No longer just the domain of hippies and those embracing an alternative lifestyle, the art of meditation and all of its associated benefits have gone mainstream. The latest workshop to take place within the Canberra Centre’s health and wellbeing destination, Eden, brought highly respected meditation teacher Gary Gorrow to Canberra to give a masterclass in this ancient practice.
Amongst his many qualifications, Gary is a Vedic meditation practitioner (Master teacher) , an Ayurvedic health coach, and a mindfulness expert. As well as teaching the likes of Yasmin Sewell, Gemma Ward, Jessica Gomes, and Zoe Foster Blake, Gary has worked with CEOs, doctors, lawyers, creatives, and children to empower and re-engineer their lives.
As we have become increasingly busy and disconnected, more and more of us are recognising the benefits of meditation. Not only can it help us cope with stress, meditation can also help us feel energised, happier, and more productive. It should, however, not be confused with mindfulness; Gary describes meditation as a state of pure awareness and a means to cultivating a deeper connection within yourself, while mindfulness is about being awake to the present and is something that can be practiced throughout the day. Meditation can serve the process of being mindful.
With only an hour to give us a taste of meditation, Gary began by teaching us a few simple techniques centering around presence.
This is a useful technique if you are experiencing a strong reaction to your environment, such as an emotional or stress response. Start by bringing your awareness out of your mind and into your body. Pay attention to the sensations within in you and just feel. If you are feeling a strong response to a situation, try and use this technique to neutralise it as quickly as possible. The technique can also be helpful if you are having difficulty getting to sleep.
Your senses only have access to the present so by focusing on each of them in turn you can help draw your attention away from thoughts of the past or future to focus on the present. Try not to allow yourself a running commentary, just observe. Tune into each sense, all of them simultaneously, or a few of the senses that work best for you. As you practice you will start to feel more calm and present.
This practice is about appreciating the space between objects, thoughts, or sounds, as opposed to the focusing on the things themselves. By bringing attention to the empty space we should feel a state of calm and relaxation.
Many practices center on us being made up of the physical self, the mental self, and the inner self or ‘soul.’ The physical location of the inner self is the center of the chest. It can be useful to have an anchor point to focus your attention and bringing your focus inside the body to the location of your spirit can be calming.
The breath is a very effective vehicle for mediation so Gary next taught us a number of breathing techniques, encouraging us to identify which technique resonated best with us individually.
Expanding and contracting the belly calms the nervous system. Breath in deeply through the belly first, letting the breath reach the chest. As you exhale, allow the breath to leave through the chest first and then the belly.
For this practice visualise the breath going from the base of the spine, up each vertebra right to the crown of the head. As you exhale, follow the breath back down to the base of the spine. With each breath feel the energy moving up and down the body.
This type of breath is a perfect addition to tidal breathing. Push air against the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale to create a raspy sound. An ujaya breath sends a subtle vibration through the body helping you to relax.
When practicing interface breathing focus your attention to the nose. Bring your awareness to the point where the breath is entering and leaving the nostrils.
We then began a guided group meditation, using the breath us a vehicle to bring our attention within ourselves, trying to focus on the breath and letting go of any thoughts or worries that popped into our heads. For those that are new to it, meditation can be difficult, learning to separate your thoughts from yourself as the processor of them is no mean feat. It requires practice and perseverance. We were advised not to beat ourselves up when we found our minds wandering rather just to bring our awareness back to the breath.
To gain the most benefit from mediation, Gary advises that it be practiced daily, mindfulness practice, however, can be done all the time. If possible, aim to meditate for twenty minutes twice a day, once in the morning to set the tone of the day and then again in the evening to recalibrate after the stress of the day. If you can’t fit in two lots of twenty minutes, look at what is manageable and realistic for you. Remember, it is regular practice that will change the state of the mind and see you gain the most benefit from meditation.
To find out more about meditation visit Gary‘s website.
To find out what other workshops are coming to Eden visit the Canberra Centre website.