In all the chaos of our busy lives, it’s crucial we find a quiet moment every now and then.
In pursuit of this and eager to explore ways to make me feel less stressed and more focused at work, last year I began to take an avid interest in mindfulness and meditation. If you haven’t yet checked out the article I wrote for Health Bloggers Community magazine on the topic (http://magazine.healthbloggerscommunity.com/tale-mindfulness-newbie/), please do!
In one of my "going down a rabbit hole" moments scrolling through Instagram, I came across the mindfulness and meditation events organised by Just Breathe, which are attended by some of the people I engage with most on social media, including The Doctor’s Kitchen and The Food Medic. I’d also heard the founder of Just Breathe speaking on the Fit & Fearless podcast hosted by the ladies from the Girl Gains and found him to be super interesting and highly knowledgeable on the topic of mindfulness. I was therefore really keen to make it to one of their events.
Luckily I heard about the Grand Gathering Volume 9 before the tickets sold out, so I enthusiastically plucked my credit card from my purse and purchased one! £13. Not bad!
The Grand Gathering
Forward to the evening of the Grand Gathering. Unfortunately due to work commitments, the friend I was going with couldn’t make it so I had to go it alone. I'm not averse to going to events on my tod though, so off I trotted to the British Museum undeterred!
The venue for the Grand Gathering was stunning. I’d never been to the British Museum before but as I walked up the staircase and through the door into the entrance hall, I was taken aback by the room in front of me (which I later learnt to be the Great Court). It’s a huge room with an extremely high glass roof and a few of the walls were tastefully lit with some calming purple lighting. There were hundreds of white cushions on the floor of the Great Court and, to top it all off, a harp up front! Yes, a harp! I could already feel the day’s stresses and strains ebbing away. This was going to be amazing!
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the evening. Clearly we couldn’t possibly be expected to meditate for 2 hours but the only information I’d seen was a relatively mysterious timetable suggesting we’d be hearing some music (a harp maybe?!), we’d be listening to an instructional talk about meditation and then finally there would be a meditation session. It all sounded good to me!
Just to set the scene here, I’m probably not the most romantic individual, I can be a bit awkward with human contact (the tube is a bloody nightmare for me!), and the first time I actually shed a little lone tear at my friend’s wedding, I was so shocked I wondered if I should book in for a health check! So you'll understand, when I discovered at that very moment that the theme of the evening was love, I started to wonder whether I was going to enjoy this as much as I’d initially thought....
The evening began with a chance to look at some of the collections in the Museum. In the particular room we were in, if we wished, we could write down on a card our thoughts about what love means to us. Naturally, I didn’t partake in that bit and instead just admired the various pieces in the room. If I had written on a card though, I know what I would have said….without a doubt, to me love is halloumi cheese of course! Sorry Andy!!
After that little exercise, which lots of people seemed to be thoroughly enjoying, we were taken into the Great Hall and asked to take a cushion. I understand from social media posts from some of the organisers that there were around 600 people there. It was quite an experience to be sat in such a beautiful setting with so many people. As we took our cushions we were regaled with some absolutely beautiful harp music, which was very relaxing! Then a string duet played us a piece (also incredible), accompanied for a time by a girl doing what I guess was spoken word poetry to music. It was a love poem, in-keeping with the theme of the evening, and although she was amazing, this was all beginning to get a little too gushy for my liking!
What with the love poetry and the fact my bum was now becoming increasingly uncomfortable sitting on the floor, the evening wasn't really turning out to be as relaxing as I’d hoped. But as these thoughts crossed my mind in that moment, if only I’d have known what was coming next. If I had, I would have been thankful that my only concern was a numb bum!
Another thing about me is I have always hated being forced to talk to people. It's not that I'm unsociable (quite the opposite in fact!), it's just that I'm an adult and quite capable of deciding who I want to speak to and when thank you very much. I'm also quite a private person (yes I'm fully aware of the irony of having a blog and social media presence when I say that!). So imagine my concern when we were told to form a small group with people we didn’t know and spend some time discussing what love is to us. Oh no! This was totally not my bag! Reluctantly I participated though, hopeful that we would get to the meditation part of the evening soon, which was really the part I'd signed up for.
My cue to exit
At this point I'd lost almost all feeling in my bum and was getting grumpy when they announced that next we would have to find yet another stranger (help me!) and stare into each other’s eyes for a prolonged period of time!! FYI, in my book that's anything more than, oh about 2 seconds, if not less. I mean, I even struggle sometimes to look into Andy’s eyes for longer than that….and they're really nice eyes too!!!
Clearly I must have been radiating my discomfort because nobody chose my eyes to stare into. Although I was obviously relieved about this, I also realised I would now just be sat there like a lemon for the next 10 minutes surrounded by people staring into each other’s eyes! Shit, I thought, what if they even take pity on me and call me up to the front to partner up with one of the organisers!! Then my awkwardness would be in full view of everybody!! As the mild panic set in, I saw a gap in the cushions and made a stealthy run for it! And that people, was the end of that.
I’m aware the account I’ve given will come off to some as being a little negative. In truth, I was weighing up whether to even publish this blog or not on the basis I'm always concerned about being too negative about a class or an event, particularly as enjoyment of them can be so subjective. However, in the end I decided to publish this because for one it’s quite amusing for you to hear about my utter discomfort but also because I do have quite a few positive things to say. I do also want to spread the word about Just Breathe for those of you who might be interested and who think it sounds like something you'd enjoy. I didn’t get along with the evening because of my particular personality (clearly being a bit dead inside!) but for so many people (and the majority of the 600 people in the room that evening) I'm sure it would have been a wonderful experience!!
All in all I’m very glad I tried this Just Breathe event, although I am disappointed I didn’t make it until the end to experience the meditation part of the evening. You might not expect me to say this but I wouldn’t be totally averse to (tentatively) trying out another Just Breathe event.....I’d just be careful to make doubly sure the theme wasn't love again! Oh and to sit near the back in case I need to make another swift exit!