Journal

Start here! 5 Meditation styles for beginners

Beginning a meditation practice can be both exciting and intimidating. If you asked 10 different people what style of meditation they practice, you might get 10 different answers. It’s common to feel overwhelmed and uncertain as to where or how to get started with meditating.

The best way to begin is to familiarise yourself with some of the different types of meditation to see what resonates with you. Here are a few of the more common styles that are great for beginners.

Guided Meditation

Guided meditations have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Guided meditation is a more simple form of meditation as it is led by someone else, either in person or via a recording, that will usually (although, not always) have a theme and relaxing music playing in the background. Guided meditations generally last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the purpose or theme, and they come in all styles—including healing, manifesting, and going within to find your purpose. Because guided meditations are led by another person, this style of meditation is great for beginners and those who may struggle with sitting still for more than just a few minutes at a time. They are also beneficial if you would like to enhance your existing practice or focus your energy and attention on a specific outcome. 

If you are interested in this type of meditation, check out Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Experience, an online program where participants are sent a new recording of a guided meditation each day. You can also download a guided meditation app on your smartphone, like Insight Timer.

Another option is to see if there are any guided meditations being offered in your community where you can go to meditate with like-minded individuals. Many yoga studios and wellness centers offer daily guided meditations, which can be a great way to ease into your meditative practice.

Visualisation Meditation

Visualisation meditation is a powerful way to use the mind to influence the body and can also be an empowering way to manifest desired outcomes in your life. What we place our attention on grows stronger and what we take our attention away from will begin to diminish. The unconscious mind is extremely powerful and it works very well with imagery.

One common visualisation practice is centered around health. By visualizing your body-mind as being healthy, vibrant, and energized—or grounded, peaceful, and calm—you can begin to elicit these things both mentally and physically. Another approach is using visual imagery for creative purposes. By constructing an image in your mind of what your life might look like after having accomplished a goal and really seeing yourself having already achieved it is a way to begin living in ways that support the manifestation of your desired outcome.

To meditate using visual imagery, practice the following:

  1. Identify your desired outcome. For example, do you wish to feel more grounded and at peace in your mind and emotions? Or would you like to envision your physical body as being healthy, vibrant, and strong? Or are you longing to create art, write poetry, be in a new relationship, or travel abroad?
  2. Create an internal representation of what this looks, sounds, and feels like. Make it as real and as compelling as possible.
  3. Enter into a meditative state by relaxing and taking some deep breaths and then bring the image into your awareness. Associate yourself into the picture by stepping inside it and feeling as if it has already happened.
  4. When it’s time to come out of meditation, simply allow the image to fade off into the distance and relinquish any attachment to the outcome.
  5. Meditate in this fashion anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes each day.

Japa or Mantra-Based Meditation

Japa meditation is a mantra-based meditation path that is one of the oldest, most revered classical techniques known today. The word “mantra” translates to mind vehicle or mind instrument. Japa meditation has the practitioner repeating a word or phrase for the duration of the meditation, with the mantra being the focal point throughout. This is the style of meditation I practice and teach.

During the practice, whenever you drift away from the mantra to other thoughts, sounds, or physical sensations, you simply guide your focus back to the repetition of the mantra. Think of it as a dance back and forth between mantra and thought. Some mantras have a specific meaning and it’s said that by repeating the mantra, you are connecting to the energetic essence of its intention. Other mantras purposely have no meaning and are designed to help access deeper levels of silence. In this approach, eventually, the mantra and thoughts will cancel one another out. When this happens, your conscious awareness transcends the busyness of the mind and reaches higher states of consciousness.

Popular styles of mantra-based meditation are Primordial Sound Meditation which I trained to teach and the age-old practice of the So Hum meditation. Both of these practices are easily learned in person or online for your convenience. Here at Natural health with Mel we run a weekly meditation circle on a Thursday using mantra based meditation as our practice. Do join us in Greenwich South East London.

