An experiment in meditation at Alive Wellness
By Joanna Claire
I never thought I’d be one for trying out meditation, so as I sat on the MTR on the way to an hour-long meditation session, I really didn’t know what to expect. Whilst meditation in the UK is something for the most part reserved for people who just got back from India, it is a much larger part of life in Hong Kong. Several of my friends had tried it and enjoyed it, although I don’t know anyone who practices it regularly.
Although I am sceptical of most things, I was particularly interested to try meditation because after a week of working long hours staring into a computer, my brain always feels foggy and slow. This is why the 7pm class on a Thursday at Alive Wellness is really perfect timing – on this particular Thursday I was well in need of some mental relaxation.
Alive Wellness is, in itself, a very calming place – it is surprisingly spacious and feels far removed from the loud, cramped bars of nearby LKF. Opening late last year, the space is used for everything that helps improve the mind and body such as pilates, yoga, acupuncture, coaching, guided and personalised meditation, as well as some things I have never heard of, like crystal healing and stone reading. It’s an extremely welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, with not a single scary yoga-pro in sight.
We sat on cushions in a circle and Alice, who runs many of the classes here, explained the basics of mediation to us; that just by focussing on one thing, we can empty our mind – enabling us to find clarity and reflection. Whilst its expected that your mind will wander, you just need to keep nudging it back, which becomes easier in time. In meditation you don’t need to force your mind to do anything and as my day is normally made up of striving for different goals, it was pretty nice to be told that in meditation you can wait for things to happen naturally.
We shut our eyes and focussed on breathing deeply – who knew it would be so hard! My mind wandered onto a spreadsheet I’d been working on, an unanswered text, on what I was going to eat later – each time I tried to focus again on the breathing. Surprisingly, my mind was actually able to go blank for several minutes a couple of times. When we finished and opened our eyes, I felt incredibly relaxed, a bit like I’d woken up from a long nap!
We were also encouraged to think about a time we felt a real feeling of joy, so I thought about a time camping in the American wilderness and sitting by a bonfire, and then try to recreate the same feeling again. This was really hard, but actually even the act of reflecting on happy memories did make me want to smile.
I left the studio 90 minutes after coming in, the time had sped by – I swear I’d only been there for less than an hour – and my head felt totally different, really clear, relaxed and awake, completely different to how it normally feels late on a Thursday.
The experience made me realise that I am literally always on the go – even at home I’m reading news articles, answering messages, checking emails, writing this blog, so I’m never actually spending any time reflecting and just sitting still. Particularly in Hong Kong, where simply walking down a street can be an intense sensory experience, and where people work long hours, their phones beeping night and day, I can definitely see the value in making time just to sit still and try to find some peacefulness.