Whether you are a seasoned meditator or just beginning on your meditation journey, one thing unites us all - we have felt “the calling”. But what exactly is that calling and where does it come from?
When I was asked recently what inspired me to start meditating I realised the answer wasn’t clearcut. Some people can recall a particular moment when they realised they needed to find deeper truth and meaning - some sort of existential crisis or breaking point - but for me it was more of a growing curiosity, a slow burn. It took me a while to discover that the happy life I thought I was living was largely based on superficial stimulus and that my 9-5 London job wasn’t nourishing me. Like many of us I had become conditioned to consume, distract and DO if I was ever feeling a low sense of self worth and the constant distractions of city life (shopping, drinking, partying) were masking the pervading feelings of dis-ease and dissatisfaction that simmered just below the surface.
I had read books on mindfulness and Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now struck a particular chord with me, I remember. I devoured it on my train journeys to work and recall the resonance I felt as I read his words of wisdom. Something was awakening in me which I now know was the Dhamma or truth. The book was a mini portal into another dimension; a dimension that revealed that there was another way to exist in the world. A dimension that showed me that the awareness of suffering could in fact help to transmute it.
But the idea of actually meditating hadn’t yet crossed my mind. It sounds strange to say that because I can now see that practice is in fact the most important part of meditation (that is the meditation!) and whilst theory supports and contextualises our practice, it can never replace the wisdom gained by our own experience. That said, this book provided me with a valuable insight into the workings of the mind and planted a seed in my consciousness which came to fruition a few years later.
I honestly didn’t know what I was signing up for when I applied for my first course at Dhamma Dipa back in 2014. My only knowledge of these silent 10-Day Vipassana courses in the Goenka tradition was through my partner at the time who had sat one - and even he gave very little away about what it involved. I would watch him get up early every morning and sit for an hour. I was perplexed and intrigued as I looked on at him, wondering what he was visualising/thinking/meditating on as he sat like a Buddha in the corner of the room, barely moving in the whole hour. I remember the not moving amazed me the most! But I could see that this practice was having a profound effect on him and I was inspired by the way he moved through life.
When I booked myself onto that first meditation retreat it didn’t feel like my conscious mind was involved; it felt like I was responding to a calling. It was an embodied and intuitive decision that proved to be the most life-changing decision I have ever made. Although extremely challenging, that first course taught me so much about what meditation was, what meditation wasn’t and the value of introspection. The transformation manifested on all levels, both physical and mental. It blew me away to discover that observing my sensations with equanimity could result in the deep and profound healing that it did and for the first time I experienced genuine relief from long-standing physical pains - and mental ones too.
The decision to apply for a course is the single best thing I have done in my life so far and I’m not sure anything else will ever top it, however I appreciate that an intensive 10-day meditation course isn’t for everyone. Of course, if you can find a way to spare 10 days and you feel this calling, I cannot recommend this route enough but whatever efforts you make to look within and find stillness will bear sweet fruits I can guarantee.
Nine years on from that first foray into meditation and my life has transformed - and continues to transform - in surprising ways. Meditation is my anchor when seas get rough and my leveller when I am flying high. It teaches me the value of integrity, patience, tolerance and compassion for all beings; myself included. Meditation has connected me to a dimension of my being that I didn’t even know existed and though I know I am only just scratching the surface and there is still much work to be done, the more I practice - both at home and on retreat - the more committed I am to this path of insight and helping others find a way out of their misery too.
Dhamma Dipa Vipassana centre in Herefordshire where I sat my first meditation course. A sort of second home to me now!