Loving-Kindness or Metta Meditation

Metta meditation, also known as Loving-Kindness meditation, is designed to cultivate four qualities of love: friendliness (Metta), compassion (Karuna), appreciative joy (Mudita), and equanimity (Upekkha). The quality of Metta, or friendliness, is expressed as genuine compassion sent out with the intention of surrounding ourselves and others with loving-kindness. With all that is going on in the world today, Metta meditation is a worthwhile practice for each of us to spend some time in each day. This style of meditation also works well as an entrance point for the practice of forgiveness and can be a powerful tool for lessening the charge of negative emotions we have toward those who have wronged us.

While there are various approaches to Metta meditation, this audio clip on Loving Kindness Meditation is a thorough and well-spoken version.

Another variation will have you think silently to yourself, “May I be filled with loving-kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be truly happy.” You would then bring someone else into your mind (someone you love and/or someone who you are feeling challenged by) and say silently, “May you be filled with loving-kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be truly happy.” You may then bring all of humanity into your awareness and send the same intention out to the collective—to all sentient beings, “May we be filled with loving-kindness. May we be well. May we be peaceful and at ease. May we be truly happy.”

Once you have done this meditation a few times and you remember the process, you can begin to do the meditation on your own without listening to the audio file. Choose whatever language you prefer to use and practice this meditation for a period of time to see how it resonates with you.

Breath-Awareness Meditation

Breath-awareness meditation is a simple practice of finding a comfortable seat, closing your eyes, and placing your attention in the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Breath awareness is an effective way to establish a greater mind-body connection and to reduce stress. This form of meditation can be your preferred meditation practice each day and it is also a highly useful way to calm you down during any moment of tension in the workplace and at home.

Once you’ve tried a few different types of meditation, you will have a better idea of what resonates with you and what doesn’t. The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong meditation; there are many paths that all lead to the same destination, and the beauty of life is that we get to choose our own path.

Keep it simple at the beginning and just feel out some different techniques. When you find a routine that you enjoy, the next step is to set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to cultivate your meditative practice. From there, tend to your practice each day and you will experience a number of life-changing benefits to your health and well-being.

7 inspirational books on spirituality and health

By Mel Sutton @naturalhealthwithmel

Flowering water lilly a symbol of spiritual birth

These are inspirational books on spirituality and health that have helped me. Hope you enjoy discovering or rediscovering them.

1 The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

This guide to spiritual enlightenment is a classic on connecting to your spirituality and health. Discover what Eckhart calls “being in the Now”. Experience a life where you not ruled by your thoughts. Instead become experiencer of your thought. If you no longer think you are your thoughts then who are you? As we learn to be present and live in the Now we experience true transformation and healing, as we no longer attach ourselves to the past or to the future. This is a book that can be reread or listened to many times and is a lifelong companion to a healthier, happier and present life.

2 The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

The seven spiritual laws are simple and powerful principles that you can apply to life. I still think this is Deepak greatest book and one I refer to the most. You can take each principle and apply it to a specific day of the week or work on one for a month. Each principle also has a mantra attached which is a lovely accompaniment to a meditation practice. The perfect guide to spirituality and health in a easy to read format.

3 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Alistair Shearer

If you practice yoga or are interested in yoga philosophy this is the best classic text on the spirituality and health. Written around the 3rd century BC this text weaves a thread and asks basic soul questions as well as answering what yoga is, how to purify the mind and let it settle into stillness. This is a great book to sit and contemplate, learn and reconnect with your own self. There are many authors who have insight into the text. I have chosen this version as we studied this for our Meditation training and it offers a superb understanding and translation of the text https://www.naturalhealthwithmel.co.uk/about-mel-2/yoga-with-mel/

4 Creative Visualisations by Skakti Gawain

Practical and easy methods to bring into your life. One of the first books in this field and still one of the best on Spirituality and health.

