Mens Sana in Corpore Sano - Parte Quinque

13 Dec 2017

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I write this with a sense of failure.

It is now a month since I started this series and, yes, there is a reason why I left this topic to last. I am lousy at meditation.

Oh, I had such good intentions. I always do. A month, I thought; a month was surely enough to get into good habits.

I sought advice from anyone I could think of who was good at this. I downloaded apps and guided meditations. I subscribed to a couple of daily "Thoughts". But nope, after a month I think I have done exactly two meditations and read maybe four of the thoughts.

So, this morning, I made myself do another meditation. This one from Head Space, which comes highly recommended from a fellow Moodscope user.

Honesty time? Yup – I felt really good after doing it. I felt light and floaty – as if I'd had an hour's whole-body massage in a darkened room with soft panpipe music and jasmine scented air.

But doing it was sheer torture.

So, I identified a few things.

1. I cannot bear to do "nothing". I can't even watch TV without doing the ironing at the same time.

2. I'm really rebellious. When the guide asks me to breathe in a certain way, my reaction is to do exactly the opposite.

3. My inner child feels as if she's being punished; being asked to sit quietly on her hands for those minutes, when she really wants to play.

On the other hand, I do other things which are very nearly meditation.

I have written many times about swimming. There is something about the rhythmical movement of one's limbs through the water, the discipline of breathing, that is conducive to letting one's thoughts wander where they will. I usually use my swimming time to play with ideas for writing and in intercessory prayer – which is different from meditative prayer. Guess what? I'm not much good at meditative prayer either.

Another thing I do is make greetings cards. Apparently, studies have shown that the brainwaves of someone who is deeply involved in a craft process are identical to the brainwaves of someone meditating. So – when I'm cutting paper to millimetre accuracy, when I'm placing that stamp image with pinpoint precision, when I'm gluing embellishments exactly where they need to be: that's as good as meditation. Isn't it?

Well, maybe. I think both are good for mental health. But both are meditation lite. They're not a substitute for the real thing. I rarely rise from a cardmaking session with the feeling of having spent an afternoon in a spa, with that physical feeling which is at once a feeling of heaviness and lightness – a feeling of being effortlessly stretched like Alice after she drank of that bottle so invitingly labelled "Drink Me!"

It's a good feeling. A feeling of being calm, loose, relaxed, centred, resilient. A feeling I'd like to feel again.

Almost worth meditating for.


A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Dec. 13, 2017, 7:03 a.m.

Hi Mary, one of the principals of meditation is non judgement, so maybe you were restless, rather than bad at it ;) maybe an hour is a bit much to ask as a novice, maybe 10 or 15 minutes would be a good starting point. That's what I try to commit to daily, it's enough to bring me a sense of quiet and peace but a small enough pocket of time that I can usually fit it in. Then when I feel I need it or have extra time I'll sit for a longer period, although I actually usually lie down as I have a bad back. I'm happy to hear that the creative flow space brings similar benefits.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:42 a.m.

Hello Eva, your comment made me smile, as I started slowly with just three minutes, not an hour!!! But I did it yeseterday and will do it again today as it does feel nice afterwards (like when you stop banging your head against a wall?). Thank you for your encouragement.


Dec. 13, 2017, 4:52 p.m.

where can I find the headspace meditation


Dec. 13, 2017, 7:10 p.m.

Susan, google: headspace you'll see 10 days free, £45 for the year after that.


Dec. 13, 2017, 8:16 a.m.

Good morning, Mary. I too find it difficult to do nothing so I can see where you are coming from. At the moment, though, an irritating grey cloud has settled over me, and I am approaching Christmas without enthusiasm. But with much anxiety. Christmas cards the biggest fear..who to leave out/ include. Every year emotion kicks in, for the simplest fact that people might feel slighted if I haven’t reciprocated . I am not very good at explaining why this feels so raw, but it does. I wonder if meditation would help. Thank you, Mary, for your five thought provoking pieces.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 8:40 p.m.

Hello Sally, I well understand the stress of Christmas cards. I still have to write mine....


Dec. 13, 2017, 8:47 a.m.

Hi Mary I had a couple of false starts before I began to do it more regularly. After a bd visi to Mum I started to commit myself and now we are planning another after 31/2 years. As a friend said are you trying to minimise on feelings of guilt”.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

OB - from a faith point of view, guilt is utterly negative and a waste of time. We can have a conviction of "sin" (or being in the wrong place or doing the unhealthy thing) but guilt has no place in our lives. So - forgive yourself; you did the best you could do at the time. This time you will do the best you can this time. Part of that is to be prepared mentally and it is likely meditation will help you. Not sure at all whether your friend's comment was helpful. ;)


Dec. 13, 2017, 8:54 a.m.

Andy on headspace says that we are learning a skill. It is a long process and we need to set ourselves small goals. I think that your other gifts which you have practsied & thus turned into skills, are really encouraging. As always Inlove your blogs and look forward to reading them.Thanks very much.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:46 a.m.

Bless you - and yes - I am doing it with Andy - I like his voice.


Dec. 13, 2017, 9:09 a.m.

Hi Mary. I kind of understand what you are saying and think that for me there is just tooo much going on in my mind to ever be able to meditate. Your blog made think though that for me running is my form of meditation as I have to put so much effort into it that I cant really think of anything else and so I have a clear head! Rupert


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:47 a.m.

