Anyone who has ever tried meditating after hearing about all the wonderful benefits – increased happiness, reduced stress, peace of mind, improved sleep (the list is endless) – and imagining the zen-like yogi they will become, will know just how difficult it can be to calm your thoughts for more than a few seconds.
I’ve tried numerous times over the years, mainly to help with insomnia, but always gave up after becoming more frustrated by my lack of ability than before I started. I had an epiphany recently though; meditation takes practise. Just as you wouldn’t expect to pick up a violin and play like Vanessa Mae on first attempt, you can’t simply meditate like a Buddhist monk the first time you give it a go. After reading up on the subject, downloading some guided meditations and generally attempting to go it alone, I decided to change tack and go back to basics with a lesson.
Keajra Meditation Centre on Holmfield Road in Blackpool is a Buddhist Centre that offers Meditation and Mindfulness workshops aimed at beginners. I saw details of a workshop on Facebook and instantly enrolled, and so I found myself knocking on the centre’s front door with trepidation early on a Saturday morning.
I like to think I’m open-minded but I will admit to being a tad nervous about who and what to expect. I was relieved to discover 15 other like-minded ladies ranging in age from twenty to seventy, all in search of inner peace. I was equally relieved that our teacher Kelsang Wangchuk, an English Buddhist monk, was friendly and completely down to earth.
We removed our shoes as is customary but didn’t have to sit cross legged unlike Wangchuk, who sat aloft a throne of cushions as he talked to us about how to bring meditation into our lives.
Wangchuk told his story and talked about Buddha, the creator of Buddhism (and a human being, not a god as you might mistakenly believe) however the focus was not on the religion but entirely on putting meditation into practice and the positive impact it can have in daily life. People from all faiths (or those who don’t subscribe to any faith) are welcome, you don’t have to be a Buddhist. Having said that, in my view, it’s hard to have adverse opinions about a religion that extols love and happiness above all else.
It was a half day session and time flew; we stopped midway for tea (herbal or builders’!), biscuits and a good old chat (Wangchuk included).
Some points that struck a chord with me and have helped me become more mindful; negative emotions – anger, hate, greed etc – only harm the person feeling them; on the flip side a compassionate approach will enhance your life and the lives of others. And the never ending quest for material things is a sure-fire journey to discontent.
Wangchuk did most of the talking but you could ask questions and he gave two guided meditations which I found very effective, particularly one that involved visualising inhaling love in the form of white light whilst breathing in and breathing out dark smoke to signify negative thoughts. I’ve continued using this at home in my own meditations.
The workshop reinforced all the things I’d read about meditation but put them into real life context for me and the guided meditations were useful as an example of how to focus your practise when alone. Combined with a few ten minute sessions every week, I’m seeing an improvement. It’s a joyous feeling to complete a meditation and realise your mind only wandered a couple of times! I’ve also learned a couple of techniques that help me get back to sleep when I wake up too early.
I think you also have to accept that, as with everything in life, you have good days and bad days, and while I’m a long way from becoming that zen-like yogi, precious moments of clarity and calm are priceless. I took up yoga in the new year, which also requires practise, but I think it goes hand in hand with meditation. They complement each other, meaning progress in both is swifter.
The half day workshop cost £10 which I thought was wonderful value for money and there’s plenty of free street parking nearby. To get the most from embarking on an experience like this, do so without scepticism – you have to believe. If you’re struggling, take confidence from the fact that the positive effects of meditation on physical and mental health are proven by masses of medical research – do your own research if you want to be sure!
Keajra Meditation Centre also runs regular classes, which are suitable for beginners and more experienced meditators, in Blackpool, Poulton and St Anne’s, although I haven’t tried any yet.
I recommend Keajra’s workshop as a great starting place to set you on the right path. Wangchuk is a welcoming and open teacher and I believe everyone will find something in his words that rings true and helps to make meditation work for them.