Do you remember those Loony Tunes cartoons where the angel and devil would appear over Sylvester’s shoulders. “Eat Tweety”said the forked tailed fiend. “Leave him alone” replied the halo wearing angel. Back and forth they’d go arguing over the pros and cons of making a meal out that funny, yellow bird.
Trying to make a decision can feel like that, especially when it is of life changing proportions like picking up and moving to the other side of the world. Each perspective gets its own voice until there is a kaleidoscope of unhelpful white noise between your ears.
To cut a path through the din, I’ve turned to meditation. About six years ago I went along to some very good classes and used the technique to fall asleep since then. Because that’s cheating and misusing an honoured tradition I might have accumulated some bad karma. It has stopped working. Instead of blissfully sleeping at night my mind ruminates over things that I’m totally fine ignoring in daylight hours, like paying that speeding fine, replaying six month old conversations and planning out the following day in excruciating detail.
Concentrating on your breath is the starting point for meditation. It brings you into the moment, and into your body, priming you for stillness and peace. Letting weird thoughts from nowhere float away from whence they came is liberating once you realise that you have the power to do it. It makes me wonder if Descartes most famous quote “I think therefore I am” would have been very different had he been taught meditation. Because when you achieve a state of no-thought it feels like you are more you than ever.
This time I’m committed to meditation. If I want the benefits to return, that go beyond a restful sleep, it will need to become as important as eating. And if the past two months are anything to go by, it is working. Already I’m more aware of myself and external energies. For example, piled into a taxi on a Friday night we were late for an event. With traffic at a standstill a thirty minute journey exceeded an hour. Palpable anxiety poured off my companion in waves (and expletives). In the past, my heart would beat faster while agitation crept over. Because that sense of stillness was held somewhere deep in my chest I could see through the situation and make the choice to stay calm. Meditation has helped to separate what comes from within, rather than acquired from the environment and people around me. Some of you out there won’t find this special. It’s a superpower that comes to you naturally. But for others like me, it has taken years to even recognise that it’s a thing. That half the time I’m reacting to emotions that aren’t mine, because on a subconscious level I’ve been absorbing the tides others put out. Just knowing this has given me an extra tool to navigate every day.
Ultimately, I want to see through the barriers thrown up by own mind: the niggling doubts, the portentous dreams and the endless toing and froing. With practice and dedication I hope meditation brings self-acceptance, awareness and understanding so those decisions that bring up sleepless nights of anxiety can eventually disappear and there will be a little bit more peace in the world.