YOAS (Yoga on a Shoestring) interviews Ceri Lee on the value of meditation & how to apply it in daily life.
What Does Meditation Mean to You?
In a world with increasing levels of stress, mental health has become a real issue and concern for most people. Meditation is a vital practice for me to help relieve stress & find peace of mind. It also enables me to tune into the rhythm of the life breath and enjoy a sense of connection to the universe.
“Real meditation is liberation from the clutches of the senses and lower mind. It is transcendental, in which all fears, desires, longing and negative emotions are transcended. In this transcendental state there is no awareness of body, mind or duality, and the knower becomes one with the knowledge and the known.”Swami Vishnu-devananda
When Did You First Come Across Meditation?
It was in the 1990s and I was attending at a workshop in The Actor’s Centre in London. During the session we were introduced to concept of meditation with a story about a successful Hollywood director. Whilst working on a shoot, he would routinely work all morning, and then spend the afternoon in meditation. I still remember how this story puzzled me for months. How could he waste people’s valuable time during a film shoot by meditating for a couple of hours a day?
I Was in My Mid-Twenties and Life to Me Was All About Action and ‘Doing’
Of course, the point is that those two hours of meditation each day was the key the director used to unlock inspiration whilst in production. For it is only when the mind is still and quiet, that true creativity has the space to rise to the surface of the mind and reveal itself. It was not until I went on my first teacher training course in 2001 to Kerala, and we were disciplined to practice meditation twice a day, that I finally got that!
How Does It Benefit You in Your Life?
As a busy single mother of two wonderful and energetic young boys, time is very sparse. With looking after them and attending to their needs, running a yoga business, and keeping up with my own yoga practice as well as the housework, it’s all go! And precisely for this reason I need to take time each day to find some stillness by going inwards, and step away from the bombardment of outside stimuli. I have found that if I don’t give myself this time, then life can become quite overwhelming. Anxious thoughts creep in which then invariably leads to insomnia, and so the downward spiral begins.
As well as helping to quieten, and bring a sense of peace of mind, I also feel that it has really helped me come to terms with some difficult emotional issues. Several years ago, I went through a personal situation which evoked such strong feelings, it was like an explosion of emotions erupting and I just did not know what to do with these strong feelings – anger particularly was very prevalent. In these awful moments I would want to react immediately to the provocation I had received but knew that would be so detrimental to making any kind of resolution. Instead of reacting, I learnt to just sit with the emotion when it came up to the surface, observe it and wait for it to pass. In a way, I suppose it’s about mediating on a feeling as it arrives, studying it, observing it, and noticing how it eventually shifts. I now wait until the moment that compassion returns, before making a level-headed and clear response to any challenging situation.
“Sitting meditation is returning home to give full attention to and care for ourself. Like the peaceful image of the Buddha on the alter, we too can radiate peace and stability.”Thich Nhat Hanh
How Do You Meditate?
It can take a variety of forms – often it is to sit cross-legged in an upright position and work with whatever cue I feel I need to work with at that time. For example,
- Vipassana; observational, and self-exploratory such as simply noticing the breath as it enters and leaves the body or scanning the inside of my body and mindfully settling where it feels safe and secure.
- Pranayama (breath work); to help me into a calmer state of meditation. This is particularly useful when my mind is in overdrive.
- Visualisation: when feeling emotional, Heart centred visualised meditations really help me to remain compassionate in difficult times.
- Tratak (candle gazing); I use this to help focus and quieten the mind.
- Walking meditation; sometimes it is helpful to go walking and simply count the breath in relation to the footsteps to keep my mind focussed and steady. It really all depends on the mood at the time, as to the form it takes.
Many of these practices and techniques can be found in the classes I teach, and on the yoga retreats a silent walking meditation is always popular. Find out more about retreats here
Ceri has been working for YOAS since 2016 and offers yoga retreats in the UK as well as around the world