5 The Secret Language of Your Body Inna Segal

A recent read for me. If you are interested in the inner workings of your body and feel there is more to illness than physical manifestation this book will give insight you into the different organs and systems in the body and offer an explanation to the cause of the disease. I found this book to be enlightening and a great tool to reference when any disease or emotional sensation arose that I needed clarification on. It beautifully connects our physical body to our spiritual health in an easy and understandable way.

6 Heal Your Body by Louise Hay

One of the first books I read on the connect between disease and thinking. At the time it was pioneering and dismissed by the medical world. Now it’s mainstream. We know there is a connection between what we think, how we process our thoughts and the connection this has to the diseases we may get. Still a great reference book Louise went on to write many books on healing, spirituality, transformation and affirmations. http://www.louisehay.com

7 The Hidden Messages in Water Masaru Emoto

Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words and feelings. A fascinating book and a quantum leap in how we view our world, and the impact we have on our surroundings, and how we are linked on a conscious level to everything. Spiritual, healing and very thought provoking. After all we are 80% water!

Natural remedies as we move into winter

by Mel Sutton naturalhealthwithmel.co.uk

Natural health. Walking and being in nature is a great way to stay positive and healthy

Natural health to winter happiness

By Natural Health with Mel.

Using Natural remedies to heal and live your best life.

How we cope with transitions in life can be a determinate to our general state of health. Try these ideas to help you flourish and keep an even keel as winter approaches.

1 Flower Essences Bach and Bush flower essences are easily available from health food stores. A few drops beneath the tongue for natural health.

The best Flower essences I know for change is Walnut a Bach flower essence. Use for any changes and transition.

Try Elm if you feel overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time, which can lead to you feeling depressed.

Transition Essence is a Bush combination useful in times of change

Mustard to relieve a gloomy mood.

2 Lightbulb therapy As the nights draw in you may suffer with SAD syndrome. An Infra red sauna can be a way to boost your immune system, help to detoxify the body and relieve muscle aches. I have tried this and found it really useful as a natural health tool.

Another option is an SAD lightbulbs that emulate sunlight frequency. They are really effective in lifting the spirits during the long winter months

3 Diet is crucial to keep warm, boost immune system & stay balanced and nurtured. Soups and casseroles are great. Use pulses and seasonal squashes. Our plates will look like a rainbows, gorgeous and inviting and natural.

Plus they will contain a large variety of vitamins and minerals to ward off colds and boost immune systems. Onions and garlic, spices like fresh ginger and turmeric are anti inflammatory and warming for natural health.

Think yellow sunshine and orange sunset as you plan your shop.

Spices balance and warm and are full of immune stimulating properties.  Paprika and chilli peppers are heating but be mindful if you suffer with irritable bowel or a sensitive stomach, these foods can irritate the digestion. Think also of berries, full of vitamin C. Also apples and citrus fruits. 

I like to think of the birds in flight having stocked up on the berries as they  journey thousands of miles. Berries indeed give you wings!

4 Yoga If you practice yoga you will be familiar with Sun Salutations. Done slowly they can open up the body and allow the energy to begin to flow with ease. Done quickly you soon begin to sweat and heat the body. I recommend you find a good Yoga class in your area to compliment your practice. https://www.naturalhealthwithmel.co.uk/about-mel-2/yoga-with-mel/

Surya Namaskar – Saluting the sun to natural health

5 Burning essential oils create beautiful aromas. Try grapefruit or Litsea Cubeba both sunshine scents that lift the spirit, cleanse and purify. Other oils are antibacterial, try Eucalyptus, Black pepper or Cardamon. Use for bathing, a few drops in a bath base or milk powder or in a vaporiser to cleanse and create a lovely atmosphere to create a natural healthy space.

6 Conscious thinking There is a deep connection between our thoughts and the life we have. Louise Hay the pioneer of affirmations and positive thinking has many wonderful sayings you can incorporate into your daily routine. A favourite of mine is In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole, and complete. There are so many wonderful affirmations, check online or in her array of books for natural healing.

