As he falls throttling towards the ground, the skydiver screams, feeling the air rush around him, seeing the earth come ever closer. Why did he decide to do this? But then he realises that it has always been like this, that he has always been falling, with no power to stop it. He wonders why he ever pretended it was ever any different. He stops screaming. He breathes.
As a vata, meditation does not come easy to me. My head tends to be seven places at once. “Mind is monkey”, as my teacher in India used to say. Well, my mind is one monkey playing the trombone, another monkey counting numbers and worrying about the future, another monkey making plans for building a time machine, and the rest of the monkeys are all fighting over the last banana (what does the banana represent? My ego? Do I need to try and convince one of the monkeys to throw away the banana so no one gets to eat it? Should we all share it equally? Don’t worry, another monkey has arrived to figure it out.)
Meditation does get easier though, with practice. Like most, I practised asanas for a long time before I ever meditated. I sidelined meditation in my head as something I had no interest in. (Sitting still? Why would I waste my time doing that? I’ve got monkeys to manage!)
But it’s funny how spending five minutes sitting still, simply breathing, in the morning, can make the rest of your day run a whole lot smoother. Meditation can give you focus, saving you time and making you more productive.
The goal of meditation is to simply be. You don’t really ‘do’ meditation, you simply exist, and surrender to the present moment. The aim is not to avoid thoughts, but simply to observe them, and let them pass by.
Every time a thought comes into our heads, we attach ourselves to it and it brings us to another thought and then another, until we’re down some rabbit hole feeling angry or happy or sad or excited. When we meditate we allow these thoughts to come and go, without forging an emotional attachment to them.
We cannot change what has come before, so there is no reason to think about the mistakes we’ve made, or the mistakes others have made against us. We cannot change what is going to happen, so there is no reason to imagine various possible outcomes of situations. Life will keep happening whether we want it to or not, or it won’t.
Worrying and stress usually come from a misled belief that we can change the external factors around us. However, the only control we really have is over our own reaction to the outside world. Meditation means letting go and simply being. It is an excellent practice to ground and centre yourself. And if you’re a changeable, flighty, all-over-the-place vata like me, you probably need a bit of grounding in your life.
To meditate, simply sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position, spine straight, eyes closed, and breathe. Michael Stone has a great meditation app if you feel like a guided meditation or even just some bells to signal the beginning and end of the meditation (the app allows you to choose how long you want it to be, how many bells, etc).
But if sitting still just isn’t your buzz right now, here are some other worthwhile techniques to help centre and ground yourself:
Yoga Asanas such as Virabhadrasana I and II, Trikonasana, all activate the Muladhara chakra, helping to ground us. Forward folds (both standing and seated) are also good. The internal quietness that comes with Vrksasana can help to centre a busy mind.
Brahmari, or Bumble Bee Breath, is an excellent pranayama technique to bring focus and calm.
Enjoy a good meal. Taking time to eat slowly and mindfully (without looking at your phone or watching tv) will bring you back down to earth. Go for warming food, like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, root vegetables.
Allow silence. Make space for a break in the non-stop noise of the day.
Maintain a regular routine. Simply eating and sleeping at around the same time every day can help to keep you calmer and more grounded.
Avoid jittery, negative people. Stress and negativity can be contagious – there is a perverse form of pleasure in complaining and giving out about others. It’s easy to get caught up in, but easy to avoid if you are mindful of it.
And just remember, like the man skydiving from the plane, you cannot change what is happening. You can only change your own reaction.
And isn’t that a calming thought?