Botox, Faux-Tox, Whatevertox… You won’t catch me signing up for any of them. But it’s true: a furrowed brow is one of the most ageing features on a face. So have you considered this low-tech way to banishing forehead furrows – through meditation…?
Now, I know myself that the very act of meditation can be stressful. Seek to empty the mind, and instantly it fills with To Do Lists, becomes preoccupied with a dive-bombing bluebottle in the next room – or one’s limbs simply develop a bad case of Lotus position-ache. As a result, potential meditators often abandon a tension-banishing technique which, when practised regularly, can keep at bay a wide range of complaints including headaches, migraine, asthma, eczema, PMS, hypertension and even heart attacks. (One London study of meditation and relaxation training for men and women at risk of coronaries found that, four years on, not only did members of the meditating group have lower blood pressure readings, but showed fewer symptoms of heart disease, less angina and a lower number of deaths from heart attack. Can’t argue with that.) More meditative bonuses: zapped stress and the ability to cope better with forthcoming activities or problems.
But the real challenge, of course, is learning how to do it. So: D-I-Y meditation begins here… (NB I find it helpful to take a few drops of Australian Bush Flower Essences Meditation Essence before starting any meditation session.) This particular meditation focuses on chakras: the body’s seven different energy centres. (If that’s a bit woo-woo for you, you can meditate on a candle flame; there’s even a three-minute meditation exercise on Nintendo Wii-Fit!) Sit in a position that feels comfortable: seated in a chair with both feet flat on the ground, lying on a blanket or yoga mat, or cross-legged (if you’re yogically-inclined…) When you’re comfortable, try to imagine the stress melting away, and focus on your breathing, allowing it to become deeper and more regular; be aware of the passage of air flowing into the body. Sense the heart beating, and visualise your body. Now it’s time to imagine a rainbow-coloured energy, or prana, being taken into your body along with the breath.
Start with the ‘base’ chakra – a point at the base of the spine. Envisage a whirlpool of iridescent energy swirling there, and at the same time, try and imagine the earth’s grounding energy being drawn up into you. Next, focus on a point in the small of the back about three inches above the first chakra. Imagine the iridescent energy revitalising this particular area. After a minute or so, focus on a point about an inch and a half below the navel, and allow the breath to energise this area. (This is called the ‘manipura’ chakra, and when we’re subjected to stress of any kind, it’s felt here; this chakra also relates to the unconscious mind – which is why we almost ‘feel’ things in this part of the body, as we tap into our instincts.)
Now focus on the area in front of the heart. Visualise the prana energy flowing both in and out of the chakra; some meditation teachers believe this is where spirit, soul and body meet. Next, focus on a point in the front of your neck, half-way between your shoulder-blades and your chin. This chakra – vishuddha – is linked with communication. (Those-in-the-know maintain that this chakra has a blue energy – and they advise, when public speaking, to enhance the power of your words by wearing blue around the throat…)
After a minute or so, move upwards to focus on a point just above your eyes, behind your forehead – the oh-so-famous ‘third eye’, responsible for deep insight and intuition. At this point, let yourself relax totally; ideally, you’ll spend four or five minutes just imagining that golden iridescent energy revitalising this chakra, bringing you into balance. And last but not least? It’s the turn of the crown chakra: concentrate on a point half an inch or so above the top of the head. Visualise the whole of your energetic body (not the physical body, but the aura around you), shining with a bright white light. Try to conjure up an image of the universe itself, and draw that powerful energy down towards you from the heavens, till it merges with your own bright white ‘halo’. Imagine that white light flowing down through the crown chakra, energising your whole body with its healing energy. After a few minutes, draw all that energy into yourself and gradually re-enter the world. Wiggle your toes and stretch. Lastly, open your eyes – and be gentle on yourself, drinking a glass of still water and taking it easy for a while.
And please: don’t be put off if meditation doesn’t work for you, first time round. There are different styles and techniques, and one for everyone. I’ve road-tested several, and wrote about them in the Yoga for Life book that came out last year (VH exclusively has signed copies), because I wanted to find my own best path to meditation. I ‘kissed a few frogs’, meditation technique-wise; in fact, the ability evaded me for years after one particular meditation guru I encountered told me to imagine thoughts as clouds in my mind’s eye, gently drifting out of sight; I ended up with visions of increasing numbers of clouds scudding across the heavens as unwanted thoughts rushed into my consciousness. So I prefer another technique: imagine those thoughts settling like dust all around you, gently falling to earth as your mind clears. It’s somehow less frenzied, and it works for me…
But whichever technique works for you – and helps de-furrow that brow – I wish you om, sweet om…