But what if we want to change, but have no wise kind friend, no guru or counsellor or therapist who can help us? Well, as with everything else, a possible answer lies within us. Meditation is a practice which human beings have used for thousands of years to manage themselves. It’s had a bit of a bad press in some ways, what with people misinterpreting it as a method of neutralising all emotion and the sixties transcendental meditation movement trailing a certain amount of hippyshit weirdness, dodgy gurus and film of people sitting cross-legged in ashrams chanting “Ommm…”
Recently the mindful meditation movement has helped to bring it back into public respectability, for want of a better word, and to release it from the idea that for meditation to “work” you have to find a “master”, get given some sort of mantra and then spend an hour every day sitting cross-legged chanting it. In fact in cases of mild to moderate depression, ten minutes of meditation three times a week has an effect on an individual’s health and well-being as powerful as antidepressants, and without all the nasty side-effects. It’s apparently extremely effective in training the elephant. And it is also, of course, free.
At this point I should confess that although I have tried meditation I have never done it regularly (although as I write this I think I probably should). Like all of these things, most of the stuff surrounding it is just trappings. Meditation essentially involves sitting comfortably somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted, usually for a set period, closing your eyes and trying to remain in the here and now. Chanting, mantras, and bringing your mind back to your breathing are all tricks, ways of trying to stop the monkey mind getting distracted. Because, boy, if there’s one thing our minds hate more than anything else, it’s being totally present in the here and now.
Monkeys and elephants and, who knows, possibly lions and bears as well, oh my! More tomorrow.