Struggling in this work-hard, play-hard city? You're not alone ...
There are many different theories about the origins of the principle of meditation, but wherever you are in the world today, it’s widely agreed to be a spiritual practice.
For most, the aim of meditation is to calm the mind, to let go of everyday stresses and to achieve a state of harmony, if only for a small part of each day – though it’s often suggested that continued daily meditation can lead to a more peaceful, tolerant state of being overall. Meditation is said to decrease stress and anxiety, increase productivity, enhance concentration, and allow you to focus on the present by letting go of fears about the past and future – though the benefits aren’t restricted to this.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just one way to meditate. There are dozens, if not hundreds, which you can do alone or in a group, led by a practiced hand or not. It’s all about tuning in to what you feel you need at that moment. At Illuminations Well-Being Center in Jumeirah Lakes Towers – where I visit centre manager Amrit Chand for my first one-on-one beginner’s meditation – they offer 25 different types of meditation, covering areas from stress relief to guidance; forgiveness to full moon; inner child to relationship healing and beyond.
I’m barely two steps into the centre when I feel the shift in atmosphere from the busy lobby downstairs. The scent of jasmine washes over me courtesy of the row of essential oils that line the shelves in the greeting area, and the sound of Tibetan singing bowls drifts across from a class in the group meditation room. Just as I’m about to get too relaxed, Amrit appears and ushers me into a private room, where she has set up cushions to make sure I’m comfortable. After opting to lie down, complete with a lovely fleecy blanket (oh, what I wouldn’t give to be heading home instead of back to the office afterwards), Amrit explains we will be doing a very basic, relaxing meditation to ease me in. While sometimes meditation leaders will read from a sheet, she prefers to lead without prompting, and begins instructing in a low, soothing voice. At her word, I close my eyes, and focus on my breathing, in through the nose, and gently out through the mouth, and follow her lead as she tells me to let go of anger and frustration, and allow every part of my body to relax in turn. The idea is to focus on your breathing and nothing else. This is where a lot of people struggle, or feel they aren’t doing it properly. Emptying the mind is an incredibly difficult thing to do. You can often find yourself experiencing strange flashes of thought or memory out of nowhere, which Amrit suggests is part of the mind clearing itself. If you feel your mind wandering, mulling over a conversation from yesterday or planning for something later in the day, bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing. The ideal time to meditate is when you have time to simply relax or sleep afterwards – get home from work and try setting aside an hour, or even 15 minutes, after your shower. It takes some time to get your head back into ‘office mode’, but on the upside, you may have finally discovered a way to get your head fully out of it. I certainly did.
Amrit’s tips to achieve the perfect meditation
Wear loose clothing and find the most comfortable position in which to sit in or lie down.
Ensure that your mobile phone is switched off and that there will be no disturbances.
Switch on some relaxing music, or sit in silence, focusing on breathing.
Breathe in positive energy and as you exhale, imagine yourself releasing and letting go of all stress and tension, starting from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. Meditations start from Dhs30. Visit the site for a group schedule, or call to book a private session. Illuminations Well-Being Center, 409, Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, www.illuminationsworld.com (04 448 7043).
Cosmic Healing Centre This organisation runs a wide range of individual and group meditations, including Gong Bath Mediation every Monday and The Grace Light Meditation every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Gong Bath Dhs50, Grace Light Dhs20. Mon 7pm-9pm, Tue 7pm-8pm. 402, Home Options building, Zabeel Roa, Karama (04 357 6676).
The Third Eye One of the city’s best known spiritual centres, there are sessions throughout the week, including the intriguingly named Liquid Gold Meditation. From Dhs10. See website for full schedule. 1101 Saeed Tower II, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.thirdeyeonline.com (04 326 6539).