Musical chairs

My friend’s been playing little ten-minute meditations to her kids on the school run. I probably should be doing it myself, but I like to drown out the dog-eat-dog world that exists in the three car seats to the rear with the volume cranked up on the dulcet, comforting voice of Marty Whelan on Lyric FM.

‘Is meditation like – a chair for the brain?’ asked her four-year-old, who has clearly nailed it when it comes to all things zen, as all small children have really. It is a perfect way to describe what that kind of mental restfulness can feel like. You get a break from yourself, from your worries, from the relationship you have with the most important person in your life: you.

That relationship is most important because if you aren’t being good to yourself, you probably aren’t being so great with others either. And I don’t mean ‘good to yourself’ in any kind of cream-cake eating hot purchase kind of way; I mean respecting yourself, giving yourself what you need emotionally so you can give that to others in your life who need it too (say, for example, three small children).

I’m off the chair at the moment. My brain isn’t sitting anywhere, it is all over the place. I’ve let the wild horse out and it’s running absolutely amok, totally out of control. I haven’t even started to look for the lasso to rein it in – I’m too far gone for that. This is what depression feels like. It feels almost exactly the same every time I get it. I’ve stopped meditating because meditating can – sometimes – make you feel worse.

Why? Because it releases stress. It gets rid of pain, by stirring it up. The idea is to let it go. That’s the hard part. Meditation can be like bleach for a blackened soul, and actually, I’m learning, it must be approached with caution. I will go back to it but at the moment I’m stepping back, once again hunkering down, once again waiting for the terrible storm to pass.

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