You might have read articles about a recent study – conducted by the University of Massachusetts on 16 participants for 8 weeks – which showed how meditation can change the brain and increase grey matter in certain areas linked not only with learning and memory, but also awareness and compassion.
Sometimes, these scientific conclusions offer a good opportunity to challenge the sceptical side of our mind, which resists practices that it associates with new age. However, it can just as easily equate to: ‘meditation actually works, it’s now tangible, it’s all there on the MRI scans’. Hopefully, new evidence like this can incentivise us to develop new habits, and that’s precisely what a lot of meditation relies on: routines.
It is the same with asana practice: the more you do it, the more you will want to do it and, before you’ve realised, it becomes one of your everyday needs. How many times have you craved practising yoga? Personally, I notice it when I find myself standing in tree pose when stirring a sauce in front of my hob. I know I need meditation when the buzzing of my emotions and thoughts takes over my mind.
If it is not in your daily life and you don’t know how to start, it could be slightly intimidating and puzzling. What does one really do when meditating? So, why not book a class or a short retreat, or drop by your local Buddhist center to learn Metta – the loving-kindness meditation – or mindfulness meditation, for example. Also, maybe look out for meditation workshops at your favourite yoga studios.
There’s a book I find quite helpful and simple to use, in the same series as The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown, and it’s called The Meditation Bible by Madonna Gauding. The first sentence reads as an invitation: ‘If you are new to meditation, you will feel comfortable here. And if you are an experienced meditator, you may find renewed inspiration.’
The first part of the book is a guide to meditation, the ‘what, why and how’ of it, then the author leads us through 140 different meditations, from all sorts of traditions. They are categorised, which can help for days when you have a specific focus in mind: ‘calming and centring’, ‘get moving’, ‘love and compassion’, ‘problem-solving’, etc. Some might sound a bit esoteric, but 140 is plenty to choose from!
Finally, I’ll leave you with Bob Weisenberg‘s fantastic effort of compiling the Bhagavad Gita around different themes, issues and questions. This week on Elephant, he gathers the Gita’s best quotes on The Yoga of Meditation.