As May comes to a close in glorious bright spring technicolour, it's time to take stock and if you remember I said I would look at meditation and give you a simple start to the art, and I'll begin with meditation to relax. Meditation isn't mumbo-jumbo, nor is it dangerous, perhaps it could make you nod off until you get used to it which is why you should never attempt this when you are driving or operating machinery because you can also meditate with your eyes open.
What is meditation? I'm not an expert and I've learned my techniques from friends and experience and from my inspirers Shirley Ann and Barry, but one thing it is not and that is clearing the mind. You can't do it - it's impossible, so I try to channel the thoughts that I have into an all round pleasant experience. Your mind will wander, no doubt about it, but as you persist, it will get easier to concentrate on keeping your mind focused and put to one side the stresses and trauma of the day. You will come out of the meditation refreshed and if you do it late at night when the house is dark and quiet, you can nip off to bed when it's complete and hopefully sleep well.
You can do this at any time of the day or night. The first thing is make sure that you cannot be interrupted. Unplug the phone, give the dog a bone and sent it to another part of the house, switch your mobile off and if there is anyone else in the house - tell them what you are doing and stick a note on the door; DO NOT DISTURB!
Choose some music. Soft music, not strident and no singing unless it's something like Gregorian Chants type music. It should last about half an hour or so at most - something instrumental and easy listening is fine. Put it on low as a background noise.
Loosen the clothing - try to undo the belt gents, and ladies, a dressing gown is good or loose dress. Now find somewhere to sit. Now I prefer a hard backed dining type chair where I sit upright with my feet firmly on the floor - it helps me not to nod off, but for now, if you have a favourite comfy chair, that's fine. Your hands and arms need to relax so put your hands in your lap or rest them on the chair arm. If you want to hold something in your hand, like a favourite old ring or a flower or a token from the past, please do so.
The important thing to remember is that you shouldn't stop a meditation and suddenly get up and rush around the room, if you do, because your body is so relaxed, you could feel dizzy, so take your time to make sure you are fully aware of what's happening around you before you start to move around. The same applies at the end of your meditation.
Try to ignore noises like traffic or someone walking around upstairs or sneezing - make it part of your imaginary journey. Stay calm, do not get angry or frustrated.
If you are ready, then let's begin.
Close your eyes and wait a few seconds until you feel comfortable with your eyes closed. If at anytime you are worried or think there's someone around, you can open them briefly.
1 Take three deep breaths. Take your time. Every time you breathe out, feel your body relax and your muscles loosen their tension.
2 When you've taken your three breaths, concentrate on breathing steadily and reasonably slowly. When you breathe, concentrate on your stomach muscles relaxing and moving in and out as you breathe.
3 I want you now to imagine your favourite colour. It can be anything you like but make it a bright and cheerful colour. Imagine a blanket made of that colour, that bright light and imagine wrapping it around yourself, cover yourself fully with its protective and healing light. Imagine pulling it over your head, wrapping it round your body even under your feet until you are fully surrounded by this blanket of beautiful light.
4 Return to your breathing and start to relax even more every time you breathe out. Feel your shoulders dropping, your facial muscles relaxing (you might have a gormless look on your face - it doesn't matter - no one else is around). Your fingers totally relax and every time you breathe out, relax even more, down and down.
5 Imagine now your favourite place, perhaps from childhood or some time ago. It can be indoors or outside. This is your safe place. It is a place you enjoyed and have happy memories, and any time you feel sad or lonely or vulnerable, you can meditate and return here. Look around you - what is in your favourite place? Are there objects on the table or shelves, can you remember what was in the drawers; what colour was the carpet; if you are outside is the grass green, what flowers were in this place, is the lake placid and calm - look for some details. You might even remember a favourite person, someone from your past in that place. Remember the smells, sights, sounds and feelings. You can spend a few minutes here. Once you've done that it's time for a journey.
6 It doesn't matter if you are not very able or fit, this is a journey in the mind, there are no barriers. You can go anywhere you like, but for now, let me take you to a really nice place and on the way, try to imagine some detail of the place that surrounds you as we walk along.
7 The day is warm and there are fair weather clouds above. We are walking along a grass field with insects wafting gently in the breeze highlighted in the sunlight. There are wild flowers scattered in the ground and the sun is warm on your back. In the distance in front of you are some hills, green and dappled in sunlight and a few yards away a hedge with a stile in it.
8 You climb over the stile and begin to walk up the hill - up a gentle incline and remember you will never be out of breath no matter how steep it gets. Sky Larks twitter high above your head - concentrate on their distant warbling. A rabbit feeds on the grass nearby and in the next field behind a dry stone wall are sheep lazily chomping on grass.
9 You come to a path and the path leads you to a 'chocolate box' cottage with white walls, rambling roses and multi-coloured bright flowers in a small garden. As you approach the door, you notice it is slightly ajar and the door opens as if to welcome you in. As you walk in, there is a highly polished floor and a three piece suite with a floral pattern to it and against one wall a roaring fire sparks up the chimney.
10. You sit in the chair near the fire and look around you. Spend a few minutes doing this. There may be books in a bookcase - notice their bindings and colour; are there flowers on the table which is covered with a crocheted table cloth - a re there other objects. There may be a piano with picture frames showing people from long ago, some you may recall. Is there an animal dozing in a chair, a cat or a dog perhaps - you might even recognize it?
11 Put some detail of this lovely cottage in your mind , the smell of pine logs on the fire or baking of fresh bread from the kitchen. Out of the window, what can you see in the garden? Perhaps you might want to go and wander round the borders and smell the flowers. Can you smell your favourite rose or herbs; actually try to imagine the smell. Stay here a few minutes.
12 You have a last look around after soaking up the atmosphere and we begin our journey back. Down the path, down the gentle hill - easier walking this time, down the hill and over the stile and into the grass field and finally into your favourite place - your safe place. Has anything changed? Are there new objects or has the scene changed completely?
13 Become aware of the seat you are sitting on. Feel the clothes you have on against your skin. Stretch your fingers, wiggle your toes and when you are ready - don't rush this - open your eyes.
14 Sit still for a few moments, become accustomed to what you see around you before moving. If you come round too quick, you might experience a slight headache. If you do close your eyes again and breath deeply for three breaths. Take a drink of water or a soft drink and you should be fine.
Did you nod off? Well that's okay because clearly you needed the sleep to refresh your body and mind and sleeping is excellent relaxation. As you get used to meditation, you find yourself nodding off less and less.
How do you remember all this? Well don't worry if you miss something out or you get it all done in ten minutes, as long as you discipline your mind to the detail you are imagining, you will be fine. During your meditation, if the thought comes into your head that you have to go shopping, or you think about the fall out you had with your spouse earlier or 'how I am going to pay the bill', then think very clearly and if you want to, say it out loud, "I don't want to think about that," and think hard back to your journey and think about the detail of the journey.
The same applies if something unpleasant or nasty pops into your head. Just think hard and say out loud, "I don't want to think about that - go away," and watch it shrink away against your strength of character.
Don't forget, you can journey where ever you like. If you don't like open spaces, walk around inside a large building with corridors and rooms. If you like water, walk along a river. You don't have to make it all up, you might decide to journey somewhere you've been before and enjoyed; your imagination can take you to a new world of your own creation because you can put whatever pleasing detail you like into your imaginary world, whether its a scene you know or you've just made it up.
I hope that's been useful... enjoy and let me know how you've got on.