Life has been pretty physical lately. I’ve been tearing around the Surrey countryside on my new carbon road bike, entering duathlons and running 10k races.
Even the yoga practice has got a bit sweaty and grunty. So it seemed like serendipity when a Buddhist monk placed some meditation flyers next to me at the Sweaty Betty counter.
At last, a chance to redress the balance. Think less about the heart rate, quad muscles or the core and focus on the mental. Stop racing, running and planking, and just sit.
This monk was the real deal. Ordained by the Dalai Lama and with 26 years of study in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition under his belt. Now he was in a village hall up the road. This was too good to miss.
I signed up feeling a little cocky. After all, us yogis know a thing or two about meditation. I had stared at apples (Apple Meditation), eaten a square of Green & Blacks really slowly (Chocolate Meditation) and visualised swaying palm trees (Beach Meditation).
The monk was dismissive of my apples, chocolate and sand and, indeed, of any of our Western-style McMeditation – those quick-fixes such as mindfulness Apps.
After a small confrontation on the yoga verses (as confrontational as an English yoga teacher and a benevolent Buddhist monk can get) I signed up to do it his way.
There were no dimmed lights, no candles and no Krishna Das yogic chanting to set the mood, simply sitting on cushions in a rented hall with strip lighting and, of course, meditating. Then things started to get really tough.
Anyone who has ever tried to meditate will recognise that moment when you realise that without any distractions, your mind is a crazy jumble of freewheeling thoughts.
There are many analogies about the monkey mind. Mine was like a whole cage of primates, rattling the bars and shrieking. I would need a lot of virtual bananas to keep this
Each week the monk has been guiding us through the first baby steps of meditation, or rather concentration with dedication and patience.
In return, we meditate for 10 minutes every day and report to him every two days with any questions. His aim is to get us to concentrate for one minute (yes, just one minute). We’re talking single-pointed concentration here – no apples, no chocolate, no palm trees.
Sound simple: a mere 60 seconds of pure, uninterrupted concentration? I think I’d find an Ironman challenge easier