I've been going to meditation classes for about a year now and am now able to experience the odd - or very occasional - moment of 'being in the now.'
Relaxing my body to make it at least loose enough to stop sitting up as rigidly as a fighter pilot on a 'Maximum Collateral Damage' mission has been a huge challenge but I'm getting there. I can now at least focus on my breathing for about four seconds before racing back to thoughts such as "What will they put on TV during the 'off ratings' season when there was already such crap on during the 'ratings' season", and "Remember to let out the chooks, let in the floor sanding guy, take your CV to the interview tomorrow, don't inhale chocolate again and see if you can find out why Mark Holden is considered an expert in anything."
John, the teacher, is as calm and collected as you'd expect a meditator to be, but somehow he's managed to work in an IT Help Desk environment and manage to keep sane, smiling and out of any murder trials. "If thoughts arise in your mind, just notice them and let them go. Let go of these thoughts and shift from thinking to sensing: return back to your breathing and keep listening to your body."
I've since learned that by 'listening to your body' John does not mean fantasing about introducing a dark 'Kit Kat Chunky' chocolate to Australia's corner shops or a decent decaffeinated iced coffee but to remove all distractions and really check out how your body is reacting.
Despite having a nose I could rent out as a warehouse, thighs about as firm as cling-wrapped cottage cheese and an arse dwarves could seek shelter under, he urges us to see how hard our bodies work, 24/7. "You may rarely notice how your heart never stops beating, your food is digesting and replenishing all parts of your body (mostly the butt in my own particular case) and how it transports you to wherever you need to go."
All flippancies about fatness and flaccidity aside, I noticed that I was finally starting to get it. "Stay still. Stay in the now. Don't feel guilty about not doing anything, you are doing something, something incredibly worthwhile. You are deciding to listen to your body instead of overriding it or ignoring it to push through working longer at the computer, eat crap it doesn't want or stay up later than it requires. Be still, be silent and listen: this is just as important for your body as the most strenuous exercise."
My breathing was steady, strong and refreshing and I could easily watch those pesky and inane musings like "What would happen if I gave one of our chooks a chicken-flavoured rice cracker to eat?" or "Did Joe Dulce earn enough money from 'Shaddup You Face' for life or is he now eking out a living busking outside of Cunninghams' Warehouse" or even "How could I train my dog to weed the garden when I'm at work?" were easy to note, dismiss and ignore.
John continued the exercise. "Imagine a dark red rose bud at your heart, so dark it's nearly black at the edges, lightly covered in dew. It slowly opens and fills you with kindness, acceptance and warmth..." Oooooh yeah John I was feeling it, seeing it, smelling it.
"Picture someone you love right in front of you, someone you admire and treasure..." Easy - there was Love Chunks, looking as self-conscious in my imagination as he would have if he'd actually forced to stand in front of the group as a stripped-off study for life-drawing class. "Feel your light emerge from your chest and fill this person..." Yep, it's all happening, can do, rightyo, this is all good stuff so far....
Not an errant, "Don't forget to write up that article you promised Charlotte tomorrow and keep it serious, not stupid" or "I'll bet my month's wage that Bryce Courtenay has a novel out for Christmas" type of thoughts were entering my now rose-coloured brain and chest.
Then John said, "Now picture someone you dislike, standing in front of you. Fill them with your light of loving kindness......"
Oh. Bugger. "No," I told myself sternly. "You are making amazing progress tonight. Don't let your searing, boiling hatred that's stronger than the heat blasted from one thousand new suns distract you from the forgiving and letting-go nature of this exercise. Move on from this unproductive anger and distress - Share your rose light."
I bloody shared it all right. My rose light instantly changed from a misty, free-range cloud into a sharp column of red-hot rays, not unlike a light sabre. She got it full-on in the chest before toppling face-down in agony, body spasming like a horizontal Peter Garrett as she writhed and foamed her way to a painful death. My breathing sounded strangely "Mooorfth Moooorfth" like a certain bloke with a fondness for black and building Death Stars.
I was at peace with the world.