This week, meditation guru Sarah Jarrett helps us chill out with some talk of using the little things in life to help you quiet your mind, and what happens when you learn to relax.
Sarah is 26 years old and lives in London, United Kingdom. She works for an Insurance Company as a Claims Validator. She has been practicing meditation for 4 years. She enjoys film, music, psychology and helicopters.
When and how did you first discover meditation?
I first discovered meditation 4 years ago when I was working in a London theatre. One of the girls I was working with practiced a form of meditation called Sahaja Yoga. The technique is called ‘Self Realisation’. She taught it to me when we were all bored one day and I was going through quite a stressful time.
I practiced this technique for a while but then I looked into other practices that were more suited to me. However, Sahaja Yoga is very good at using positive affirmations to boost your confidence in yourself.
Where do you draw calming inspiration from?
Nature in its purest form. Ideally anything with wide open spaces and fresh air – on a beach or on a hill surrounded by countryside for miles around. It’s often beneficial when meditating to visualise something that calms you as it can help relax and focus your mind.
It’s so easy to get lost in public transport, work, stress and money, that when it comes down to it, the very basic things in life that can help us feel better are all around us. If I get bored or stressed at work, I just look out the window or go for a long walk at lunch; at least it’s something that can help chill me out!
How do you typically fit meditation into your daily routine?
I usually meditate at night before I go to bed. I find it helps me quieten my mind after a hard day at work and settles me down for bed. I sleep very well if I have meditated an hour or so before sleeping. However I sometimes meditate twice a day by taking a few minutes before work to focus my mind for the day ahead.
Describe for us a couple of your favourite techniques.
I like to practice simple meditations. There are lots of different techniques of meditative practice out there, so it’s always best to play around and find one that best suits you and your pace of life.
What is your ideal meditation environment?
I prefer meditating somewhere quiet, warm and private so I won’t be disturbed. Ideally in my room on the middle of my bed, as it’s comfy and I feel safe there. I sometimes meditate outside, but I do find that challenging as I tend to get distracted, or someone walks by, regardless of how remote the area is that I have chosen!
Do you listen to music as you meditate?
I listen to some tracks from the Simply Meditation collection. It has 4 CDs - each one with a set of tracks from a different genre. My favourite CD in the collection is Eastern Sounds , as the tunes are very melodic, slow and I find I can go quite deep into my meditative practice listening to them. Music really helps to relax you, but you need to choose suitable music, preferably something that won’t distract you. Go in to your nearest New Age shop and you’ll find a really good range of them there.
Do you have advice for anyone who is interested in trying meditation for the first time?
Do not think that you have to be religious or spiritual in any way to enjoy practicing meditation or exploring the kinds that are around. The basic foundations of meditation are remaining still, breathing deeply and calming your mind. In essence you are taking some time out to be by yourself.
For me personally, I see the benefits of it from a more psychological and physical perspective. When I meditate, my breath rate lowers, my blood pressure lowers, my muscles relax and my mind stops chattering. I feel calm and at peace and a lot happier. I find my mood is far more positive after meditating as there are no negative thoughts eating away at me. For others, a practice of meditation can help deepen their faith. Some people can see or feel wonderful things when meditating, so whatever your reasons for doing it, it is still a nice thing to try.
Try and meditate when you’re not really hungry (you’ll find that your stomach rumbling can distract you, or if you are really full (you’ll feel sleepy). Try and aim for around 5-10 minute meditations when you first start, it can be quite a challenge to keep the mind still and quiet.
And don’t take yourself so seriously. If you forget to meditate one day, don’t worry, just try and do it another time. And don’t worry if you can’t keep your mind from chattering, everyone’s brain gets restless. Meditation is a skill, to sit still and not think of anything and being aware that your are still and your mind is quite is very challenging but once you crack it, the benefits are really lush ;).
I’m feeling stressed but it’s nowhere near the end of the day. Give me some quick and effective tips for calming down.
This sounds really cheesy but it works – take deep breaths. Deep rhythmical breathing starts a good meditation anyway, so consciously stopping and taking some deep breaths helps. Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose; really focus on the sensation of the air flowing in through your nose. Notice that it feels cool and when you exhale through your nose, notice that it feels warm. Observe the feeling of the breath flowing into your lungs and stomach, making your stomach expand and chest rise, and when you breathe out, your chest lowers and stomach relaxes. Aim for 10 breathes – seriously, you’ll feel chilled afterwards.
‘UNdane’ is the concept that beauty, happiness and creativity can be found within the mundane, the little things in life. Using this definition, what does UNdane mean to you? What is your idea of the UNdane? Give me some examples of UNdane things that make you smile.
UNdane to me means seeing and appreciating the little things in life, however big or small or how unlikely. And that when you can, try and seek these out, for it can change your perspective on things.
For me it’s searching out a really funny laugh in a big crowd of people during the working week. Looking on a train full of miserable people and finding the person who is moving their head or tapping their foot to the music on their iPod, or smiling to themselves whilst thinking of something. It’s couples on the platform before work sleepily propping each other up. Its men who can’t help but look at pretty women walk by and forget where they are walking. Its people who work for charities asking for money on the street, surrounded by people who ignore them and then seeing the one person stepping forward with some change and get a sticker put on their chest. It’s the smell of your washing when you’re hanging it up to dry. It’s getting the giggles when you really shouldn’t.
It’s saying rude words at really quiet times.
It’s when children say or ask really inappropriate things on busy journeys that really shouldn’t be laughed about but that make you laugh to yourself. It’s even funnier if the parents laugh whilst trying to keep a straight face. It’s when typing up reports at work the little Microsoft Office Assistant paperclip pops on the screen and offers me help, it’s the way that Google change their icon every now and then to celebrate a certain day and how you click on the icon to find out what that day means, it’s getting silly at work and breaking the mould and no one else around you understands. It’s seeing an airplane in the sky and wondering where it’s been and where it’s going.
It’s looking between the concrete buildings and litter and crowding to see allotments, gardens, trees and flowers that still survive. It’s looking out over a city at night time and seeing the twinkly lights…
There are lots and lots of things – you just have to find them.
What’s your favourite song at the moment?
Human Nature – Michael Jackson.
Thank you Sarah!