Meditation is one of those things that we tend to pop on our 'I'll sort that shiz out later pile," although with recent studies revealing 1 in 3 Australians are experiencing high levels of stress, 1 in 4 having a mental condition such as acute anxiety or depression, 1 in 5 are on stress related medication and stress in the workplace is costing the economy $14.81 billion a year, perhaps just maybe...a little meditation could help.
Which is why when we found out Vedic Meditation teacher Gary Gorrow, would be in Canberra as part of the Canberra Centre's Eden Workshops (and having taught the likes of Gemma Ward, Hamish Blake and Jessica Gomes!) we sought him out to get his tips.
Gary says that we should think of meditation as a 'mind closed technique' and think of mindfulness as a way of keeping our 'mind open' instead. “Most of the time our minds are quiet, he says. We just tend to focus on the busy. Therefore meditation and mindfulness should really be thought of as two different things."
Although with our lives moving at such a fast pace how the heck DO we turn that busy switch off? Meditation is obviously the key, but if you’ve ever tried to sit still and slow down the mind you’ll know how hard it can be.
However, Gary says “meditation isn’t about trying to silence the mind, it’s realising you’re not the mind."
Boom. He also says "that if you’re a super busy person and don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes a day then you should probably be meditating for two hours instead." (Which basically translates to making some time to slow down and switch off from our bizay lives is super important for you as a whole.)
Anyway, his techniques aren’t hard. It’s just about making the time and most importantly, never forcing anything. As for the rest of it, we let Gary share his journey and some additional tips with you ladies below.
Why did you start meditating?
I was working in the film and television industry as well as running a fashion label and it was all a particularly busy and dynamic time. While I loved what I was doing I began to notice the increasingly negative influence that stress was having on me. I was becoming tense, reactive and wasn’t feeling as happy and optimistic as I once was. I knew I needed to do something especially when I was in the car one day feeling troubled by the noise on the radio, so I began to play with the dial and attempted to turn it down. Alas the volume of the music wasn’t changing. It was at that moment I realised the radio wasn’t even turned on, it was the noisy thoughts in my head that were the issue. That’s was the final straw and by the grace of my brother who had already learnt Vedic Meditation I found my way to this wonderful practice.
How did you get into Vedic meditation? Did you try any other types of meditation before you found the one that worked for you?
I had been practicing yoga for a number of years and often at the end of the classes there was a short meditation. During that part of the class I could never successfully settle my mind and didn’t enjoy meditating at all. This experience was discouraging and I never took it further. In my naivety I had assumed that all meditation techniques were the same, it wasn’t until many years later that I heard about the efficacy and effortless nature of Vedic Meditation. This gave me hope, but if I’m honest the primary motivating factor at the time was the level of stress and personal discontentment that I was feeling. I now view this stress as the blessing that led me to completely revolutionise my life.
Please explain Vedic meditation - what personality types is it most suited to?
Vedic Meditation is an effortless technique that is ancient in origin. It involves sitting comfortably for 20 minutes with the eyes closed, during which time you use a mantra or sound which is the medium that spontaneously leads the mind into a deep meditative state. The process is enjoyable and automatic. Anyone can learn it, no specific skills or experience is required because each human being has the innate capacity to experience the meditative state. It’s simply requires the right technique and instruction then it happens on its own accord.
How often do you meditate and for how long?
I meditate for about 20-30 minutes twice each day, once in the morning then again in the evening.
What are your top three tips for someone who is thinking about starting a meditation practice but has no idea where to begin?
Meditations techniques may vary, but I always encourage people to take an effortless approach to their practice. In daily life if you want things to happen in a material sense you need to work hard, hustle and be committed otherwise little is achieved. However in meditation a whole different principle is at play - the law of least effort. So one of the secrets to perfect meditation is to minimise the mental strain and proceed gracefully.
Be process oriented:
It’s a mistake to sit in meditation with a goal in mind or striving to reach a destination. Taking this approach will cause you to be frustrated and discouraged. Meditation is a natural and organic process which is likely to be subjectively different each and every time you sit to do it. This is due to the normalisation of the nervous system. The secret here is to relax and take it as it comes.
Understand the nature of the mind:
If you were to observe the mind you would discover that it is an incessantly busy place. Thoughts come one after the other in an endless stream. There, any attempt to control the mind is going to be a frustrating and rather pointless exercise. It is better to develop a disregard to the content and working of the mind. Instead you should lend your awareness to the medium of your meditation be it the breath, the heart, a mantra etc…When you offer no resistance to the mind it will naturally settle down.
Where do you find is the best place to meditate?
I have a penchant for meditating in nature. Where I live in Byron Bay there a number of sacred sites that I’ve noticed have an enriching effect on my practice, but having said that I’ve also had some of my deepest meditations in the most unusual places, like on aeroplanes or in a parked car. I think that for most people just making the time to meditate is challenge enough so it’s important not to get hung up on locations. Meditation is really about the journey within, the environment plays a marginal role. So essentially anywhere you can sit comfortably is an ideal place to meditate.
Why should somebody incorporate meditation into their day?
That’s a good question. I’ve come to appreciate that everyone is motivated in life by different things, whether it be career, money, prestige, success, love etc... Part of me is rebellious and I’ve never enjoyed when people have told me what to do, so I’m always reluctant to do that to others. I just think that we mature emotionally and spiritually and realise that there is more to life than we are presently experiencing. At some point most people adjust their motivation and desire to have a richer inner experience and for this meditation makes sense. The science and anecdotal evidence clearly demonstrates that meditation neutralises stress and enhances your mental faculties. The mind plays such a significant role in shaping our personal experience and meditation is like medicine for the mind.
Images: Gary Gorrow; Words: Yadira Galarza Cauchi
Tell us, do you meditate? Why? When do you do it and for how long?