A couple of weekends ago I left the rural yet economically deprived idyll of the Scottish Borders and ventured south to the prosperous metropolis of London Town. I was there to further my training by spending a day with the fabulous Mimi Kuo-Deemer.
I'm a Southerner to my core, growing up in the seaside town of Bournemouth, so my heart always leaps with the temperature as we wind our way down the M1. I still get a surprise hearing my own accent echoing back at me, something I only realise I miss when I'm there in amongst the long a's, clipped t's and over-inflated o's.
I love the buzz and energy of London, the perpetual motion, the sense that anything is possible, the sights, sounds, colours, diversity. Everything looks cool and aloof ~ even the litter looks edgy enough to have an Instagram account.
The day's immersion (remember when we used to call them "workshops"?) took place at TriYoga in Camden, a stylish space fashioned from bare brick, planks of wood and aching coolness. It smelt of organic Buddha bowls and essential oils. From the bamboo leggings to staff who looked genuinely pleased to see you, the whole establishment was geared to get you halfway to enlightenment before you'd even set a toe on your mat.
Gazing around the studio, I nodded with approval at the full complement of mala beads, tattoos and piercings ~ standard issue I have no problem with as I have them myself. (Don't ask me why we all end up looking the same. It's just one of those terrible things, like athlete's foot or Piers Morgan.)
But why, I mused with idle interest, when we had a whole day ahead of us doing what we love, did everybody look so miserable?
I hate to say this ~ and feel free to disagree with me and for me to ignore your disagreement ~ but I think this is another one of those things, isn't it? A danger with people involved in meditative practices? People like us? That we climb so far up our own arses that no one can hear our shouts for a step ladder to get down again.
The seriousness was palpable. Never mind the notebooks and gel pens. Let's take those off the table now. If you've slapped down hard earned dosh for a workshop then you want at least half a Pukka Pad of illegible scribbling to show that you were there. Fair enough. No complaint here.
Surely, though, if you've shelled out not only the face price of the ticket, but perhaps travel, time off work, child care, refreshments, etc, you want to enjoy the day? Yet there we all were, jaws set, a studied lift of the eyebrows to suggest a deep and blissful spirituality that had no earthly need for frivolous human pleasure.
Yet probability alone dictated that three and half people in that room had a Prosecco problem so, y'know, pinch of salt and all that. Who were we trying to fool ~ fellow participants, ourselves?
I've touched on this before in my post, The Authenticity Fraud. It troubles me, this sombre approach, this tendency to attach to one idea of what it is to be "spiritual" when humans are multi-faceted creatures. We live many different lives every day. These lives meet, touch and blend. Yet so many folk involved in yoga or meditative practices deem that version of themselves better than the others, that it's somehow more worthy in the eyes of their inner critic and lack of self-esteem.
But is it not hard to remain in character continuously? Exhausting? It needs continuous stage managing, props, a costume, and certainly no deviation from the script. The price of all of this seems to be humour, genuine humility and the ability to laugh at ourselves.
The power of conformity is a strange thing as we're all one in any case. So why not allow deviation, playfulness and mischief within the awareness of self that we create for ourselves? If you've ever met a Buddhist monk, you'll know that these dudes are seriously up for a laugh. They're in on the cosmic punchline. All this *waves an airy hand* is an illusion. There is no self, no need to create for ourselves that which isn't real.
Laugh, love, laugh again. Just be.
Actually, thinking about it, just bloody laugh. We're not here for long, after all.