Euston, we have a problem
Whilst at university I got really into meditation. I mean really into meditation, to the point where it was all I talked about. There’s definitely worse things to be interested in, but the way meditation-speak starts to colour the way you think about things can easily become quite insidious.
A large part of meditation is the desire to become enlightened - that with enough attention to all of your thoughts you can train your mind to see the world in a specific way that will ease your suffering and make you a blissful, content Buddha.
This rests on the idea that the way you see the world is just one way of seeing the world among infinite perspectives, which inevitably begs the question from a neurotic, judgmental mind: what is the right way to see the world?
The neurotic and judgmental mind is drawn to meditation because it convinces itself that there is firstly a right way to see the world, and, secondly, that if it meditates hard enough it can achieve that right way of seeing the world.
The trouble is, the first premise is built upon an idealised and impossible to reach notion of perfection, meaning that whatever work you do will never quite be good enough. In addition to this, your failure to live up to this idealised notion is evidence of your inadequacy rather than the ridiculous nature of your goals and ambitions.
Needless to say, I had a very judgemental and frustrating time with meditation, wildly exaggerating the severity of my misdemeanours and generally being rather hard on myself.
After a while I was able to convince myself that maybe I’m not actually so bad the way I am, and perhaps I should accept my flaws rather than trying to become some idealised, perfect being.
Still, the experience has left its mark on me, and I’m always touchy when I hear people talk about “challenging your habitual ways of seeing the world” or “expanding your perspectives” because I fear that those phrases start to entail a rejection of yourself.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I met Musky at Euston station to play hide and seek for the first edition of our “Unusual Tales From Unlikely Places” on a cold Saturday morning in January.
Our ambition behind these pieces had been to visit unusual places and act in unlikely ways once there, with the hope that we would break our habitual patterns of interaction with the world, opening up new spaces in our minds for novel ideas to enter.
Although it’s a catchy title and an interesting premise, it’s not a far cry for the neurotic and judgemental mind to start thinking about the ideal way to engage with these spaces and the types of ideas that will come from this ideal engagement.
Thus it was that I imagined a new Claude emerging from hide and seek; a bold and brave explorer, jumping into the world in a free and playful manner, discovering new mental spaces and articulating stunning visions with precision and clarity.
The trouble was, old Claude doesn’t like crowded spaces, and gets frustrated by people walking slowly, loud noises and cold, drafty train stations. Despite this minor setback, I committed to the game, determined to reach my hide and seek induced nirvana, convinced that if I played hard enough, I would eventually see the world in stunning new ways.
Yet with each round my feet grew more tired and my energy waned. My judgmental and neurotic mind chose to turn its energies against me, accusing me of being a bore. If only I were more free-spirited and fun-loving then perhaps I would be able to engage with this experience in a manner that would open up a world of new ways of thinking.
Onward I drove myself, convinced that it was myself who was at fault and not the ridiculous expectations I had set myself, until my body ached and I longed to be somewhere warm and comfortable.
Eventually I admitted defeat, accepting that perhaps my neural apparatus was harder to change than I had previously imagined. When it once more became my turn to hide I slunk off to the pub in the corner of Euston to have a beer and sulk.
The warm, worn leather seat was a welcome relief to my tired legs, and the warmth of the pub enveloped my sleepy self. The rain battered against the window and I smiled to myself as I realised the pub’s dark interior allowed for a practical hiding spot.
I leant back, sighed deeply and sipped my beer; as the tension left my shoulders and the noise from the busy forecourt washed over me I yawned pleasantly and waited for Musky to come and find me.
Photo credit: The Evening Standard