I am safe. My body is relaxed. My mind is calm. And I am grateful for each breath I take. I gently drift in harmony with the ocean, far from the stresses of daily life. There is nowhere else I need to be at this very moment. Thoughts pass through my mind and roll away as gently as the waves beneath me. I am happy. I am alive. I am kind. I am me.
I have just experienced my first guided meditation with Rachael Moloney. And after a frantic day of work, child negotiations and constantly racing the clock, peacefully floating over calm waters with nothing but the sound of Rachael’s soothing voice for a glorious twenty minutes, was pure bliss.
I, like many others, used to believe meditation was solely for ‘hippies.’ I envisaged a group of long-haired nomads in nothing but a sarong, chanting phrases such as ‘ommmmm’ in unison. How wrong I was.
Turns out that Buddhists (some of the most peaceful and calm people in the world) have practised meditation for up to 1500 years BC. And while we have previously been inundated with education about keeping our bodies fit and healthy through exercise and nutrition, in recent decades the Western world (yes, even AFL players and famous actors meditate) has also started to discover the life-changing benefits of exercising another less obvious muscle. Our mind.
While our body controls the way we move, our mind controls our thoughts. And according to recent scientific research, by engaging in regular meditation and mindfulness practices, we can rewire our brains to experience more positive thoughts, and therefore react to situations better. Yes, there is hope for all of us.
This process is akin to training our muscles in the gym or experiencing a cardiovascular workout. The stronger we become, the better we are able to cope with daily physical tasks such as lifting. And the more efficiently our heart pumps blood, the faster and further we can run. Can you imagine what we would be capable of – physically and emotionally – if we trained our mind and body simultaneously?
Fortunately for those of us who live in Swan Hill, we can do just that. Passionate meditation teacher Rachael Moloney is here to guide us on that soul-changing journey, and according to her, it’s a lot simpler than you may think. “If you can breathe, you can meditate,” she explains. And it is this very natural process of life that has inspired the name of Rachael’s new meditation business, ‘Breathe with RM.’
Currently offering pop up meditation classes at her Tower Hill residence some Sunday mornings, Rachael hopes to provide members of our community with lifelong tips and techniques to help relax their bodies and calm their minds, which will ultimately help people cope with stressful situations better. Not only will you walk away feeling calmer and more relaxed, but your heart will be overflowing with gratitude and kindness after one hour with Rachael.
On arrival you are greeted with a warm cup of tea and a selection of affirmation cards to suit your day. During this hour long smorgasbord for the mind you can expect to focus on gratitude and four different meditations such as loving kindness, body scan, candle and silent meditation. So by the time you have finished, you will walk out a calmer person after what feels like the equivalent of eight hours sleep.
Rachael explains that there are many more benefits of meditation that many people are unaware of. Aside from the more obvious benefits such as a calmer mind and relaxed body, through meditation people can experience stress relief, an improved immune system, better sleep, lower heart rate and blood pressure, decreases in muscle tension and cortisol, a strengthening of the grey matter in the brain (prevents ageing), an ability to deal with negative situations more effectively, and, particularly in children, it can help regulate emotions.
What’s more, big companies and businesses are finally recognising the lifelong benefits of meditation for their employees, and if you attend Rachael’s meditation classes they are fully tax deductable if your job is deemed a stressful one.
Although Rachael’s meditation classes are the ultimate relaxation gift to yourself, not to mention a great way to start your journey towards a calmer mind, Rachael also recommends that as little as 2-5 minutes of meditation every day is life-changing in terms of rewiring the paths to the brain.
“Breath is so important for bringing us back. It calms us. It is an anchor that brings us back to the present. It is not about getting better at meditating. It is about getting better at life,” claims Rachael. “Anything is better than nothing.”
Rachael says there are a variety of free guided meditation phone apps such as Insight Timer (over 3000 guided meditations for all ages), Smiling Minds (great for kids), Headspace and The Way of Life (tallies the number of days of meditation) that will guide you on your way. “Start with five minutes, establish a routine and set a place,” explains Rachael.
And if it is ‘the real deal’ you are after, and you’re hoping to meditate on a more regular basis under Rachael’s guidance, she is running a half hour meditation session at Voyage Fitness on Wednesday nights from 7.05pm that anyone is welcome to attend.
Rachael, who is also a dedicated local Primary School teacher and passionate advocate of health and wellbeing, dabbled in meditation with herself and her students for three or four years before she made the decision to study meditation. “If things felt too much for me I’d meditate for a week and feel better. I always knew how good it was for me and all the wonderful benefits it provided, but I wouldn’t do it regularly,” says Rachael.
However, it was during her year of travel last year that she decided to start meditating on a daily basis. “I began meditating every day whilst travelling because I started to notice my thoughts were different to what they normally are. It wasn’t me.” After several weeks, Rachael noticed a significant change in herself and her ability to remain calm. She recalls a time when she was completely lost in Madrid, but kept her composure. “This was my ‘aha’ moment,” says Rachael. “Now if something doesn’t go as it’s meant to, my mind is calm and blank. It’s amazing.”
It was actually whilst meditating that Rachael came up with the idea to study meditation. “Once I discovered what I wanted to do I was that excited to get up every day, meditate and work on this dream.” From there she researched courses and went on to complete a Diploma of Meditation teaching while living in London.
In addition to her study last year, Rachael took the unique opportunity to visit Plum Village – a mindfulness village in the South of France – for a day. That only added to her motivation and she claims the enriching experience simply lit her up. Guided by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn (the second Dalai Lama), they spent a day refining their meditation practice, including a walking meditation through the village. For Rachael, it was an enlightening mindful eating exercise – not to mention how slow people walked and talked – that really made her think about our fast paced lives back home. “We sat in silence and ate for 45 minutes. I wasn’t even hungry. I was halfway through and I didn’t even want any more.”
While Rachael is currently only offering meditation classes in her home for adults, children’s meditation is definitely on her agenda for the future. She has experienced positive feedback in her classroom as kids learn to regulate their emotions and have experienced improvements in their concentration. Besides, there can never be enough love and kindness in the world, and if we can instil these life skills in our children from a young age, the world will be a better place.
“If every eight-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation.” The Dalai Lama
Rachael welcomes anyone to come and try it. “Meditation can actually change our lives and brains for the better,” says Rachael. “When you’re feeling better about yourself, you can give more to others.”
Say no more.
“A grandfather imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, ‘I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, and deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene.’ The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight. The grandfather answers, ‘The one I feed.’ – Author unknown
If you would like to find out more about Rachael’s meditation classes, her Breathe with RM Facebook page is updated with regular information.