Here’s what happened when the Be Kind team took time to try meditation.
When was the last time you took a moment to truly be still? To silence the whirling thoughts in your mind and be at peace? If today’s busy world is anything to go by, we’re guessing not for a while. According to cdc.gov, meditation is now the fastest-growing health trend in America. In fact, the number of meditators tripled between 2012 and 2017. Intrigued by its popularity, three members of the team descended on the Colchester Buddhist Centre to try their newcomers meditation night.
We all noticed the welcoming atmosphere as we walked into the room. Filled with an array of people of differing ages, genders and reasons for being here – it was a real community. After a short introduction to the evening, we were split off into two groups. There was those who have been meditating for a while and the beginners. We were of course in the latter group for a guided meditation. Atulyamati, a trustee of The Buddhist Centre, told us during this evening’s session we would be focusing on Mettā (Pali) or maitrī (Sanskrit). This translates to benevolence, loving-kindness, good will, and active interest in others. We were told to picture four people – ourselves, a good friend, an acquaintance and someone we find difficult to get on with. For each five minute section, we had to send love, peace and health to each person. Here’s how we got on.
Meditation is a weird one for me. I have a small grasp of what it means and can understand why people seek it out for guidance. But it’s not something I have ever really tried. I suppose I am a typical busy product of my generation going from one task to the next – exercise, meal prep, fake tan, etc. I’ve dabbled in mindfulness, and I have recently taken up yoga, but never truly meditated. One thing that really stuck out in my mind was Atulyamati saying: “Meditation is not just a thing you do in your mind, it incorporates your whole body.” Yet, reflecting on her words, it makes sense. However, separating myself from my thoughts and feelings was tough. There was a song stuck in my head that I struggled to silence my thoughts. It would take me a few more sessions to get to grips with it.
Meditation has always been something I’ve resisted. Despite downloading the apps and reading the books, it’s something I’d put on the ‘not for me’ shelf, alongside spinning and eyebrow threading. As we were guided through our meditations, I found myself recalling something a yoga teacher once said. ‘When a thought or worry comes into your head, acknowledge it and then let it go’. Following this principle, clearing my mind of the busy chatter of the day came surprisingly easy, but what I struggled with the most was the physical act of sitting still. The only time of the day we are truly still is when we are sleeping. It struck me that it’s both the mind and body that I needed to help find peace. Despite my initial reticence, I want to go back and try again, so maybe meditation will get moved to the ‘for me’ shelf, after all.
When we were first sat down, I thought I’d struggle. Yet, something happened in the space of the silence that followed. I was able to completely zone out – my thoughts only strayed to other things twice and I managed to return shortly after. Time didn’t drag, in fact, it went quickly. No sooner had I started meditating on one person, than our guide hit the gong and her soothing voice moved us onto the next. As the session ended, I opened my eyes feeling as though I had blacked out. Or, at least just had a full-body massage. The practice helped me to realise that all four people I thought about are, actually, the same, as is every other being on Earth. Everyone wants those three things – happiness, health and peace, and it’s a nice feeling to wish that for someone else.