Urban Dandy Meditation #1 was on 15th February 2018.
A new venture, aimed at people from our community and further afield to engage in the practice of transcendental meditation and to stimulate discussion and creativity.
A theme of ‘Who are we, really?’ guided us through the hour – the class were told:
Urban Dandy’s writers look at context, we explain things, point out pertinent detail, tell the truth and discern. But, Urban Dandy is for the whole human, which means we’re interested in looking beyond context. If we let go of this role of journalist, poet, or whatever label we could pin to ourselves, what remains?
Discomfort might be one thing…
The class was led into the first few minutes of meditation practice,
The brief instruction: Sit, feet flat on the floor, an upright spine, ‘when the body is still, the mind is more likely to follow’, focus ahead – still eyes,
“When we sit down to meditate it is as if an old friend sits down with us, a life-long friend, a friend who accompanies us everywhere and who is so close to us as to be practically indistinguishable from the ‘me’ or the ‘I’ that we habitually call ourselves. That friend is the moving mind, which in Sanskrit goes by the name of manas”.
“Manas is our friend and can help us in all sorts of ways but it has one abiding fault: it never knows when to stop talking and so makes it difficult for us to hear anything else. We spend most of our waking hours listening to the chatter of manas ceaselessly commenting and judging – judging not only our own actions but the actions of others as well”.[i]
Then a discussion: How was the practice? ‘It went quickly’ – ‘it went slowly’. Who are we? We cannot be manas – our thoughts.
The second practice
Suggestion: Do not worry about the wandering mind, that is what the mind does, there is no failure. The mantra is the hand rail when you want to come back.
What is a mantra? A sound, repeated silently, inwardly, preferably not in one’s mother tongue. What is meditation? Different participants had different ways, but the class was in transcendental meditation, in which the practitioner transcends their physical, mental and intellectual selves and touches pure being. Here, the meditator begins to open up to the question ‘Who am I really?’
“Every single time we return to the practice, we are overcoming ancient innate tendencies of the mind to flow outward. Every time we come back, we are reminding ourselves where to look, and it gets deeper each time. This is why it’s said that what matters isn’t how many times we go away, but how many times we come back…”[ii]
(To become who we truly are we first have to come out of being what we are not).
Naturally, because of life and its demands and preoccupations, context came in to the conversation – the heaviness of life, this was a gathering of people with heavyweight life experiences and no little wisdom, but the question was worth coming back to, to taste that bliss, to lighten the burden: Who are we, really?
Glimpsing some light and following it, discovering that I am indeed part of that light and it is part of me… Good night everyone, thanks for coming, and we leave.
But the truth remains and will be touched again, always available.
Urban Dandy Meditation #2 will take place on Maundy Thursday, 29th March, same venue same time – The Library, Downstairs, Essex Unitarian Church, Notting Hill Gate, 7:30-8:30pm
By Tom Charles
For Brian – ‘it is always there’
[i] From the booklet ‘Beginning to Meditate’, The School of Meditation
[ii] Krishna Das, ‘Chants of a Lifetime’, Hay House, 2010, p.54
The benefits of meditation are being enjoyed by an increasing number of people in the West. But some are put off from trying, or abort their attempts, tormented by painful thoughts and feelings that make sitting still unbearable. It is worth considering how meditation can help people move beyond the pain.
Google Image Fallacy
It is useful to remember that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, teacher of The Beatles, insisted that any period meditation is a positive thing, cautioning people against judging themselves harshly. When asked “What makes a good meditation?” he replied simply: “When it happens”.
A far cry from Maharishi’s teaching is the idea that the mind should be calm, and that meditation is all about beautiful people sitting on beaches or mountain tops, legs crossed, forefinger and thumb together. This is nowt but a fallacy made popular by the domination of such images on websites and other materials promoting meditation.
The danger of the fallacy is that by applying advertising techniques (beautiful people, an easy route to happiness) to sell meditation as a lifestyle product, much of the real experience goes unmentioned. Meditation is a simple technique, but it is by no means easy. Learning to meditate means exposure to one’s vulnerability. It is to be authentically open to what is, without familiar distractions. In short, meditation is not superficial, nor is it for sissies. The qualities required include grit and determination, and not so much of this…
The technique of transcendental meditation exposes a person to their current state, while enabling them to be slightly removed from it, meaning that it is almost inevitable that discomfort and pain will arise at times.
Sitting there in mental distress might seem like an inelegant defeat, but this is no failure on the part of the meditator, and there should be no criticism of those reporting difficulty in sitting still and attending to their mantra or their breath.
Instead, those who admit their frailties and humanity are worthy of respect, after all they aren’t conforming to what they think they are supposed to be experiencing, but are being real about what is actually happening.
If being with oneself is too much, meditation exposes it, a truth that could have laid dormant for years without being addressed. Pain, agitation and attention deficit open the way for an enquiry: Not an angry ‘What’s wrong with me, why am I not blissed out?’ but ‘What’s going on for me that I feel so much terror? How can I help myself, or reach out for help?’
If meditation takes you to the realisation that you are suffering with mental or emotional dis-ease, it has served you far better than Google’s instant new age hit…
Why? Because the next logical step is to accept that nobody can comprehend, let alone resolve with the rational mind, the depth, intricacy and pain of the human experience, with its intertwined stories, contradictions, training in self-loathing and the multiple powerful societal, cultural and familial influences on our fragile nervous systems.
So don’t try to solve the puzzle of your pain and confusion. Instead give up, let go, at least for a few minutes.
And then you can go full circle, because meditation is less an activity, more a practice of letting go of what the human being does not need and coming to the true self: peaceful and complete…quite a sea change. With consistent practice come multiple benefits, and a healthier experience of life with all its subtle joys, lessening the chances of emotional terrors.
Peace and wholeness are the truth of the human being, and meditation can put us more directly in touch with this reality. But it isn’t an easy journey, and nobody should say that it is.