‘Just empty your mind,’ she said, as if it were as easy as emptying a jar of Nutella. And so, my long and difficult relationship with meditation began. I anxiously sat cross-legged, becoming increasingly frustrated at an inability to empty my mind. If anything, thoughts increased and swirled around the brain, as pins and needles shot through my legs, and I started to hone in on the slightly ageing yoga mat I was perched upon, and the dubious smell it emitted. As well as everyday stresses and thoughts, there was the additional worry of not being able to empty my head. Apparently I am not alone.
And then ex Buddhist monk took me on a meditative walk. Having told me about enduring a sitting still meditation by a lake besieged by mosquitos (and I thought the yoga mat was bad,) I was relieved to be asked to move around. In walking meditation, each part of a step forward is named – heel, ball lift move place etc. Don’t be alarmed if it sounds like learning a new dance routine – the rhythmic act of consciously naming actions whilst in motion, requires suitable concentration, and is perfect for beginners.
Meanwhile, Nutritionist Natalia Otero Sanchez recommended a funky app from Heartmath, which has a miniature Inner Balance sensor, that fits in my hand-bag, and attaches to the I-phone. An encircled colorful flower rhythmically contracts and expands, encouraging you to breathe with the movements. It’s a little like a video game for breathing, where you can move up to different levels, incorporating new elements of difficulty at each stage. The ability to chart your progress is strangely rewarding, and the app offers it’s own internal cheerleader, with words of encouragement when the circle turns green and you are in full synchronicity.
The flurry of meditation apps is well documented, and with trial and error, I’ve found appropriate soothing voices for guided bed-time meditation on Insight timer – finding that I can’t get to sleep with men’s voices, nor anything with overly present background music, or the sound of loud croaking frogs (what’s with that?)
I believe that style is an expression of our inner self, and so I now hold corporate well-being hours for reluctant meditators and skeptical executives. Recalling my early challenges with meditation, I try and introduce do-able forms of reflection. Breathing and walking exercises, and drawing and vision board experiences, leave employees in a state of focus and flow. I truly believe that a more balanced and focused team fosters greater success. And I am in good company. Brands including Google and Apple, already harness the positive powers of well-being practices within the workplace. Salesforce has even installed mediation rooms, whilst Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Investors believes meditation leads to greater focus and long term performance. Yoga mats not compulsory!
Three Tips for Reluctant Meditators:
1. Whether you’re standing in line or in an Uber, look at the outlines of things. Shift your focus away from looking directly at people and objects and to the negative space around them, where the object meets the air. It’s a less passive form of looking that activates your brain in new ways.
2. Put your phone in your bag (not in your pocket where you can still feel it vibrating, or subconsciously pressed against your body.) Let your eyes, and mind wander. Don’t try and consciously do anything. Like being on a long train journey – allow the world to pass you by, focusing in on whatever catches your attention…rediscover the art of daydreaming. Thoughts come and go, and, like clouds, we can let them float on -the very act of observing their presence, allow you to move on from them.
3. Clean something – organize your desk, rearrange your drawers, scrub. Get into the flow.
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