Ease lockdown stress with meditation tips from Ipswich Buddhist
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Ariyanivata explains the benefits of meditating and how to get started.
In today’s hectic and stressful world, it can be hard to find a moment’s peace.
Whether you’re bogged down with work, stressed with studies or just generally feeling overwhelmed right now, it can be difficult to unplug and take five minutes to breathe.
That’s where meditation comes in.
Ariyanivata, a local Buddhist who practises at the Ipswich Buddhist Centre explains what it is, how he first found solace in it and how you too can tap into your inner resources.
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“Meditation is a practice which develops more awareness of our body and mind - quietly being with ourselves, with the aim of minimising the usual distractions,” he said.
Meditation is believed to have its roots in India, with its earliest origins dating back to around 1500 BCE.
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Fast forward to 2020 and meditation is now global, with people from all walks of life taking part in the practice.
“I have been meditating on a regular basis for about 15 years, although I had first attempted it about 40 years ago,” Ariyanivata explained.
“Many people develop an interest in meditation because they have heard about its benefits, such as its calming effect. I was a bit different in that I wanted to learn about Buddhism, and meditation was taught along with that.”
So who exactly is meditation for? Well, anybody and everybody who has an interest. When asked if our readers could benefit from meditating, Ariyanivata replied: “An emphatic ‘yes’, for the majority of people.”
Many studies have been done on the positive effects of meditating, with a 2019 study published in scientific journal Behavioural Brain Research finding that just eight weeks of daily meditation can decrease negative mood and anxiety, as well as improve attention, working memory and recognition memory in non-experience meditators.
Additionally, the NHS recommends meditation on its mindfulness page under its ‘mental health and wellbeing’ index.
For anyone looking to start meditating while in lockdown, there’s an abundance of free internet resources and apps available, due in part to meditation becoming more mainstream and widely accepted in the Western world.
“Search for ‘mindfulness of breathing’ and ‘loving kindness’ meditations to narrow the field a bit,” Ariyanivata suggests. “A website called Wildmind gives a good introduction and has meditations on these two practices.”
“As its name suggests, the mindfulness of breathing practice involves using the breath as the object of our focus.
“In other practices, it is useful to use the breath to calm the mind and help lessen distracting thoughts prior to proceeding.
“Breathing is fundamental to most practices. In these meditations, we just breathe normally and don’t try to control the breath in any way.”
To get deeper in touch with your breathing, Ariyanivata suggests the following exercise, ideal for anyone looking to get started.
“As a basic practice, begin by sitting in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet place.
“Close your eyes and tune in to the body - noting and relaxing any tension that you may find. Then bring the attention to the breath, and initially be aware of the calming sensation of the ‘out’ breath.
“Then just follow the whole of the breathing process. If your mind wanders - and it will - note that it has happened, and calmly bring your focus back to the breath.”
For anyone looking to build on their meditative skills, Ipswich Buddhist Centre runs online classes that can be done from the comfort of your own home. These take place Tuesday lunchtimes, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. “There is an introduction to meditation in the first half of these sessions”, Ariyanivata added.
Regardless of whether you meditate by yourself, or with your family, the beauty of meditation is that once you get the knack of it, it can be done anytime and anywhere. “As the breath is always with us, we can just follow our breath while waiting for a bus or standing in a supermarket queue,” Ariyanivata said.
“It’s good to meditate outdoors too, in natural surroundings, when conditions permit. We did some sessions in Christchurch Park last summer, and will repeat them when conditions allow.”
“I should emphasis that you do not have to be a Buddhist to meditate,” Ariyanivata added.
To find out more information on meditation and Buddhism, visit https://ipswichbuddhistcentre.org.uk/