because I'm a better person now and don't want to lose this new-found peace, calm and light.

So let's talk a bit more about meditation. Let's learn from each other and let's do this! Meditate every day, for fifteen minutes. It doesn't matter when right now. Before bed, when you just wake up, during your lunch break, whenever. Fit it in. Find a way. You will not regret it.


  1. Sarah, I love it! What you say is true I wish that more LDS people knew the ins and outs of meditation or were more willing to try it. Keep being the light to others.

  2. Great intro. Glad to see more people blogging about this! Yay.