The mind is a wonderfully powerful tool. In moments of extreme danger, it is the driving force behind self-preservation. In moments of desperation, it administers that metaphorical kick propelling us out of the darkness. Yet the mind is also a wonderfully wicked entity. It inspires us to follow our dreams, then fills us with doubt when we try; it urges us to strive for happiness, all the while flooding us with the guilt of the unworthy. On my faltering spiritual journey, the one common denominator to all the books I have read on the subject of inner-peace is the power of the mind. And if there is one piece of recurring advice on how to tame that mind, it’s meditation.
Sitting quietly for half an hour, calming your breath and focussing on the positives, appears, on paper, to be a simple ask. Yet my attempts at home have been so unsuccessful, that I have finally signed up to a local course in the vain hope that numbers will provide the safety my mind obviously requires.
The setting is a small Buddhist Centre not far from Matlock; the Monk presiding over us appears very sincere. Therefore, though the basic concepts of Buddhism are used as meditation focus points, being such positives as happiness and inner peace, I feel happy that I am being introduced to a new way of thinking, rather than groomed for a new religion (which, incidentally, I do not desire).
My fellow students and I arrive at the Centre at the same time every Friday. We swop details of our respective weeks, sip water, and wait for the allotted time before politely filing into the meditation suite. The room itself is warm and peaceful. The chairs are comfortable. And our numbers are small enough to ensure that no student is sitting too close to another. For the next hour and a half, in these perfect surroundings, the ability to meditate seems almost within my grasp. But as my breathing slows and my eye-lids fall, something within my brain senses that it finally has my undivided attention. And rather than paradise, I, instead, invariably find my mind trawling the aisles at Tesco…
I am a day dreamer and a worrier. I can spend hours fretting over non-existent scenarios, or feeling guilty about the unhappiness of another even though I am not the cause. I am not a glass half-empty person – I have a great deal in my life to celebrate and be thankful for – but I do allow my mind to spend far too long in the doldrums. However, the popularity of the spiritual books I have read suggests that I am not alone, and that many of us are seeking minds that are half-full. And if the books’ authors – some of whom I admire – have used daily meditation to find a level of inner peace that is obvious in the words they write, then that’s all the inspiration I need to keep trying.
That, as humans, we tend to veer towards the negative, to spend hours brooding over another’s harsh words rather than be thankful that we do not carry their burdens, seems indicative of our species. Very recently, I heard resentment described as ‘meditating on anger’ – put like that, it made me realise how easy we do find mediation. Unfortunately, just on the wrong things.
I will continue with my meditation course, and I will keep practising at home, too. And one day, I hope to report that I have wrestled my greatest adversary – my mind – to the floor.
In the meantime, I offer my sincerest apologies to my fellow meditation students. I hope that they are having far more success ‘closing out external distractions,’ than I, and that their experience has not been spoilt by the gurgles of my empty stomach, as my mind finds the Tesco biscuit aisle… and offers my stomach a Twix!