I visited an ashram in 2013; this was my initial foray into meditation. Since then, I have been practising, sometimes inconsistently, for the past ten years.
As we entered isolation during the pandemic in 2020, I was living alone, and I knew it was meditation that would keep me balanced and sane without company or touch.
I began seeking methods to deepen and extend my practice. I had been practising with the same mantra the ashram had given me for several years already and was seeking a way to move beyond that and explore how meditation could be used specifically for more focus and clarity.
It was then I thought of completing meditation teacher training.
As I began the research for online training around the world, it was quickly revealed to me how many meditation teachers had very little in the way of training but professed to be teachers, did not have a foundation in the yogic tradition of meditation and yet held meditation sessions and training as though they did.
Even my Project management institute was offering training for meditation teachers, which dumbfounded me as though I see the benefit of meditation for all leaders, it seems strange that the same institution that requires a 4-hour multiple choice exam to become a certified project manager would reduce the requirements of meditation to a weekend course.
It seems counterintuitive to the practice and inauthentic.
Finally, after weeks of searching, I found one online course, 200-hour teacher training with Charles and Liddy, that appealed to me.
Two hundred hours seems a good basis for dedication and understanding, and their approach and the way they spoke about meditation appealed to me immensely.
There was accountability to submit videos of teaching and student interaction, and it allowed me to deepen my practice with meditative practices I found difficult, such as the "Energized mind and body" meditations.
Teacher training is not the only option. Of course, there are other ways to learn and deepen new practices.
If you have been practising meditation for years and wish to deepen your practice, I share several approaches I have come across that you can explore to enhance your practice.
Studied & Achieved Benefits
If you have been consistently meditating for a long period of time, you are already aware that meditation is a tool that cannot be underestimated.
You likely have already experienced many benefits from your practice. I wanted to share them here as proof of consistent practice; take a look and take a moment to acknowledge your journey and how far you have come.
“Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger, and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
IN DAYS | Improvement in concentration and attention
IN WEEKS | Increased learning and memory
IN YEARS | Better-preserved brains than non-meditators at their age
Over twenty years of practice, and we have increased the grey matter volume throughout our brain. Realising new connections in the brain allows people to snap out of previous thought patterns like mind-wandering, typically associated with being less happy and worrying about the future.
So, what next?
Deepening your meditation practice
Meditation practice can be deepened, and new methods learned to continue the journey to peace and happiness.
1. Explore Different Meditation Techniques
Consider trying out different meditation techniques to deepen your practice. Explore mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, breath awareness, body scan, or transcendental meditation. Experimenting with various techniques can bring fresh insights and new dimensions to your practice.
I started with mantra meditation and only recently came to embrace different approaches for different situations.
For example, "compassion and loving kindness" meditations help me find balance before entering difficult or conflict-ridden situations. Breathing meditations such as "Anapana breathing" help me to calm down in anxiety situations, not only in mediation practice.
2. Lengthen Your Meditation Sessions
If you have been practising shorter meditation sessions, perhaps 20 minutes, gradually increase the duration of your practice up to an hour. Challenge yourself to sit for longer periods, allowing for deeper states of stillness and self-awareness. Set aside dedicated time each day for longer meditation sessions to cultivate a deeper sense of presence and tranquillity.
At the ashram, we started with an hour every morning and an hour before dinner every evening. It felt like an unrealistically long time and when I returned to "real life," I reduced my meditation to 20 minutes a day to ensure I had no excuses to keep up my practice.
However, as I practised during teacher training, an hour or even two hours a day revealed the level of contentment possible when committing more time to the practice. The benefits are exponential the longer we sit.
3. Engage in Retreats or Workshops
Participating in meditation retreats or workshops led by experienced teachers can provide a transformative experience and enhances the feeling of enhanced collective consciousness. Retreats offer an immersive environment that fosters deep introspection and focused practice. Engaging in a retreat can deepen your understanding of meditation and provide valuable guidance from experienced practitioners.
Recently I was on a yoga retreat, and the yoga teacher led a meditation, reading from her phone before the yoga session. This revealed her lack of training in meditation and did not have the desired effect of creating a connection. However, finding great meditation teachers who are offering retreats is a great way to integrate and experience the joy of collective consciousness meditation.
I use my training at every Mayfly Maven retreat. We start the day with meditation and sit together through a guided meditation that is chosen to match what we hope to achieve that day, for example, "compassion and loving kindness" if we are discussing effective negotiations. This creates a deeper sense of community and sets us up for a wonderful experience of the day.
4. Deepen Your Mindfulness in Daily Life
Extend the practice of mindfulness beyond formal meditation sessions and integrate it into your daily life. Cultivate mindfulness during routine activities like walking, eating, or even washing dishes. Pay attention to the present moment, observe sensations, and engage in activities with full presence and awareness.
Periodically, during a walk, I will walk without music or a podcast in my ear so I can notice the environment around me. The best practices for walking are, of course, the breathing meditations, such as Anapana breathing, but I find the times I use it most is when I am travelling, by car, train or plane. I especially take meditation with me when flying as a practice to enhance balance, even as noise is omnipresent.
5. Seek Guidance from a Meditation Teacher
Consider seeking guidance from a meditation teacher or joining a meditation group. An experienced teacher can provide valuable insights, offer personalized guidance, and help you navigate any challenges or questions that arise in your practice. Being part of a community of meditators can also foster support, inspiration, and accountability.
Going through the process of becoming a meditation teacher myself deepened my practice and my understanding of meditation, and I highly recommend it if you are an experienced meditator.
Every teacher is different, so there is a great opportunity here to experience and delve into many different types of practice led by different people with different perspectives. I may do teacher training again but with another teacher to learn more methodologies and beliefs.
6. Deepen Your Study and Understanding
Expand your knowledge by delving deeper into the philosophy and teachings behind meditation. Read books, listen to podcasts, or attend lectures on meditation and related spiritual traditions. Deepening your understanding of the underlying principles can enrich your practice and provide a broader perspective.
There are many books on meditation, energy, and transcendence; if you are a lifelong reader like me, you will find abundant material that can enhance practice.
Here is a list to start with:
The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise
The Luck Factor: Dr. Richard Wiseman
The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage
The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
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7. Embrace Self-Compassion and Non-Judgment
As you deepen your meditation practice, remember to cultivate self-compassion and non-judgment. Embrace any challenges or perceived setbacks with kindness and patience. Meditation is a journey, and it's natural to encounter ups and downs along the way. Be gentle with yourself and approach your practice with a sense of curiosity and openness.
I once fell out of the practice. Things were going well, and I felt non-reactive; I thought great, “job done and no need to spend my hours on meditation.”
Of course, self-development is a never-ending journey; eventually, anxiety increased, and I realised meditation is a lifelong practice. I came back to it with renewed commitment. Self-compassion and non-judgement mean not feeling guilty or criticising ourselves, so go easy on yourself.
My first foray into meditation was a self-criticising, self-defeating conversation with “my brain”.
I couldn’t stop this persistent dialogue every time I tried to meditate.
Thank goodness I stuck with it, and becoming a teacher only deepened my practice.
Embrace the journey with an open heart and a willingness to explore new avenues, allowing your practice to evolve and unfold uniquely.