Meditation – it is a fine art to master, one that many people have tried or thought of trying and perhaps not persevered with. But with the health benefits of meditation being proven time and time again, and the stressors of everyday city life not relenting, it is a practice that with a little determination can simply and effectively help improve both mental and physical health. We spoke to Kal and Greg from Calm in the City about the restorative art of meditation.
To start off, what is meditation?
In essence, meditation is the art of returning to one’s healthy self through the processes of relaxation, listening, reflection, mindfulness, concentration and positive self-awareness. The Latin root of the word meditation ‘medela’ means to heal and in the same way that medicine is concerned with restoring and healing the physical body, meditation is concerned with bringing the inner self back to a sense of wholeness and health. For instance, this is reflected in a mind that is calm, compassionate, focused and creative, and a self-awareness that is positive, resilient and loving.
What should someone aim or expect to achieve in practicing meditation?
Initially, one should expect to be able to simply listen to and observe thoughts and sensations without judgment or expectation. With this initial simple practice, a sense of calm and peace is experienced – even for a short time. With a little more practice, one should expect to be able to create peaceful and positive thoughts and feelings – and hold on to them so that they are experienced in a focused way with minimal distraction.
What are the health and wellbeing benefits of meditation?
The benefits of meditation are wide and varied and because we are all different, each one of us will have our own unique experience. However, what appears to be universal is the increased sense of wellbeing that is experienced. Indeed, there is increasing scientific research that suggests a regular practice of meditation may help improve many aspects of wellbeing and resilience – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When practised regularly, one can expect to have a more positive sense of the self, be more present and mindful in action and relationships, experience a greater calm and balance in times of stress, worry less, help to manage pain, sleep better and positively impact on stress-related illnesses.
How long have you been meditating for and how did you become interested in it?
I began my meditation journey over 30 years ago. It took me some time to really develop a disciplined approach to my personal practice. When I started I was looking for meaning in my life, and a means of attaining personal power. This journey continues to this day. It is a journey that never really ends, but my personal experience is always evolving and the knowledge it is all about the journey and not the destination.
What are some tips and tricks that you would suggest for people new to meditation?
Firstly, it’s important not to ‘try’ to meditate – meditation is not a process of ‘doing’ – it’s more a process of ‘being’. Therefore, you should never force yourself at any time since this absolutely goes against the essence of inner wellbeing and the aim of meditation. Secondly, it’s important not to compare yourself with anyone – our mental, emotional and physical make-up is absolutely unique to each individual. Thirdly, take things one very small step at a time – from focusing on one breath, one second and one thought at a time. Take one deep breath in and breathe out slowly, observing, relaxing; create one peaceful thought such as “I am peace”; and then hold this thought for one second at a time. Finally, don’t give up! It is a subtle process and one’s mental, emotional and physical constitution does take time to re-program and change – but with regular practice, it can.
Can you tell us a bit about Calm in the City, the facilitators of this class?
Calm in the City is a not-for-profit community initiative, which listens to and engages with city communities to bring calm into the heart of the city. The initiative has been facilitating weekly meditations in the city since 2011 and at Fed Square since the end of 2014. The venture also facilitates meditation and silence retreats and workshops, coordinates professional dialogues and special events involving both music and meditation.
We both facilitate the Thursday morning meditations at Federation Square. As working professionals with almost 50 years of meditation experience between us, we are also practitioners and teachers of meditation and facilitators of workshops and retreats. As we are both passionate about the benefits of meditation, we volunteer our time to provide a space in which others can experience their own peace and calm – even in the heart of a busy city!
Thursdays | 8am – 8.30am | The Atrium