The pandemic has laid bare the parts of our life we have in place – and the parts we are missing. About six weeks into lockdown, the restrictions, the lack of information, the sense of imminent threat, were all taking their toll on me and I really wasn't feeling great. Then I realised that I hadn't been meditating. It's a practice I came to seven years ago and that I do intermittently. Determined to beat the fug, I sought out my old loyal friend once again and, almost immediately, felt renewed.
When I was younger, I'd written off meditation as something I would never be able to do, my mind was too active, I was too hyper, I couldn't remain still for long periods, how on earth could I attempt to sit on my own, clear my thoughts and just be? Like many, I was addicted to incessant activity and constant external stimulation. I hadn't learnt that true contentment and peace can only ever really be achieved through internal effort.
After the birth of my first child, despite the obvious exhaustion, I felt happier than I had probably ever done. Nonetheless, the unremitting tiredness I was experiencing from sleep deprivation was all too real. Desperate to find some techniques for mitigating my fatigue, I did some research and discovered transcendental meditation (TM). Unlike other types of meditation TM felt a lot less intimidating due to the nature of it; no pressure to “concentrate”, “focus” or “empty the mind”. Numerous studies demonstrate that TM reduces anxiety and stress while promoting happiness, health, creativity and focus. I was sold. I made the decision that while I was happy (if not also physically and mentally spent), it was a great time to invest in my future, to give myself the tools I needed for moments in my life that might throw up as yet unconsidered challenges, you know, like a global pandemic or something.
Pretty much immediately, I signed up for a course. The first part of it was shrouded in mystery. A meeting ensues with a TM instructor, who divines a private mantra for you, and you alone, one which you're forbidden to share with anyone including your nearest and dearest. So far, so mystical. The next part was a lot less clandestine, two days of guided meditations and workshops with a group of other newbies. To get the most from this form of meditation, you are supposed to practise twice a day: 20 minutes of meditating followed by a (delicious) 10-minute rest period.
I have to be honest and admit I've rarely achieved two meditations a day. Meditation is something that ebbs and flows for me, something I come and go to depending on where my life and schedule are at any given time, but when I do come back to it, it's a practice that I am always deeply grateful for.
Meditation provides such a profoundly simple but strong shift in one's internal landscape, a peaceful stillness necessary to restore the balance that our way of life seems intent upon disrupting. It is through journeying inwards that we access the reserves required to face the many external challenges this life throws at us. The ones we were expecting and, undoubtedly, the ones we weren't.