7 Visualisations When we are missing the sunshine you can practice visualisations and meditations. I use Insight app but there are many others on the market that are free. The power of the mind through visualisation and stillness is remarkable. Practice makes perfect. Visualise what you are seeking, do it daily and see your life change and unfold into the life you want. To quote Wayne Dyer American self-help author and motivational speaker If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. https://www.naturalhealthwithmel.co.uk/learning-to-meditate/

I always say to clients imagine you are a seed. What would you like to develop into? 

This article is taken from Mel’s regular natural health column in SE10 magazine

Mel Sutton is a Yoga & Meditation teacher in Greenwich and SE London. A health coach, homeopath and aromatherapist she can be contacted through her website www.naturalhealthwithmel.co.uk

Mel is a Chopra Center meditation instructor and a qualified Yoga teacher. http://chopra.com

Why Meditate? Some simple answers.

The reasons we meditate are as varied as the many ways there are to meditate. In the West, most people are drawn to meditation to quiet the internal chatter of the brain and to reduce stress. Meditation is, indeed, a very effective stress reducer, but its benefits—sometimes mysteriously hidden—are far more bountiful.

The actual act of meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath or a mantra—a word or phrase. There are countless traditions and no singular “correct” way to practice meditation.

Find a practice you like and stick with it for a while.
Notice how you feel as you go about your days. If you find that you have more patience, feel grounded and better able to respond to stressful situations, and you are more in touch with your intuition or gut feelings then Meditation is working for you.

Because It’s Good for Our Bodies

Scientists gathering data on meditation have found that a consistent practice not only boosts the mind, but it also bolsters the body. Studies bear out that meditation can help reverse heart disease, reduce pain, and support the immune system, better enabling it to fight disease.

The mind-body connection between stress and disease is abundantly apparent as science is finding that meditation can lower production of the stress hormone cortisol. This means meditators are better able to adapt to stress in their lives and its common physiologic responses, which can include:

  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Skin conditions

Because It’s Good for Our Relationships

Paradoxically, while meditation helps us tune in and turn inward to our true essence, it also helps us detach from our own egos to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Couples counselors have found when they assign their clients meditation, the couples become less angry, more self-reflective, and more loving.

When we become aware of—and honor—our interconnection with other beings, we are able to recast our perspectives, see our worries in a different light, and embrace gratitude, which is the heart’s memory.

Because it Can Change Our Lives

In a world rife with never-ending fast fixes, crash diets, and get-rich-quick schemes, it’s great to know there is a proven practice that really can change your life and bring you joy and more energy (or at least bring about dramatic effects) in just a short time in each day.

Yogis and doctors both agree: meditating—even just a few minutes of deep breathing—relaxes the brain, reduces anxiety, and decreases depression. When we feel as though we can’t afford the time to meditate BUT the truth is we can’t afford not to.

How to Start Meditating

Getting started is simple, but it’s helpful to have a teacher or guide to coach, motivate, and encourage you along as you stat. Here are some options to help you get started in meditation:

  • Find a teacher near you: It doesn’t get better than having a real, live person teaching you how to meditate. Make sure you choose someone you really connect with and respect, so that it will be easier to see them consistently. My training at the Chopra Center offers instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation—a powerful meditation technique rooted in the Vedic tradition of India.
  • Try a Guided Meditation: If you don’t have the time or means to find a teacher near you, guided meditations can be a great way to learn. They walk you through the steps and help you find a calm and peaceful state—one step at a time. Try one of these guided meditations, each with a unique theme taken from the Chopra Center website.

Empowering quotes

Quotes are the human experience perfectly encapsulated in a few choice words. The wisdom captures your attention because it triggers something in your core. A quote read for the first time is new but at the same time it seems familiar and meant just for you. They can be a source of great encouragement and a way to uplift when you feel lost or confused. By changing your thoughts and providing motivation to overcome obstacles you will start to achieve your goals and feel positive about yourself.

