Urban meditation

Meditation. The act of being poised in peaceful solitude, with your thoughts silenced and the rhythmic tide of your breath refueling your zest for life and patience with idiots.

Is that how it works?

I wouldn’t know, because every time I’ve been led in meditation I’ve managed to “focus on my breathing” for all of, oh, two breaths before a very clear and persistent chant enters my head accompanied by my in-house mariachi band. It goes like this:

FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING!

FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING!

KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED!

FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING!

Then there’s two more breaths before my eyes start opening like the Sphinxes’ Gate in the movie, Never Ending Story. And, we all know how badly that can end.

From that moment on it’s all over – any attempt to marshal my mind back into some form of idyllic hypnosis is doomed. Instead, my eyes zip around the room looking for other naughty children, or waiting to be glared at by my committed teacher. But, of course, my teacher wouldn’t glare, because they’re focused on the task at hand – wandering through the Utopian garden of bliss they’ve created in their mind. Or not, because their mind is clear, still…peaceful.

See! It’s not easy figuring out this zen master stuff.

Based on my experiences so far, I can confidently hypothesise that, even if I was alone in a plain white room, with perfect climate control, wearing virtually weightless clothes offering supreme comfort, I’d still manage to distract myself from the practice of meditation. Probably with a really fascinating internal dialogue about the whiteness of the room.

So, naturally, I have a huge amount of admiration for people who manage to still the world’s chaos for even a few moments and disappear into an internal wonderland of peace and serenity.

Imagine my awe, then, when I stumbled upon a man in quiet cross-legged reflection (you were right to picture him wearing multi-coloured tie-dyed harem pants) on the steps of a busy outdoor bar in Sydney’s CBD during Friday peak hour.

In front of him hundreds of harried little minions scurried about trying get as far away from Point A (work) as possible and cross the finish line at Point B (somewhere serving alcohol, most likely) in a record time that would astonish their FitBit. Honestly, we should all be made to don sweatbands and stopwatches at 5:00pm on a Friday. But, I digress…

Behind him, hundreds of over-achievers who’d already arrived at Point B were raucously draining their wine and beer glasses and erasing the memory of any missed deadlines or politically incorrect comments made to their boss.

Yet, here was this man, persisting in his quiet contemplation at the isthmus between a crowded bar and heaving pavement. The only person who came even vaguely close to his level of stillness was this bloke sitting nearby reading the paper…

image

Was he taunting us by silently singing, “ner, ner, na, ner, ner! I can control my thoughts better than you.”

No, surely not. His mind is too pure of thought for childish mockery.

But then, as I paused to watch him (for a millisecond – I had a train to catch, after all), I realised he might not be meditating at all.

In his hand he was gently cradling a lighter. At first I thought he probably just grabbed whatever he had close by to help centre his thoughts as he chanted his AUMs.

Maybe it wasn’t that.

Maybe he was quietly sitting there all this time trying to remember where he left his smokes.

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