Meditation is something that is constantly cited as being part of the morning routines of the most successful people. Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgeware Associates, also the world’s largest hedge fund, has said that; “Meditation more than anything in my life was my biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.’
Celebrities like Goldie Hawn, David Lynch, Kathy Perry and of course Oprah, have been extolling the virtues of meditation for years. In fact, Oprah is such a proponent of meditation that she paid for all 400 of her employees to be taught in the Transcendental Meditation style.
These are all facts that I have read on numerous occasions. Every January, as I write my list of goals that I hope to achieve in the New Year, I make a half-hearted commitment to explore meditation and incorporate it into my life.
People like Arianna Huffington don’t dedicate time to something unless they can see the benefits of it. But that truth is, up until now, I really haven’t understood it. When people are talking about meditation, what do they mean? What am I supposed to feel? Any attempts I have previously made involve sitting there and trying to think of nothing and tend to end in frustration as thoughts race through my head. I came to the conclusion that I was doing it wrong and that maybe some people were just not able to meditate.
How do you know when you are meditating?
I attended a meditation class at MNDFL Meditation in Greenwich Village and suddenly the mystery surrounding meditation became a lot clearer to me. There is no doubt that the studio space is an oasis from the hectic and kinetic energy of the city. You feel it as soon as you walk in.
The bricks are exposed, somehow adding to a sense of grounding. Shades are neutral with the majority of colour coming from the green plants situated around the studio. Shoes and electronics are left in a designated area beside the door, as you come in. The waiting area consists of comfortable couches with books on mindfulness. Tea and water are complimentary. The waiting area itself wouldn’t be a bad place to spend a few hours.
We are called into “spot B” to wait for Beatrice, who will guide today’s meditation. Circular cushions sit on top of larger square cushions. There is the option to take a blanket if you so wish. We sit cross-legged on the slant of the high cushion.
Beatrice arrives, immediately exuding a huge sense of warmth. We begin by breathing. Beatrice asks us to close our eyes or to look at the ground in front of us. I immediately panic and realise that this is what is going to happen for the next 30 minutes. There is no way I can sit still here for the next 30 minutes with my eyes closed and not move. The very idea of it stresses me out.
Thoughts running through my head include “Is it really rude of me to get up and leave?” “ Has anyone ever gotten up to leave before?” “ How long can I stay before it is not really rude to get up and leave?”
Beatrice guides us at the beginning in a very low voice. She reminds us to come back to the breath. This is something that I have heard before, so I bring myself back. Each time it seems to have momentary effect and then the thoughts come racing again. The urge to fidget is overwhelming. Beatrice reminds us to try and sit still, but at times I feel the need to move my knees and hope that I am not intruding on the time of the person sitting next to me.
Beatrice rings a gong. I have experienced this clearing my mind before in yoga practice and it has the same effect here. . The vibration of the sound seems to help me. I sit and the thoughts seem to be coming at a slower pace. I still wonder in my head how long I will be able to sit and when I might have to leave. I come back to my breath. Thoughts still enter my head and then the gong rings again and we are finished.
That really didn’t seem as long as I thought it was going to be. Beatrice asks the class what came up for them. A woman speaks of seeing a kaleidoscope of colour. I am definitely not doing this right. I raise my hand and explain that I found my mind racing and the urge to fidget overwhelming at times.
And this is where it clicked.
Beatrice explains that there is a perception that meditation is the power to clear your mind of any thought. At MNDFL she explains, they are trying to dispel this idea. The brain's function is to think. When we meditate we acknowledge those thoughts coming in. What we are trying to achieve with regular meditation is not to stop these thoughts, but to slow them down, as each one comes in to our mind.
That gap between thoughts is what we are trying to get to and with regular meditation, we are trying to make that gap longer. Her explanation is so simple but for the first time really helps me to understand what it is about meditation that is so beneficial.
After the class, I feel a huge sense of achievement. I may not have seen a kaleidoscope of colours, but I sat there and I brought myself back to my breath when I needed to and truthfully, the 30 minutes flew. This idea of being able to control the mind and the flow of thoughts coming into it suddenly begins to make sense. The idea that a resolution will involve regular sessions at MDNFL in Greenwich makes the idea of 2018 already very appealing.