Meditation is as easy as breathing. Hold on to that sentence forever. You don’t need a private guru or a six-week workshop, or a personalized mantra that costs a small fortune. Trust me, the less you try, the easier it is. Much the same as writing.
If I meditate before I begin writing, I always write better. Mostly I forget to do it. This is a good reminder for me too.
Already I can hear you saying: I’ve tried meditation. I can’t do it. There are too many rules. Cross your legs. Think of clouds. Close your eyes. Don’t close your eyes. Half close your eyes. Sit for twenty minutes, morning and night.
Twice a day! Who’s got time for that? I’d rather read a book or watch House of Cards which I often can’t watch because Kevin Spacey is just too evil and I can’t go to bed with all that evil in my head. And I still don't know what happened with Remy and Jackie, and how come she married that surgeon?
Anyway, you all know the studies that have been done on meditation, you all know the benefits—improved memory, calm and focus, greater peace and happiness, better physical and mental health—and better writing too.
Here are three easy ways to get started.
Stretch out on the floor beside your dog like a limp noodle. See how he sleeps with open eyes? Don’t worry, he’s not awake, he’s meditating. Put a hand on his belly and feel his beating heart. In no time your breathing will slow and become deep and even like his. And instead of thoughts rampaging through your head, you’ll find moments of glorious blankness. No worries. No anxiety. Because when you’re lying on the floor with a dog, all you can feel is overwhelming LOVE for that blessed, furry creature and LOVE is the most calming thing in the world.
(Apologies for the use of 'he'. My last two dogs have been male and it’s a personalised response. Substitute ‘she’ if appropriate.)
This is a powerful meditation. All you do is say the words of Michael Leunig’s little poem to yourself, over and over.
Let it go / Let it out / Let it all unravel
Let it free/ Let it be / The path we may travel
It’s almost a mantra and as you chant the words, your breathing slows and you really do unravel into a much calmer state.
I’ve seen this meditation make grown men (and women) cry. Don’t let that put you off. Tears are healing and helpful, a meditation in their own right.
If I remember correctly, this Three Minute Meditation was originally developed by Beyond Blue to help people with depression. I find it useful as a way of bringing myself back to the present when I’m having huge arguments in my head, or chomping at the traffic lights, or fantisising about killing someone. It even works when I wake up at four in the morning and need to get back to sleep. Sometimes.
Ask yourself what you are THINKING. (And then reply…I’m writing the best ever scene in my head, or I'm thinking about what to have for dinner…)
Then ask yourself HOW YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY. (My toe aches. My neck aches. I feel great all over!)
Then ask yourself HOW YOU FEEL EMOTIONALLY. (I am SO angry. I feel tired and grumpy. I feel suicidal!)
Become aware of your BREATHING. You don’t have to slow it down, just notice air going into your body, and out again. In, and out. In, and out. You might find it helpful to imagine your out-breath as sand running through an egg-timer. By the time you’ve imagined that, a minute will have passed.
Become aware of the SOUNDS around you. Say to yourself: I can hear birds tweeting, or traffic passing, a car horn, a dog barking, a man laughing…whatever. The act of naming the noises brings you into the moment and stops all that endless chatter in your head.
By now you should be asleep (if it’s four in the morning) or calm and focussed if you’ve taken time out to meditate.
For me, the hardest part is making time to do it. How crazy is that? The time it takes to brush my teeth? The time it takes to furrow my brow and gnash my teeth! And I can't find three minutes to meditate?
This week, I’ll do it every day before I start writing. If you give it a try, let me know if your writing is more focussed and energised.
If you want to know more about dogs and meditation, you'll find my book, 'Old Dogs on Meditation & Mindfulness' at all good book stores, and online at poshdogpublishing.com