Meditation in Glastonbury

Blog post, May 7 2013

I generally go to a meditation group on Saturday evenings, at a friend’s house in a quiet lane round behind Glastonbury Tor. I like the company, and I get more than I would have imagined from taking up a regular meditation practice.

This week it turned out to be a little different. Everyone arrived as usual; then we’d just settled down when the man next door began vigorous drumming, out in his back garden. He has done this before, but usually he stops after just a few minutes and everything returns to its customary tranquility.

Not so this week. Perhaps because it was only a few days after Beltane, he had a bunch of friends round and they were all enjoying the garden in the evening sun. Quite noisily. The drum stopped after a few minutes, but then began again, and again, and so on for most of the hour that we like to spend in silent space-beyond-the-mind.

It could have been annoying.

It was of course a great opportunity to try including the noises-off in our meditational practice, especially as focusing on the regular rhythmical drumming could be a great way to subsume the insistent chatter of thought processes that so often will not stop, that so commonly gets in the way of reaching the longed-for silent space-beyond- the-mind.

Except that the drumming kept stopping and starting, in different rhythms; and it wasn’t very good.

‘If only’ went the insistent chatter of thought, ‘that guy knew how to drum. But he doesn’t. He’s rubbish.’

And so on, till eventually it did finally stop, with perhaps twenty minutes of our hour to go.

There was a brief silence, and then the saxophone started.

The drumming had not been very good. The saxophone playing was absolutely bloody awful.

‘Oh my God’ went the insistent chatter of thought (more insistently than usual), ‘this is absolutely bloody awful. I could try just focusing on the saxophone playing, including it in my otherwise silent space-beyond-the-mind, subsuming all chatter of thought processes … but really, I don’t want this included in my consciousness on any level at all. It’s just excruciating.’

And then the dog joined in.

The dog howled at the top of its canine voice, in a cacophonous and unholy duet with saxophone player, who may well have been its owner; a cacophonous and unholy duet that went far beyond any unwanted chatter of thought, beyond even any feelings of a-musical excruciation; beyond anything that it was reasonable to expect, even on a Saturday evening, even in Glastonbury, even so close to Glastonbury Tor.

We laughed. All of us gave in to laughter. And the meditation came to an end, just a few minutes early.


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