A Spiritual Awakening

A couple of months ago, one of my friends gave me a ticket for a session at a local meditation centre.

I hadn’t ever been to a live meditation session before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I decided to keep an open mind and went along to the centre a couple of weeks later.

I handed in the ticket in at reception and was directed towards a large room at the end of a long hallway.

I walked into the room and came face to face with the most attractive man I have ever seen in my life.

Honestly, this picture does absolutely piss all to capture his beauty…

The man was wearing an orange tank top, black shorts and had his hair tied back in a man bun.

Normally, the sight of a man bun is enough to send a cringe-filled shiver straight down my spine.

However, any initial irritation I may have felt at the sight of the man bun was completely obliterated by the sheer perfection of his face.

After a few minutes, the man introduced himself as Ethan and asked everyone in the class to take a seat on the array of cushions that had been placed around the room.

He instructed us to close our eyes, take a breath and direct our attention towards our external environment which, considering he was part of the external environment, was incredibly easy.

Ethan then asked us to direct our attention inwards and focus on cultivating inner peace which was considerably more challenging.

As I attempted in vain to calm my mind, he started to talk about suffering which, needless to say, is not the most pleasant of subjects.

However, the combination of his slow deep voice, quiet confidence and proper fit face, somehow managed to make the topic seem sexy.

After around fifteen minutes of group meditation, Ethan got to his feet and started addressing each of us individually.

Once he had talked to a few of the other attendees, he knelt down beside me and gazed deep into my eyes whilst I tried desperately to maintain some form of composure.

‘You seem tense,’ he said.

Nobody had ever called my inner spirit a lotus flower before.

I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

I wanted him to say it again.

Preferably over a candle lit dinner

At our wedding.

Ethan smiled at me and placed his hand on my shoulder, his eyes full of compassion.

Ethan frowned and asked me if I felt like I spent too much time working.

He told me that I probably needed to spend more time prioritising my time and reflecting on what was important in life.

Ethan smiled and, for a moment, I thought my improvised seduction had miraculously worked.

Then, he told me that, whilst other people could guide me, I would have to walk the path to enlightenment alone, which I’m pretty sure was the smoothest rejection I have ever received.

The following week, I convinced my friend to come with me to the meditation class so that I could show her how beautiful Ethan was.

At first she was reluctant but I was pretty insistent.

Eventually, she agreed to accompany me to the class and we went to the meditation centre together. I lead her along the corridor towards the room, excited to show her the aesthetic specimen I had met the week before.

I was therefore confused, and somewhat horrified, when we walked through the door and were met with…

The beautiful man wasn’t there and, unless he had gone through some sort of Last Crusade rapid aging process, had been replaced by a completely different guy.

It turned out that Ethan had been a guest teacher who had been covering for the regular instructor.

Needless to say, my friend was very confused and was probably considering staging an intervention.

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2020: A Review

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that 2020 has been the weirdest, craziest, scariest, most existentially-challenging, emotionally-draining year of my life.

A lot of bad things have happened and, at times, whilst caught in a Matrix-style existential mindset, I’ve become convinced that I’ve probably been living in an unpublished Lemony Snicket novel without being aware of it.

I mean, at least the Baudelaire kids were allowed to move between households…

The whole year has felt like an extension of that strange period between Christmas and New Year when you lose all track of time and end up eating an excessive amount of chocolate whilst engaging in a nostalgic Julie Andrews movie marathon because you’ve forgotten your purpose in life, there’s nothing else to do and at least Julie seems happy about things.

It takes one crazy year to mess with both the foundations of society and the concept time itself and it’s a bit weird to think that it’s coming to an end, almost like stepping out of some surreal alternate reality.

Months, weeks and days have melded into one another and become one long unstructured mass of time and, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve achieved anything or done anything significant.

As a result, I thought it would be useful to write a post to remind myself that I have done some things this year, aside from of sitting on a sofa in my oldest tattiest hoody, staring into the existential abyss whilst stoically making my way through a family size bag of Doritos.

LIST OF 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS SOME THINGS I’VE DONE

  1. Survived 365 surreal, weird, stressful 2020 days.

2. Watched several of Boris Johnson’s ‘addressing the nation’ speeches and only considered punching the TV once or twice (exhibiting considerable emotional control).

