You’ve most likely seen the impressive claims backed by research derived statistics, that meditation improves concentration, reduces reactivity & calms the busy mind. No doubt, you’ve heard the stories about sleeping better, improving communication & being able to centre your self in the face of stressful situations, both at home & work. So I’m guessing I don’t need to explain why meditation is beneficial to your mental wellbeing. But there’s something you may not know and that is why, now, in the thick of winter, is the perfect time to start a meditation practice. Especially if you find yourself in lockdown.
In the southern hemisphere, Monday, June 21st marked the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Think about that for a moment, the day of the year when we are the furthest away from the sun, where the sun rises later than any other and sets earlier than any other. Winter is the time we naturally retreat indoors, mimicking our endothermic or warm-blooded fury friends as they bunker down to conserve energy throughout the cooler months. This is the perfect time to literally go inward, engaging in meditative self reflection.
So why take time to self reflect when snuggling up with Netflix is a more entertaining option?
Well, if you’ve ever felt disconnected or out of touch with your peaceful inner self, like you are on automatic pilot with little or no control over your thoughts and feelings and that has you feeling a bit discombobulated, then read on.
Self reflection is the act of observing our inner workings from an external perspective, as if looking in a mirror and seeing our thoughts & feelings as separate from ourselves. Its a beneficial practice to do all year around, but in winter, when everything in the environment is saying “slow down and go inside”, this practice is in sync with nature.
Meditation develops this ability to observe, with non-attachment. Its not about judging or criticising what we see in our selves, its simply about building awareness. Its through this judgement-free observation we can slow down to see patterns of thinking, feeling & acting that have become habituated thinking, feeling and “re-acting” patterns.
When we’re mentally on automatic pilot, we’re not present and able to respond to our environment and the people in it.
If I’m getting too esoteric, stay with me here. As humans, we possess the unique ability to know our thoughts through self observation, but we also have the ability to consciously choose to think and act differently, in order to think, act and feel differently. Through this bio feedback loop, we develop greater responsibility for our selves and we can consciously shape our lives.
Give it a go now by closing your eyes, slowing your breathing and simply observing.
What do you notice?
What do you feel?
What do you hear, both outside and inside?
What do you see?
What can you smell or taste?
Is there a commentary? If so, what’s the nature of its comment?
When your mind wanders, notice where it goes to and keep observing as if you are watching someone else’s inner world. Not in it, just outside of it. What do you notice?
If you’ve just read the paragraph above and kept reading, please go back and actually give it a go. Go on! Doing this simple practice each day will help you disconnect from the background noise of the habituated, unconscious mind and connect with the stillness of the conscious mind.
So what has this got to do with winter solstice and a lockdown? It’s poignant because a meditation practice is an inward journey towards self knowing. The winter solstice is a transitionary date in the calendar, that marks the beginning of our journey back towards the sun: Cooler, shorter days, yield to longer and warmer ones. And just as the journey back to the sun yields more light with each passing day, so too our inner journey brings more illumination, inner stillness & feelings of connection with nature, the seasons and other people.
When spring arrives and our fury friends emerge from their winter slumber and lockdown ends, so too can we emerge with a renewed sense of peace & presence.