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  • Claire Banks

A passing afternoon

Updated: Jul 18

To shut out the world, I have turned to transcendental meditation. This was not my first choice. First I tried deep sleep meditation on YouTube with the soothing voice of a female counting you down with binaural sound effects until you drop off. This didn't work because I was convinced it would subliminally order me to eat my parents in my sleep. Over the years I've tried allsorts.. dietary changes (not of the liquorice kind), flotation tanks, gong baths, yogic practices, entity extractions by people who claim to be Shamans, I've even tried to physically wear myself out with the hope that somehow by doing this my thoughts would too eventually wear out. I did this by going on epic walks, swimming or paddle boarding to islands out to sea and running along coastal footpaths. After that, I tried mindfulness. Chances are you've already heard of mindfulness, because people won't shut up about it. Once, Buddhists and monks had mindfulness all to themselves, as a way of concentrating on their thought processes during meditation. Now that we've found a way of stripping out the spiritual aspect, it's everywhere. There are books. There are seminars. Therapists and counsellors prescribing this, that or the other. There are apps, like headspace, where you're guided through 10 minutes of breathing exercises and top-down self-diagnostic checks on various parts of your body until you become the perfect model of beaming self-realisation.

Mindfulness helps thousands of people every day; people with depression, eating disorders and addiction problems.

But it's not for me. Mindfulness requires self-observation, I find self-observation exhausting. You have to sit and pay attention to everything. How you're breathing, what your posture's like, what you're thinking about, why you're thinking about it, what to do because you're thinking about whatever you're thinking. It goes on and on.

Plus mindfulness makes me neurotic. One exercise I did involved writing down every thought that passed through my mind over the course of half an hour. This knowledge sent me into a panicky death spiral. In retrospect, I should have just pushed all my feelings down into the pit of my stomach and ignored them until they turned into heart disease and killed me at a tragically young age. This is the Heritage way.

For me, TM works because it can fit into modern life. Our fight or flight responses have been messed up, say TM's advocates, leaving us in a constant state of stress.

By spending 40 minutes a day meditating, we can learn to dim those responses a little.

There is much anecdotal evidence that it increases creativity and efficiency. All this and you get to experience a profound sense of rest in the process.

When someone told me that you have to give up 20 minutes twice a day, I was suspicious, but, since practicing it has calmed me down. I do have less stress.

I repeat a mantra – a meaningless sound I'm not allowed to tell anyone and eventually, I reach a point of expansive silence, over time my grip on the mantra loosens and it grows more abstract. My mind becomes stiller and less troubled by thought. It's a nice feeling.

TM makes me feel alert but rested at the same time, I notice and appreciate even the small things so much more, particularly when I’m in the natural world. I can experience my surroundings in a more profound way as I feel my truer more present nature emerging. Perhaps TM has slowed my system down enough to see, really see what was always there but clouded by the thinking mind.

My painting is highly textured similar to that of Van Gogh's paintings. I have used a palette knife to apply impasto mixed with oil paint to the canvas.













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