Getting some Headspace
I was out with a friend at a bar recently and she introduced me as someone who teaches a meditation course or two from time to time (teaching meditation or yoga or any of that other fun stuff doesn’t necessarily preclude you from being in a bar, even if I was just drinking soda water that night!).
A part of me was a bit like – what, who, me?
But then I remembered that yes, it’s true – I have been helping people to learn the bits and pieces I’ve picked up about meditation up over the last decade or so for at least four years, and it’s about time I owned that term.
So hi, my name is Daragh and I teach meditation!
A trend I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is that when someone is told about this part of my life, they are increasingly likely to say that they’ve tried meditation.
Often, they’ve attended a drop-in class or two somewhere, most likely a yoga studio, or perhaps a Buddhist centre.
Increasingly, I hear people tell me that they are using an app – commonly Headspace, but others too – to start or develop a meditation practice by themselves.
This is unambiguously wonderful. As someone who believes that the basic self-awareness that mindfulness meditation helps you to develop is crucial for any serious personal development efforts, I think any, and all, routes into meditation are incredibly valuable. The world needs more of them.
I’ve used apps myself (these days the venerable Insight Timer is my go-to for self-guided sessions), as well as online digital audio recordings.
Apps have the incredible advantages of quality and portability. There’s a reason Headspace is a multi-million-dollar company – the product is amazing, using meditative practices to target specific areas of difficulty that people experience regularly (such as stress management and insomnia).
Being able to listen to a guided meditation at any time, in any location, is a must in today’s convenience driven society. Bus and plane rides have been transformed. Popping a pair of headphones in before getting out of bed in the morning is a great way to get the day started in a Zen like manner.
If you’ve been using an app to learn how to meditate, and have been pleased with the benefits, you might be curious about how to develop your practice even further.
I always recommend that people who wish to explore meditation a bit more deeply beyond the apps should attend an in-person workshop or course (or, failing that, take an online course, which offers a number of the same advantage). As wonderful as they are, apps have several potential limitations:
- They don’t always offer a space for guided interaction and discussion with other meditators and/or a teacher;
- They are limited in the degree to which they provide supporting information that a meditator will find useful when developing his or her practice;
- They don’t take advantage of the group energy effect of a group of people meditating at the same time or the same location.
Sharing is caring
A group-based workshop will often include space for meditators to share their experiences of meditation with one another.
Understanding that other people encounter many of the same experiences or perceive the same “problems” while learning to meditate can be very reassuring.
For example, participants often learn that they’re not the only person with a mind that appears to be excessively busy. This helps them to release the “I’m no good at meditation” fallacy.
Participants with some experience of meditation are often able to share a bit about how their practice has developed, and how they apply the lessons learned during meditation in their everyday life. This can provide inspiration and foster insight in less experienced participants – wins all round.
In fact, I myself have learned a great deal about meditation and its application to living from participants during workshops I have facilitated!
Most meditation courses and workshops will offer deeper frameworks for understanding experiences in meditation than those available in many apps. Everyone present can benefit from the experience and knowledge of a teacher.
For example, my teaching is grounded in the science of stress management and theories of evolutionary psychology. We often end up in deep discussions around why the mind feels so busy, or why we feel so emotionally reactive – and how learnings from meditation practice can help.
Other courses will draw on concepts from spiritual traditions to explain how meditation affects you.
Understanding that there are solid reasons for these experiences often helps participants who might be struggling with some aspects of their practice, or help them with advice and knowledge about deepening their practice even further.
Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time meditating in the company of a group of people knows that the group as a whole can get into quite deep states of meditation.
I’m fortunate to be able to lead moderate sized groups of meditators on a regular basis. I’m always amazed how the energy in the room can settle with even a short amount of practice. It seems that de-escalating the nervous system is contagious!
Taking a meditation course
If you’re using an app, and want to try a class in Sydney, I recommend the lovely folks at The indigo project and Centred Meditation (I am fortunate to teach at both studios). And if you’re super interested in a deeper dive, I run my Mediation 101 workshop regularly (to find out more, look here – I’m taking bookings for the next Sydney workshop right now!).