The 12 Point Plan – 12. Meditation

Meditation, Mind


The last of the Mind points in our 12 Point Plan is meditation, which is used by people all over the world as both a spiritual practise and a way to calm the mind.

Benefits include:

  1. Dis-identifying from the thinking mind – We are so used to being in our heads (using our thinking mind), that we have come to identify ourselves as our mind, rather than as the consciousness that observes our thoughts.  If we can re-associate ourselves with the observing mind, that part of ourselves which is free from constantly thinking, we can find more peace. If you’d like to learn more about this concept, I’d recommend reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
  2. Presence – Most of our suffering comes from not being present.  Fears are usually about imagining something that hasn’t come to pass yet (and may never do), whereas resentments and shame are usually about living in the past.  Although we should allow ourselves to feel emotions that are coming up for us (see the Journal Point), we just won’t have as many painful emotions come up in the first place if we are living more in the present moment.
  3. Lengthened Attention Span – Studies have looked at the effects of mindfulness meditation and found it improved participants’ abilities to stay focused on a task for longer.  They also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation.
  4. May Reduce Memory Loss – In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.
  5. May Help Fight Addictions – The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviours.
  6. Improves Sleep – Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or “runaway” thoughts that often lead to insomnia.  Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.


Practise for 10 minutes+.  The eventual goal is to perform this daily.

It could be done in the morning, upon waking, or in the evening to wind down before bed.  Experiment with different forms of meditation and find what works for you.

Some examples of Meditation Practises:

  • Mindfulness of Breathing Practise – Find somewhere comfortable to sit.  Spend the 1st minute or two settling yourself and relaxing (many practitioners will perform a Body Scan, working up from the feet to the head and actively relaxing every part of them before beginning).  Then bring your attention to your breath.  I have come across many different types of breath counting patterns in different traditions.  I would suggest you start with simply “Breath In slowly, counting from 1 to 5, then Breath Out again counting down from 5 to 1”.  You can spend some time focusing on the sensation of the air filling your body and then emptying, or instead bring your attention to the tip of your nose and the air being drawn in and leaving.  At some point, you are likely to get distracted by some thinking (work/relationship worries or maybe just wondering what’s going to happen in your favourite TV show).  That’s completely normal.  The key thing is to be patient with yourself; simply realise you have been off thinking and return to focus on the next breath.  Over time, your ability to stay with the breath will improve.
  • Point of focus – If you find the practise of meditating with your eyes closed particularly hard (some people just fall asleep or find it impossible to not let their minds wander, even after much practise) you could try with your eyes open and something to focus on.  A candle or a flower/plant would be good objects for this.  Try with the breath counting described above or just letting your focus be absorbed in the object, trying to let go of any words, ideas or observations about it and just seeing it.
  • Cultivating Loving Kindness Practise – There are four stages to this practise.  It is good to have quickly planned who you will focus on in each stage in advance.  Spread the time you have available over these four stages, so you could start with 2:30 each, to take 10 mins.
    • The first stage is to focus on a loved one or someone you get on with well, someone it’s easy to think positively towards. Think of them and repeat the mantra “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering” (or something like that which helps you to feel warm, loving thoughts about them). 
    • The second stage is to focus on a neutral person, someone you don’t have any particular feelings about either way.  Maybe someone you see but don’t really engage with much (a shop assistant maybe?).  Repeat the mantra, thinking of them, and try to direct the same loving feelings towards them you had in the first stage. 
    • The third stage is to focus on a problematic person, someone you have difficult feelings about.  Again, try to generate the same feelings towards them with the mantra and opening your heart.  This can be new to some and may take some practise. 
    • The fourth and final stage is to expand the focus of your mind to encompass all beings everywhere. You might start with your city, then your continent, then the planet, including all living things. 
  • Guided Meditation – Use an app (such as Headspace, Insight Timer or Calm) or find recordings wherever you get your music from (Spotify, YouTube, CDs etc.).
  • Walking Meditation – If doing this, you are effectively killing two birds with one stone, as you can accumulate some of your daily steps.  However, I would suggest that if you’re doing it for meditation practise, you don’t listen to Podcasts, loud/energetic music or even talk to a friend, but use it as quiet time where you can focus on being present and observing what is around you as you walk.  Meditation type music would be okay (see below).
  • Music/sound meditation – nature sounds, singing bowls, gong baths, chanting tracks, healing frequencies or just some gentle relaxing music can all be aids for relaxing meditation sessions.

If you want further guidance, ask me or go to a meditation centre/teacher to learn a method (there are many).

What if you find it hard to meditate?

Most western people find it hard to sit still for any length of time without feeling bored, and even harder to try and quiet their mind.  That is completely normal because most of us are so overloaded with constant stimulation (from our social media, emails, TV etc.)

I have had loads of people say they’ve “tried meditation” and it doesn’t suit them.  My response to that is it’s a bit like someone walking into a gym having not trained for years, jumping up on a Pull Up bar expecting to be able to do one and when they find they can’t, saying “Pull Ups aren’t for me”. 

You have to practise.  Quieting your mind is a skill that takes time to develop.  When I first started meditation 20 years ago, my mind was all over the place. It took months to feel like I was making genuine progress and I still have times where it seems like I can’t stop thinking about work or something for more than a minute.

Here is what I’d suggest:

  1. Don’t be attached to the results – you’ll get more out of it if you’re not expecting to become enlightened or master it overnight.  It will be more relaxing and enjoyable, as you’ll just be exploring and seeing what happens.
  2. Practise self-forgiveness – The art of being forgiving towards yourself, every time you realise your mind has wandered, is a wonderful skill that will show up elsewhere in your life.
  3. Think of it like doing reps of an exercise – the practise of spotting your mind wandering, then returning calmly to the breath can be thought of as exercising your mind.  Recognise that every time you catch yourself thinking about something else, it is not a failure but an opportunity to return to the breath and do another rep.