If you've never heard of the 30 Days Challenge you might want to click here.
Our everyday challenge for the last 30 days was to meditate. I was looking forward to this as I’ve had a fair bit of “success” when it comes to meditation. I drifted into adult meditation about 5 years ago and found that it was something that came easy to me.
I realised that it wasn’t so much a new skill I was learning but revisiting something I used to do in childhood. Back then I called it “spacing out”. This could happen at home, in school and especially at Mass. Some of my favourite times as a child were spent “spacing out”. My favourite place to meditate was in the cab of my father’s cattle truck as it was parked somewhere in the middle of the countryside giving me a wonderful vantage point looking out over the high road hedges and into the fields and country lanes. My father would be in settling up and having a cup of tea or something stronger in the customer’s house, and I was left alone with the tick tock of the cab clock as my mantra. It was a wonderful gift of my childhood and I remember those times alone so fondly.
When I returned to meditation as an adult in my late 20s I found that because of these experiences as a child it came quite easy. I’ve tried all sorts of apps, cds, YouTube clips and even meditation retreats (The Sanctuary in Dublin 7 run by Sr. Stan is brilliant) and enjoyed them all. My only problem was the discipline of finding a place and a time for it in every single day of my life. I might go for a few weeks meditating every day but then once my routine changed at all, meditation would be the first thing to go out the window.
I assumed this 30 day challenge was a done deal and that I would finally nail down a place for meditation in my everyday routine. As Dave was using the Headspace app I decided to look for something different. I discovered Buddhify. It’s good value. €8 for over 80 meditations of various lengths, ranging from 5 mins to over 20 mins. The app is easy to use with nice graphics and it records your meditations day by day. So I felt that I had the right app and a good starting off point but for whatever reason I totally failed this challenge.
It may have come down to timing. I’m a teacher so day 1 of this challenge was the first day of my Easter holidays. I was then going to Italy for a week on holiday. The first few days I meditated but it wasn’t flowing or coming easy to me. I’m pretty good at relaxing on holidays so whatever little stress I had in my life had completely evaporated by the time I got to Italy. I was relaxing and enjoying myself so much with my wife, child and friends that it felt like a chore to look for 10 or 15 minutes alone to meditate. It wasn’t getting me out of my head, it was doing the opposite. I’d start thinking about getting back to the fun of the family or whatever else was going on. So inevitably this just tapered off and I didn’t miss it.
Ironically, the end of my holiday turned out to be quite stressful as our flight home from Nice was cancelled and we had to jump through all sorts of hoops to get home in time for a wedding (on best man duty) at the weekend. I could have done with some meditation around then but at that stage I’d had such a bad experience with it at the start of the holiday that I in no way turned to it as a de-stresser. Lesson learned (for me) DON’T START TO MEDITATE WHILE ON A RELAXING HOLIDAY!
The Shim-Sham Dance
Of all the challenges we’ve done so far I must admit that this one took the least out of me. I was in no way nervous, anxious or even over curious about it on the night we were going to learn the dance. I guessed it would be fun but didn’t really put too much thought into it. It may have helped that I had met the dance instructor Rory Vaughn before. We’d met through friends of friends in a pub on Capel Street one night 3 or 4 years ago. He was going to some sort of dance party in a basement on Capel Street (invite only) and he decided to bring a few of us along. There was a wonderful energy to the night and it felt like we’d been transported to prohibition era Chicago and left to swing dance what was left of the night away. I’m usually a bit of a dance floor maniac (as in I get out there and shake it all about) but not this night. All these people could dance and I mean really dance. I tried and failed to engage in the swing dances but was satisfied to just watch and admire the talent of the dancers on show. There is something great about watching someone talented and passionate at work. Rory is nothing if not both of the aforementioned.
The energy in the room above Toners pub of Baggott Street was very different to the previous night I’d met Rory. The spring evenings were beginning to lengthen and the Sunday evening air was cool but soft. It was a bit of a mixed bag of people. Rory, the three of us, and some friends and friends of friends – about 8 or 9 in total. We sat around awkwardly talking about all things dance and then Rory jumped up and off we went, straight into an energetic warm-up. There was a fleeting moment when I thought what in the jaysus am I doing here of a Sunday evening but for me any such thoughts quickly passed. I enjoyed it. I wasn’t very good but that didn’t matter. There was one part of the dance that I just couldn’t get and I did find that frustrating but other than that I didn’t feel the 3 hours passing and slept well that night. I’ve thought very little about it since I must be honest. One of the things Rory said that night was that he didn’t really like the shim sham because it was a little too rigid and didn’t leave enough room to freestyle. I concur.