Tag: Sydney

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…

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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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The sunshine and its blue ribbon moments

There’s a fail safe topic everyone seems to rely on to help out a conversation during slightly awkward reunions with old friends. The weather.

Since it’s been a while between yarns, I thought the weather would be a perfect place to start. Especially as Sydney has welcomed spring in the most spectacular style.

For at least a week now, Mother Nature has been helping friends across Sydney reunite with a simple statement:

How good is this weather!

For those of you not lucky enough to be basking in the glorious glow of pre-summer sunshine, here’s a sneak peek:

The car journey and its travel companion

When you’re in the midst of a seven hour car trip, it’s never long before you pass a road sign warning, “caution: monotony ahead”. I find it’s usually around the four hour mark when the many forms of entertainment – books, Sudoko puzzles, iPads, games of eye-spy – you packed as a travel companion just aren’t that interesting anymore.

It’s at this point that anything able to stop the rot of boredom setting in is welcomed.

On a recent return trip to Sydney in my trusty little car, I saw something that did just that. There I was, dutifully obeying the speed limit, when a silver Subaru came hurtling past me. From my righteous position at the helm of an obedient motor vehicle, I cast a disapproving look across at the driver. That’s when I noticed it. The first three letters of their number plate were A.O.K.

I’ll tell you, that car could have been driving on two wheels through a tunnel of fire and I would’ve forgiven it, just for its number plate. For the next little while my car just chewed up the road and spat it out as I spent my time thinking of the many situations a number plate like A.O.K could assist with; 

“Hello madam, we’re conducting random drink driving breath tests today, please breath into the machine,” the professional police officer would ask. To which I’d reply with a smile, “no thanks, officer, I’m A-OK.”

“Wash your windscreen?” the cleaning technician positioned at a set of inner city traffic lights with a water bottle filled with dishwashing liquid would ask gruffly. “No thanks, I’m A-OK,” I would offer with my trademark smile.

They’re just so versatile. The owner of that silver Subaru must’ve been happily A-OK the day they walked out of the registry office with those number plates in their hot little hands.

The city and her foibles

The city always looks a little different to me whenever we’ve enjoyed a few weeks apart. In the little while I’ve been back in Sydney after 14 heavenly days of rest and relaxation in the country, I’ve realised the city’s occasionally rude and impatient foibles have become less noticeable. Better yet, they’re far less irritating.

How, you ask?

  • When I wake up in the morning to the sunlight scalding my eyes it’s as if Julie Andrews, and not ACDC, is singing a delightful melody about what pleasures the day will bring.
  • I’m happy to wait patiently at the bus stop for a chariot that takes my fancy, rather than hastily scampering onto the first one that comes along.
  • In fact, I even smile at fellow commuters as they jump the queue in front of me.
  • I’m also rediscovering the simple pleasure of exchanging morning pleasantries about the weather with my bus driver.
  • I don’t care to play Russian roulette with traffic at pedestrian crossings anymore.
  • Instead, I’m unable to stop myself from adopting an almost whimsical expression at traffic lights as I wait calmly to cross the road when the little green man tells me to.

Yes, I think it’s true. Absence can make the heart grow fonder. At least for a little while.

The good, the bad and the lunchtime stand-off

Have you ever wondered what would happen if, in the middle of a gruesome movie murder scene, a soundtrack more akin to the music from Driving Miss Daisy started playing? Your emotions wouldn’t know whether to be terrified at what’s hiding in the closet or happily glancing over your shoulder down the memory lane of many pleasant drives in the countryside.

Yesterday, while I was out getting my lunch amongst the other corporate drones focused on nothing but getting from A to B, that very thing happened to me.

I was standing at traffic lights in Sydney’s CBD, absentmindedly critiquing the shades of grey everyone was wearing as I waited for my cue to cross the road, when a strange, but familiar, beat started weaving its way through the crowd toward me.

It was the theme song from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Imagine it, standing there, armed with nothing but a BlackBerry, and all of a sudden, the street’s overwhelmed with music that compels me to dive into the nearest tavern and peek through the shutters at the pistol fight unfolding outside.

Thankfully, there was no need to duck for cover. Instead of the gun-toting outlaw I was expecting to come strutting out of the mob of people, it was a man on an electric scooter wearing a storm trooper helmut with his boom box strapped to the back.

I could’ve sworn from his determined expression, that news of Blondie’s (Clint Eastwood’s character in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) return to town had reached him, and he wasn’t happy. In the short time I spent watching him at the traffic lights he stalked the pavement, keeping an eye on the horizon – like all good gunslingers do, I guess – totally absorbed in the moment.

I guess music’ll do that to you.