Posts Tagged ‘self-care’

Mental health tips from London’s leading art figures includes #TranscendentalMeditation

October 10, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018: The Evening Standard GO London wrote a piece for , on how London arts figures look after their minds. They featured 9 individuals. Here is the introduction, and the 7th, Bea Colley, who benefits from her regular practice of Transcendental Meditation, and finds comfort in poetry.

Tips for a healthy mind from London’s leading art figures

Only in the last few years have mental health and physical health begun to be regarded on an equal par. Open conversations about mental health help to break the stigma, but they also remind us that it’s an issue that affects us all.

Self-care is too often relegated to the last priority in the midst of life in a high pressure city, long days at work and digital devices that don’t allow us to ever truly switch off. Opening up about how you’re really feeling is hard enough, and finding and taking practical steps to look after your body and mind isn’t straightforward either.

To mark this year’s World Mental Health Day, we asked leading London arts figures for their tips on self-care and keeping a healthy mind.

Bea Colley

A few years ago, during a particularly difficult time, I learnt Transcendental Meditation. It’s a practice that my parents swear got them through their teaching years and that celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and David Lynch live their lives by. I know that if I can keep up the 20 minutes each morning and evening, the day will be brighter and calmer. Also, being a lover of poetry, I have a theory that a poem will always find you in times of need. Sometimes I head to Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library, pick up an anthology and wait for a poem to bring me comfort.

Bea Colley is Literature Programmer at Southbank Centre‘s London Literature Festival which runs October 18-28.

How #TranscendentalMeditation is helping lifestyle writer/editor @Tara_Gardner_ @glam

September 8, 2018

I was so impressed with this article I shared it via Twitter and my newsletter. It’s so good I decided to post it on my blog. Tara Gardner‘s experience and understanding of what makes TM unique among other meditations is impressive. She nails it! I like her style and highlighted two key sentences. Here it is without visuals or links, except mine. Click on Glam to see the original published August 27, 2018.

How Transcendental Meditation Gives Me Mental Clarity Like Nothing Else

It hit me, quite literally, after endless months of going to sleep wired, waking up tired, and spending my days drifting through a murky brain fog. I stepped out onto the Chicago streets one morning, absent-mindedly looking in the British direction, and got clipped by a car. Something had to give.

Living in a new city and forging a new career as a freelance editor with a bazillion deadlines, I didn’t really give my head time to acclimatize. I just jumped right in and expected my brain and body to follow behind. To alleviate the low energy, I dosed myself on coffee and copious amounts of Diet Coke, riding the caffeine highs until the crashes became too much. After the car accident, I realized that I needed to find a way to give my head a break from the cranial quicksand of daily life. So, like any editor, I hit the trends — from cleanses to self-care — hard. Then, I tried elimination diets. I felt better physically, but the mental cloud still hadn’t cleared. (And, no, it wasn’t jet-lag, as many suggested; I’d been in the U.S. for six months at that point.)

Back in London, I had done several mindfulness meditation courses. I always felt a little superficially smug about doing them, too — like you do after you’ve just finished a three-day juice cleanse and everyone in the office is asking you how amazing you feel, but secretly all it made you want to do is eat a bucket of fried chicken. Truth was, I never actually noticed a huge shift in anything. Perhaps I wasn’t doing it properly. Perhaps my brain was immune to it. Perhaps (and most likely) I was sleeping through it. Obviously, mindfulness works for a lot of people, and I’m not saying it isn’t a method worth trying — we’re all wired differently. In fact, it’s one of the most popular forms of meditation, really hitting the mainstream in recent years thanks to a multitude of apps and YouTube videos.

But the main sticking point for me was its rigidity. Clear your mind. Clear the thoughts of clearing your mind. Self-observe but don’t think about those observations as you meditate. Focus on your breathing, but don’t think thoughts about your breathing. It all felt too, well, mindful. That said, I did enjoy the fact that it helped me be more present in my daily life, to take a moment, breathe and notice the more mundane daily activities, rather than rushing through every moment thinking about dinner, my next Instagram post, or a fight on The Real Housewives.

However, this practice didn’t travel with me to Chicago. I readily gave myself excuses, which I mindfully accepted: “I’m too busy teaching my cat to sit to take 12 minutes for meditation,” I would tell myself. It wasn’t until I started getting dragged down the rabbit hole of Twin Peaks season three (episode 8 anyone?) that I found myself looking up David Lynch interviews for clues as to what the heck was actually going on. I stumbled upon a video of him talking about Transcendental Meditation, or TM as it’s commonly called.

Anything that could open up my brain to the levels of Lynch-imagination was worth investigating. Oh, and add that Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Kate Hudson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, not that surprising), and Oprah all reportedly practice it, my pack-mentality told me there’s got to be something to this. Also, having long been a Seinfeld fan, the fact that the uber cynical Jerry Seinfeld was also a major advocate of the practice, gave me the green light. “You know how your phone has a charger?” he said during an appearance on Good Morning America. “TM is like having a charger for your mind and body.” I was sold.

