Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 1: Hare Krishna
On New Year’s Eve 2014 I took my step daughter back to her mum in London and then I had several hours until my return train. I had no desire to go shopping. I went to the Hare Krishna Temple near Tottenham Court Road. It seemed to me like an appropriate thing to do on New Year’s Eve.
I’ve felt like that a lot since. When asked what would I like most of all, or what would my dream experience be, and when trying to guess what a surprise day experience present was, I’ve refined it down to this: To go into a room, like a church but not a church, all alone, with perhaps maybe some kind of a priest or a monk on hand to answer any questions I might have. That’s it, that’s my dream experience.
The Hare Krishna Temple Room was as beautiful as I had hoped. A radiant young woman sat next to me, befriended me and gave me books to take away. There were musicians. We chanted the Hare Krishna mantra for a long time. On the way out I picked up a leaflet that said:
Every now and again it’s good to pause in your pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
And so 2015 began with me chanting (in my head) the Hare Krishna Mantra every morning before work, using the beads of a choker my mum had given me for Christmas. This exemplifies my do-it-yourself, just-do-it-now, no-need-to-shop-for-all-the special-equipment approach I take to spiritual seeking (and to exercise, I will do a yoga class in my work clothes if I haven’t had time to change, and I go to the gym in ancient trainers and any old clothes); as well as my practical approach: I didn’t have time to do a whole circuit on Japa Mala meditation beads (those long strings of beads that are traditionally used to meditate with) but I did have time to do one or two lengths of the choker. You do one full recitation of the mantra on each bead, rolling each bead between your fingers and gradually inching your way along the whole string. The beads help you keep your place as to how many you have done and help keep concentration and focus as well. (And enable you to time your practice so you aren’t late for work). The radiant woman at the temple had given me a little card with the Hare Krishna Mantra printed on:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Chanting a mantra: the idea that you are meditating and praying without actually having to think or do anything other than just say those words over and over, was very attractive and very easy to do and yet it was so purifying, the effects were so strong:
Feeling my lungs expanding and the whole mantra like a wave rising and falling, heading towards the light: We are always heading towards the light; it’s just that dying concentrates the mind so that we notice it. Dying is the same as living, just keep on heading towards the light.
Noticing the little stillness that lives underneath everything but that is normally buried in my chest under my breathing and in my mind under the chatter of thoughts. I breathe and I notice it. It feels good.
Thinking in meditation one morning about how maybe God is an abstract concept like time, something we make up to conceptualise the impossible to conceptualise, something to hang our thoughts on.
I turn over hard decisions or stuff I am stuck with or unsure of to God and/or The Universe, or to Time (maybe they all the same thing) and then later I come up with the answer. So that in time, inspiration strikes or the way becomes clear. Could be due to Time, or could be God or The Universe but could equally just be our future selves like in the film Interstellar, or even The Future Itself, presenting the answers as it and them arrive and arise.
How much personal responsibility are we able or willing to take on and credit ourselves with? Like when we ask God: ‘Why don’t you do something, why don’t you send someone?’ and God says: ‘I did send someone, I sent you.’
What did for me with the Hare Krishna was that to get right into it you start at the bottom as a book distributor, giving out books on the street. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to do that. Maybe that’s why I haven’t thus far ever fully signed up to any one particular religion, because I baulk at doing anything that I don’t actually want to do….
John’s sister wants to talk to me about spirituality- strange stuff is happening for her, she has just started meditating. I reconnected with my friend from years ago; she said ‘I want to talk to you about spirituality’. John said, ‘See, you always wanted someone to talk to about that stuff, now you are the person people talk to’.