Did you know that most people who give up on meditation do so because the class they attended wasn’t right for them, rather than because meditation isn’t for them?
In a previous article, I suggested the 10 questions you should ask, BEFORE going to a meditation class, to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. It’s essential to do your homework, before you sign up.
And I figured it was only fair if I share my answers to these questions, if prospective students ask me them!
- What happens during one of your classes?
There’s more to my classes than ‘sit down and shut up’!
Usually, when students arrive at a meditation class, they’ve been rushing around with their busy day. They are likely to feel tired and their mind might be racing, not to mention their system is probably pumped up with adrenalin.
So we never meditate until we have let go of tension and relaxed the mind and the body.Meditation has 3 key components:
- Focus & concentration
Without relaxation, it’s really difficult to accept your environment, to accept your body and to accept your mind. Without relaxation and acceptance, concentrating on your meditation practice will be challenging.
So walking in ‘off the street’, plonking your backside on a meditation cushion, closing your eyes and expecting to somehow reach Nirvana is unrealistic.
In my classes, we start with phsycial exercise – they’re called ‘activations’. I stick on good music & we do various exercises that are designed to release physical tension and help the body wake up and relax. All of this is adaptable to any level of physical ability.
Then we might do a series of yoga-style movements, to help bring the mind ‘back down to earth’ and to help you concentrate.
We’ll often follow this with a gorgeous deep relaxation, which helps you really let go, unwind and recharge.
Only then do we meditate.
All this might sound like a lot of work to do, before meditating. But the way I see it, your weekly class is your ‘gold standard’ meditation for the week. It’s when you’re committing an hour or two to deepening your meditation practice. So why not allow it to work really well for you?
For beginners, there’s still time for a 20 minute meditation. For more advanced students, the time builds up to 40-60 minutes, over the months.
- Are your classes affiliated with any particular religious beliefs or practices?
The type of meditation I was formally trained in is based on the Ancient Sanskrit teachings, from thousands of years ago, before Buddhism and Hinduism split. However, I also include mindfulness practices, techniques from Native American teachings and many other traditions. It is really important to me that meditation – and its amazing benefits – are available to everyone. So there’s no way my students would ever be expected to take on any beliefs or practices that don’t resonate for them.
- What are your qualifications?
I am a formally trained – and qualified – Dru meditation teacher.
This means I undertook a 3 year course of residential modules, daily practice, assignments, tests and assessments, before I began to teach. Our training didn’t just teach us how to meditate. It taught us how to teach meditation – safely and effectively.
I have also been an NLP Trainer (Neuro-linguistic programming) for a decade now. This means I am very experienced in the practical psychology of helping people to retrain their minds, to break old habits and create new ones; to release old excuses; to keep motivated, even if they’re feeling too tired or busy. I weave this into my meditation teaching, to help students find it easier to learn how to meditate.
NLP Trainer Training also taught me how to teach people at different levels of conscious awareness – for example the thinking mind vs the unconscious mind – and I also studied how to teach using accelerated learning techniques. All of this – and much, much more – is part of the package my students receive, usually without realising it.
- How do I know whether your classes are safe for me? (Physically and psychologically)
My meditation teacher training had a major focus on keeping the physical aspects of practice safe and accessible to all, including during the activations and posture for sitting meditation. We also studied the potential contra-indications, psychologically, and were taught how to help people find a type of meditation that will work for them, whatever their circumstances – even if it means finding another teacher!
How can you help me with my posture, for my meditations?
Firstly, you don’t have to sit on the floor and turn your legs into a pretzel! All our seated meditations can be done on a chair. I have been trained in how to help people achieve good meditation posture, as this can make the difference between agony and inner peace! My husband is a Bowen Therapist and Shiatsu Therapist, so he is able to advise, should a student want to make longer-term improvements in their general physical posture and well-being.
- How much of the meditation will be silent vs guided?
This depends on the syllabus for that week. Generally, for people who are new to meditation, it makes sense for the meditations to have a clear element of guidance, with silent periods. If you don’t do this, most people find their mind races, their body fidgets and they forget what they were ‘supposed’ to be doing.
