Deep breath in through the nose, deep breath out through the mouth. When thinking of meditation, many link it to esoteric or religious practices. However, meditation has many origins and can help especially – but not only – in stressful times like pandemics and lockdowns.
More than one year of restrictions and uncertainty. Home-office, no pubs, not being able to visit friends, not having the possibility to fly home to see family – all these impacts of the pandemic mentally drag down many people. Going for a walk every day, doing home workouts, and exploring new hobbies can help. But there is one more thing that can be added to your daily routine to make life in lockdown easier: meditation.
“Meditation is an inner training, whereby we learn how to develop and maintain a calm, clear, and peaceful mind, increasingly at all times, in all situations”, says Kadam Adam Starr who is a teacher at Tara Kadampa Meditation Centre in Dublin. “Through this training we discover, the more peaceful we feel, the naturally happier we become.”
Therefore, through meditation, the mind can be focused without any distraction on something that gives rise to a natural experience of inner calm and inner peace. “This can be something as simple as the breath, or a peaceful, positive feeling, intention, or views such as love, compassion or wisdom”, says Starr.
The simple function of meditation is to help develop and maintain a calm, clear, and peaceful state of mind, at all times, in all situations. What happens when getting into that practice is the experience of inner peace, and according to Starr that is “a real source of genuine happiness and emotional well-being.”
This helps to cope with the business and difficulties of everyday life. Much of the stress people normally experience comes from the mind and even illnesses are sometimes caused or aggravated by this stress.
Meditation can help in many parts of life and it doesn’t matter if you’re going through a rough time or if you’re very relaxed, although the practice is especially helpful in stressful times. Many are experiencing lockdown fatigue, frustration, anxiety, and stress at the moment. “These entirely understandable fluctuations of mood arise because we feel mentally and emotionally too closely involved in the excessively checking the latest news”, says Starr. “It’s worrying about the future.”
What the expert says is that by training in meditation, inner space and clarity are being created that enable people to experience a sense of inner freedom and control over the mind and emotions. And that is, according to him, “regardless of external circumstances.”
So for Starr, it’s no wonder that there is a growing interest in meditation at the moment. Since 2012, the number of people who practice meditation has tripled, according to comparecamp. Therefore, the number of people who practice meditation globally is estimated at 200 to 500 million.
This is also confirmed if you look at the sales of the most popular meditation app: Calm. According to estimates from Sensor Tower, the app brought in $99.4 million in revenue within the first 11 months of 2020, with a little over 28 million installs.
Especially in worrying times, like the whole world is in right now, people need proven methods to help maintain a sense of inner calm, clarity, and perspective in their everyday lives. Meditation has been around for over 2500 years within the Buddhist meditation tradition. “I believe it has maintained a universal appeal and relevancy through the centuries and cultures it has reached”, says Starr. The reason why it is still being practiced is clear for the teacher: “It has something for everyone and it works, especially when things are challenging.”
But how can someone start with meditation who never even thought about it before? According to Starr there are several ways to get into meditation. One of them is just starting with a simple daily breathing meditation practice. “That helps us develop and maintain a more calm, clear, and peaceful state of mind”, says Starr.
This can then be progressed to training in the deeply healing meditation techniques. These can help you to recognize, reduce, and let go of stress, anxiety, and negative thinking. For people who are already familiar with meditation, there are also extensive sets of meditation practices that enable people to develop confidence in and cultivate the innate potential for good qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom.
For anyone who wants to try meditation but is not sure how to start, Starr has simple instructions about how to get into the practice:
“To begin with, all we need is a 10 to 15-minute window to ourselves each day”, says the expert. “Ideally first thing in the morning, as it sets you up for the rest of the day.”
Then, a simple seven-step breathing meditation practice that everyone can do is as follows:
- Find a quiet place to sit (a chair is fine) that is free of distractions. Partially close your eyes. Back straight but relaxed. Hands resting in your lap. Breathe gently and naturally through the nostrils. Let go of focusing externally and gather your awareness inwards.
- Begin by generating a wish to use the meditation to improve your inner peace, happiness, and good qualities, so that it will be of benefit to both yourself and others.
- Next, be aware – without judgment – where your mind is at this moment. Is it calm, clear, and peaceful? Or busy and distracted? To let go of agitation and distraction and center in a calm, clear and peaceful state of mind, focus – without distraction – on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves through your nostrils.
- When you notice you are following thoughts and distractions, simply acknowledge and accept their presence, and let go of the urge to follow them. Then, relax and return to the breath, allowing your attention to draw closer and closer to the breath each time.
- Eventually, your attention will rest on the breath and you will notice the distractions naturally dissolve, like waves returning to an ocean. You will feel a deepening sense of inner calm, clarity, and peace of mind.
- Just relax into this inner peace. Identify with it as your potential to change, to find a deeper and longer-lasting peace of mind and happiness. Thinking if I can become a little more peaceful, a little happier through a little meditation, it follows I can become a lot more peaceful, a lot happier, through regular mediation.
- Conclude the meditation with a determination to maintain this inner calm and peace throughout your day, so that it naturally and positively influences everything you think, say, and do.
For people who struggle to do that by themselves, there are plenty of meditation apps like Calm, Headspace, and Breethe. Also, meditation centers like Tara Kadampa Meditation in Dublin offer online classes during the lockdown, suitable for everyone.