8/ Orientalism

Some years ago – I’m quite old now – in London, I became initiated into Transcendental Meditation (TM). The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s project was to introduce meditation in a form accessible to the mechanistic western mind. In the UK connection with the Beatles popularised TM so I came to be a follower of both.

For the brief ceremony, I visited an address in one of the grand squares off Oxford Street, answered a questionnaire and  then, based on the responses I had given, received the Sanskrit word which served as my mantra.  Over the course of the following months, I practiced.  The technique I had been taught worked for me.  But only up to a point, a  juncture where I was one of T.S. Eliot’s alien people clutching my own beliefs.  I felt that in order to progress further I would need to deepen my skimpy knowledge of Hinduism. 

At another stage in my life I reached a similar point of disaffection with hatha yoga.  Although I enjoyed and benefitted from the physical exercise my limited understanding of the wider structure of Hindu beliefs impeded development.

Teach us to care and not to care.  Teach us to be still.

There is something to grasp here beyond my ankles.

I fear the same now may be true of mindfulness.  In its fully-fledged description it embodies Buddhism. 

I am pondering how far the attraction of these practices, including mindfulness, is a form of orientalism.  Exotic, originating outside of our dulled western experience.  Bringing excitement, perhaps hope.  But, for me, ultimately again perhaps frustration.

© Benog Brady Bates


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