Swamped by the pressures of every day life (and mildly terrified of getting roped into climbing again after I’d just regained the ability to do up my own buttons) I thought meditation would be a wise hobby to pursuit this week.
Now I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to meditating classes – fearful of being sucked into some cult or wicker circle or pressurised into joining a new religion. This was no such thing.
In a bright and sunny room in ‘The Place’ in King’s Cross, around 25 folding chairs were spread around in a circle. Half of these were filled when Swami Paramananda came in with a gold watch and a golden mind.
He began by explaining that there are many different ways to meditate, and that to teach your mind to let go can take some practice. The technique we did that sunny Sunday morning began with eyes closed and some heavy breathing (no, not like that).
We then were told to sit calmly and focus on ‘seeing’ (eyes still closed) our breath go in and out of us. Once that was the single thing we concentrated on, we were then to ‘look at’ our thoughts. And I mean look at. Not think about, categorise or judge. Just ‘see’ them without emotion or action. He described it as a sky with our thoughts being clouds floating along. I found it easier to imagine looking into a pool with them bobbing around.
But after the first few minutes my mind started wondering; how much would a gym membership be through a new company and did I take the chicken breasts out of the freezer for dinner? You know, important stuff.
He suggested when we wondered to return to the ‘watching your breathing’ state until the mind was focused on one thing again. So I did, and struggled to return to thought watching.
While I still remain slightly sceptical, two things surprised me with this class:
First; the room was cold. I kept thinking when we were starting that I should have got up and got my jersey. But I didn’t want to disrupt. A few minutes in I lost awareness of the temperature, of my hands together in my lap, of the person’s tummy next to me grumbling. I lost all sense for just a short while. When we opened our eyes again half an hour later, I was cold once more.
Second; before I closed my eyes a young guy slipped in and sat next to me, politely saying ‘Hi’ before we began. When I opened my eyes again a little old lady was sitting in the same spot. Seriously. I’m not sure how it happened, but it’s true. I think our combined meditating changed his form into an old lady.
Try meditation – it’s cheap, it gets you out of the house on a Sunday morning and transported me into a VUP or ‘very useful person’ for the day.
I also agree with the sentiment; seeing thoughts from a more objective viewpoint should allow a calmer tackling of them.
- Cost – £
- Energy – As much is needed to sit still for half an hour.
- Sociability – While there’s meant to be a shared energy which is why people often get together to mediate, it’s an unspoken energy, so unless you corner people afterward it’s something you do for you.
- Equipment needed – Nada.
Want to give it a go?
I would recommend LondonMeditation.info for first-timers – every other Sunday, 10-11am, £5 drop-in fee.
- Meditate in London – Golders Green, £8, Monday evenings
- London Meditation – Camden, weekend day course £95
- London Buddhist Centre – Leicester Square, Saturday, £5
- Inner Space – Some free, timing varies, Covent Garden
- Meditate in South London – various venues in South London, £6-8