Why meditate? Perhaps you’re curious, having noticed the rise in in popularity of meditation in recent years. Seeing as those who meditate regularly attest that mindfulness practice is an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus, addiction and more, it’s not difficult to see the attraction.
However, starting a meditation practice can seem daunting, which is why groups such as the Meditation Society here at Exeter are so important in providing an environment where people can learn and develop their meditation. I spoke to Henry Wilcox, the society’s President, and Haydn Fraser, the society’s session co-ordinator to provide an insight into the world of meditation:
What drew you to meditation in the first place, and how did you start?
Henry Wilcock: Ages ago I saw that Steve Jobs used to mediate, and I was like ‘Oh, this is quite cool’. I came to University and joined the society, and realised that it helped me to feel less stressed, less anxious and be happier if I did it more regularly.
Haydn Fraser: For me, I had quite a restless mind, and thoughts that didn’t necessarily serve me that well. And meditation became a means to learn to live alongside those thoughts, let them go more easily and stop being so controlled by them.
What do you consider the benefits of meditating in a group, and particularly a university society setting?
HW: I think there’s a real vibe when a lot of people get together to sit and meditate and kind of strive for the same thing all in one room. And the society is important because it spreads awareness of meditation and how amazing it is.
HF: I definitely prefer doing it in a group setting. A lot of people compare meditation to taking up a sport, it’s something that you practice and train in, like a hobby. But unlike with a sport, it’s all mental rather than physical, so it’s really important to share your experiences.
What would you say has been the biggest change that you have noticed in your life since having started regularly mediating?
HW: In general things are just a lot more vibrant and life has a lot more zest. Before when I got anxious and stressed I would just shut down whereas now I’ll sit and mediate rather than running away from it.
HF: I think the biggest change for me is that I just don’t take myself, or life, very seriously anymore. When you mediate and see everything with equanimity, things just come and they pass. When you apply that to life’s big events, they become far less stressful. And it’s a lot lighter living your life like that.
The society also organises regular socials as well as its weekly meetings. The most recent was a country walk to the pub The Double Locks, with a walking meditation along the way. After strolling down the sunny quayside we gathered in a field to begin our walking meditation. One of the most widespread forms of meditation, it has the benefit of being very suitable to a modern ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle.
It’s also a nice opportunity to experience the body in motion, as there are often stronger and more easily observable physical sensations than in sitting meditation. Henry guided the meditation, beginning by asking us to become aware of the physical sensations of walking, such as the tread of our feet on the ground, and the movement of our arms. We then widened out our awareness to being mindful of what our senses were receiving, such as the sounds of birds tweeting, and smells such as grass or the fresh country air. By the end of the meditation we were only minutes away from the Double Locks, where we ate pub lunches and had some drinks to rest and recuperate before the return journey!
- Cara Priestley.