When I was a kid, I remember there was this man that was related to us somehow that came for a visit.
He was a tall, lanky Australian.
He kind of walked with a glide.
A little wisp of a man with a soft-spoken voice and funny pants.
I had no idea what to make of him. Every single male in my life at that point had told me that emotions were for the weak, and that if somebody said anything to you, you oughta just punch ‘em in the nose.
I remember hearing one story in particular about the Australian. My Grandmother, who was no stranger to gliding. She had met my Grandfather during the war and made the move from the glens of Scotland to the cold stone of Flatrock, Newfoundland and Labrador. The story goes that she came home one day to find the tall, slender Aussie sitting cross-legged and “mumbling” to himself.
That was my first introduction to meditation.
When I was seventeen I had a rather ridiculous car accident, which led me to sell everything I owned and run away to Toronto. It’s a long story that you can listen to me tell on this episode of CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera.
When I came home after running away from home I was brought to see a psychologist. We spoke about anxiety and panic, fight or flight — a concept that I clearly had just taken quite literally. He was the first to mention meditation and how it could help me.
I snickered, “I dunno, man.”
All I could picture was the Aussie mumbling to himself on my Grandmother’s rust coloured carpet.
It wasn’t until quite recently that I discovered what an amazing thing it is.
The problem, to me at least, is bad branding.
Now, I work in advertising, so I know… I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, the whole world doesn’t revolve around fucking advertising. Stop flooding me full of crap that’s trying to tell me what to feel, do, say, think, be.
And I get that.
But it doesn’t change the fact that meditation suffers from a brand problem.
Kind of like yoga did early on.
For years people thought yoga was something space aliens did after they probed you.
It was weird shit, man.
Now yoga is an 80 billion dollar industry.
It went from some weird missus in tights on PBS to 80 billion!
Now people are doing yoga everywhere, in every way, in every conceivable fucking climate.
When people think of meditation they still think of a freak show. Just a bunch of people in messed up clothes that sit around and mumble and hum to themselves.
Well, you’re dead wrong.
Meditation started making sense to me the moment I heard somebody I could relate to explain it to me in a way that didn’t make me want to throw up in my mouth.
Dan Harris was that man for me. His wry wit, and almost journalistic approach in the description of it, got me over the hump and made me stop judging it.
I use an app.
I know, it’s ridiculous. But it guides me through and teaches me what I need to know. It’s ten minutes a day, and they are the best ten minutes of my day.
It’s as if somebody has taken cool water and poured it over my boiling brain. I love it.
And it’s important to me. As somebody that lives with mental illness I have to make sure I know where the middle ground is. It’s vital for me.
Because if I know where neutral is then I know where “not neutral” is. And knowing that is super important for being your own advocate for your mental health.
Not everyone living with mental illness is able to recognize neutral. Which is why supports are needed to help keep track of your health. Because if you don’t know, then you need to make sure you’ve got people in place that do.
When I start seeing negativity creep in just a little, that’s when I know I need to stop and evaluate what’s going on. Those are the moments when I need to listen to my mind and my body and give the old noggin and bones a break and be extra kind to myself.
I attribute this ability to my beginners journey into meditation. I feel more relaxed in every sense when I’m done, and I’m somehow re-aligned. Now, granted, some days that shit will only last like five minutes. But, it was five minutes of peace I hadn’t had prior to.
My whole life people have been telling me to fight back when tested, and to reach for the top. But you know something? I think there may be far more value in reaching for the middle instead.
As they say back home in my native isle Newfoundland: