Okay, so a quick qualifier: I am far from an organic-cotton wearing Zen master (read: Gwyneth Paltrow). My days are filled with various degrees of anxiety (both work-inflicted and self imposed) and a general feel that I’m not working hard enough, not being a good enough of a friend, you know, the usual. And, like most, I am in a toxic relationship with my iPhone. If you met, you probably wouldn’t guess that about a year ago I started meditating. Since then, I’ve pretty much meditated almost every day without fail – and have noticed a huge difference in my general well being.
“But it’s so hard to escape my thoughts,” a friend said when I suggested it. And I get it. Maybe it’s a product of our environment, all the hours we spend on our computers, or the endless streaming of updates on our phones, but being still and in the moment is bloody difficult. I can’t lie, there’s something comforting knowing that the sentiment is shared, but it still isn’t a solution. The sound of your iPhone’s email notification probably shouldn’t trigger anticipatory knots in the pit of your stomach every time it goes off, right? And it’s probably not healthy to live constantly battling that evil inner voice in your head either.
So, what’s changed? Well, pretty much everything. Committing to meditating every day has completely changed my relationship with friends, family, my smartphone, and more importantly, myself. I knew meditation was working for dealing with my stress levels, overall mood and the bitchy voice in my head when other people started to tell me how happy I looked. As hippy-dippy as it sounds, the anxiety that used to keep me up at night has gone. Granted, it’s something I work on every day but it truly has made a difference.
I know what you’re thinking: you don’t have enough time, huh? Well, a meditation session needn’t take more than 15 minutes, which is shorter than the time it takes to pick what you want to watch on Netflix so no excuses. If you’ve tried and struggled to clear quieten your mind, it’s totally normal. Thoughts are bound to come up and it’s actually a good thing. It means you’re processing things and that can only be a good thing right? Like with anything, it’s about practice. You probably won’t see or feel instant results – it’s not a makeover. You’re getting your mind in shape, so the first few attempts are always going to feel like a struggle. Slowly but surely with patience and practice, it’ll be easier to focus and you’ll notice a difference.
There are countless apps to choose from but now, there are a handful of gurus offering guided sessions too. Jody Shield is the woman those in the know turn to. Aside from partnering up with companies like Frame, each month she holds monthly SoulTonic group healing dedication sessions in London, designed to help you emotionally detox and being more ‘present’. She’s a new age (without the new age-y-ness) life coach and motivational speaker whose approach to all things mindfulness and spiritual is thoroughly refreshing – and not at all intimidating or cheesy. She’s pretty much one of our new favourite people so without further ado, here’s Jody on the importance and simplicity of mental cleansing and how to get started.
On what it actually means to meditate: Meditation to me is about slowing everything down, moving inside and quietening down your mind and thoughts. When I say ‘inside’ I mean going inward; to your inner being, your inner ‘home’. It’s about becoming more aware of yourself, your body, your thoughts, your feelings or the sensations in your body. Because of our crazy fast-paced world, we’ve become disconnected from ourselves and our feelings. We’ve learnt how to avoid our emotions, and escape ourselves. Our minds are highly stimulated with all of things happening in our lives and we’re full of negative thoughts on repeat.
To me, mindfulness means becoming more aware of yourself and what you’re feeling, sensing, thinking and how you’re reacting to things in your life. Becoming more aware of yourself means you are more present and able to live more in the moment. We spend most of our time stuck worrying about the past and what happened last week, or being anxious about the future and what is going to happen. We forget all about the present moment, which is happening right now, in front of our eyes. We are creating our lives in every moment, whether we’re conscious of it or not, it’s happening. We can become conscious of it, take our power back to create, and begin creating a life we truly want to live, as opposed to a life out of our control.
On the power of getting in tune with your ‘inner voice’: It’s about learning to become an expert listener – a listener of yourself. Your ‘inner voice’ is always speaking to you. We are highly intelligent human beings; every part of us is trying to talk to us. Think about it, when we feel a pain, it’s our body’s way of telling us it needs support and attention in some way. What we tend to do is get frustrated with it or reach for the nearest Nurofen to numb the pain. If we learned to listen to our bodies and what they’re trying to tell us, we’d be able to work through pain much faster and easier. The same goes for our ‘inner voice’ and our intuition. We’re all intuitive; it’s just that some of us choose to exercise that muscle more than others. We all have to get used to listening. We have to get quiet and find space so we can hear our ‘inner voice’ – it’s just our brains get in the way. The mind is trying it’s hardest to protect us and keep us safe or ‘small’. Meditation is a great way to start your journey to hear your ‘inner voice’.
