I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’, (which isn’t about birds!) It’s quite hilarious at times and rich in warmth and down-to-earth wisdom. At one point there is an account of her visit to a priest because she is feeling chaotic and vulnerable in her writing. She talks about the unpredictable nature of being a writer, of working in a space where you can go from success to failure in the blink of an eye, or the turn of a page. She feels thrown by the fickle way the world responds, by never knowing how a piece will be received, wanting the positive response (of course) but not knowing what she will get, from one book or essay to the next. The priest agrees that she is in need of some peace and quiet and reflects on her search for serenity amidst all the chaos that she feels. Abbreviated, he responds as follows: “The world can’t give you that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts … But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.” Continue reading
Sunday night was one of those nights. You wake up in the early hours to make a quick trip down the hall and then that’s it. Sleep is well and truly interrupted. The rhythm is gone, never to be seen again– for tonight, anyway. After twenty minutes or so, despite tissue salts (#6 Kali Phos may help), conscious slow breathing and counting backwards from 100, I’m still there, firmly in the grip of something that is bigger than my toolkit and all my best intentions. Sometimes I even forget about the toolkit—I forget to check on myself and what is happening with my thoughts, and how these may be affecting my breath and heart rate. A sudden recollection of a disagreement at work or at home may lead to an unexpected welling up of outrage, resentment, or whatever, and before you know it you are confronting that person in your head, you are feeling the steaminess of anger and righteous indignation, your heart rate goes up as your blood starts to boil, and in no time you are wide awake, living those unpleasant memories, and any hope of sleep has left the building!
I am accustomed to working from home. What I’m not accustomed to is having someone at home with me, sitting at his desk just on the other side of the pillar while I sit at mine. It’s not really a big deal- while he’s busy on one of his conference calls, or speaking to a colleague on the phone, in go my earplugs and I continue as normal. So on a practical level things have not changed much- I still do pretty much the same stuff as I did before lockdown: cook food, clean house, garden garden, feed cat. And write.
Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.
In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”
Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.
So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?
I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.
First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: Continue reading