One of the recommendations handed out on my transcendental meditation course is to let intruding thoughts come and go during the 20 minutes, watching their passing with complete neutrality. Friends tell me that mindfulness involves a similar stance, and I can recall being advised along these lines by Buddhist teachers.
It was particularly helpful that the TM teacher underlined how normal these thoughts are, whatever their nature, and how they should not be fought. ‘Will I know when 20 minutes have elapsed?’ ‘Should I e-mail my cousin, to see how she is?’ ‘Will I be able to maintain concentration if my family make a noise?’ ‘Should I scratch my ear, or ignore it?’ ‘Can West Ham beat Watford on Saturday?’ ‘Will I get that job at the local hospital?’
Further advice was to treat sexual images, which definitely have intruded, in the same way. And to deal with feelings and emotions – anger, love, discomfort, worry – in exactly this manner. They come, and they will go. As will the constant questions over how to best breathe, whether I have the correct mantra sound, and how long to leave between each repetition.
It was like a permission to be totally oneself in parallel with the meditation. Very liberating for someone who struggles with most rules.
A surprising revelation occurred during this morning’s session, my 18th day in. The intruding thoughts had almost disappeared. Mantra, mantra, mantra, and more mantra, taking me at accelerated pace to somewhere very spacious within.
As the day has unwound, something else became clear, also for the first time. My physical, exoteric, waking, external life has become less prey to intrusive thoughts and emotions. The here and now is tangibly more abundant. The colour of the leaves, the feel of the breeze, smell of the toast and the crinkles in the toilet paper.
Inevitably, I still get triggered into old ways. Maureen had BBC Essex Radio on this morning. The female newsreader at 10.00 talked of Jeffrey Epstein’s “suicide” in the US, without using qualifying words such as apparent, purported, ostensible or alleged. For a while, I had a little rant about the sheer ineptitude of mainstream media, but with less venom than in the past.
Nonetheless the story stinks. And, honestly, you do not have to be a so-called ‘conspiracy theorist’ to perceive with some certainty that it would be extremely difficult to commit suicide in an ultra-secure holding prison, where over 750 inmates are held but only one such case had occurred over the past 21 years. Just someone with a brain, and a smattering of logic.
Of course, as the plebs at the bottom rung of the information ladder, there is always so much we do not or cannot know. However it is common knowledge that Epstein was a key witness in a global, under-age sex-trafficking operation, who appears to have bragged of his destructive information about a large number of very powerful people. His acquaintances, among many others, included Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Nonetheless the official narrative handed down is that 11 days after being placed on suicide watch, as Epstein was after already allegedly trying to take his own life in July, he was taken off suicide watch ‘at his lawyer’s request’.
And then, against prison rules, that his cellmate was removed on August 9, one day before Epstein’s death.
At the time of his demise, the mandated 30-minute checks by prison guards had reportedly ceased. Prison protocol had ‘magically’ broken down. And, in a prison room deliberately constructed without a steel frame, bars or protruding light fixtures, Epstein ‘hung himself’. Using a bedsheet deliberately designed with a paper-thin quality, and thus of insufficient strength to hang a full adult.
It’s a cracking yarn. Tarted up and polished, it could grace the front page of the Beano. Not unlike the Skripals surviving the ‘deadliest nerve gas known to man’ in Salisbury.
Half-decent journalists would rip apart these and other mind-numbing stories (eg. the anti-semitism in the Labour Party, or Trump’s collusion with Russia) as utter drivel. Instead, the lesser writers that get to work at the dailies typically toe the official line. I can only guess that they are given editorial direction from above.
I liked a recent tweet from Cornell University professor Dave Callum. Who said: “I am a ‘conspiracy theorist’. I believe men and women of wealth and power conspire. If you don’t think so, then you are what is called ‘an idiot’. If you do believe stuff but fear the label, you are what is called ‘a coward’.”
I’m at the stage where the powers-that-be, and institutions of government, have lied for so long, and so often, that it’s difficult not just to trust them but even to pay them any serious attention. The same goes for the news agencies and outlets that disseminate their narratives.
Frankly, it is better to be in the sunshine, or anywhere in nature, or to read a compelling novel, or chat with a loved one, than to ruminate too deeply on any of this stuff. That seems clearer than ever.