There’s a calming place you can retreat to where the dog shit missiles of life can’t penetrate: it’s peaceful and soothing inside and a bit like a private womb for grown-ups. Once you’re in it feels like you never left, and you get there by meditating (not by clambering back up your mam’s gash).
It’s difficult to write about meditation without sounding like an enlightened cunt or some cave dwelling Bohemian loafer. But after experimenting with transcendental meditation (TM) for almost 18 months I feel compelled to share my experience for the benefit of human freelancers everywhere. If, like me, you’re prone to anxiety or sometimes get caught up in the stressful trivialities of existence then meditating could be the next level of spiritual fulfilment for you.
Yep – I just used the words ‘spiritual fulfilment’ (unapologetically) but bear with me.
There seems to be no way of getting around the fact that humans must attach meaning to their existence. Feeble-minded folk choose religion or football, smarter humans explore or find love but every contemplative mind revisits the perennial questions like why am I here, what makes me me?
Meditation doesn’t answer these questions but it presses those buttons in your soul that do need pressing, however much we might (correctly) rationalise that we’re just pointless sacks of meat hurtling through space on a rock. That’s a given, and I’d rather accept that position peacefully than start wars or touch children – as is the wont of most spiritual death cults.
I was dubious about meditation at first, having had my formative years sullied by the inane hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic church. So I was justifiably wary of anything offering spiritual salvation, especially any practice rooted in religious ideology. But as with all things in life it’s best to try everything once or at least take from it the bits that work for you (with the exception of Roman Catholicism: trust me it’s complete bollocks).
So that’s what I did. I gave TM a whirl to see what effect it had.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride to be honest (and it still isn’t). Some days I practice meditation and feel little immediate effect on my mood, but holistically I believe it’s a good thing to do because it tunes you into your mental state, which is crucial for your overall well-being.
If anything, TM is more mindful for me than mood-altering, in that it magnifies your awareness and moves you into a space where you can feel calmer, if you want to. You then relax your mind into that space, which you gradually train yourself into accepting affects your consciousness. More often than not, that act alone is enough to leave you feeling a lot nicer inside than you did when you began meditating.
This rather splendidly illustrates back to a point I’ve often made: that you must decide how you want to feel if you really want to change your mood. Meditation just seems to echo how the mind already is, or reinforce how you already feel. I think the real power is in tuning into it, but letting any negative feelings course through you – letting them pass without judgement or being irritated about their persistence.
Things have gone a bit wanky and ethereal again haven’t they? Soz; but it’s for your own good.
If you find yourself strewn haphazardly between countless commitments, worries and pressures then meditation helps by drawing your attention to how much they’ve polluted your mind. When I meditate at the close of the day it’s alarming how congested and erratic my thoughts are when I tune into them. The persistent rush of a day’s activities concocts a heady shit-blend of unhelpful imaginings and noisy memories all of which serve to misdirect your attention and make you less effective at getting any single, important thing done to the best of your ability. Yet by letting those subconscious distractions course through you, not resisting but letting them go, meditation regains your focus. They say that about people who meditate: they’re focussed, calm people who get things done and give less of a shit about the bollocks.
The best thing of all about meditation though is that it’s an act of defiance. You’re saying no to everything the world flicks at you and saying “fuck it: this is my space and my time.” Sensations and distracting thoughts may try to assail the safe place meditation creates for you, but by sticking at it, it trains you to defuse interruptions and let them pass. You experience them, rather than resist them (which often makes them worse).
That’s a very handy skill to have on the testing quest that is freelancing and self-employment.
I tried TM because it had the strongest body of scientific evidence and worked best for people I respected, despite some surrounding controversy about ‘donations’ to learn it. I paid and met some lovely people and found it a trivial amount to pay as an investment in your health and well-being (I’ve paid more for gadgets which were far more useless). Other types of meditation exist like in Yoga or Mindfulness which you can learn online or in person (nicer) for free, and in countless audio books. Whichever style of meditation you choose, just stick at it because it’s all about slowing down and catching up with yourself, and that takes time.
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