How to Use 

Your mood and behavior are greatly influenced by what you see and hear on a daily basis, especially on a subconscious level. Quotes can be used as a way to insert little messages of motivation that may seem inconsequential but can effect positive influences when used purposefully. Here are some tips on how to benefit the most from inspirational quotes:

  • When you read a quote, take time to reflect on it; quotes can be a great catalyst for introspection, internal dialogue, self-awareness, and inner work.
  • Choose a quote that speaks to you at this time and write it down, print it, or draw it in a way that is meaningful to you.
  • Put quotes in places where you can easily see it such as on the dashboard of your car, mirror, computer, kitchen, or your wallet.
  • If you have a meditation practice have your quote on hand to read at the end (or beginning) of your meditation to help infuse the essence of the quote into your daily life.

The following quotes can help you stay motivated and feel empowered throughout the year.

Choose one or a few to work with and see what unfolds. If you have an inspirational quote you would like to share get in touch and I will add it to the list.

Enjoy!

Empowering Quotes

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

“When your desires are distilled, you will cast just two votes: to love more, and be happy.” – Hafiz

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” – Rumi

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” – Pema Chodron

“When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be.” – Lao Tzu

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” – Deepak Chopra

“The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can.” – Mike Dooley

When you take a few minutes each day to read and reflect on these quotes, you will stimulate your mind and inspire yourself to overcome any obstacle thrown your way. Here’s to a new year filled with the motivation and encouragement you need to achieve your goals!

Why We Struggle to Make Time for Solitude

 

How often do you take time to go out for a walk?  To just sit out in nature doing nothing but contemplating and enjoying the silence?

I’m sure there are a few of you who indulge in this luxury regularly, but most of us don’t make time for solitude on a daily basis.

For some, it’s too much of a luxury: the struggle of daily existence is too close to survival level to even think about an hour alone in nature.

But for many of us, the main reason is that our brain rationalizes staying busy. We are filled with uncertainty all day long, and that drives us to try to do more, to get control of everything, to cram more into our lives, to stay addicted to technology and distraction.

The main driver of our busyness and distraction is uncertainty.

Uncertainty is woven into every hour of our lives. We are uncertain about what we should do, who we are, whether we’re good enough, what is going to happen, what’s going on in the world, and how to deal with the overwhelmingness of life. We don’t often acknowledge it, but we feel uncertainty all day long.

To deal with that feeling of uncertainty, of the groundlessness of not having stability in our lives … we cling to comforts and distractions, we procrastinate and put off the habits we want to form, we are constantly busy and messaging and more. And when we do relax, we will pick up our phones or watch Netflix. I think silence is uncomfortable for many of us and busyness is a distraction to keep us in the doing

The idea of being in solitude, of having quiet in our lives and time for contemplation, might seem nice to many of us. But when it comes time to actually do it, we cling to busyness because of our feeling of uncertainty. “I can’t because I have too much to do!” “Just one more email. Just one more thing”

And yet, this constant busyness and distraction is draining us. We are always on, always connected, always stimulated, always using energy.

What would it be like to disconnect every single day for an hour? To remove ourselves from TVs, books, devices, and just go out for a walk? Not be productive, but connected to nature? We are human beings not human doings 🙃

We could use the time to let ourselves recharge and be replenished by nature. We could use the movement, the quietude that gives our brains a chance to rest, the space for contemplation and nothingness.

To do this, we have to stop letting the uncertainty rule our lives. It can be with us, a constant companion, and we can learn to be comfortable with it and even love it as it is. But it doesn’t have to drive us.

The way to shift this is to create the space for solitude, even just half an hour … and then make it happen. Watch your mind try to rationalize why you shouldn’t do it, or have an urge to put the solitude off for just a little longer. Then don’t give in to that urge, but instead go to the solitude and be with your urges, your rationalizations, your stress.

See what happens when you give these things some space.  They calm down. And you get nourished by the space and life around you.

