Learning to meditate has lots of positive benefits, including:
- feeling calmer and more in control
- more energy and vitality
- less anxious thoughts
- better able to observe, recognise, label and let go of troubling thoughts
- better able to focus at work and studying
- more confident and upbeat
- better able to manage pain
- more in tune with other people
- less emotionally reactive
- better able to handle uncertainty and change
What is meditation?
The godfather of psychology, William James, talked about the importance of being able to maintain attention.
"The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgement, character, and will."
As we learn to meditate on a single point, we strengthen our ability to concentrate. We develop more ability to focus, sustain and shift our attention.
Single pointed meditation techniques might use several different points of focus, including:
- Focus on the breath at the tip of the nose
- Focus on the breath and how it impacts other parts of the body - for example, in some Chi Kung practices, people focus on an area called Dan Tian , a few centimetres beneath the tummy button
- Use of mantra such as a focus on Sanskrit words such as Om
- Use of imagery such as reiki symbols or Tibetan Bon imagery
- Focus on an external object such as a candle (Tratak in yoga)
Does it differ from mindfulness?
One definition of mindfulness is that it is the non-judgmental observation of whatever arises and non-attachment to thoughts, sensations and information from the senses.
Meditation is a tool that enables us to be more mindful and less attached to impermanent things.
Can we develop more focus?
As we practise meditation, we change our brains' neural architecture. The psychiatrist Dan Siegel describes several different ways in which the brain reconstitutes itself during mindfulness and meditation techniques.
He describes a process of "vertical integration of mindfulness" through which stronger synaptic connections are made between the prefrontal cortex and the brain's emotionally reactive parts. With meditation practise, we get better at dampening down heightened emotional responses
As we practise single-pointed focus, we learn to have a dampening effect on our fight/flight reactive centres and are less buffeted by the coming and going of emotional signals.
It isn't that we become emotionally deadened, but our executive functions become more skilled at valuing and weighing up these signals. As we become less reactive, we become calmer and more focused.
Who can be a meditation coach?
Ideally, someone with a strong psychology background, with long and steady personal practise, had training in Buddhist or Yoga traditions and takes part in regular learning (for example, academically and going on regular retreats).
Andy Roberts from Breathe London has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from UEL in 2006. His dissertation was on how to introduce mindfulness into organisations. He is a Sivananda yoga teacher and has trained in Vipassana meditation techniques. He lectures mindfulness to medical students at the College of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University in Queensland.
Dorinda Talbot is a psychotherapist and has been teaching and practising Zen meditation techniques for many years.
What is your next step to learning to meditate?
You can book a Zoom or Teams session for yourself or your colleagues by contacting Andy or Dorinda.
Contact Andy or Dorinda: