Monday, 27 July 2015

EventBrite Summer School: Literary Salon – 24.07.2015

This summer EventBrite are hosting a morning summer school – a chance to (in exchange for waking up a little earlier) do something creative before work and start the day in a positive way. I’m lucky that my official start time is 9.30am and, unless I have a meeting or course, I have time to fit in a gym class or breakfast with a friend before work. Evenings are less predictable and I’m actually a bit of a morning person anyway so these sessions sounded like just my cup of tea.

I attended the Morning Literary Salon with Emma Mills – promising a mix of literature and meditation (as well as free coffee) this session sounded intriguing and a great way to get Friday (and the weekend) off to a positive start. The summer school sessions are free or go up to around £10 depending on the activity. This one was £3.85 which I would say was money very well spent as £3.85 doesn’t get you much in London these days. Emma is a mindfulness advisor for Neom Organics and a meditation lover with an interest in poetry and literature. I think most of the group were keen to find out how meditation and literature could work together and I think by the end of the session we all agreed that they really do complement one another.

After wander through a rather deserted Carnaby Street – I love early mornings in the city when the world hasn’t quite woken up yet -  we assembled under the umbrellas outside Pizza Pilgrims just as the rain started falling. We started by introducing ourselves to the group and then doing a guided meditation – this was actually really relaxing despite being outside with a group of strangers! Emma reminded us that the world was continuing around us while we meditated and that we were with a group of like-minded individuals. Her guidance and the falling rain created the perfect atmosphere and I managed to forget that I was in central London and block out the noise from the businesses setting up around us and music blaring from a nearby shop and really focus on the present moment and not on whether I’d shut my balcony door before leaving the flat or whether I’d eaten too much sugar the day before (pretty much 80% of my usual thoughts really).

We then went on to discuss poems – focusing on “All The Hemispheres” by Hafiz. Hafiz was a Persian poet writing in the 1300s. I have come across some of his work before due to being half Persian as Hafiz is like the Persian Shakespeare and his words seem so relevant to modern life that it’s hard to believe he wrote them so long ago:

All The Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season

Onto the meadow and shores and hills
Open up to the roof
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love

Like a blooming night flower
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly

Change rooms in your mind for a day

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart

Greet yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the great circle inside of

I’ve never studied literature formally – I stopped English Lit after GCSE so it was really nice (and a tiny bit out-of-comfort-zone scary in the best way possible) to discuss our interpretations of the poem, knowing that there is no “right” answer and that no one was going to mark us or make us sit an exam on it. To me this poem is about opening our minds to the world but at the same time realising that everything we “need” is already there inside of us. Isn’t that a beautiful and re-assuring thought?  

We ended with another meditation session before being treated to some breakfast pastries and heading off to work. Even the packed Central Line and rain didn’t ruin my zen vibe. It’s amazing what taking a little time out to tune in can do.

Meditation isn’t just for hippies and yogis, we can all benefit from taking a few minutes each day to reconnect with ourselves and our thoughts. If you’re new to meditation I’d recommend the Headspace app for guiding you through the basics. The revelation for me is that meditation is not about “going anywhere” with our minds but accepting them as they are, noting thoughts and feelings but not overly questioning them or running after the good feelings or trying to banish the bad ones in our heads. We spend so much time working hard, trying to be good friends, good daughters, good colleagues, rushing from A to B, always feeling like we must be “doing” something or else slumping on the sofa in front of Netflix feeling exhausted. Meditation may seem self-indulgent or something that you don’t have time to do but if you don’t check in with yourself then there’s no hope of being able to be the best sort of “you”.

Have you tried meditation? What do you think about pre-work activities?

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