A Beginner's Guide to Meditation
We explore 'where to start' on your meditation journey, with Meditation Expert and Teacher, Ciara McGinley
What is your “super power” as a CEO of your own life?
I’ve spent the last few years diving deeper into who I am, my values, what I want in life and in work. It’s a constant work in progress and I’m sure that will continue for many years to come. I think pushing myself to keep going on the most challenging days and enjoying the process in spite of those challenges has been my ‘super power’. There are so many times when it would be easier to just give up, but I feel so passionate about what I’m doing. I’ve found things in life and in work that bring me so much joy, so I’m determined to keep going and make it work.
How can a beginner practice meditation?
Start small and often. People who are new to the practice often think that to really reap the benefits they need to carve out a huge chunk of their morning or evening for their practice everyday. But that’s not the case. To get started, just try meditating with the support of a teacher in-person or via an app/video and do it for a few minutes, four times a week. You can then build this up over time and develop a daily meditation routine.
What are the benefits for the body and mind?
There are so many benefits, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The scientific research in the area underpins all my teachings. While a lot of that research is still ongoing, we do know that meditation is a direct neutraliser to our fight and flight response which our body activates when we’re stressed or anxious. If we meditate in these turbulent moments, we kickstart our body’s rest and digest response, bringing us into a relaxed state. Research also shows that over time meditation boosts mood, improves concentration and focus and supports sleep. It also makes us less judgemental and improves our awareness of our internal and external world.
Our lives are so busy. How can one incorporate meditation into an ultra busy schedule?
As a meditation teacher, journalist and small business consultant, I have a super busy schedule so I totally get it. Often the first thing we let go of when we’re busy are those rituals we do for ourselves. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen and we still make time for our wellbeing, I always tell my clients to find a way to fit meditation into their lifestyle. If you’re time-poor it could be as simple as meditating while you wait for the kettle to boil in the morning, or on your commute to work. Use those little pockets of time in between the chaos to give your body and mind a chance to reset and indulge in a moment or two of quiet.
Is meditation for everyone? Are there different types of meditation for different concerns?
I think there’s a meditation practice out there for everyone. It’s about trying different techniques and seeing which one you connect with most. Some people prefer simple breathing exercises they can do anytime, anywhere. Others like guided visualisation meditations or body scan practices while some prefer walking meditations. If you try one meditation technique and find it’s not for you, don’t give up! Experiment with other practices and you might be surprised at what you enjoy most.
Different mediation techniques also have different impacts on our body and mind. For example, research shows mantra meditations improve concentration and focus while Loving-Kindness practices boost positive emotions. Consider this if you’re setting goals for your practice, too.
What is the best time and place to meditate?
The best time and place to meditate is whatever works for you. To start with, I always suggest incorporating meditation into your morning or nighttime routine. I’ve met people who turn to meditation at the 3pm slump to re-energise for the rest of the day. Your practice is totally individual, so it’s important to experiment and see what works for you.
Are there any tips you can give us to make our space more ‘meditation-friendly’?
While it’s not necessary to have a mediation space or props, sometimes it’s a nice added extra. I’ve seen first hand how a dedicated meditation space has helped my clients build a mindfulness habit and stick to it. If you have a little corner of your home you can use for your practice, try adding a meditation cushion, a yoga mat or a comfy chair. Incorporate your favourite scents with a candle, diffuser or incense. If you enjoy meditating to music, create a playlist of calming tracks you can listen to during your practice. I love using a weighted eye mask, it adds a little extra luxury to my routine. Make this space just for you. Make it somewhere you can go for ‘me time’ and a moment of calm. The benefit of creating a beautiful space that’s just for you and your practice is that you’ll grow to really enjoy your time there, and it will help you push through those days when your mind is wandering and meditating is challenging.
How can you stick to a meditation routine?
There’s a brilliant concept called Habit Stacking which was coined by S.J.Scott in 2014 and has since appeared in James Clears’ book Atomic Habits. It’s all about stacking a new habit on top of an existing one. For example, if you make a cup of coffee every morning, try meditating before or after you do so. The idea is that it’s much easier to establish a new habit, if you stack it onto one that is already firmly in place. I also suggest trying to meditate at the same time every day and in the same place if you can. Find a practice you enjoy, and experiment with different techniques with the support of a teacher or meditation app.
Do you have any other lifestyle practices which have changed your life for the better?
Getting outside for a walk everyday. Depending on my schedule, sometimes this in the morning, but other times it’s a quick stroll around the park just before the sun sets. It’s a practice I’ve introduced into my life in the past year and it’s been so great for my wellbeing. Nature is so healing.
Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy” - it can be easy to get into a spiral or worry but it’s important to not to let the mind wander and just focus on the things you can control in that present moment. My meditation practice has really helped me with this.
Do you have any favourite meditation apps or resources which could help?
Headspace and Calm are so popular and I love them both. Insight Timer is another great meditation app, and you can access many of the meditation recordings for free - there are some really brilliant teachers on there, too. Wherever you find your meditation resources, always make sure they are created by an accredited and qualified teacher. I’ve also got lots of beginner-friendly resources on my website Finding Quiet and social media.
Who inspires you or where do you go for inspiration?
I follow a lot of female-founders and businesses on Instagram and I get so much inspiration from them - people like Alice Benham, Lucy Hitchcock and Jodie Rogers are doing incredible things in their businesses. On the other hand, I also find being out and about in the world and in nature hugely inspiring. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas walking in the park or sitting on the tube.
How can you develop your connection between your body and mind?
For me, meditation is a gateway to mindfulness. It helps ground me in the present moment and tune into my internal and external world, bridging the gap between body and mind. Breathing exercises and body scan meditations are a great way to connect the body and mind. They often focus on thoughts and feelings, as well as sensations. Other mindful practices that can boost this connection are breathwork, yoga, Pilates, dancing, mindful walking and even your skincare/bodycare routine. Yes, really! Taking time to really bring yourself into the present moment as you apply your skincare can be so grounding.
What’s next for you?
Ah such a big question! I have so much planned for 2023 and I’m super excited to grow my meditation platform Finding Quiet. We’ve got urban retreats, mindfulness workshops, corporate events and more coming up. My work as a health and wellbeing journalist also puts me in a great position to support small businesses with my consultancy offering. I get so much joy out of helping independent beauty and wellbeing brands, and I’m excited to offer more to them in 2023. Watch this space…
Website - https://www.findingquiet.co.uk/
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