Ask most people why they choose to sit cross-legged somewhere quiet every day in order to observe their thoughts and still their mind, and you’ll get a huge variety of answers. Some start meditating because they’re stressed and hope the discipline will bring them a modicum of peace and relaxation. Some are battling a serious illness and mindfulness of breath reduces their pain and fear. A great many others are on a spiritual quest for whom the ancient practice of meditation is their primary point of departure.
There are also those who start meditating on the advice of a health professional but then soon discover the benefits extend way beyond curing what ails them to radically transforming their whole way of being. One such person is David Michie, meditation coach and best-selling author of The Dalai Lama’s Cat, The Art of Purring and Buddhism for Busy People, who will be presenting a session and a post-conference workshop, and launching his latest book Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate at next week’s Happiness & Its Causes conference.
As Michie explains in this short video, he has food allergies to thank for introducing him to meditation. Or rather the naturopath whose mailer he received not long after he started taking prescribed antihistamines to relieve the itchiness he’d recently developed. Because Michie thought, “I can’t spend the rest of my life with this little bottle of pills in my pocket ready to take whenever I get itchy,” he was all ears when the naturopath during a consultation told him, “David, you’re systemically stressed, mind and body stressed, and the best thing you can do to deal with that is meditate.”
Michie, who at this time was in his early 30s and working in corporate PR for an agency in London, says he’d read a smidgen about meditation when he was at university studying psychology but otherwise knew zippo and so “felt a bit of an idiot as I sat in a little attic room under the Heathrow flight path with planes rumbling overhead every 30 seconds trying to calm my breath. Of course, my mind was all over the place but that’s par for the course when you start to meditate.”
Perhaps intuiting that meditation gets easier the more you practise it, Michie resolved to persevere for a couple of months before assessing its effectiveness. What happened instead was he noticed after about six weeks that sitting every day was making a significant difference. For one thing, he wasn’t itchy anymore (reducing his coffee intake was another contributing factor!). But more crucially, his state of mind had changed for the better.
He perceived this after a particularly dreadful day when “everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong.” He describes a litany of woes: putting up with terrible body odour (not his own) on a crowded train journey, the ruination of his newly polished black shoes when a tidal wave of mud from a construction site washed over them on his way to the office, not being able to send off urgent media releases due to an uncooperative fax machine, and an unsuccessful client meeting.
Michie recalls asking himself at one point, “’Why am I feeling so angry and agitated?’ And it was then that I realised I hadn’t meditated for three days. Life had got in the way. And without realising it, that protective barrier or layer I’d been building up as a result of meditation was no longer there.”
Shantideva was an eighth-century Indian Buddhist monk who wrote the famous Buddhist text, The Way of the Bodhisattva. Michie notes that in one of the verses, Shantideva says (and Michie paraphrases): I can’t cover the entire world with leather to avoid stepping on thorns but I can wear a pair of shoes.
Michie says, “I discovered the truth of that myself. That was the start of my meditation journey 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back.”
Share This Blog Post