On why meditating isn’t all fluff: We’re walking history books, and we’re imprinted with our past. We’re stuffed full of old emotions, memories and trauma (from our first love, breakups, mistakes in school, accidents, childhood), which lie stagnant in our body and mind. This creates heaviness and problems in our lives whether that’s chronic stress, fear and jealousy or anxiety, depression, illness or limiting beliefs. I’m a firm believer that, behind-the-scenes of every issue whether it’s mental, emotional or physical, lies layers of old history and old wounds from the past. Nothing to panic about, it’s just we need tools and ways to help us detox from the inside. Just like you would take a juice detox, you need a way of detoxing your old emotional baggage. I run monthly ‘SoulTonic’ Sessions as a remedy for people’s modern woes, for people who want to go deeper to release the past from their lives. It’s meditation with a healing twist.
We’re all intuitive; it’s just that some of us choose to exercise that muscle more than others. We all have to get used to listening. We have to get quiet and find space so we can hear our ‘inner voice’ – it’s just our brains get in the way. The mind is trying it’s hardest to protect us and keep us safe or ‘small’.
On her own meditation journey: About 5 years ago I found myself deep in the Peruvian jungle with an indigenous tribe, working with plant medicine and shamanic healing practices. They taught me how to meditate, and I learned the practice when I was out in the rawest of nature, surrounded by neon dragonflies, the biggest butterflies you’ll ever see and lush, green wilderness. It’s impossible not to be present or mindful out in the jungle – you hear every little noise around you. There’s no technology or social media distractions, so it’s so easy to get quiet and be present.
On living and breathing #goodvibesonly: Meditation isn’t just for quietening the mind and slowing everything down. It’s also about creating more space inside and energising our mind, body and soul. We are energy, imagine us like human batteries, we become drained after too much usage. By the end of the day we are empty, and just like batteries we need to recharge. Another part of what I do is work with energy healing, so I have the ability to recharge a group of people. It’s also in the music I play during the session, which is designed to create good vibes and be uplifting.
What I know to be true is that when we invest in ourselves and take time and space for us, it shows up in our outside world. Things just flow naturally, juicer opportunities come in and we just feel much better about ourselves and our lives.
On why you should – and need – to take that minute for yourself: Meditation is a great remedy for mental health issues like anxiety, depression and chronic stress. It’s perfect for helping the mind slow down and recharge so you can find some peace and calm among the chaos. Anxiety is hugely on the rise, according to the NHS – 2.2M people reported symptoms of anxiety in the UK last year – and although medication helps, it does tend to mask the problem. I do believe there’s a place for medication and I’m not ‘anti’ medication by any means. It’s just I believe there’s a need to release the old history, emotions and fears from the past, which again are lurking behind the scenes. I’ve helped many sufferers of anxiety and chronic stress and I’m happy to report I haven’t failed yet. Because of the frenetic pace of life, and all the plates we’re spinning, we need a practice in place to counteract the effects, and restore the depletion life brings.
On whether it really is something we can all learn to do: Meditation is a practice and just like learning any new skill, it takes patience and effort. We all find patience a hard skill to learn. We’re a nation of ‘quick’ fixes so are always looking for the quickest and easiest way into something because we are time poor. But it’s actually really easy to begin with meditation. Start with a guided one, something that’s short, that you resonate with. It’s important to go at your own pace and at your own level with this and most important, to approach it with curiosity and a willingness to be open and learn. You can’t be good at this from the get-go!
On why we need to make time for it: There’s no denying we are time poor, especially in the city. I say this: we create our outside world from the inside. The outside world that we see is a reflection of what’s happening inside of us. What I know to be true is that when we invest in ourselves and take time and space for us, it shows up in our outside world. Things just flow naturally, juicer opportunities come in and we just feel much better about ourselves and our lives.
On how to get started: Whether you’re a beginner, a dabbler or do it part-time, in the words of Nike – just do it! Start with a 10 minutes guided meditation and get going. Choose if you want to start the day with a meditation or recharge at the end of a day with a meditation. Both are valuable opportunities for staying Zen. Next, practice being aware of your breath. Take time to close your eyes and simply focus on your breathing. Be aware of where you breathe into in your body and focus your attention there. Don’t try and control your, let it flow naturally as it always does. Another great way is to use words and phrases. Practice saying things like, ‘I surrender’ and see what happens. It’s like a code word for the mind to slow down and release control. We are constantly trying to control our lives and control the outcome of situations. Whenever we feel out of control, we get anxious and afraid. When we learn to surrender control, life flows effortlessly and just the way it’s supposed to. It’s equally as important to get into the habit of doing mindful body scans. Sit in silence, eyes closed and body relaxed. Start to breathe into your body and become aware of how your body is feeling. What are you holding onto in the body? Where in your body feels heavy, tight or tense? Go to wherever feels tight or tense in the body and breathe into it. Stay with the tightness and support yourself. Be patient and allow the tightness to do whatever it needs to do. Mostly, if you stay with your body and any areas of pain or tightness and connect to these areas, something will transform.