My mum's an energetic woman. She's 65 years young and has more energy than most twenty somethings. She wakes up at 7am every day for a brisk walk round the park with her dog, can talk for England, doesn't suffer from jet lag no matter how long the flight, and rarely sits still.
As many of her peers are content with tea and TV, she can't stand the thought of staying home cooped up all day. In fact, on New Year's eve she was still going at 4am; dancing with a glass of wine and playing Pictionary, and still got up before 9am on New Years day. She was, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, born to run.
My mum lives alone and does get lonely, it must be said. She's very chatty, and not having a partner is really isolating. The weather has been really bad this past year, too, which has meant less time out tending to her garden.
Another problem is that where she lives there just aren't many social clubs and group activities for people her age, and the ones there are, like bowling, are full of couples or 80+ people, to whom she feels she can't relate. Oh, and she doesn't like the bowling shoes, either.
My mum is high energy. She's full of life, and it's great to see. However, she does suffer from anxiety, and has done since a child. This may have stemmed from an abusive childhood. She was adopted at birth, and her adoptive mother didn't treat her very nicely, to say the least. She has suffered panic attacks over the years, particularly when she gets lost in the car. She didn't have the access to therapy when she was young that we do now, and so she's just learnt to deal with it in her own way over the years.
As you can imagine, being high energy and suffering anxiety can make it difficult to relax, and so last year I suggested a Tai Chi class at the local gym. I persuaded her to go along and she loved it. She found it both physical enough to release energy and calming enough to find mental/spiritual balance.
A few months ago she mentioned that the gym had a meditation class, and of course, I suggested she try it. Thing is, my mum has always said, “I can't understand this wanting to sit staring into space for hours on end”. I have tried to explain the knock-on benefits of meditation, yet she explains she wouldn't be able to stop thinking about what she needs to get at the shops, or weather she'd left the gas on.
I tell her, “That's the point, mum, you'll learn to empty your mind of all it's projections; to stop that voice pulling you in all different directions. It's indescribable, but you'll find a new peace within your existence; a whole new reality that will help your anxiety and help you relax more”. She says she doesn't want to relax more, or sit down anymore than she has to. And that's fair enough.
It's tough to accept though, especially knowing she'd benefit so much. Meditation would also help her deal with being lonely. The one thing we all fear is coming face to face with ourselves, to really look in the mirror, especially when we've been oppressing insecurities and scars for many years.
It's very hard to convince a parent that they should put their preconceptions aside and give something so alien a try. And that's the biggest reason people don't get on with meditation. If you go in with the attitude that meditation is boring, religious in some way, a waste of time, or that you simply won't be able to sit still for more than two minutes without laughing, the likelihood is that you'll find no sanctuary.
Meditation requires a commitment. it requires an understanding that meditation is a personal journey, one that won't happen in one sitting. It requires an open mind. Strangely, my mum gets the whole Buddhist mindfulness and contemplation thing, but is perhaps too stuck in her ways to give meditation a go. Or maybe she's just too scared to slow down.
Either way, I still love her.