Want to unwind but don’t know where to start? Read on to discover the only meditation you’ll ever need!
When did you last feel completely at peace with yourself? Content to just enjoy the present moment, no matter how fleeting? The pale winter sunlight pouring through your kitchen window, the crisp, fresh air bringing a rosy glow to your cheek, the smile of a stranger on a crowded street… Perhaps the last time you felt truly content was at a family celebration surrounded by loved ones, or maybe it was on a foreign holiday, when your everyday cares felt far away. In our busy, stress-filled lives, feeling at one with ourselves can seem a distant possibility, but it’s a skill you can learn and develop through meditation.
The key to living a contented life starts with self-attention and self-care – like the advice to put on your own oxygen mask before offering to help another, reaching your potential at work, modelling self-respect to your child or discovering your life purpose are only possible it you first attend to your own needs. And tuning in to a quieter space within yourself will enable you to access deep insights about who you truly are and how you can best support yourself on your life’s journey.
Many people associate meditation with emptying the mind, but there are many other ways to reap the benefits of inner reflection, including counting the breath, scanning the body, observing passing thoughts and bestowing kind and loving wishes on yourself and others. The following meditation, which can be used regularly whenever you feel out of sync with yourself, teaches you to connect to what is most beneficial for you, both in everyday situations and to help you carve a pathway to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
This meditation is a variation on a practice that comes from the late meditation teacher Bob Moore, and enables you to deeply understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. On the surface, want and need may seem interchangeable, but the two are inherently different. Want is often the product of the ego – the part of you that seeks constant affirmation; a hungry ache that never feels satisfied. By using this meditation regularly, over time you’ll come to recognise what the thought ‘I want’ feels like in your body and mind, and the power it can have over your decision making. In my experience, it has a strong, fiery and compulsive energy – consuming everything in its wake. The energy of ‘I need’, on the other hand, is slower, quieter, deeper. Want is muddy, murky, stagnant, like water in a pond that lacks oxygen. Need, on the other hand, is like a clear mountain stream, constantly flowing towards a greater whole. Need is what nourishes you.
The first time you do this meditation, set aside 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure you won’t be interrupted and have a pen and paper to hand. You don’t need to sit crossed legged on the floor – unless you are used to meditating in this way and can keep your back vertical while sitting, it’s often more helpful to sit on a hard-backed chair with your feet firmly on the ground. Not only will this be more sustainable, keeping your feet flat on the floor helps you stay focused and grounded.
Once you’ve tried it a few times, you’ll be able to recognise the different qualities of want and need, and you may find it’s enough to only explore your need in future sessions. You can repeat it any time you feel out of touch with yourself or whenever you could benefit from gaining clarity about a specific situation – it could be as simple as what food would be most nourishing for you or how to spend a free day, to what you need in a life partner, how to repair a damaged friendship or what you need to understand about choosing and pursuing a new career. If you find several ‘needs’ come up, it can be helpful to reconnect to the area below the navel and tune in to the word ‘priority’.
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