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Ipswich monk shares his ultimate meditation tips

PUBLISHED: 09:33 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:33 07 September 2020

An outdoor meditation session at Ipswich's Christchurch Park Picture: Ipswich Buddhist Centre

An outdoor meditation session at Ipswich's Christchurch Park Picture: Ipswich Buddhist Centre

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Ariyanivata of Ipswich Buddhist Centre’s relaxing methods are ideal for easing the whole family’s back to school and work anxieties.

A socially distanced outdoor group meditation Picture: Ipswich Buddhist CentreA socially distanced outdoor group meditation Picture: Ipswich Buddhist Centre

As more people turn to a variety of mindfulness techniques to ease their worries, autumn is proving to be the ideal season to step outside and take in your surroundings, helping you to unwind.

Ariyanivata, a local Buddhist who practises at the Ipswich Buddhist Centre, shares the benefits that outdoor meditation can have – and why getting back to nature can really do one’s soul the world of good.

Meditation, which has reportedly been practised since 1500BCE, is enjoyed by people from all walks of life around the world. The NHS even recommends meditation on its website as a form of mindfulness for helping with mental wellbeing.

“When done in a natural setting, meditation gives a sense of connectedness with the earth and other elements. It can give the practice an extra vitality which can be missing indoors,” said Ariyanivata, who has been meditating nearly every day for around 15 years.

Forest bathing has been shown to help lower a person's stress levels and blood pressure Picture: Getty ImagesForest bathing has been shown to help lower a person's stress levels and blood pressure Picture: Getty Images

“We open up to something bigger and the world can have a feeling of being alive. Our senses intensify, and we become aware of feeling the warmth of the sun on a warm day, the feeling of a gentle breeze on our face and the sound of birdsong. Connecting with our breath in these conditions usually has a noticeable calming effect, and the opportunity to let go of our concerns and anxieties of everyday life.”

While meditation can obviously be done at any time of day, Ariyanivata suggests having a go when the sun is either rising or setting, due to how dramatic and beautiful the sky can be at those times.

“It’s a wonderful experience to sit mindfully and be aware of the sun coming up or going down - meditating on the edge of a wood at sunset is quite a powerful experience.”

If you’re looking to unwind while getting your daily steps in, why not take your meditation on the go and practise the art of forest bathing.

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Forest bathing – or shinrin-yoku - is a Japanese exercise that was first developed in the 1980s, following a series of scientific studies. The results showed just two hours of peaceful exploration within nature could help reduce a person’s blood pressure and lower cortisol levels.

A more recent study conducted by the University of Derby in 2018 similarly found that improving your connection with nature led to a significant increase in wellbeing.

“Normally done in silence, it provides the opportunity to connect with nature and practice meditation. Our Natural Mindfulness and Nature Connection walks – which are done by one of our friends who leads the walks in usually wooded areas - are highly regarded, and have been found to be beneficial by those who have taken part.”

For anyone who wishes to give outdoor meditation a go with other like-minded zen-seekers, Ipswich Buddhist Centre has been running outdoor group sessions in Christchurch Park. Organised with social distancing in mind, attendees will be spaced apart at 2.5 metre intervals.

“The regular park sessions are a recent innovation - no more than a couple of years. Occasionally a group would get together to practise outdoors, but it hasn’t been led or advertised. We intend carrying on the park sessions into the future. Of course, there will be a break in the winter months, but we will keep going until the end of October.

“For our park sessions, we lead our regular meditation practices, which can include the Mindfulness of Breathing, and the Development of Loving Kindness. However, in favourable conditions, one could just sit and bask in the beauty of nature.”

Whether you choose to meditate in a group while sat down, or as you make your way through nature, there is a simple exercise that anyone can use to get deeper in touch with your breathing.

“Begin by closing your eyes and tuning in to the body - noting and relaxing any tension that you may find. Next, bring the attention to the breath, and initially be aware of the calming sensation of the ‘out’ breath.

“Then just follow the whole of the breathing process. If your mind wanders - and it will - note that it has happened, and calmly bring your focus back to the breath.”

To find out more information about meditation and Buddhism, visit www.ipswichbuddhistcentre.org.uk


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