A while ago I made it clear I was really going to give meditation a go. I did just that after a few failed attempts. Here are some thoughts about that journey and some other things that are sitting on my mind at the moment.
Meditation. What is it? To those uniformed or perhaps sitting with the stereotypical view of a bald headed man in a robe on some mountain face with nothing better to do. Meditation is quite simply; Sitting still and shutting up. For a moment – or two. It sounds simple enough but I promise you that if you were to go an attempt to sit utterly still for 5 minutes, you tell me its not difficult to ignore the pokes and prods your brain plays, a slight itch that becomes a black hole consuming all your attention becomes frightfully and horrifically hard to ignore. Meditation is no easy task and in the same sentence here I will tell you that it is. Why? Because like all things, this takes a little practice and a little getting used to. At first I would itch and squirm at my brain telling me my arm was hurting (I had my arms raised in the air based on the style of meditation I was doing) but eventually I would sit there, utterly still and quiet for 10 or more minutes. In fact I would eagerly look for opportunities to do so.
It sounds quite bizarre how such a banal act could have such profound effects. I won’t try to explain it myself or even tell you the scientific research on its benefits. Frankly I have thought of it more as a spiritual exercise. But there is a lot of scientific detail on how meditation improves yourmental wellbeing. I’ll tell you what I experience over the course of a month of daily practice. At first, soaring highs of mood and mental fortitude. Motivation and energy like I had not known before, wasted to be frank once again, I quickly had a sharp decline in mood, but persisted. It was up and down at a balanced level for the entire rest of the time I was practicing this. But what has happened is a drastic improvement in the control of my thoughts and anxiety. If before doing this I was at 10% control – I’m now at a firm 80%.
Let’s not mistake anything here though. I haven’t cured myself or become superman. I’m not a monk or a prophet. I’ve simply taken on the act of spending 3-15 minutes on just being silent and still. The effect that has on me is placing me exactly where I am. I’m not off in my thoughts or plans, I’m simply Being. The thoughts that do come whatever they might be just happen and are gone within a moment. I can reflect or think or even clear my thoughts. Not entirely but enough to separate the traffic jam of my mind and where I am. No longer am I stuck in this bumper to bumper three hour long traffic pile up with no end in sight. I’m observing. This is starting to sound like my heads up in the clouds so let’s bring it back down. I think quite simply the act of sitting still and being quiet is exactly that. It’s not running on a treadmill, or playing video game. You’re not distracting your mind as you are every other second of your day, instead you’re learning to co-operate with it. I’ve spoken before about the dual self. This comes back to that for me. You are constantly negotiating with a separate being. It’s often the worst tendencies of yourself, it wants to scratch the itch, it wants to go do something, it wants to seek pleasure for distraction…it does not want to hold a mirror up to itself and be in the moment. That is what you will coerce it into doing. 3 minutes here and 5 minutes there, slowly you will get yourself to a place of mental fortitude and clarity to which you can build upon.
A final thought on meditation is that it has by no exaggeration, helped me crawl out of hell. A personal hell, as we all find ourselves in throughout our lives. I’m certain I will be there once again, in some new layer of fantastically malevolent design but meditation is now a tool I can call upon to lift me out of darkness. For those who want to try add this tool to their arsenal. Stick with it. Don’t expect anything! Not even what I’ve told you here. Do it for nothing more than spending 3-15minutes being still and silent, enjoy it or learn to – and see what it can open up to you.
My practice of meditation has no way come to an end, its something I have done a little less but I want to keep pushing myself with it. See where I end up. One important thing is that it has got me to a good place again, good enough that I can look ahead with some amount of optimism. So naturally I think about the opening up of our society (UK at least anyhow) and what that means for me, for you, for all of us.
It may sound like I’m being sensational about it. But this is the beginning again. You may not consciously recognise it as it happens and as it is happening but at some point soon you will be joyful again. Around people and life will have goals and ambition and hope once again. We’ve been on a treadmill but that has busted and the green screen infant of us has dropped, a road lies ahead, its by no means going to be a straight path but at least there is future now in our mental psyches where there was only repetition before.
Some of you may be eager to suggest it’s too soon. Be scared of the virus that looms in the corners of the world. To be scared of such things now is nothing more than teething pains. I urge people to stay silent, be still. Let life bloom again. It’s time for all this to fade into a nightmare. I hope the world ahead feels closer and more vibrant. I think we could all use a bit of colour.