There is a TARDIS outside a tube station in London. Of course I went there and stood smiling like an idiot at it and took a bunch of photos in 2015. You're welcome.
I once heard a teacher describe meditation as like being locked inside a telephone booth with a madman. It makes sense! It can totally feel like that sometimes!
Many of us have this idea that to meditate we have to completely still our minds and enter this trance-like state where all is peace, calmness and bliss. And then we try it and rather than bliss and peace what we might end up with is this weaving, random internal monologue that goes something like:
Am I doing this right? What am I supposed to be doing anyway? Actually, did I hang out the laundry? Is it wet in the washing machine? Oh no, it’s going to start to smell bad. I’ll have no clothes and I’ll smell bad. Wait a minute – what am I wearing today? What am I DOING today? Oh no, I forgot to finish up that thing at work last night, everyone will be seriously miffed. Not that I care what so-and-so thinks …. Oh, wait a minute, I’m supposed to be meditating. CALM mind. MIND CALM. CALM MIND NOW…
You get the idea. And then the buzzer goes off, and you realise you have just spent a whole bunch of time on your meditation cushion rambling at yourself like a lunatic.
My first meditation teacher was a lovely lady with a long Sanskrit name. She told us all that we should practice every day. After about a week of feeling like I wasn’t getting it at all, I complained to her that I was trying really hard, but I felt like I only had a split second of calmness at a time.
“How wonderful!”, she said, “You have the benefit of a split second of meditation!”
This was an attitude I have tried to take to heart. We think that the point of meditation is to calm our mind and to still it – well, good luck with that. Minds like to wander – this is what they do.
The mind is a bit like a time machine. It re-hashes the past, it projects into the future – but hanging around in the present? Not so much. This is where we practice.
So the point of meditation isn’t that we stop that crazy dialogue from happening, but that we get to practice noticing it. We pay kind attention to our own minds, get to know them. Notice where they like to wander off, the mental ruts we get stuck in. When we notice that the mind has wandered off again, rather than beating ourselves over the head about it, we just notice. And come back to the moment that we’re in, perhaps with a little smile at ourselves for our own humanness.
It’s that moment where we bring ourselves back that builds our mental mindfulness muscles, as it were. A truly powerful practice isn’t necessarily the one where we are like a Zen monk the whole time, but where we can start to notice more quickly when we’ve wandered off, and playfully and compassionately bring ourselves back to the present moment.
And over time, those moments of presence and stillness become longer. And our attachment to doing it “right” reduces too.
So meditation might be like being locked in a telephone booth or a time machine with a lunatic. But with practice, our sense of spacious connection to ourselves becomes bigger on the inside, like a TARDIS.
And like a TARDIS, it holds infinite possibilities.