Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Peace, Love, Strength: Meditation For Peterborough

Soul Happy Wellbeing Centre's Flash Mob Mass Meditation
Soul Happy Wellbeing Centre's Flash Mob Mass Meditation
in Peterborough's Cathedral Square. Photo. K. Coley

Let's Sit In Cathedral Square In The Pouring Rain

Last night I joined a group of Peterborough residents in a flash mob of a different kind. We gathered in Cathedral Square in the pouring rain... and sat down.

This wasn't a sit-in or a staged protest, though goodness knows there is plenty to protest about at the moment. No, we came to mindfully meditate.

The event began at 7pm and lasted for exactly thirty minutes. It was organised by the new Cowgate-based Soul Happy Wellbeing Centre.

Crowd of people meditating
A gathering of Peterborough residents meditating for peace
Photo L. Loveridge

Bunch Of Hippies

Well... not really. I wouldn't describe myself as a hippy-type at all. You don't have to be a tree-hugger, wearer of hemp or a vegan to appreciate mindful meditation. Just as the Green Party attracts people for a very wide variety of reasons, meditation is going mainstream as the physical and mental benefits of regular practise have become more widely known. Healthy mind, healthy body, all that.

(Don't get me wrong, there are tree-hugging, hemp-wearing, vegans in the Green Party, but it's not compulsory. Be who you are. It's what we believe is right for our planet and our people that binds us together, not what you do, wear or eat.)

Julie and Alex sitting waiting for the meditation to start
We gathered in the rain for our silent flash mob to begin

"I Don't Have The Concentration To Sit For Half An Hour And Think About Nothing" - Anonymous

Nor do I. Fortunately, 'thinking about nothing' is not what meditation is.

Meditation is not about 'trying' to achieve something. It is a process of noticing but not following your thoughts.

Meditation is probably easiest understood when you contrast it with worrying. Worry is when you obsess over a thought. The more you obsess, the bigger the worry grows until you reach a point of anxiety with all the physical (and often dangerous) symptoms that come with feeling anxious.

Meditation encourages you to do the opposite. When you meditate you gently focus on something, such as your breathing. As you do this you will become aware of the multitude of distracting thoughts that creep into your mind, such as 'did I turn the iron off' and 'did I do my tax return on time' - daily anxieties that we all have. During meditation, you do not 'follow' such thoughts and get caught up in them. Instead, you notice them, you acknowledge them, but then you let them float past and return your focus to your breathing (or the object or thought that you are meditating on).

That's it.

Sounds easy? Well, the first thing you will notice when you meditate for the first time is just how many pestering little thoughts try to take your attention over the course of  half an hour. If you're a highly creative type (like me) the temptation to stop meditating and give attention to the brilliant new thought will be strong. But by learning to let such thoughts go we can gradually discover how to marshal all of our niggling thoughts, so rather than getting ourselves wrapped up in worry, we become people who do things when we need to do them and enjoy restful thought the rest of the time.

I meditate a lot. I learned to do it at the feet of mindfulness meditation trainers and have continued the practise on my own for about fifteen years. I have a very, very busy life and a very creative mind that always wants me to do more than the hours in the day allow. I have a tendancy to push myself hard and meditation is a brilliant tool that I use to keep my mental health (and my physical wellbeing) in check. It's a bit like giving your brain a hug.

Posted by Kim V Coley on Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Hug For Your Brain

If meditating alone has great benefits then meditating in a group is like being at a huge brain-hugging party (albeit the sort of party where everyone sits in silence with their eyes closed). It's been a difficult week in world politics with protests in many of our major cities. There has been no organised protest to join in Peterborough so I was pleased to find out about the Flash Mob Mass Meditation. I felt this would be a way I could join others in creating positive energy for Peterborough.

So last night, at 7pm precisely, I sat with around 40 other people in the middle of Cathedral Square, with a lit candle in a jar, closed my eyes and meditated for half an hour.

Julie meditating on a cushion
A thick waterproofed cushion proved essential!
Photo. K. Coley

What Happened During the Meditation

Given the process of meditation involves bringing your attention back to your breathing, the mind always wants to think and so thoughts will keep on coming. A few minutes in, something struck me. Here I was, sitting in the middle of Peterborough's Cathedral Square with a large number of people whom I'd never met, in the dark, in the rain and yet I felt completely safe.

Thinking about this later, I wondered how this could be, given that the area where I was so peacefully sitting has just been the subject of a Peterborough City Council consultation over plans to introduce a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) there. The PSPO (which you can read here, and I recommend that you do) that the council intends to introduce will require that "Groups are to disperse from an area if requested to do so by an authorised officer if the officer is of the opinion that the group is causing harassment, alarm or distress."

The consultation ran over the Christmas and New Year period, ensuring that few people know about it. Its intention is to give the authorities greater power to disrupt and move people whom 'they' don't want there. Like homeless people, I presume. Over Christmas, Peterborough City Council paid a security firm £8,000 to 'provide security' where a small group of people were sleeping rough.

Yet during the entire time I sat in Cathedral Square in the dark, in the rain, with my eyes closed, no one caused any disruption or any problem to me or to anyone else through their existence. Yes, there were people sleeping rough in nearby St Peter's Arcade. Yes there were people intoxicated nearby. Yes there were occasional shouts between small groups of people. But there was no attempt by anyone in the square to disrupt or spoil what we were doing. In fact, the only disruption I noticed was when a young business woman, so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she didn't notice we were there, made a very loud phone call while stomping across the square. Other that this the mood was calm and the square was quiet (as the video above clearly shows).

It would seem that a gathering of local people assembling to bring positive energy to a city centre is just as effective as a PSPO. There's a thought worth meditating on.

Julie and Alex
My friend Alex & I coming back to reality following the meditation

Peace, Love & Strength For Peterborough

So what was I doing during the meditation, apart from noticing how safe I felt? I decided to focus on 'Peace, love and strength for Peterborough'. Whenever thoughts about other things came into my awareness I gently brought my attention back to 'Peace, love and strength for Peterborough'. People have different experiences during meditation. Incense was burning and soft music was playing. After a while I began to visualise a column of energising light in the centre of our circle that was full of flowers of different colours, blasting upwards, a visualisation perhaps of the meadows of wildflowers that we hope to create around the city to bring a bit of joy to everyone who sees them.

Half an hour isn't long when you're used to meditating. When the time came to an end there was some hugging and then the group dispersed. I spoke to a few people about the experience and all seemed to agree that they were glad to have taken part. Self-care seems to have become regarded as a selfish luxury and a time thief, but it is neither of these things. It's essential to our wellbeing, our general health and our longevity that we look after ourselves and meditation is a free and rewarding way to do that.

Soul Happy Wellbeing Centre has said it will organise more flash mob mass meditations in Peterborough over the coming months. I'll certainly be there and encourage you to take part too.

A circle of positive energy for Peterborough
Photo. K. Coley


  1. AMAZING BLOG! Thanks for sharing your time and experience!
    Hopefully see you at the next one too! :o)

    1. Thank you for the courage it took to start this movement. Whenever possible I shall be there.