Meditation and noise

· culture ·

The place where I go to yoga class is usually fairly quiet and peaceful, but for some reason all kinds of auditory havoc was breaking out yesterday. First, someone's mobile went off--it was on vibrate, but when the phone is lying on something that resonates, it might just as well be blasting out an irritating tune. Of course no one claimed responsibility, and because the friend of whoever owned the phone really wanted to get hold of them, it kept going off every five minutes or so. Then a car alarm went off just outside the fire doors (which we had opened to let a bit of cool air in). It can be quite hard at times to switch off your brain during class and just focus on your breathing and the postures (and on not getting your body stuck in some Gordian knot). But with all this racket going on, it was hard to keep my mind from wandering on to thoughts like, "Does anyone have a 12-bore shotgun? That would take care of the car alarm and the phone in one go...

I remembered a trip to a temple while I was visiting India a few years ago. We were on an organised tour, and as we walked to the temple, our guide told us a little about what we were about to see. I thought I heard him say that there were "many fine examples of erratic carvings", which set me puzzling over the ancient and mysterious art of erratic carving, and wondering how you would tell a fine example from a poor example. Once we reached the temple, and I saw the acres of eye-wateringly athletic stone couples disporting themselves over one entire wall of the temple, I realized that I had misheard an important vowel. Anyway, once the guide had managed to wrench our attention away from the 'erratic carvings' (by this time we were turning our heads sideways to see if we could work out what was going where), he showed us a panel depicting a serenely smiling man meditating in the lotus position, with a herd of stampeding elephants in the background. He said that it was to remind worshippers that--if you do it properly--you can meditate whatever chaos is going on around you.

So I suppose that car alarms and mobile phones are the modern equivalent of a herd of stampeding elephants. I'll tell you what makes it really hard to concentrate, though--erratic carvings.