On Clarity

This time last year, I spent the weekend in an art gallery in Chelsea, New York, with six people I’d never met before. Every day for four consecutive days, our little group assembled there in order to learn how to meditate from a kind, blue-eyed man named Michael. 

At that point, I’d already been meditating sporadically for five or six years. Sometimes I used an app. At other times, guided YouTube videos. For a stint of time when I was living in LA, I practiced a breath-focused style of Buddhist mediation whilst sat an actual Tibetan mediation cushion (LA will have that effect on you). But my practice had waned since I moved to New York, and I couldn’t ever seem to get back into the groove. After three years, I knew I needed an antidote to the scattered, frenetic mental energy I was experiencing (NY will have that effect on you). An older and wiser friend suggested I enroll on a Vedic mediation course that he had taken there several years earlier. So I did. 

I don’t want this to turn into a treatise on the variations of meditation - there are already 10 million articles on that - but I will say I was initially skeptical about Vedic meditation, mostly because it was different to any other style I had attempted in the past. The key differentiator is that Vedic is mantra-based: You are given a personal mantra by your teacher during your first session which you never share or say out loud, but instead repeat softly in your head during the two, 20 minute sessions (AM and PM) that are you supposed to aim for each day. 

A year later, I rarely ever manage the second session of the day, but I nearly always complete the first. I find that I want to. I also find myself happier, more able to focus on writing, and generally far less flustered when dealing with problems, big and small. It’s hard to know if all of this can be attributed to those quiet twenty minutes at the start of the day - there have been other shifts in my life that have contributed, for sure - but I don’t think they hurt. As Michael taught us to say to ourselves when we began to notice these types of changes: Maybe it’s meditation. 

For years, I’ve aspired to clarity above all else. At long last, I feel I’ve reached some semblance of it – if only through realising I've been thinking about it all wrong. In my mind, ‘clarity’ was the final destination of one’s inner thoughts; the equivalent of reaching the peak of the mountain and being able to survey the chaotic mental trails that had led you there. I aspired to clarity in the same way I aspired to inbox zero - the former being the psychological equivalent of reading, processing, and replying to every email I’d ever received. 

Now I understand that there will always be another thought to contend with (not to mention another fucking email to read) I can see that the only real clarity we can hope for is the kind that exists in the moment we are experiencing right now. In an age of relentless notifications and endless scrolling, there’s comfort in knowing we don’t have to try to process it all...because we literally never will. It might feel like we are living in a uniquely overwhelming time, but the truth is that human life has always been defined by our collective struggle to deal with information overload. Luckily, there are some pretty good techniques out there to help you cope.

(Maybe it’s meditation.)