Many people left the School when meditation was introduced. Some thought it was a lot of mumbo-jumbo, others disapproved of having to pay money for it, although what we were being offered was priceless.
The initiation ceremony was conducted by an organization known as the Study Society, which existed alongside the School of Philosophy in London at that time and still does. Its aim was to propagate the knowledge and practice of meditation and was, in fact, based on transcendental meditation, known as TM, which had been brought to the West in the sixties and popularized by the Beatles and other celebrities.
Nowadays meditation is known worldwide and has become a global phenomenon. Strangely enough, apart from the Catholics, it is the Christian Church which has resisted it, being still very suspicious of anything coming from the East, which includes yoga. The old adage ‘East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet’ still holds, although this attitude is slowly crumbling, especially on the part of Roman Catholic theologians.
There are many, many different ways to meditate these days, given to us by Buddhist and Zen teachers, Hindu teachers and other spiritual leaders, which can be based on the breath or visualization, or again a word or ‘mantra’.
I had not been conditioned by Christian teachings and so I embraced this form of meditation fully, and the ceremony seemed to me beautiful and symbolic. I still practice and use the same ‘mantra’ today.
I was later to find my own way back to the Church and Christ’s teachings.
We were told to meditate twice a day, preferably at dawn and dusk, the most auspicious times, for twenty minutes. At first we were regularly supervised by a tutor until we were finally able to continue on our own.
I had several experiences, some bad, some good, during the early stages of meditation. One morning I woke up early around 4 am. I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. I sat on the kitchen stool, sipping my tea, listening to a solitary bird singing its sweet song. The next moment I was that bird, or the bird was me, we were one. It is difficult to describe, but you could call it bliss.
There were bad experiences, moments when I woke up in terror, others when I seemed to expand in size and felt myself to be huge, which made me think of Alice in Wonderland. I would see newspapers with huge printed headlines and get an apocalyptic feeling of the end of the world. Sometimes my mind would race and I seemed to be having the most brilliant insights, which reminded me of the time when I had my nervous breakdown. I even suspected that Mrs Schoup was spiking our coffee with LSD, though I kept this idea to myself.
On another occasion I was in NATO waiting to donate blood. We were in a large room, there were nurses and doctors, beds for the donors. I was standing in line, thinking of nothing, when suddenly I saw rays of light streaming from different people, some were quite small, others larger. I was particularly interested to see rays about a foot long around a small Turkish handyman, who did odd jobs around NATO. I always looked at him with great respect after that!
One morning I was walking along a corridor in NATO to go to the bar, thinking of nothing, when I experienced a kind of shift in the time zone. It seemed to me as though I was in a dance, and everyone else was too, almost as though we were being pulled on strings in a web of infinite complexity, each of us at the exact point where we were meant to be at that moment. And then I was myself again, walking along the corridor for my coffee.
Shortly afterwards, these experiences ceased and I was back in my own skin again, leading my normal life. It was as though a momentary shift had occurred in my brain and I had been taken into a different level of consciousness.
My mother was not at all happy with this new interest which seemed to be consuming me. She would have preferred something more normal, such as a boyfriend. At times I think she was even jealous of Mrs. Schoup, and unfortunately this began to create a rift between us.