Meditation. It really shouldn’t be this hard, and for so many millions of people, it isn’t. Thinking of absolutely nothing from 5 to 20 minutes at a time, twice a day.
Its benefits include greater creative focus, and a deeper sense of calm in a chaotic world. What’s there not to love?
And it’s true to say I have dipped my toes sporadically into the meditative waters, including a rather odd and unexpected meeting with a lady Buddhist monk that didn’t go well at all; let’s just say we had different ideas on sin and reincarnation (that old chestnut). We both moved on.
A few years ago, I even signed up for a Transcendental Meditation course which I attended, for two hours a week, in Liverpool city centre. The people there were dedicated and clear believers in the power of meditation. I was intrigued.
It began with twenty minutes of contemplation with my meditative guide in a side room high from the noise of the city. I was given a one-word mantra chosen especially for me which I was told to repeat in my head to help me into a meditative state. I was also told not to share this mantra with anyone.
The cynic in me questioned the authenticity of an exclusive mantra I wasn’t to share with anyone, but I chose to put aside cynicism and to embrace the moment, so to speak. Or not speak, as it happens.
I then enjoyed a relaxed period where I succeeded, more or less, to close off my mind to the myriad of thoughts that cloud our head constantly. It was somewhat enjoyable, in a sitting-in-a-room-with-a-perfect-stranger-paying-him-for-doing-next-to-nothing sort of way. Enjoyable but largely unremarkable, it seemed.
However later, as I walked back through the city, I admittedly felt far more aware of everything around me. The colours of people’s clothes seemed more vivid; everything looked a little more 3D. It was lovely, like I was part of something but observing it with an interested detachment.
However, despite going to more sessions, this initial sensation turned out to be a one-off. The other people on the course were pretty intense, serious practitioners and I really tried to match their intensity. And maybe that was the problem, I tried too hard to relax. Is that an oxymoron?
AN APP FOR A NAP (OF SORTS)
Over the years I keep going back to try again, with mixed results. The growing interest in mindfulness and meditation have spawned a multitude of apps and picking my way through to decide which gave the most benefit for the least financial outlay was stressful in itself.
Some are free. Some say they are free then suggest a ‘deeper understanding’ can be achieved by a small but regular monthly payment. All bombarded me with daily emails or messages to my phone. Most give regular teachings from guru’s or quotes from a meditation messiah. In the end I had to remove the app and unsubscribe. Who need harassment when all you want to do is relax?
But the reason I keep going back is a gnawing belief there is something in this. My lack of progress really is down to my own sporadic commitment, but lately I have felt I may be turning a corner in my quest for internal calm and with a busy year ahead envisaged, I’ll take whatever helps that is legal and healthy.
So stayed tuned. I have now done meditation for short periods on five successive days and who knows, this could be turning into a routine.
But I’m not holding my breath. Just listening a little more closely to it.
Wish me luck.