3. Recovered from a spiraling Amazon addiction after realising that buying loads of things to help with stress (candles, incense sticks, meditation journals etc.) was only making me more stressed about the state of the high street and also the state of my bank account.

4. Managed to keep in touch with most of my friends, despite being confronted with my own face on Zoom more than I would have liked.

5. Didn’t shave my legs for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

6. Didn’t wear a bra for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

7. Briefly considered wearing a bra when going to the supermarket…

8. … and then didn’t (I’m sure that’s feminism or something… and by ‘something’ I mean extreme laziness).

9. Became closer to nature by taking lots of relaxing walks in the park.

10. Became closer to my dogs by taking several distinctly less relaxing walks in the park.

Swan was angered when Jessie made a unconsidered attempt chase it in what was potentially the most terrifying moment of my life to date.

11. Ran out of perfume and avoided buying more from Amazon by discovering a cheaper alternative.

12. Learnt to juggle (3 balls, not general life responsibilities)

13. Shaved my brother’s head and briefly considered becoming a barber. #RethinkReskillReboot

14. Resisted a sudden impulsive urge to shave my own head whilst bored and looking for something to do.

15. Briefly tried to eat more healthily to counter an increased amount of sedentary sofa time but then decided that it was a difficult time and I deserved to treat myself.

16. Did yoga like 10 times and only broke one item of furniture in the process.

17. Discovered a brand new way of burning calories.

18. Discovered a new comeback that has proved useful for whenever I get yelled at by groups of youths in the street.

19. Got bored and built a really tall tower out of used toilet rolls.

I mean, it looked a little bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa before it fell on top of me so it was basically like being on holiday.

20. Took up mindfulness and meditation and stuck with it even though my body seemed intent on conspiring against me.

21. Survived several mental breakdowns.

23. Had more time to write and draw (it may have been an awful year but at least I’ve got a few decent cartoons out of it!)

All in all, I may have entered 2020 with a fresh rush of energy and a resolve to strive to become the best version of myself that I possibly could be. And I may now be ending it by dragging a significantly less impressive version of myself towards the finish line.

But, all things considered, I reckon that is the biggest achievement I could have hoped for.

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My Journey To Find My Inner Self Didn’t Turn Out As I Was Expecting…

In 2016, I spent six months working on an outdoor education camp in Canada.

In the Spring season, the site was often rented out by various groups of people who wanted to use the camp’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their events.

As a result, in May, I found myself working on a weekend Yoga Retreat full of people who had found their chackras and could bend their bodies into a variety of complex positions.

At one point, I remember talking to a man who informed me that setting time aside time to connect with his inner self had enabled him to gain control of his mind and banish negativity from his life – or, as he put it, to ‘tell all that sadness and self-doubt crap to piss off’.

The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.

I’ve never really been the kind of person who particularly likes spending time with myself but, like most people, I’ve had significantly more free time in 2020 and I thought that it might be useful to spend some of that time attempting to improve my connection with my inner spiritual world.

So I started meditating in April, full-on expecting to have some sort of transcendent experience where I would suddenly feel at one with myself and the universe.

However, my first few meditation sessions were quite underwhelming – as far as I was aware, nothing happened.

I felt slightly disheartened – I had actively attempted to get in touch with my inner self and it seemed I had been put on hold.

This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the meditation music I was listening to sounded a lot like the sort of music that often plays when you’re put on hold in what I can only imagine is a vain attempt to make you less likely to get stressed and swear down the phone.

Despite this, I decided to push onwards with meditation, reasoning to myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and that the transcendent joy of being at one with my inner self would be worth it in the end.

I guess I assumed that my inner self would be this wise oracle who, once found, would help me transcend above the concerns and stresses of everyday life into a state of zen-like peace.

A few weeks into lockdown, I started to become aware of a part of myself that I hadn’t noticed before.

I was initially excited and intrigued, thinking that I had finally got in contact with my inner self.

However, if I had, she was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting her to be.

