Meditation class

“Welcome, welcome, come on in,” the instructor said, “my goodness, there’s a lot of you! Take a mat from the pile and find yourself a place to sit. Could you spread out towards the back of the room instead of all crowding near the door. All the way back. Come in, come in. Get yourselves a mat and find yourself a comfortable place to sit. There’s plenty of room at the back. Don’t forget to get a mat first. Once you’ve found yourself a spot, sit yourself comfortably on your mat. It doesn’t matter how you sit, just so long as you’re comfortable. That’s it. Is everyone settled? Good!”

“You’ve all been referred to this class because you’re suffering from anxiety or stress. You might think it odd that instead of just being given some tablets, you’ve been sent to meditation class, but in fact meditation is very helpful for people who suffer from anxiety, and that’s been proven over and over in scientific studies.”

“We’re going to start with a very simple exercise. Make sure you’re all sitting comfortably – no, you don’t have to sit cross-legged, just any way that is comfortable. Good. Now for this exercise you’re not going to move from that mat, and yet I don’t want you all going to sleep! People expect meditation to be relaxing, like taking a little nap, but it’s not at all like having a little nap, in fact it can be very difficult and strenuous, even though to the rest of the world it looks like you aren’t doing anything at all. Just sit and listen to the sound of my voice. Now people who suffer from anxiety often have a lot of thoughts rushing through their heads all the time. It’s this continuous background chatter. Most of the time we don’t pay any attention to it, and we might not even notice it at all. But for now, I want you to try to turn that background chatter down, and just let you mind go still, not thinking about anything at all. Let all the thoughts just gently fade away, until you aren’t thinking anything at all. If you find that your thoughts start chattering away again that’s perfectly fine. Most people find not thinking anything is quite a difficult thing to do. So when you notice your thoughts have started up again, just gently stop them.”

A hand went up, and one of the students said: “Excuse me, but, if we have to stop ourselves from thinking – but then we have to keep reminding ourselves to stop thinking – it doesn’t work, because you have to keep thinking about not thinking. It doesn’t make sense.”

“No, it doesn’t make sense,” the instructor agreed pleasantly, “but it works, anyway. So right now, I want you all to notice what you’re thinking, notice the thoughts that might be going through your head, and just gently let them fade away. And if your thoughts come back, don’t worry, just gently let them fade away again.”