Indeed, Rupert. I do feel that - if you get into the zone of exercise, it does really have a similar effect. My daughter goes for a run if she feels stressed. It's a good habit. And - it keeps off the pounds!


Dec. 13, 2017, 9:37 a.m.

Walking the dogs counts as meditation for me. We just walk and walk and walk early in the morning and it's almost amazing how easy it is to think about nothing.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:48 a.m.

Indeed. Just being in the moment is what matters. Fresh air and exercise don't hurt either. I bet Sunday with the snow was magical for you and the dogs!


Dec. 13, 2017, 10:31 a.m.

Hello Mary You may like to have a look at the video "One-Moment meditation" on youtube, (Five minute video). I call it meditation for people who can't or won't meditate, like me. One minute is no time at all. I expanded the idea to a series of mini meditations throughout the day and found it really helpful. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has explored this idea. Please look at the video and let me know your thoughts.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 10:49 a.m.

Kathy - I will do this. I can't at the moment but will do this evening.

Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 9:01 p.m.

I have just watched the video. How lovely - and yes - a minute is all it takes. I shall try this out. Thank you.


Dec. 14, 2017, 12:05 p.m.

This sounds really good - I would like to try it.


Dec. 14, 2017, 12:06 p.m.

Glad you enjoyed it.

The Gardener

Dec. 13, 2017, 12:12 p.m.

Mary, like a comment yesterday by someone who loved the snow before it was touched, for me 'untouched morning' is the only timw I think I DO meditate. I've always been up early (no choice for most of my life) now I cling to my bed like a limpet. An empty, long beach, walking with bare feet on that hard sand when the water has just receded. In the tropics, sitting on a terrace, alone, no sound except waiting for the birds to emerge. A bulbul (lovely song) was always first in Jakarta - and marvellous dragonflies. In France in summer, because the time is 2 hours after sun-rise, going to a Mairie in a tiny village it was really only 7 a.m. The Mont Saint Michel often had a ring of mist round it, magic - I'd sit and watch, nobody else on those tiny roads. On a beautiful clear morning you could see way up the Cherbourg peninsula. After a quiet few moments I always started thinking of the violent history of the place - so, like you, I cannot keep my mind still for long.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 8:42 p.m.

But oh - the magic you paint with your words... as good as a meditation just reading.


Dec. 13, 2017, 4:53 p.m.

Where can I find the headspace meditation?



Dec. 13, 2017, 5:38 p.m. is where headspace can be found. It is online. I understand there is a 10 day free trial, but after that there is a payment. To have a look without signing up, you might like to look at this youtube video about Headspace - Hope this helps.


Dec. 13, 2017, 7:27 p.m.

Despite trying to learn how to meditate back in the 1980s I only clicked with meditation with the teaching from Headspace. I was telling a Sri Lankan friend about that and he said, "But of course! You can't learn it from a book; you must have a teacher!" I think Andy is a good teacher. I'm in my fourth year on that site. I like both the theoretical side of mindfulness and the experiential contact. What's also good is that 20 years ago I held a completely different conceptualisation of self and psychological constructs. Meditation, and the wave of mindfulness literature have turned my beliefs through 180 degrees -- and I've enjoyed that process. I also like the total opposite (in some ways) of mindfulness, and that's hypnosis: the focusing of self onto a goal rather than the defusion of self which goes with mindfulness. And obviously knowing about and experiencing how the mind works has been invaluable for stabilising mental health. Thank you for the blog Mary. I have enjoyed the series a lot.


Mary Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2017, 8:43 p.m.

Thank you Oli. It's great to have the feedback from someone who is much, much further down the path than I. I hope I will succeed with Andy. Quite a number of people have recommended him.


Dec. 13, 2017, 9:17 p.m.

I believe there are meditations involving exercise, I certainly got an interesting list when I put 'meditation during exercise' into google. Don't be hard on yourself for not finding it easy, nothing worth doing is easy, they all take persistence and learning and being gentle with yourself when you apparently fail, some of the best meditation sessions are those when you struggle, its the path to self awareness. Jules



Dec. 14, 2017, 12:14 p.m.

Thank you for your blog, Mary. I identified with it lots. I always have good intentions of taking up regular meditation because I always feel good when I do meditate, but other things in life seem to get in the way - press for my time. I have a 1/2 hr exercise regime I have to do every morning on rising just to get me mobile. Tasks take longer for me to do these days so I have less time anyway - what used to take me a morning to complete now takes me a week of doing it in bite-sized bits. And this time of year is extra busy. I do crafting, too, but somehow, for me, what starts off as enjoyable becomes a race against time to get it completed so becomes a task instead of an enjoyable pastime. My brain is always racing at 1000 miles an hour, even if my poor old body isn't - well, not physically, but my adrenaline's always high because of the M.E. I can no longer walk like I used to but I try a little walk after going out for lunch once a week - it's a beautiful & peaceful place so is good to walk there & I can just take in the sights & sounds of sky, trees, wildlife (the squirrels are fun to watch especially at this time of year!) I have several meditation cd's but rarely get time to use them - when I do, I end up falling asleep before I get to the end! I like the idea of the youtube 1 min meditations suggested by Cathy & would like to definitely try those. Thanks again - ou helped me to feel that I am not alone in my feelings & actions about meditation!


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