When and where did you begin to meditate?
About 1995, sitting in my car by myself before going into the office. I had got a book on meditation from the library, and I found that by sitting in the car for 20 minutes it put me in the right frame of mind for a day of work.
Why did you take up a regular practice? What was the spark?
I was running a really successful company, travelling all over the world. But I felt as though my life was out of control. I needed something to give me some grounding. I saw a School of Meditation poster on the Bond Street or Oxford Circus station platform saying, “Do you think there should be more to life than this?”
I attended an open evening, and the person who greeted me at the door said they could see I was “ripe” for meditation.
I was making loads of money, but I wasn’t happy. At the School it just felt right, a comfortable place to be, a community.
What were your early experiences?
Frustration, peace, joy, a mixed bag really.
But I could start to see it, rather than be caught up in it. I could see the moods and emotions when they first appeared. I didn’t have to follow them.
I joined the School via a ceremony in 1999 then joined one of the weekly groups. I spent three years in the group, attending weekly; it gave me a feeling of structure.
How does meditating affect your everyday life?
Meditating helps me tackle life’s challenges in a more balanced way. I’m less emotionally attached to issues, whether they are small or large.
I’m a lot more peaceful, and I’ve become a nicer person, much more aware of other people’s needs and more able to help other people than I was before.
Once you take up a daily practice, the stillness is much more apparent, and you can respond in a balanced way.
What has been your experience as a member of SoM?
When I first joined, I was really steady in my meditation group at first but then work got really frantic and I couldn’t keep my meditation routine going. I left the group for three or four years. But something pulled me back in; it told me I needed to get into meditation again. I ended up joining a group then staying in it for over 10 years.
The groups are great fun, but they have a stillness underneath them. I like the consistency of being part of a group of people meditating together, reading the material together and bringing it to life. The passages we read spark into life when we discuss them.
It’s the communion, the structure, the way we go about it. We don’t reach out, people come to us; it’s genuine. I really liked the course, the ceremony. It all feels genuine. I’ve heard other people say they’ve tried other organisations but found them too commercialised.
It’s a personal journey – the peace and stillness is within myself – but there is support and structure on that path
You are now teaching a popular Tai Chi class at the School. What is the connection between Tai Chi and meditation?
Tai Chi is very much like a moving meditation. While the body is moving, the mind is completely still; it’s a different way to reach the same place that we find ourselves in when we meditate.
The two practices are complementary; you can fall into the peace and stillness of one when you do the other.
Tai Chi is about attending to my general wellbeing, throughout my whole life. Through Tai Chi, I feel stable and confident on my feet through creating the muscle memory of the movement of the body. Combining that with the breath leads to an amazing feeling of wellbeing that stays with you throughout the day.
When practising Tai Chi, you aren’t there anymore, you’re in the same void as when you meditate, an essential stillness. It’s a discipline, a ritual like meditation. When we attend church, a temple, or another holy place, we follow rituals. We do this because it stills the mind.
I spent time at a temple in Taiwan. There was chanting, bowing, prostrations, walking meditations…it was very ritualistic. For me it wasn’t important to know the meaning of the rituals; it was important to surrender to the activity. You follow it and at the end you’re buzzing because of the energy you’ve released.
By doing Tai Chi, you access what’s inside you all the time. You can take it with you during the day, and it’ll help you sleep too.
To find out more about taking up meditation, please see details of our courses and classes, including Tai Chi, here or contact the School of Meditation's office: 02076036116 / firstname.lastname@example.org