I was contacted by Catherine at the London Meditation Project because she wanted to connect with military spouses. She offered me a free day of meditation in London. I jumped at the chance. I think I have made no secret of my feminist hippy values and I am always open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. I love the exploration of the new. I obviously reserve the right to disagree too.
Catherine posted her meditation day invitation on the forum Rear Party and quite frankly it went down like a pint of cold sick. Nobody signed up. We spoke on the phone and she invited me along to a day for veterans, which passed last Sunday. I dragged Hagar along too. He’s a stressed out bunny right now and he was willing to check it out.
The day was fascinating. I truly loved every second of it. Catherine sent me some questions and so I am going to answer them for you now live on my blog. I want you to know the feedback is honest and fresh. Here goes…
*What drew you personally to want to explore meditation?*
I don’t know. I didn’t know what it was but ultimately, I was looking for some calm and reflection in my life because I am feeling burnt out and raw.
*What needs do you think meditation could help meet for military service people and combat veterans?*
I think we all need to take some time out in our days, in our lives to stop and reflect on why we are who we are. This time for reflection is priceless and yet there seems never be enough room in the day to make it so.
*How was the meditation teaching for you? Was it clear and helpful?*
Yes, strangely it was incredibly helpful although I never felt I was being taught. What I took from it was that in order to meditate you need to stop, sit still, close your eyes, try to count, breathe and not speak. Not speaking was my biggest challenge. I speak too much. Bizarrely, to not speak was very liberating.
*What parts of the day were most important for you? Shrine room time, learning new skills? Open discussion? An environment of trust and openness? Please let us know any details you wish to feed back about any of these things.*
The whole day was important to me. I loved the openness and the trust. I loved the shrine room time and I embraced the news skills. I found meditating hard but yet liberating. What amazed me most was the instructors we met took on a different form to me in the shrine room from the chat that I had in the normality of the room upstairs. They were one thing upstairs and yet in the shrine room they were different people. It’s difficult to explain. The presentation was so contrasting from the military environment. Military personnel dominate a room with their presence. Yet the meditation teachers had very discrete presences out of the shrine room and yet as they shared their skills their confidence and assurance was exuded in a completely passive yet skilled and experienced manner.
*Any comments on the structure of the day*
Military personnel will need a clearer leadership but the structure was perfect.
*Comments on the way the facilitation worked:*
I loved the centre. It was intimate but yet still clinical enough to not be insincere.
*How was the hospitality?! Did you like the place, the food etc. Did you feel comfortable in the place?*
I loved it! The hospitality was brilliant. The food was divine. I feel happy just thinking back on it.
*Would you recommend trying meditation to others in Military Service, and to ex-Servicemen? Is there a gap you perceive in welfare support that this could help to fill?*
I would recommend it to everyone. I think it is important to take some time out of your day to sit and reflect. There is a gap but I think you need to overcome people’s embarrassment about the fact that they don’t understand what it is, that they think it’s bullshit and they are afraid to ask for help.
*How can you envision meditation contributing: as stress management, support in decompression, supporting partners and families to have some space to be together with support to relax and ‘be’ in a different way? A way to offer support for those holding a huge amount of emotional experience and stress – through trauma, injury and loss and/or through sustained intensely demanding conditions… etc.*
I think it would be brilliant way of re-connecting families with their partners after prolonged periods of absence and two very different worlds of experience. It would be an amazing, passive way of bridging the gap and bringing the worlds together in a supportive, shared environment. It would encourage dialogue and also create a community of people who have shared experiences to connect and lean on each other. No doubt the feeling is that it is already in place and they don’t need help. There is a lot of denial. This is the hurdle that needs to be overcome. In order to help the community the community needs to acknowledge there is a problem. I don’t know how you do that. First rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.
*Do you have any suggestions for form, location etc of future courses, days and residential retreats?*
I think you need to take this to the community. The community will not go out and seek help because of the denial. They will not come to you.
*Your own words, thoughts and experience on this will help us no end.*
I am one person in a sea of many. I think this project is inspired and I hope that you have the success that you seek. The military is tightly, coiled spring who cannot look beyond science. This will help if they let you in. Somehow you have to work out how to unlock them. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. Hagar and I talked all the way home. Today, I have decided to create a meditation room in my house. A place dedicated to silent reflection. I left the day feeling very calm and strong. I don’t want to lose that. It was amazing to meet you all. It was incredible to think that I sat still for 3 x 30 minutes and didn’t speak and barely moved. For me, a person of many words and a complete fidget pants it was a hugely challenging experience. But in the words of the Dalai Lama – “Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.”
If you want to know more about Catherine and her inspired idea to bring meditation to the military then email her:
She would love to hear from you. She wants to help and she had done a lot of work with US military, who are a little more evolved in their openness. Catherine genuinely cares. Don’t be frightened, I promise you can trust her. She is a white light and she is lovely.