My Calm Toolkit
By Deepa Ryan
One of my top go to practices to achieve calmness in life is meditation.
Now you might say figures because I am a Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation teacher but that’s not why. I have a personal preference for meditation because it is a practice that can be done anywhere. I know there is a lot of speculation and chatter about meditation these days. Personally, I believe that it has been commercialised and branded as an ‘influencer’ type of practice and because of this, we have a preconceived perception of what meditation should look like. We would often see images on social media of serene landscapes with gentle music, a peaceful environment and an image of a person sitting cross legged on a yoga mat. This is not what meditation is. We don’t necessarily need any of that to achieve a still mind when meditating.
One of my most essential items in my ‘Calm Toolkit’ is -you’ve guessed it Meditation. We can meditate while walking, sitting, and lying down, at home with people around us or alone with no one around us. There is just one pre-requisite of meditation this is: ‘to be fully present in the now’, which is easier said than done! The ‘Chitta Vritti’ a Sanskrit term for “Mind Chatter” or “monkey mind” are a constant struggle to overcome and quieten within us and our busy lives. What is interesting is that over the years a lot of study has been done on Meditation and the benefits of consciously stilling your mind. Clara Moisello, PhD, a neuroscience researcher at the City College of New York, says that “Studies on meditation and mindfulness have reported long term positive effects in long term meditators ranging from structural changes (increase in cortical thickness in frontal areas, increased gray matter density, etc.) to functional changes” –that is , positive changes in the functioning of the brain.
Moisello says that the regions like the (DMN) default mode network in our brains which are responsible for “self-referential processing” among other things, these are the “me” thoughts that bombard us throughout our day which cause anxiety and low self-esteem. Meditation can reduce activity in this network at will and this gives the person a great tool to quiet their own minds at cue!
While meditating, we centre ourselves allowing all of these anxiety provoking thoughts wash over us. We acknowledge them and understand that they are there, but we do our best to bring our mind to stillness, emptying our mind of all of these negative thoughts.
According to the Yoga Sutras it is not easy in the beginning as it is all about practice, to retrain your brain. Thus, it is important to remember that it’s not the act of sitting, laying or moving quietly that’s classified as meditative practice- it’s the act of bringing your mind back to the present – again and again and again.
I have personally found meditation to be an invaluable tool when I am having trouble staying in the now. Throughout our busy lives, we can accumulate anxieties and worries which don’t improve the quality of our lives or help us resolve any issues, they are just there to put us down. Throughout my experience with meditation, I have become a person who’s better equipped to handle anxious thoughts and fears which cross my mind on a daily basis.
I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Buddha, when he was asked “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing! However Buddha said, let me tell you what I lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old age and Death.”
If you would like to hear and see more about my practice, please follow my Instagram @smiritiyoga