A Spiritual Journey 2 – Meditation

In our community house we had a meditation room.  We had boards that fitted the window to keep the light and noise out.  We burned Nag Champa incense.  We opened with Aum’s and we closed with an Om Shanti song.  I had a square pillow I sat cross legged on leaning against the wall and that’s where I meditated in the house for 12 years.

I used a mixture of focuses to still my mind.  I still use them.  I used a mantra, Hare Om.  I concentrated on my breathing.  I watched my thoughts.  Through these methods I connected with that calm, still part of me that observes my dreams.  In a dream, part of you is in the action, feeling emotions, part of the dream and there is this other part that is just watching and recording and staying calm.

I can drop into that connection any time I choose now.  I can feel it as I write.  It feels like my heart is open and I am breathing from it.  It feels like releasing tension and emotion.  This is not my normal state.  I can be tense, anxious, grumpy, annoying, sanctimonious, judgemental, etc.  And I can drop into a peaceful state in a heartbeat when I become aware and choose.  When I am teaching and healing I can sit in that calm internal space and people tell Susan how wonderful I am.  She knows better!

In the community my role was to monitor and close the meditation.  It is still my role, staying in the calm state and sensing how others are feeling and starting the Om Shanti song to end the meditation.

Meditation helps me release stress and become relaxed.  It helps slow my thoughts, sometimes to a stop, which helped me through two periods of anxiety and depression, both caused by trying to look after everyone else around me and spreading myself so thin that I broke. 

Meditation creates a gap between Feel, Think, Act.  This is normally an unconscious process in the background.  When I was depressed I felt awful, my thinking was going a hundred miles an hour, trying to work out what was wrong with me, worrying about things in the past, predicting dire things in the future.  The meditation helped me differentiate the feelings.  Often, I was tired or had hay fever rather than depression and I could treat those.  It helped me see my thoughts and choose to change them to something more positive.  I remember the breakthrough as I learned to accept the outcomes of my thoughts rather than fear or fight them. Fuck it! is a great therapy.

I now use different methods to meditate, that I have picked up over the years.  I use mindful walking with wide angle vision to meditate while walking in Nature.  I use a sense meditation, where I  tune into each sense at a time before tuning into all of them.  I use mindfulness, really being present in the now, noticing my body and my environment.  Listening to bird language with my eyes closed.  I also use visualisation, something I have done since I was 6.

Now, when we facilitate a meditation group, we start with a grounding visualisation to bring everybody out of their hectic day into the room.  We follow with another visualisation, usually a journey with some sort of a message for them. Then, we sit in silent meditation for 20 to 30 minutes.  Some like visualising best, some like silent meditation.

The meditation techniques are common, but everybody has a different experience with meditation.  Its personal. I have taken part in meditation marathons where for most of the time my sore knees and dead legs were demanding my attention.  It is quality that counts.  One of the best ways I have found to drop into a meditative state is six long, deep, breaths focussing on the breath.  It doesn’t take long and it brings instant physical and mental relief.  It was particularly useful in business meetings which had turned into heated discussion aka argument.  I would sit back quietly and do my breaths to release my mental turmoil, often to realise that we had got carried off the main subject and were arguing about trivia.

I’m not perfect.  Perfect is part of most religions but I don’t find it a helpful concept.  I find that the ideas of perfect come from other people or comparison with other people and that these ideas form a cloud which can rain on our parade for all our whole lifetime, if we let it.  I think becoming conscious is a better concept, the idea that we are on a journey to improve our awareness of ourselves, our behaviours and our communication so that we grow into better relationship with God, Nature and each other.

To be continued…. Community

A Spiritual Journey – in the beginning

I am eldest of 7 children. My dad was a mental health nurse. My mum was a keen Church goer. When we lived in Northern Ireland, every Sunday we were hauled off to church. The church was close to our little primary school so we were regularly single filed to it during festivals. I marched to the local Catholic Church as a Boy Scout.

As a little boy, I was inspired by Jesus. I still am. I just couldn’t reconcile the story of his life with what happened in church. He taught in nature. His credo seemed simple – Love God and love everything else as yourself. So why were the Catholics and Protestants fighting? Why was it OK for a poor woman to put her pay packet in the collection box at the Catholic Church in Tuam? Why did the richest families sit in the front pews while the people who did all the work in the church sat at the back?

My mums rule was that you had to go to church until you were confirmed. I was confirmed at 15 and didn’t go to church regularly after that!

Inspired by Jesus I used to visualise helping people and talking them into having a good life, from when I was 6. I called my alter-ego King David until I thought that was a bit too much and I then changed it to Michael Jackson when I was 8, 60 years ago. Michael Jackson would make passionate speeches to convince people to be peaceful and loving. He would sing to them to get them into a good mood. He had limitless money and limitless knowledge and skills. How weird it was later to come across the other Michael Jackson.

So there I was from 15, with a pretty good moral compass and a close connection to Jesus but nowhere to take it and share it apart from in my imagination.

I did my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. My family moved from Northern Ireland to Sussex. I went to Liverpool University to study Pure Maths. I hated it! I wanted to change to Psychology but to do that I found I had to pass the first year of Maths and that was not an option. I couldn’t afford to pay the grant back so I attended the minimum number of lectures, took the minimum time in exams and left.

While at university I enjoyed playing football, snooker and cards. I had a good group of friends, went to parties and met girls. I lost half a term’s grant in one hand of three card brag, so had to work in a Yates Wine Lodge for six weeks to fill up the coffers again. I smoked dope. I took LSD. I drank. It all sounds like a lot of fun, and on one level it was, but I was deeply depressed.

I had all these good intentions in me but I wasn’t doing any thing meaningful with them. When I came to our new family home in Sussex I made new friends. I became a Scout Leader. I still smoked dope and drank, even though I wasn’t that keen on either. I just did it to be part of the crowd of people that I liked. In the main, I enjoyed myself but there was still something missing.

At Easter when I was 21, I volunteered to help the father of one of my girl friends to paint their house. I was training to be an Accountant (didn’t last long) and earning a pittance, so this offered a bit of extra spending money. As we painted we talked. He was a lovely inspiring man who was a diplomat. I cannot remember anything we talked about during the four days but it prompted me to be truly myself!

I immediately stopped drinking and drugs, which was easy because I didn’t like either of them. I drifted away from the crowd I used to mix with. It felt good to do it but lonely as well and I was very grateful to meet some new friends who meditated and talked about things that were meaningful to me.

One of the people they introduced me to was a medium, who had a cafe in Battersea, and used to come to Kent regularly for meetings. I met him and liked him, and I liked what he was talking about. In November of that year he sold his cafe and decided to buy a house in Kent and use it to form a small spiritual community. I volunteered to paint it and ended up joining the community.

To be continued……