Monday, 16 September 2013

Photo by Audrey Hendy.

When people ask what religious beliefs I hold, I find the answer rather difficult to explain.
Courtesy of my upbringing, my spiritual values are a melting pot of East-meets-West, with a generous helping of science-versus-faith. One of my earliest memories is my mother reading a children’s Hindu meditation book to me at bedtime: a book that ignited my imagination, and prompted me to visually construct my own secret garden of relaxation and rejuvenation. My garden had a low, wooden gate, and was expansive, with a huge Banyan tree as a centrepiece. I loved going into my mind and into my garden every night, and I used to sleep deeply and dream vividly.
Another memory is attending a Hare Krishna kirtan meditation session (meditation through chanting and singing), deep in the Gold Coast hinterland. I remember laughing, eating vegetarian pizza and quivering egg shakers in time with the music’s contagious rhythm. I remember attending a Buddhist version of Sunday school at Chenrezig Buddhist Institute on the Sunshine Coast, and being taught about the everlasting suffering that is a human life. I remember going to Anglican Sunday school with my brothers, who used to question the teacher and then swear at their responses. I recall the childless Anglican couples schooling my mum on how to raise her teenagers, and I remember mum laughing at them. We were eventually kicked out of that Sunday school.
Probably the most life-changing spiritual experience of my life was when I lived in India (I, too, wish it wasn’t so cliche). I had a boyfriend back home of seven months or something similar that seemed like forever, I boasted the heaviest of side fringes and had ‘tude beyond comprehension. I thought I was a grown-up and I thought I knew everything. Coming from a privileged normality, everything I wanted I expected. As I was thrust forth into this world of pompousness bordering poverty, my idea of the world changed dramatically. I saw slums, beggars, disabled babies, death, sickness and massive overpopulation. These concepts alone completely changed my views on humanity and society.
My first real meditation was on this holiday, at 6:30 on a dewy Himalayan morning. I woke up early to impress the serene Sikkimese man who was to be teaching me. I managed about 20 minutes of uncomfortable, tense meditation, and my right foot was numb. My teacher had also constantly, albeit gently, reminded me to stop frowning and unclench my fists. My adolescent anxiety was busting through my exterior, and there was nothing I could do about it. My ‘monkey mind’, as he called it, kept clinging from one thought to another, unable to completely relax; similar to a monkey prancing through trees. From thought to thought, from memory to memory. If I was in an unstable mood, these thoughts would turn dark and sickening, as my regrets and sins bubbled to the surface. Alas, it was progress. Realising that your mind is something that can cause you such harm, or such pleasure, is the very first step.
Fast forward just under a decade and I’ve meditated many times now, attended meditation retreats, and tried to implement a regular meditation routine. The practice has become easier, but it’s still not without its trials and tribulations. In a world where I’m addicted to my Tumblr feed and the ringtone of my iPhone, I find it hard to technologically and mentally log off. Running a business that requires me to work 24/7 increases this difficulty tenfold. To think about nothing and give your body just a few minutes of relaxation is a modern rarity. This is why it’s not more important then ever that we find the time, and learn to control our minds.
Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to think about nothing?
Written by Grace Bullen.


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