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"Pick a stone that resonates with you," Amber said, not looking a teensy bit like she was taking the proverbial.
I don't think there are going to be many situations that start with that sentence, which turn out to be an ace time, I thought to myself.
I am not the sort of person that "resonates" with stones. I have been known to throw the odd one. But I don't think that counts.
I took a stone anyway. It didn't feel it was the kind of thing where I could point out that I thought resonating with stones fell into the same category as believing in star signs, unnecessary gluten avoidance and thinking that you were someone important in a past life. (Why do they never say, "Well to be honest, you have had 42 past lives and you were all pretty much in the same place as you are now; fairly mediocre on most levels?" Why were you always the queen of somewhere?).
My stone and I sat down and I looked around the table with the crashing headache I'd had all morning. It always seems particularly unfair when you have a headache that you had not made a conscious effort to inflict on yourself.
We were at a free meditation workshop run by Jo, of Truce. Jo works at the wonderful Petridish and Truce is about wellbeing and conflict resolution. The primary focus of Jo's work is on solving workplace bullying, and the weekly meditation workshop at Petridish is Jo's way to give back and share her knowledge.
Jo asked us to close our eyes and to breathe deeply while she spoke in calm tones, which got even the most uptight of us (me) relaxed.
Meditation is not a strong point. I prefer constant motion and fitting in lots of things at one time to be more efficient and to stop myself ever having to think deeply. As meditation seems to be the exact opposite of this, I find it is a constant batting away of mental (both literal and figurative) ideas.
My mind drifted off to Jo. Did she do this in bullying mediations? How safe is it to have bullier and bulliee in the same room with their eyes closed? I thought back to my most despised manager from 15 years ago who, due to my exceptional ability to hold tight to resentments, I have never forgiven. Imagine being in a room with him with his eyes closed. The temptation to do something terrible would be almost overwhelming.
"Breathing into your stomach and as you exhale think of all of this morning or yesterday's built up stresses leaving the body ... "
Yesterday's stresses, huh. I have been retaining stresses that must qualify as antiques by now.
"And breathe. Think of your toes in your socks."
I suppressed a snigger. Earlier that day my daughter had stubbed her toe. My husband, who speaks English as a second language, yelled out to me "Get the plaster, she has hurt her foot finger". Ah, foot fingers. Hilarious.
Just then some latecomers entered the room and I stifled angry thoughts. I like people on time and following rules and stepping outside of this propels me into silent but furious tantrums that occur multiple times a day. Hating people for being late is not very yogic, I thought to myself. I wondered just how much eyes-closed-deep-breathing I would have to do to overcome my personality. Probably more breathing than was possible if I wanted to continue parenting a child and having a job.
"And as you breathe out, think of all the people in the world, you are just one of billions."
Yes, I thought. But I am definitely the most important one.
"Think back to 130 years ago. All those people alive then, none of them are here today."
I ineptly tried to calculate the age my grandmother would have been 130 years ago but was interrupted by "And think to 130 years in the future. None of the people alive today will be here then."
Well, that was not a comforting thought. In fact, it was appalling. This, I thought to myself, was exactly the reason I don't do meditating. Avoiding thinking about precisely this is where I spend a lot of my focus. In my head I am like Peter Pan; alive forever, except with less of the flying and as a middle-aged lady.
"Screw your eyes up as tight as you can."
I screwed them up, aware of how idiotic our circle of screwed-tight eyes must look. But as much as my undisciplined Western mind was banging around like a fly in a jar, I was actually starting to feel pretty relaxed.
"When you step outside today you will feel the cool air on your face and you will notice things that you have never noticed before."
Jo finished the session in her unhurried tranquil tones and I could see the value she would bring in her daily work of freeing people who were locked in conflict.
I thanked Jo and handed back my stone and as I stepped into the sun and felt the brisk Dunedin day I realised my headache - though immune to several Panadol - had disappeared. I definitely felt more relaxed.
Then I looked up at the street art, which must have been on the side of the building I had walked past for the past seven months and had never really looked at before.
"Wow! Check out that! It is definitely a dog orgy. How did anyone get that past the council?!"
"Kate!" Amber hissed, and I noticed that a family with teenage children were taking photos of the mural and that the parents were looking distinctly uncomfortable.
That was worth going to meditation for. Headache cures and noticing that the building you work from has a dog orgy painted on it.
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