Christmas is supposed to be the season to be jolly, but if the pressure of the preparations make you feel stressed, a Shaftesbury meditation expert is offering help. Dr Karen Janes of Natural Healing Energy is hosting three sessions to help locals relax in the run-up to December 25th.
Dr Janes knows how many of her clients feel about the festive season. “This time of year can be incredibly stressful for people,” said Karen. “There is a lot of pressure around spending money or spending time with people that you are less keen on being with – trying to be happy families when you’re not maybe feeling that. The chaos of it and this consumer-based, materialistic time of year makes people stressed.”
Karen says her three meditation events will offer participants some ‘me time’ and some tools for unwinding. “It will be a lovely way to spend an afternoon but there will also be lots of tips that you can take into your everyday life, for times when you may be feeling stressed,” said Karen.
She is keen to address some myths about meditation. For example, she says you won’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor and there’s no need to chant. “My first rule of meditation is ‘be comfortable’. If your body isn’t, there is no way that you will get your mind to be quieter,” explained Karen. “Some people think you have to blank your mind when you meditate. It’s not really like that. Most of us don’t have the luxury of living in a closed community in the Himalayas, where you just have to perform a daily routine. We have demands on us. Getting our minds completely quiet is impossible for more than just a split second. It’s more about trying to get your mind to focus on one thing rather than not do anything with it.”
As Karen’s course centres on ways to relax, she says it’s helpful to identify signs that you might not be as relaxed as you think you are. “Tension in the body is a good guide as to whether we are genuinely relaxed. We might have our shoulders up around our ears. As we relax, the shoulders drop,” said Karen.
“People often say they can’t switch off their heads,” she added. “They are lying in bed and their mind is going round. For some people, having a bath is relaxing. Going for a run, even though a physical activity, can be quite meditative because you get ‘in the zone’. Your mind settles down and people say that they feel calmer. You don’t have to sit still. That’s another myth. You can practice some forms of meditation whilst moving.”
You have probably walked or driven along for some distance and you’ve realised that you can’t recall sections of the journey. That sense of ‘zoning out’ isn’t the experience Karen wants to help you achieve. “That is different to a relaxed state because we are quite tense when we are completely somewhere else. Being deep in thought takes a lot of energy and adds more tension to your body, so you feel tired. With meditation and mindfulness practices we are trying to be more aware of how we feel internally, physically or emotionally but also aware of stuff around us.”
Karen doesn’t take afternoon naps to revitalise herself because she feels groggy afterwards. She says that, instead, she meditates. “If I take a couple of minutes to meditate when I get the afternoon slump, it perks up my energy. Meditation can be deeply relaxing but also energising.”
Some people might be worried that a meditation course might be a bit too weird. Karen is keen to assure potential course-goers that her sessions are quite down to earth. “I’m quite a practical person. People can choose whether they sit on mats on the floor or on chairs. I encourage people not to lie down because they are more likely to fall asleep and that’s not the goal. Some people close their eyes, others prefer to keep them open. If they want to keep them open, I’d encourage them to gaze at a fixed spot.”
Karen suggests that the ‘staring into space’ approach is what you might employ on the Tube when you don’t want to give the impression that you’re looking at the person opposite. “I play gently relaxing music but not the ‘whale noise’ stuff, because it puts people off. Waves can be relaxing for people. I get everybody to concentrate on their breath. It is constantly flowing in and out of our bodies, not dissimilar to waves on the beach. We can tune into that rhythm to help relax us. By paying attention to our breath, it slows down our breathing and that tells our brain we are not in danger. That lowers stress hormones in the body.”
Karen offers a technique called a ‘guided visualisation’ which will give attendees something to picture. “It could be imagining the colours of the trees as you walk along a path. I get people to imagine the sensations under their feet as they walk along different surfaces. I ask them what they can smell. It’s using all of our senses. It gives our minds something to do. Everybody will be distracted. The art of meditation is that you don’t get cross when you get distracted – you just bring your mind back to what you should be focusing on.”
Karen’s classes take place on the 9th and 23rd of November and 14th December. She has purposely spaced them out to give course-goers a chance to practise what they have learned. Each of the 75-minute long Saturday afternoon workshops will be in her Natural Healing Energy practice, based in the courtyard behind Bell Street car park. The fee for the entire course is £75.
There’s more information at www.NaturalHealingEnergy.com or on 07941 031427.