When and where did you begin to meditate?
Around 35 years ago, in the second half of the 80s at the School of Meditation. I saw an advert on the tube and went along to an open evening.
I thought ‘this is probably for me’ so I joined the School. There was very little like it then. Now meditation is very popular and there are opportunities all over the place.
Why did you take up a regular practice? What was the spark?
As with many people, when they do something like join the School of Meditation, there’s a dissatisfaction and a feeling that a practice or discipline would be appropriate. It’s often the way, dissatisfaction prompts people.
It just felt right.
What were your early experiences?
There were no bright lights, nothing dramatic.
I started to read books based around the philosophy. I was attracted to the more spiritual aspect of life and I read the core texts, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and so on.
Shortly after I started meditating, I was on holiday and noticed a feeling of pleasure and happiness at having encountered meditation, the School, the philosophy and literature. Having something in life that was steering me in this direction was very satisfying, not at all dramatic.
Like the title of Jack Kornfield’s book ‘After the Ecstasy, the Laundry’ meditation does just become ordinary and everyday. It becomes habitual, something you’re committed to, something you wouldn’t not do. For me, it acquired that status, and it remains the case.
The change is very subtle and difficult to quantify. It’s not like learning a language; it’s not about acquiring, it’s about letting go, giving up in order that we might find what’s underneath.
How does meditating affect your everyday life?
My routine is very simple: I meditate in the morning and evening, 30 minutes each time.
I am a great believer in the value of stopping, sitting, and letting the body become still. I listen to the mantra, sometimes I get distracted, but I don’t start doing anything else. These periods of meditation are what it’s all about. They cast a subtle light over the intervening periods and over my whole life.
The heart of the practice is giving it priority in the morning and evening. What happens as a result is less important.
Inch by inch, meditation changes the way you look at life. It works its way into what you do. In my case, it has affected my poetry, not at all deliberately, the influence just came to me.
What has been your experience as a member of SoM?
The word ‘Community’ is overused, but the School is a community. I have met an astonishing number of people there over the years. We have a shared interest, and when I bump into people from the School of Meditation in funny, faraway places, there’s a rapport, a similar outlook.
My life has changed so much because of the people I’ve met and the groups I’ve belonged to at the School. There’s the humanity of it, the desire for community, for mutual support, especially during Covid.
I have also been on retreats with the School, which last at least three days. These are opportunities to practise the discipline of silence in an extended way when our usual movement slows down. At first this change of pace can cause dissatisfaction because when you start being quiet, there is more room for the noise.
In the wider world, you might be able to avoid yourself. On a retreat, you don’t catch the next train home, you stay with whatever you are experiencing, tough or otherwise.
To find out more about taking up meditation, please see details of our courses and classes here or contact the School of Meditation's office: 02076036116 / firstname.lastname@example.org.