I have a confession.
Until recently, I considered meditation to be in the same basket as mung beans and hemp socks – worthy and noble but not something I was ever likely to get excited about.
In my mind, meditation was the kind of thing my kooky, kaftan wearing Aunt would do. Just after she’d finished planting her garlic bulbs by the light of the full moon.
Sure – I’d read that people who meditated lived longer. And had lower blood pressure. And were nicer to their kids. But I was also pretty sure that giving up wine would have a similar effect and I hadn’t cracked that one either.
Besides, I didn’t have time to meditate. I had dragons to slay and mountains to climb.
Then I had kids (oh so many kids) and my already busy life went into overdrive. I would have laughed (a little hysterically) if anyone had suggested I take 10 minutes a day to “centre myself”.
Every so often though, listening to the radio or walking past an open café door, I’d hear that beautiful Simon and Garfunkel song, “Feelin’ Groovy”.
You know the one…
“Slow down – you move too fast. You gotta make this moment last……”
And I’d dismiss it instantly.
I’d walk faster or flick over to Radio National and listen to something important.
I didn’t have time to slow down. I had to move fast. I had lunches to make. And reports to write. And bills to pay.
Far better not to stop.
With a bit of effort, I could even ignore the exhausting loop of thoughts bouncing around in my head.
For a while.
Turns out that Buddhists have a name for a mind like mine that jumps from one thought to the next like a monkey jumps from tree to tree. They call it “Monkey Mind”. The monkey mind is not happy to live in the present moment but is constantly occupied with following every thought that passes through.
Me, I’m clearly not as evolved as your average Buddhist and I prefer to think of my mind as a Labrador puppy. Anyone who has ever lived with a Labrador puppy (or seen Marley and Me) knows that the very last thing you should do with a Labrador puppy is ignore it.
It’ll start off cute and fluffy and eager to please but without discipline it’ll turn into 30 kilos of noisy chaos.
And that’s what happened. Except that the noisy chaos was in my head and it had happened so gradually I didn’t even know it.
A badly behaved Labrador had become my normal mental state.
And then I tried meditation.
Why I did it, I have no idea. The closest I can come to an answer is that I was slightly hungover and the empty meditation room at a seminar I was attending looked soothing.
I sat down and tried not to think of anything.
“Yippee…you are finally focussing on me,” my mind responded, “..check it out I can do cartwheels and I can actually hold 62 thoughts at one time and make no sense of any of them. I can make you remember that embarrassing thing you did when you were 16 and then every other embarrassing thing you have done since then…….as well as spit out a random idea for using up those old tomatoes in the fridge.”
I endured 10 minutes (it is amazing how long that can seem) and then suddenly something happened.
It felt good – beautiful even.
Silence – for all of 15 seconds.
But it was enough. I was hooked. For the first time, I could imagine a life unaccompanied by endless useless mental chatter.
And so began my adventures in meditation.
Turns out there are a heap of different styles of meditation and I’m going try them all. Which ones works? Which don’t. Which ones are too kooky? And which ones keep that crazy Labrador curled up calmly out of the way so I can get on with slaying my dragons.
Have you tried meditation? Has it helped? What daily rituals do you have that bring you a bit of peace?
Kathy Wilson is actually quite good at some things, sadly just not meditation – yet. You can follow her on her meditation website www.mydiamonddays.com which offers 10-minute meditations sent daily to you via email.