Treat yourself to some 'me time’ with Buddhist meditation

by Karen Downey, Westmeath Independent, 10th November, 2010

Westmeath, Ireland -- It’s getting harder and harder to find time for ourselves, but taking an hour and a half out from busy schedules to quieten the mind was just what the doctor ordered on a gloomy, rainy November afternoon.

Quite literally running into Sangoma in Scotch Parade out of the rain for a Buddhist meditation session with Jim FitzGibbon, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

However, leaving an hour and a half later I was much more relaxed and vowed to myself to spend more time meditating to ensure that I treated myself to some much-needed relaxation time.

A qualified psychotherapist, Jim first began using Buddhist meditation in 1999 and explained that the concept behind it is to make you aware of yourself, aware of your body, your organs, your emotions and your breathing, rather than allowing your thoughts to dictate what is happening.

We began the session with some breathing exercises. Removing our shoes, we placed our feet firmly on the ground, a technique, Jim explained, that allows you to be completely aware of where you are, making you feel grounded and secure in the knowledge that your feet are planted firmly on the ground.

Closing our eyes, Jim instructed me to start taking deep breaths to relax the body. Almost reading my mind anytime my thoughts began to wander to my little list of chores for the evening ahead, Jim reminded me to concentrate on my breathing, to think only of breathing in and out and not to allow my thoughts, noises or other outside influences to interrupt my meditation session.

Explaining the importance of breathing, Jim pointed out that it is the first thing we do when we come into this world, it is one of the few things we must do throughout our lives and the last thing we will do before we die is let out one last breath. Putting it like that, it did seem rather important!

One of the most concise ways of explaining exactly what Buddhist meditation is, Jim said, is the fact that due to busy schedules, constant clock-watching and the myriad of things going on in our heads, we have become human 'doings’ rather than human beings and Buddhist meditation is a way of simply allowing you to be. He added that as a facilitator of the classes at Sangoma he ensures that the participants boundaries are not crossed and he will also set out the time at the beginning so that you don’t need to watch the clock, he’ll do it for you!

After completing our initial breathing exercises we moved onto a grounding exercise. This exercise involved standing on the ground, while being completely aware of having your feet on the ground and visualising roots coming from them into the earth, while allowing the earth to pass on its energy to you. You then dropped the top half of your body over your lower part, so that you essentially look like you’re doubled over, while all the time concentrating on your breathing and then slowly straighten your body with each breath. This exercise is repeated three times to 'ground’ you or make you realise that you are here in the present and make you aware of your body, instead of having your mind racing ahead, thinking about your plans for the evening, the housework you still have to do, or the meeting in work the next day. An excellent technique to make you leave all your worries behind and allow you to treat yourself to some 'me time’.

Another visualisation used for grounding yourself involved visualising yourself inside your body, becoming aware of all of your organs and what they do, your muscles, your bones and veins. It allowed you to fully appreciate what an amazing thing your body is and realise how important each of your organs are individually and also collectively.

Finishing the session with another breathing exercise, Jim first of all instructed me to take deep breaths and then on the exhale to hold for a few heart beats before inhaling another breath. This allows you to, not only appreciate your breathing, but also makes you aware of your heart and how your heartbeat becomes faster as soon as your body is starved of oxygen.

As the session ended, I left armed with some handouts, explaining the importance of chakras and proper breathing and with a promise to myself to spend more time meditating and allowing myself time to just be!

For more information on the Buddhist meditation classes, which take place on Tuesday mornings from 10.30am to 12 noon, you can call Jim FitzGibbon on 087 7555680.