“I have so much to accomplish today
that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
I know how important regular, consistent meditation is. So do you. And we both know that meditation practiced twice a day, for 20 minutes each, is the unspoken ideal for a modern, city dweller with a job (or so it seems from everything I read). However, finding the time and the inclination to dedicate 2 slots of 20 minutes per day to meditation is quite literally overwhelming, for me.
I work in London and have a 1hr37 minute commute, door-to-door. I wake-up at 6.30 am, I’m out the door by 7am and I rarely get home before 9pm. I usually work on the train, both ways. I get in, throw my bags down and eat some dinner over half hour of TV and then settle in for an hour or so more of emails. Bed time is sometime around midnight or 1am. Most weekends see me working on a Sunday evening in anticipation of the week ahead. It’s relentless. And this seems to be pretty standard in my industry if you want to go somewhere and stand out from the crowd. So I do it.
Anyway the point is that I don’t have a lot of spare time to dedicate to anything, let alone to meditation. But as the quote above so wonderfully emphasises, the more stressful your day, the more you should meditate. But until I get to a level of enlightenment where meditation becomes more important than emails, I need to find a way to still practice quieting of the mind in the most time-efficient way possible.
I don’t need to cover the benefits of regular meditation here, but if you would like a straight-talking, valuable opinion on the subject then read this succinct post from WildMind by neuropsychologist and author Rick Hanson, Ph.D. Indeed there is much written on the subject and if you are new to meditation, perhaps start by visiting the British Meditation Society.
For me, the hardest part of meditating is the first 15 minutes. My mind spends this time running away with thoughts of work and t-do’s and worries and I chase them down valiantly, hoping to pin them to the floor so that I might be still for just a moment. This never works, no matter which style of meditation I practice. Knowing this, I needed to find a way to slow my mind down, or preoccupy it so that I can practice mindfulness, being present and all that good stuff.
Enter the tool that quite literally has changed my modern, meditating career girl’s life: the mandala finger labyrinth.
‘Mandala’ means ‘circle’ in Sanskrit and mandala patterns are sacred symbols used for meditation, prayer, healing and therapy in Ayeurvedic practices. This is a great post on Mandala patterns as a visual meditation tool. Mandala patterns are also often drawn onto the floor and the ancient undulations can be walked as a maze of sorts, to quiet and busy the conscious mind while you meditate. I first experienced a walking mandala meditation at a retreat in South Africa. I was amazed by how quickly my mind stopped thinking and started focusing on the pattern on the floor. I found it very calming.
So when I saw a mandala finger labyrinth at a holistic fayre in Brighton, I bought one immediately. Sadly, the company that made mine is no longer around, but you can buy finger labyrinths online. I like these hand made ones from MandalaJourneyAmy. If you wanted to try to make your own, there is a simple guide here.
My finger labyrinth has two mirrored mandala patterns etched into it and the idea is to use both of your index fingers to follow the pattern, in unison. Ideally you will close your eyes and focus on the path your fingers are following. The first time I tried it I couldn’t keep my eyes closed, I kept panicing and had to open them. I laughed at myself for “panicing” about not being able to follow a groove with my fingers. The kind lady who was selling them said that I was clearly not familiar with trusting my instincts and the unknown. She told me I must be a control freak. She was right. “Just trust that you will find your way to the end of the pattern and let your fingers move effortlessly.” This is hard than you might expect, but because you are focusing so hard on this, you stop thinking. WAHOOOOOOO! I actually stopped thinking for about a minute! And that is a gift I will never forget.
I usually just allocate 5 minutes: the time it will take for a cup of tea to cool to the perfect temperature for drinking. Tonight I enjoyed an indulgent cup of Pomme D’Amour tea by Damman Ferres, it’s one of my “treat yo self” cuppas infused with baked apple and cherry flavours that sing through the black tea.
As I have done this more often, I have come to know that pattern, but only by feel. The corners have become familiar, without me knowing when they are coming. It is the most wonderful way for me to very quickly let go of thought, and so just 5 minutes of this simple practice can feel like an hour of meditation.
May you find the perfect 5 minutes of still and please feel free to share your own mandala labyrinth experiences with me.