"Mindfulness has the real potential to generate inner peace, foster physical and psychological healing, and lead to a heightened sense of wellbeing and connectedness."

Dr Ian Gawler, OAM

Welcome to Shining Minds. Located in Jindabyne, in the beautiful Snowy Mountains region of NSW, Shining Minds is a facilitator of the Gawler Cancer Foundation styles of meditation.

Meditation, and mindfulness in particular, is certainly the flavour of the decade, and if you listen to the media at all, you will probably be aware that many high profile personalities and sports-people have taken up the practice of meditation, and have incorporated it into their daily lives.  Many credit their meditation practice with being an integral part of their success, and their ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance. 

About now you may be thinking “How does this relate to me?” Well, the truth is, that it does not matter who you are, how famous or infamous you are (or are not), how wealthy or poor you are, how stressed or calm you are, or how old or young you are, the practice of meditation can help you live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

We truly do live in an amazing age. The world has never seemed smaller and the astounding array of technology available to us makes communication easier than it has ever been, yet with all our technological wizardry and labour saving devices, many of us seem to feel a little lost or ungrounded, anxious, stressed, slightly out-of-control, aggravated, defensive or just down right angry.

Many of us give ourselves over to criticising, judging, fault-finding, or stewing about the past or worrying about the future. 

If this sounds like you, take heart, and be reassured that there is much more to you than your busy mind and the myriad of thoughts, memories and imaginings that inhabit it.

The habit of engaging so strongly with our thoughts, and believing that our thoughts are our ultimate reality, and are always true, can be called excessive thinking.

Engaging in excessive thinking encourages us to live in the 'stress response' (or red zone) which we know to be a precursor to many serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, like cancer or stroke. 

The good news is that there is a path away from excessive thinking and towards a more balanced, healthy approach to life, and that path is the practice of meditation.

What follows are some frequently asked questions that may help you understand a little bit more about the practice of meditation.

What is meditation?  Meditation can be quite hard to define as it means different things to different people, but in its broadest sense it is often described as a mental discipline, or attention training, and involves directing your mind (attention) towards the focus of your meditation. The focus of your meditation may include sounds, thoughts, images, objects or feelings, virtually anything can be the focus of your meditation.

Meditation can also be broken down into various schools or styles of meditation, for example, mindfulness or transcendental meditation, or into broader fields of meditation - mindfulness would fall into the category of working with your attention; guided imagery is considered to be working towards an intention (or outcome); and contemplative meditations can include such age old questions as “who am I?”, or can be used to assist us in decision-making processes.

There are many, many different styles of meditation, and blending of styles, and you can probably bet that someone has meditated on almost anything you can think of, including their armpit!

What is mindfulness?  Mindfulness is both a meditation practice and a way of living. To be mindful means to be present, to be non-judgementally aware of the activity (or otherwise) of your present moment. To notice when your mind drifts away, often into the past or the future, and to be able to choose to return your attention to the present moment when it wonders. 

There are formal practices of mindfulness meditation that can involve sitting (or whatever position you are able to maintain), or

more informal practices such as mindful walking, or simply remaining present and aware as you go about your day.

Mindfulness, and other forms of meditation, can be practised either on your own or in a group.

What is guided imagery? Guided imagery could perhaps be described as a more purposeful form of meditation where we intentionally harness the power of our mind to move towards an intended outcome. We probably all know from personal experience that our mind can either empower or limit us.  Guided imagery, as the name suggests, through the use of our imagination and conscious thought, can assist us in moving toward a particular outcome, for example, physical healing, stress management, inner peace or goal setting.

What is contemplative meditation? The aim of meditation based on contemplation is to tap into our inner wisdom or our 'inner knowing'. We do this by examining an issue, educating ourselves about it and the options available to us, and then sitting quietly with ourselves to reflect on the best way forward.  We stop to listen.  We let go of the need to 'think it through' and we wait for a response from somewhere deeper - our inner knowing.

Is meditation a religious practice? There are reliable records to indicate meditation, in one form or another, pre-dates many modern religions, however, it would be fair to say that until the early to mid-1900s, meditation was considered a religious practice. Somewhere around the 1950s however, progressive researchers, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists began to understand meditation had therapeutic value, and research into the benefits of meditation began. These days meditation could be considered a secular, or non-religious, practice although most major religions (including Christianity) have meditative orders.

What can I gain from a meditation practice?  The benefits of meditation (particularly mindfulness) are well documented and can include:  lowers high blood pressure; boosts the immune system; eases stress and tension; promotes healthy sleep patterns; assists in the management of migraines and headaches; calms anxiety; increases empathy; assists in dealing with depression; promotes creative thinking and emotional growth.

For further information on current research visit the Meditation Association of Australia.

Is meditation difficult?  This will depend largely on the method of meditation you choose. Most people find guided imagery and contemplative meditations easy to follow and enjoyable. Mindfulness, however, is a little different. Although mindfulness is incredibly simple, it is not necessarily easy (our busy minds have a tendency to make everything difficult, even the most simple of things). It requires a measure of understanding, patience and commitment, however the rewards are well worth the (effortless) effort.

Can anyone learn?  Mostly yes, anyone can learn. The main thing you need to bring to a meditation class is an open mind and a willingness to try something new. Be prepared to let go of some deeply ingrained habits and long held beliefs - you are far more than your thinking or 'active' mind.

There are, however, some forms of mental illness that may not be suited to meditation. Best talk to your health care professional if you are unsure of your situation.

Where can I start?  Shining Minds runs courses in the Gawler Cancer Foundation's Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation, Guided Imagery and Contemplative meditations in Jindabyne (and other location upon request) at various times throughout the year.  A list of registered meditation teachers can also be found on the Meditation Association of Australia's website.

Albert Einstein said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a world that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”.

Learning to meditate has the wonderful capacity to re-introduce you to that sacred gift.

Peta Truscott

 © 2017 Shining Minds                                                                                     Site last updated 20 September 2017