Hippy-dippy, cultish connotations aside, TM is actually one of the most scientifically studied, evidence-backed forms of meditation out there. Studies have reported that it can increase and improve actual grey matter (brain cells), along with supporting all manner of issues, including PTSD, depression, ADHD, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and more. “Transcendental Meditation doesn’t focus on breathing or chanting like other forms of meditation,” the official TM website reads. “Instead, it encourages a restful state of mind beyond thinking.” And, as I started researching it more, I found myself really drawn not just to the science but also the technique.

Unlike mindfulness or other meditations, it’s not about trying to empty the mind or monitor thoughts. In fact, concentration or trying to control thoughts couldn’t be further from the practice, making it ideal for a brain full of jumping beans like mine. What TM is at its core is getting to a place of deep relaxation, deeper than any other meditation practice, to the point where it doesn’t matter what you’re thinking about or if you’re having thoughts at all.

What TM is at its core is getting to a place of deep relaxation, deeper than any other meditation practice, to the point where it doesn’t matter what you’re thinking about or if you’re having thoughts at all.

With the thick soup of emotions, activities, actions, and lack of sleep that makes up modern life, many of us find ourselves in a constant state of stress — whether we realize it or not. Our fight or flight responses are jacked up, leaving us in a pickle of confused cortisols and befuddled coping mechanisms, which really just mask the inner noise. This is where TM practice can really help, putting the body into a deep, regular state of relaxation, in which to heal and restore.

Think of the brain like an ocean, the practice says. The surface of the ocean is the conscious or thinking mind, and the waves are like the thoughts. Mindfulness remains on or slightly below this surface, but no deeper. TM is about effortlessly sinking as low into consciousness as possible — to the bottom of that ocean. Now, that’s not to say you’ll start levitating or have some out of body experience; it’s more that you’ll experience the relaxing and precious feeling you get just before sleep when you’re still sort of awake. That’s the “transcendence,” or as some call it, the “bliss” state.

But what is it that brings you down to this level? No guided words of wisdom or philosophical outlooks on life. It’s actually super simple and has been practiced this way for 5,000 years, originating in India. To anchor down into this state, your TM teacher gives you a word, a Transcendental Meditation mantra that is unique to you, which you silently repeat until it just becomes an intuitive and effortless act. The word is deliberately meaningless and more of a sound.  Yes, I did try Googling it to no avail, and you can’t say it out loud or share it with anyone else out of respect for the practice.

Quite aside from stereotypical views of sitting cross-legged or lotus with a straight back and Om position, you’re encouraged to find a comfortable spot to sit and relax into the meditation. Sitting for 20 minutes while repeating the mantra, you’ll find that over time everything just slows down, breathing becomes deep but quiet, and the mantra starts to fade to the back of your mind, while thoughts that were whizzing around at the forefront kind of just drift away.

I can honestly say, it’s a feeling quite like no other. After my first round of Transcendental Meditation mantras, it felt like I woke up out of a trance. The more I started practicing — with the four-session TM course and then on my own twice a day — the deeper I was lulled by its resulting calmness. I’ll admit that I was at first daunted by the idea that I’d need to do this twice a day, for 20 minutes each, but once the practice started, it actually became like a treat I’d look forward to, totally the opposite of previous meditations. I mean who wouldn’t want to escape Twitter shouting matches, Facebook political fights, and the constant ping of work emails for a deep, serene journey into the mind cave? Also, all cat-training went out the window.

I’ll admit that I was at first daunted by the idea that I’d need to do this twice a day, for 20 minutes each, but once the practice started, it actually became like a treat I’d look forward to, totally the opposite of previous meditations.

Some people in my course claimed almost instant effects from their practice — good moods, clarity, increased productivity — but me being the cynical Brit, I had to really take a step back and think carefully before announcing I was a “new” person. The thing is that it can take days, weeks, months, even years to see or notice the effects, depending on what you’re dealing with. But, as I started to regularly do the practice, I did find the fog lifting, the clarity coming through, and my thoughts becoming more ordered. The daily juggling act began to feel smoother and more efficient.

Still, it’s not always easy. There are moments when it feels like a Grand Slam final between my thoughts and the Transcendental Meditation mantras, but as long as the mantra is there, effortless and anchoring, good stuff is happening in ways and on levels I might never even be aware of. And, even if it’s not, it’s still like taking a twice daily, luxury brain staycation, which can only be a good thing.

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To learn more about Tara Gardner visit her website.

Also see: How is Transcendental Meditation different from mindfulness?

Quora posted this question: What is the difference between Mindfulness meditation and Transcendental Meditation? Read a very clear and concise answer Jim Karpen gave explaining their differences in method, experience, and scientific research. 


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