For more advanced students, the guidance reduces and the periods of silence extend.
I don’t use background music for meditations – how can I ask you to quieten your mind and focus your attention, if I’m distracting you with tinkly music in the background?
- How will you help me develop my skills?
I don’t do drop-in classes.
Meditation is a skill that requires regular practice. If you wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, you wouldn’t expect to make progress by turning up every few lessons for a quick play and then not practicing.
I recommend that people don’t bother with a meditation class, unless they actually want to learn to meditate. I know that might sound silly, but many people are actually looking for deep relaxation, rather than meditation. In that case, relaxation classes or a good yoga class would benefit them more.
Classes are structured to be progressive – one week builds gently on the previous. If you miss a class or two say, due to holidays or illness, you can easily catch up. But if you haven’t made a real commitment to your classes, and treat them as an ‘as and when’, then you’re likely to be disappointed with your progress.
- How much home practice is expected of me?
I ask my students to practice, between classes.
I know we’re all busy. But without some kind of practice, you won’t improve your meditation skills!
It’s realistic to ask yourself to find 10 minutes a day to practice. Whether you practice seated meditation, mindfulness, concentration or deep relaxation – the choice is yours. But 10 minutes each day, as many days a week as you can manage, means your meditation classes have the chance to impact your life, at a gently profound level.
Students who struggle to find 10 minutes usually find they’ve got that sussed after completing my 28 Day Meditation Challenge programme! In fact, many of my face-to-face students choose to do the 90 days, when they’re first starting their meditation journey, because it’s a great way to lay the foundations of home-based meditation practice.
- What support is there between classes?
If you have a burning question or concern, all students have my personal email address and my mobile phone number. If it’s a more general question, then all my students are automatically eligible to join the invitation-only online forum, as part of the Dancing In Your Soul Shoes Online Community. This means they can get support from others on a meditation journey, as well as from me.
Students who have chosen this option have found great encouragement and moral-support from sharing their journey with others.
- How long before I notice I am making progress?
After your first class, you will typically feel more relaxed and students often describe a feeling of relief, at being able to let go of stresses or tension.
How fast you make progress depends on how often you practice (regular practice is more important than length of practice) and how stressed you are at the beginning.
Sometimes, if life has been really stressful, you would actually benefit more from a few months of daily deep relaxation, rather than trying to push yourself into meditation.
Most people find that they are noticing changes, from a daily 10 minute practice, after a week or two. By the end of their first month, most people are enjoying their meditation time and finding ways to adapt it, to work for them.
However, everyone is unique. The key is acceptance – don’t expect ‘bright lights’ or ‘Angelic guides’. In fact, these can be distractions, if you experience them! Go with the process, practice gently, but regularly, and make sure you have your ‘eyes wide open’ to spot the changes that meditation is bringing into your life.
And, if you’re feeling cheeky, here’s a final question you might like to ask:
- What daily meditation practice do you do?
Here I have to confess that there have been times when my daily meditation practice has disappeared completely. And these have taught me how essential it is!
Nowadays, despite 2 boys under 7 and a young baby, I do at least 1 hour per day. I stay awake after the baby’s last night feed, around 5:30 a.m., and do up to an hour of mantra meditation (japa) and pranayama meditation (special breathing techniques). If I miss the morning session (rare), I can feel tense and tired all day.
If I’m really lucky, I manage to steal half an hour for silent sitting meditation, when the boys have their bath and story time.
The key to getting this back in balance was accepting that, for a long while, my meditation time won’t be ‘perfect’ – i.e. quiet, on my own and with no interruptions. Once I let go of this, the time miraculously appeared.
[Note: I don’t ask my students to do an hour a day! 10 minutes, for beginners, is plenty to cultivate a regular meditation habit. 🙂 ]
If you live anywhere near Forest Row, East Sussex, UK, here’s where you can find out more about my face-to-face classes and weekend seminars.
If you don’t live nearby, you might like to check out our hugely popular 28 Day Meditation Challenge online course. It’s a great way to discover how just 10 minutes a day of meditation could change your life.