I have been meditating, on and off, for years….
I am convinced that it is a really good thing to do. Reams of research suggest that regular meditation reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and more or less every other degenerative condition, while my common sense suggests that 20 minutes twice a day of just sitting still doing nothing but thinking peaceful thoughts has to be a good thing.
The problem is that I find it really hard. Not the sitting still bit – that is fine – but the thinking the peaceful thoughts rather than planning the next ad campaign/awards session/article/dinner etc. Over the years (and I mean years) I have tried repeating different mantras, watching candle flames, deep breathing, listening to repetitive ‘ooom’ sounds. All work for the first few days, or even weeks and I think I have cracked it, but then gradually my attention wanders and the great feeling I did get when I managed to detach myself from my daily life evaporates into a pleasant rest between tasks.
So, when Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS contacted us a few months ago to ask if we could give some publicity to their new CD for the practice of Yoga Nidra, and then offered to send me a CD to try, I said yes as much to be polite as because I had much expectation of it being anything out of the ordinary. Well, I was wrong…
Yoga Nidra means ‘yogic sleep’ and to practice it all you need to do is lie on the floor and listen to a CD. In the Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS CD the practice is ‘led’ by Rebecca Allen (a yoga teacher of over 15 years standing) who ‘talks you through’ the meditation.
I do not want to describe the practice here (Rebecca’s article on the foodsmatter.com site does it far better than I could) as that is not the point of this blog. The point is that I am now well over a month into my practice and, far from my focus drifting away from the meditation (which uses an awareness journey around the parts of the body as its focus), I am becoming more and more involved in it. Not only do I actively look forward to it each day, but I feel extraordinarily rested and revived by it.
But this has grown upon me. The first time I followed the CD (as a job to be done since I had to review it) it was OK – no better or worse than many other such tapes that I have listened to over the years. I then left it for a day or two, but thought that, on one practice only, I could not give a fair review. So I followed the practice twice more – by which time Rebecca’s carefully measured gentle voice was really irritating me. But because I was now irritated by it, I felt that, again, I would not be giving a fair review so I should actually grit my teeth and do at least a full week’s practice before passing judgement. By the end of the week, I was hooked…
I do not do the practice every night – the more ‘advanced’ session takes around 45 minutes and not every evening allows one 45 minutes ‘off’ – but I probably manage five out of every seven days. And on the days that I do not manage it, I miss it. The combination of total physical stillness (an essential element of the practice is that your body remains totally still throughout) with Rebecca’s quiet instructions as to where to focus your attention (she suggests that you treat her voice as rope to to hang onto on your journey) has not only managed to keep my attention so far, but seems to be keeping it on a slightly deeper level each time I do the practice. I look forward to journeying further. Moreover, I absolutely understand how well the practice might work for anyone with limited energies such as the ME/CFS sufferers for whom Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS is trying to promote it.
If you are interested, do read Rebecca’s article which explains in much more depths what Yoga Nidra is about. Her CD is excellent value (from Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS) at £10 + £1.50 P&P – but if you get in quick, they are offering a 10% discount to foodmatter.com visitors from 13-23rd November – just email your order with your details to firstname.lastname@example.org putting ‘foodsmatter’ in the subject line.