In fact, if anything my inner self more closely resembled a moody teenager who wholeheartedly resented living under my roof and, needless to say, wasn’t as sold on the concept of working towards meditative enlightenment as I was.

Although my spiritual awakening wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, I kept trying to get in touch with my inner self, thinking that eventually she would open up to me.

However, the more I tried to connect with her, the more I irritated she became.

I had dragged her out of my subconscious against her will and she was NOT happy with it.

As lockdown dragged on and I spent more and more time with my inner self, our relationship started to feel quite tense and I noticed that I was reacting to setbacks in an emotionally dramatic way.

Anything, from receiving a job rejection to dropping a piece of toast butter side down, would make me irrationally upset.

I felt like I starting to lose control over my inner self.

It is strange and unsettling to feel like you are being bossed around by a grumpy teenage version of yourself but I tried my best to be mindful about the whole situation.

I decided that I would sit quietly with my inner self and try and have a calm, logical conversation about how she was feeling.

It soon became apparent that maintaining any form of calm logical dialogue with my inner self was going to be a near impossibility.

Instead, I thought that I would try strengthening my connection with her by engaging in a variety of relaxing hobbies.

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem as committed to the activities as I was.

Dragging my inner self through a series of mindfulness activities made me feel inauthentic and, as a result, my ability to reach a state of meditative calmness was compromised.

Eventually, I decided to leave my inner self to her own devices and instead tried to focus on everyday practicalities.

I thought that if I tried to get on with my life in the way that I had before, she would eventually calm down and my mental state would return to normal

However, as soon as I tried to concentrate on anything, she seemed to experience an inexplicable urge to hang out with me, distracting me from whatever I was doing with a seemingly endless stream of irrelevant and anxiety provoking information.

All things considered, spending more time with my inner self this year hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.

Just as spend you can only spend so much time in another person’s company before you start to get on each others nerves, spending too much time with yourself can cause things to become a bit tense.

Being a human is complex, confusing and not always comfortable, especially this year and, for me, things became a bit easier when I stopped trying so hard to force my inner self to behave and communicate with me in the zen-like way I expected her to.

Maybe being in touch with your inner self isn’t about achieving a state of eternal chackric calm; maybe it is more about accepting your inner self exactly as they turn up, no matter how annoying they may be.

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My Lockdown Yoga Experience

I have been finding social isolation quite challenging mentally so I recently started doing yoga in the hope that it would help me to reduce my anxiety levels.

It is quite easy to do yoga from home – the internet is full of videos featuring yoga instuctors serenly moving their bodies into various positions whilst radiating inner calm.

Unfortunately, these yoga instructors recorded the majority of their videos before March 2020 when the future seemed as solid as their core muscles.

After two months of lockdown, I have neither the abs nor the sense of security to replicate such serenity.

For me, ‘developing a practice’ has consisted mainly of manically jerking my body through each position in a vain attempt to restore some semblance of inner zen.

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It turns out that praciticing yoga under lockdown conditions isn’t easy.

I think that yoga was probably designed to be practiced in the mountains or other areas of vast natural beauty whilst listening to the sound of the wind moving through the trees or the waves rushing up against a pebble beach.

It is slightly more difficult to conjour up a sense of profound internal peace in a 4×3 metre room in your parent’s house the middle of Liverpool to the sound of your brothers using the nearby toilet and your mum playing a particularly intense game of Words With Friends in the opposite room.

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That being said, yoga has helped me become more physically attuned to myself and more aware of how my body relates to the space around me.

However, this is predominantly because my room is too small and untidy to accomadate pretty much every single yoga move and my ability to enter into a state of seamless yogic flow is often compromised by inconviently positioned items of furniture. img_0553

I guess I hoped that my body and mind would blend together in some sort of peaceful holistic spiritual cocktail.

Unfortunately, my spiritual cocktail seems to be one of those cheap mixers you buy on a night out at uni – you’re not sure exactly what’s in it but you end up downing it anyway whilst your flatmates chant at you.

All in all, I would like to say that lockdown has transformed me into a fully fledged zen yogi but, if I’m honest, I have pretty much resorted to repeating postive mantras to myself from my favourite position of all. img_0550If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.