When you see the word ‘meditation’, what’s the first image that comes to mind?
Chance are you’re envisioning someone sitting upright with their eyes closed, their legs crossed and tucked under one another and a serene expression on their face — usually in total isolation in some kind of natural setting.
That's not a spoiler, right?
That's what pop culture and stock images would have us believe. In reality, meditation can take a variety of forms — and not all of them involve sitting in the lotus potion and chanting 'om' while silhouetted against a sunset.
At Centred Meditation in Sydney, the first guided meditation drop-in studio in Australia, it happens in an armchair with a blankie.
Nestled right in the heart of the CBD, Centred Meditation offers strung-out city workers a haven where they can just stop, breathe and not focus on their KPIs for half an hour. That sounded pretty appealing, so some of the Mamamia team booked in for a late session.
After-work drinks with colleagues is one thing, but the thought of meditating with them was... different, to say the least.
After arriving at the centre and sipping some tea, we settled into our armchairs. Co-founder Nikki Jankelowitz insisted our personal comfort throughout the session was paramount — we could use the cushions and blankets as we pleased, get up and move about, or fetch another cup of tea. The only rule: phones off. Fair enough.
Watch: A guided meditation you can try at home, as demonstrated by Paper Tiger. (Post continues after video.)
Every person in the group had varied experience with meditation — from total rookies (i.e. me) to dedicated fans — so what we got from the session differed.
For my colleague Bri, who has dabbled with meditation in the past, the way Nikki instructed us to manage our errant thoughts was a game-changer.
"I loved learning that meditation practice does not necessarily mean blacking your mind out of all thoughts. This has always been my struggle and why I am usually left with a feeling of failure after meditation. Rather, when thoughts enter your head you simply reflect and then let go of them," she says.
"This method certainly worked for me. I had to be shaken back to consciousness when everyone was waiting outside at the end of the class. Did I sleep or meditate, I couldn't say. But I had a blissful train ride home and you can't say that happens every day."
For Ally, who usually prefers yoga-style meditation, the physical comfort of the space made a difference.
Pillows and blankets and armchairs, oh yes. (Image: Centred Meditation/supplied)
"I was a big fan of the pillow and blanket factor. If you can say no to that after a long day in boots and skirt, you're mad. I found myself getting distracted by sounds in the room, but apparently this strengthens the mind as you have to work to come back to relaxation station," she says.
As for me... well, I struggled to swat away my work-related musings, but I enjoyed having someone talk me through the meditation process and how it worked. I don't think I was particularly great at it (I know, it's probably not something you can be "great" at), but I felt rather calm by the end. And I didn't fall asleep.
Nikki and Kevin Jankelowitz opened Centred Meditation last year with the aim of introducing the benefits of meditation to a "modern, skeptical" audience, like they had once been.
"We started meditating due to unsustainable stress, somewhat reluctantly, quite a few years back. We were amazed by the profound effects that immediately started to unfold," Nikki explains.
We're Kevin and Nikki, the co-founders of Centred Meditation! Our vision is to give urban professionals a greater sense of confidence, clarity, and calm. We've experienced first hand the powerful effects that meditation has had on our own health and wellbeing and so our mission at present is to make meditation as accessible as possible to urban professionals. Our urban sanctuary in the heart of the Sydney CBD is always open for you to come and chat or do one of our thirty minute guided meditations :) #centredmeditation #meditation #wellbeing #mindfulness #unplug #relax #getcentred #unwind #meditate #health
"We then spent the most part of 2013 travelling in India on a sabbatical, delving deeper into the ancient tools of Eastern philosophy."
Since discovering the effects of meditation on their own lives, Nikki and Kevin have been determined to dispel the misconceptions surrounding it and remove any barriers to its use, including religion. Their 30-minute meditation sessions are free of chanting, prayer or religious affiliations.
"Meditation works on so many different levels. Not only is it an antidote to stress, it also enhances productivity, improves sleep quality, decreases anxiety, and increases calm," Nikki says.
You can find out more about Centred Meditation here. A single drop-in session is $16 and a 10-class pass brings it down to $14.50, but first-timers have the option of getting one week of unlimited visits for $20.
Have you ever tried a group meditation?