Meditation is in. It's official. There are countless books on the topic, 'workshops' popping up all over London, and just last month this Young Lady About Town interviewed a very famous male singer who was raving about the benefits of his practice.
And yet for many - myself included - the idea of actively not thinking still seems a bit alien. Why sit doing nothing for 20 minutes when you can read a book? Watch television? Mix a cocktail?You can meditate anywhere (dappled sunlight not required)
According to Graham Doke, a meditation expert and director of the Anamaya
centre in Kensington, this doing nothing actually does a lot for your wellbeing. The way he explains it is quite simple: all babies are born with a blank slate - they are not angry, frustrated or sad. We learn these emotions and behaviours, and over time they literally affect our neural pathways. This means that is you frequently get angry, you will continue to do so, because that pathway is well-worn and easy for the brain to use.
The good news is that we can reset these pathways and utilise more positive ones. Instead of anger, for example, you can learn to feel compassion. Instead of frustration, you can learn patience. Instead of sadness, you can feel hope. You get the picture. This relearning (or resetting if you like) is where meditation comes in.
Attending a one-on-one session with Graham is both illuminating and relaxing. Sitting cross-legged in a dim room, his soft voice encourages me first to concentrate on my breathing, then takes me on a mental journey designed to encourage a sense of calm. Every time a rogue thought threatens to interrupt, he tells me to simply acknowledge it's presence but not 'jump into' it. Expert Graham Doke
'Meditation is not complicated, but it's not easy,' he explains. Switching off is a challenge, but Graham certainly enables me to quieten (if not entirely dispel) my mental chatter. The ultimate goal of meditation, he says, is to occupy the 'mind-like sky'. This is the space below your thoughts - your even, unruffled consciousness. Thoughts are like clouds in this sky: you can observe them, but you don't have to engage with them.
It can take weeks, months or years or meditation practice to achieve this state. When you do, Graham explains, the sense of peace is almost euphoric. Not everyone can have access to a meditation teacher, however, which is why he has created the Anamaya app
. This not only includes guided meditations (with Graham's own deeply soothing voice) but also insights into the theory behind practicing, and a way of monitoring your progress. The idea is that anyone can do it anytime, anywhere.
Even after one session, this Young Lady came away a little bit lighter and a lot more zen. Fired up by this revitalised energy, when I got home I managed to read a book and
watch television and
mix a cocktail. Perhaps doing nothing enables you to achieve more in the end...Armed with the app, I plan to find out.For more information on the Anamaya app click here. To download the app click here.