This is a bit of a cop out Year of Fun adventure, because I have technically recorded an experience with meditation earlier in the year.
But, forgive me! This one was different enough to warrant another podcast, at least… I think so.
So this was a lunchtime meditation session, just one hour, and a measly £5 to enter. It was held in the gorgeous grounds of the Bodhisattva Kadampa Meditation Centre, here in Brighton.
This is somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for ages now, having visited the other two main meditation or Buddhist centres in Brighton. This is the one with the most impressive grounds; it sits tucked away in a beautiful green area, and the inside isn’t too shabby either.
In fact, this is the one centre which goes to town with the kind of ornate statues and devotional touches that I’ve appreciated in East Asian temples.
I don’t know much about Kadampa Buddhism, but after some googling I’ve found that it was founded by Kelsang Gyatso in England in 1991, and may or may not be a CULT.
That dodgyness aside, it has the aim to make the Buddhist principles more readily accessible to twenty-first century living.
Which was definitely emphasised in the session I went to.
To set the scene, I was welcomed at the door, pointed to the place I could cough up my fiver, and then guided into a large spacious room, with about 5 rows of comfy chairs – and very few meditation cushions on the floor. No one chose the cushions, which is the complete opposite of the central Buddhist centre in Brighton.
I was relieved, to say the least.
Our guide through our practise was the very lovely, Caroline Dove, who certainly made me feel comfortable and that the point of today’s session was to bring a practical, real-world approach to meditation.
We started with a very short, 5 minute meditation, which was pleasant enough. I felt very physically relaxed, even if my mind wasn’t. I actually started to fret quite intensely that my bag containing my laptop, phone and wallet next door would be nicked by some passing opportunist. Gotta love the mind.
Then Caroline talked a bit, then we listened to a song, I guess it was a prayer… Which was a bit weird. It felt like verses that were originally written in Pali were translated then sung in a kind of awkward English. Not sure about that.
But Caroline then went into a talk about wisdom and Karma – but in a way that wasn’t inaccessible or overly spiritual. It was quite matter of fact: whether or not you believe in past lives, we can probably all agree that our actions, our words and even our thoughts have some degree of impact on our wellbeing and the lives of those around us.
So I liked that. Then we had another 10 minutes meditation, in which we were encouraged to see our mind as a clear blue sky… it felt a bit like the kind of guided meditation you get on Headspace. It was nice.
To wrap up, we had a PARTNER session. Yeah: my worst nightmare. Turning to the person to your right or left and SPEAKING to them. UGH. I thought I’d escaped that possibility coming to a meditation session. You don’t expect to have to speak in these things.
But Caroline was good at encouraging us, reminding us that meditation ought to be integrated, and talking about your experience is one way to do that. I have to – reluctantly – agree.
I must say I lucked out, because the person to my right was delightful and I had a really nice little chat. So I certainly left feeling like it was a worthy use of an hour, and I might even go again next week.
Let’s face it, meditation is never going to be a rollercoaster or a trip to a puppy dog, fireworks and candy store, BUT it is a bloody pleasant thing to do in the middle of the working week, and it’s nice to be in the company of other likeminds… sometimes.
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