Finding Inner Peace in Inner North London
Written by: Violet Myers
I’m late for work, it’s raining and half the human race is in my god-fucking-shitting way, yeah you heard me! My hands are screwed up into fists and that cheeky bitch and her stupid fucking guide dog just cut me off, I audibly swear at a blind woman. What has happened to me? When did I become so tense?
London has a way of turning even the calmest of people into power walking maniacs. Even Gandhi himself would resort to aggressive shoving tactics after 2 hours on a rail replacement bus, so what hope do the rest of us have of calming down and chilling out? Our lives are a mess of beeping phones and flashing cameras, is it even achievable to have a little inner peace in London?
I decided to see if the realms of possibility could be stretched to allow for the holy grail – maintaining a calm body and mind in one of the world’s most stressed out cities. I spent one week sampling the different therapies on offer in North London in a plight to find the secret to inner peace.
Yoga – One Yoga London
We’re all familiar with the ‘downward dog’, the ‘upward dog’ and in my case the ‘Lassie! Go get help!’ But only having practised yoga in stinking sports hall, ommms regularly interrupted by badminton practise next door, One Yoga London is a serene luxury a stress head could get used to. We all know that yoga can help you reach your toes, add a new dimension to the bedroom and get you on the way to a better butt, but how is it going to get me on the way to inner peace?
Says Eleonora who has been running One Yoga London with her partners Belle and Holly since September 2015.
The session is an hour long, it’s challenging, humbling and surprisingly sweaty but lying there in a lovely little thing called a ‘Shavasana’ (yoga lingo for sweaty floor nap) my mind is still, slow and dare I say… peaceful?
Reiki – Reiki with Mamta
Reiki originates from Japan and, apart from the use of hands somehow being involved, that is all I knew prior to my Reiki session with Mamta.
“What i’m doing by placing my hands on your body is helping you make a connection with the universal life force energy”
Says Mamta, who has been practising Reiki for fifteen years. The sessions usually last about an hour and are an incredibly still and peaceful experience. It takes a while, but after a few minutes I physically feel my body relax and I finally stop running through my weekly schedule, I quit planning what I’m having for lunch and finally stop trying to remember the lyrics to the ‘Round the Twist’ theme tune. Could this be the beginning of inner peace?
Mamta is based in Highbury. Click here for more info about Reiki with Mamta.
Mindfulness – Mindfulness with Catherine
The roots of mindful meditation goes back as far as 2500 years but has had a surge of interest in the last few years, with people such as Ruby Wax swearing to it’s effectiveness into treating depression and other mental illness.
Catherine teaches 8 week courses in the practise:
Catherine shared with me a five minute mindful practise to do at home, it involved sitting quietly alone and focusing attention on different body parts and increasing awareness of the body. Although my mind was tempted to drift, It’s surprisingly effective and I feel more focused for the rest of the day.
“Our lives are often frantic, confusing and stressful. With mindfulness we become calmer and more open and able to respond to our daily life. We can be more mindful in our everyday lives by noticing our sensations in the moment, bringing our awareness to focus on the present rather than what might or could or did happen before.”
Catherine is based in Chalk Farm and her upcoming course starts in April.
Meditation – The North London Buddhist Centre
The practise of sitting in a quiet room, eyes closed blocking out the outside world has been practised by tired new mothers and fathers everywhere. Famously relaxing with endless health benefits, meditation is to inner peace what tequila is to hangovers.
I attend an afternoon session at Holloway Road’s North London Buddhist Centre and although expecting some sort of gentle voiced monk to float in on a lotus leaf, a robust middle aged Scottish man with a thick accent leads the practise. First he goes into detail as to what we should expect in the hour, before guiding us through a meditation aimed to strengthen empathy. He encourages us to focus on people in our lives, including individuals who we dislike in order to better understand them and their place in the world. The practise is much harder than I expect, my mind continuously drifts.
But as the session goes on, I slowly manage to focus. I’m told later that Meditation can take years to master, but the effort is more than worth it.
So what have I learned following my week of searching for inner peace? That meditation is a lot harder than it looks and that yoga is about more than just standing on one leg and looking smug? Yes, that having a stranger place her hands on your face is both predictably strange though oddly calming? All true. But what has really struck me, having been repeated time and time again in all these very different practises is this; in order to regain a little peace we must learn to focus on living in the moment and being totally present. A task so much easier said than done.
It’s so tempting to regret the past and worry about the future, to be thinking about a thousand other things at any waking moment. However, be it Mindfulness, Reiki, Meditation or Yoga each practise teaches us to slow down, take a breath and truly recognise how it feels to be alive right now. The simple habit of sitting quietly alone or attending one of these classes or sessions allows us to reconnect with a sense of immediacy we often lose touch with in our modern lives. It may take a while to master, we may never totally manage it, but the mere attempt to connect with the moment could be the secret to inner peace.
Photos: Top four images by Claire Holly Davies / header image by Spirit- Fire
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