In 1967 the most famous pop group of all time, upped sticks from London and took a train to Bangor in Wales. They didn’t go for the scenery, but to spend time with the Maharishi Yogi, an Indian teacher of Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles came from pretty conventional working-class families in Liverpool and hadn’t had much to do with out of body experiences. Even with pockets full of cash, big houses and a fleet of fancy cars they were coming around to the idea that there was more to life than money and fame. They couldn’t even pop out to the shop for a pint of silver top without a screaming mob in pursuance. Sex, drugs and rock and roll hadn’t delivered everything it had promised and it was time to try something else. It was time for some peace and quiet.
In this brave new world of ours, we make so much noise it hurts my brain. I find that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to the hullabaloo of everyday life. Music, shouting, televisions, smart speakers, hand-driers, buses, pubs, clubs, opinions, apps, kids and politics. I can hardly think straight. I’ve started to go to yoga classes although I didn’t book early enough this week because I was so preoccupied and the class is now full. I’ve been so scatty lately that I have left a pair of glasses and a notebook on a train, my hat in a pub and a very interesting book, god knows where.
The Beatles seemed to like being far from the madding crowd and, later in the year, decided to go to India to spend eight weeks in quiet reflection with their guru. I suppose they hoped that they could stop the noise for long enough to understand what really mattered to them. They'd even stopped performing live because of the screaming. They were worried, however, about the prospect of two months of Chicken Dopiaza and Aloo Gobi, so they arranged for a crate of Heinz baked beans to be shipped over with them. That’s a lot of contemplation and a lot of beans.
I’m not a fan of multi-tasking, it’s stressful. I used to work for a company who, in a time of recession, demanded ‘more for less’. I am a big supporter of ‘less for more’. Less stress, less outrage, less fried chicken on buses. More pottering, more patience, more hot cross buns watching repeats of Poirot.
A mistake that’s easy to make is to think that meditation is a way to rid your mind of all thoughts. Instead, like hypnosis, it’s a way to put aside the noise and focus on one thought at a time. We can then find different perspectives and new solutions to old problems.
Not everyone can find a guru but we can all do something that takes us out of the rat race for a little while. As someone once said, the thing about the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.