in the flow


A regular column exploring the
benefits of meditation


Many students at the Lifeflow meditation courses are surprised to find that meditation is something they can do anywhere, anytime. They thought, or had been taught, that you could only meditate when you were sitting cross-legged in ideal circumstances. I trained for ten years in the Buddhist tradition many years ago and there meditation was never intended to be something you only did when sitting down formally.

You learned to meditate while walking, standing or lying down, as well as sitting. The whole aim was to keep your emotional and mental balance no matter what you were doing or what was happening. I will never forget the first time I really experienced this. I was in retreat in Italy when my teacher suddenly asked me to drive someone to a town three hours’ drive away. I was alarmed to say the least, and very apprehensive about what this would do to my retreat work.

So off we went. At the end of the day I returned after negotiating the busy, winding roads there and back and returned to my meditation. To my utter surprise I found that my retreat hadn’t been disturbed at all and I had kept my cool during the whole experience. Meditation was no longer something separate from the rest of my life. It had become an integral part of my life and this, of course, was what I had been looking for.

I meet so many people who have had wonderful experiences while meditating or while in meditation retreats, but find that they don’t last. Their meditation has become something so separate from the rest of their lives that it can end up being quite frustrating. The meditation tradition has always understood that even after experiencing enlightenment you still have to go to the toilet. And, in fact, going to the toilet is a classic Buddhist meditation. This is why, in the traditional training, enlightenment is only one stage in the process.

At the Lifeflow Centre we teach a series of what we call Spot Meditations. They are simple, easy and versatile ways to quickly gain your emotional and mental balance wherever you are and whatever you are doing, no matter what is happening. They take about 20 to 30 seconds to do. With them you can apply the skill of meditation to the thick of everyday life—right in the heat of the moment.

Each time you meditate, even if you only lightly touch the meditative state, the space it creates in the mind gives your mind and body the opportunity to return to their natural state of balance. Your mind becomes still,rather like a pendulum which, even though it might be swinging wildly, will return naturally to its state of balance and become still. In this calm state you create the opportunity for your mind to watch and see clearly what is happening. This can give the opportunity to change ingrained habits and to create some peace and space during the day. At home and at wrk, at meetings, between appointments, between clients, while having tea or coffee, while parked in the car, while at stop lights, on the bus or train, these little meditations can have a lasting effect on the quality of your day.

Spot Meditations are at the coal-face of meditation. They are the wedge that allows you to find a moment when you can consciously relax and calm your mind, balancing yourself instantly and refreshing your energies. This is invaluable when you have a busy schedule and find it difficult to make clear divisions between tasks, home and work, day and night, which can become such a blur that life seems relentlessly the same. These divisions are crucial for thehealth and wellbeing of our bodies and minds. Spot Meditations can be the tool that ensures our thinking serves us well rather than ruling our lives.

I clearly remember a student in a course many years ago who, after three classes, was so excited she had to report what had happened to the whole class. She owned a shop and that morning, while the shop was full and she was extremely busy, a woman came into the shop demanding attention and clearly very angry about something. This was a real test, because, as our student freely admitted, she herself was a very feisty character and would normally have ended up in an argument. But to her utter surprise she automatically did a Spot Meditation and instead of engaging as she normally would have, she became very calm. She could watch what was happening instead of being emotionally caught and whenever the woman paused for breath, just reassured her that she was there to help.

Eventually the women became quiet and left the shop. Of course all the other customers were totally focused on the scene which had just been played out, and they burst into spontaneous applause. As our student said, she lost one customer, but gained everyone else in the shop!

There are a whole range of Spot Meditations and most of them can be done in such a way that no-one else will know what you are doing. Some of them use movements you might already use to relax yourself, others use movement meditations. Some use breathing and others incorporate breathing and movement or use visualisation, or sound, or focus on the sensations in your body. The aim is to choose one or two that you find suit you, so they become a regular habit in your daily life.

Here is a very useful little Spot Meditation which you can use regularly to relax quickly during the day at work. Begin by breathing in and at the same time raising your shoulders so that you tense your shoulder muscles. Then pull them back a little and allow your mind to focus on the physical feeling as you let them drop slowly and gently, while breathing out with a slow sigh.

No matter how busy people are in their lives, we find in our courses that they find it easy to incorporate at least one or two Spot Meditations a number of times each day. With these little meditations you have the opportunity to quickly find your balance whenever you need.

As an ordained Lama with 25 years experience in teaching meditation, Dr. Graham Williams is the Director of The Lifeflow Meditation Centre and a Consultant with a national corporate psychology company. He also teaches Master Class piano and has recently released two classical music CDs—Reflections in Water (a selection of Chopin, Liszt and Debussy piano pieces) and My Heart Keeps Watch (piano music of Olivier Messiaen). A meditation CD is also available from The Lifeflow Centre, which provides regular meditation courses in their city studio and retreats in a relaxing hills setting. Ph: 8363 1318

© 2009 Innerself