Meditation does just that. By making time to meditate we give ourselves permission to stop, slow down and replenish. No time spent in quiet is ever wasted. Walking meditation puts our brain into a trance like state, we begin to see things differently and slowly we change and connect to our true self

So lets slow down. Embrace silence and resist the urge to sent that email!

How to instantly live in the present

Taken from the Chopra centre newsletter, slightly adapted. I like it as it has some interesting ideas on ways to be Mindful day to day.

In your mind, you tend to live either in the past or future. You flip through the events of the past with or your mind can fast-forward to a potential future by scanning the to-do list or some future goal. Rare is the moment when you allow yourself to be fully immersed in the present.

Even as a yoga teacher, I have to constantly remind myself to stay rooted in the present moment. Follow these tips on how to bring yourself back to the now.

1. People Watch

People watching simply means sitting down in a place and getting into observation mode (without checking your phone’s text messages or emails).

You can also extend this activity beyond people, to include nature watching or any other type of environment watching. It’s an incredible experience to schedule in observation time to simply notice everything around you fully. In complete observation mode, you learn so much.

Every time I travel to a foreign country, I love sitting in a local café and putting on my people-watching hat. I learn more about a culture, mannerisms, and customs through simple observation. But you don’t have to travel to do this. You can observe anywhere. Schedule in your “people watching” time—you can even do it with friends and share observations when you’re done.

2. Listen Fully

Have you ever noticed that when your lips aren’t moving, you find your mind wandering to either the past or the future? Fully listening is a wonderful way to stay rooted in the present moment. When a person is talking to you, pretend you are hearing what they’re saying for the first time, even if you’ve heard it a million times before. Notice the tone of voice, inflection, and body language while they speak. Take note of your internal reactions to the words said. Observe your body language while listening. Catch yourself jumping into the future, in your mind, as you formulate an answer. Try to increase the amount of listening in your daily life, so you speak less and listen more. This can be an enriching experience that can lead you to feeling happier and start living in the present.

3. Savour Magic Moments

Tony Robbins says that life with others is made up of magic moments. You may have a tendency to think of the big moments such as weddings, birthday parties, and other big events as being the special times in life. However, most of life is made up of little moments. It’s your child rushing into the room just to give you a hug and say, “I love you.” It’s your husband buying toothpaste without you telling him. It’s your work colleague bringing you your favorite coffee in the morning. It’s catching a beautiful sunset on the way home from work.

4. Savor the Senses

Have you ever seen anyone have a genuine love affair with food? It’s an absolute joy to watch people fully immerse themselves in the flavors.

Take one sensory experience and allow it to halt time and quiet the mind. Enjoy a meal, savor an essential oil, spend time with a painting or sunset, feel the warmth and energy from a campfire, listen to enchanting music—this will not only bring you into the present moment, but it can even create a spiritual experience and can be a mindfulness practice. When you do this, other senses will be drawn in by habit, but try to keep your focus and pay attention to the sense you chose. The practice of creating focus can pump your present moment awareness muscles and calm the mind.

5. Appreciate the Absolute Ordinary

Have you ever walked through your own house during a quiet time and just enjoyed the moment and appreciated the seemingly menial things?

Try it:

  • Feel the carpet under your toes and feel so grateful for it.
  • Observe the sky and feel connected to the planet
  • Open your refrigerator or cupboards and appreciate the food and items at your fingertips.
  • Open the door slowly, offering gratitude for the key, the shelter, your address, and location.

Have you ever felt that you don’t have enough at times? While lack, in some respect, may certainly be present in your life, take stock of what you do have. You might have clean air to breath, water that flows from a tap, food in the fridge, and a place to sleep at night. If nothing else, appreciate the sun rising and setting each day, bringing the planet light and life. Something as simple as your fingers moving to grasp your coffee cup is a thing to celebrate. There are so many ordinary things to appreciate each day.

The more you practice mindfulness and living in the present moment, the more aware you will become. Practice one of these five things daily and watch your life transform into a more peaceful and joyful existence full of happiness.