The Inhere meditation pod is a fancy screened cubicle, shaped like a kidney bean, made of slatted wood. You sit on a soft, comfy chair and put on a pair of headphones. You’re in the world, yet not in the world: the one I went to was in a shared working space, so heels clacked past and people talked about coffee. They’re soon to open a meditation-only space in central London which, on paper, sounds more calming. Yet even here, the ambient clickety-clack of other people’s lives recedes like birdsong once you’re semi-reclined and plugged in to the iPod they provide. I don’t know what your resting stress-level is; I was as relaxed as a sun-basking dog in five seconds flat. It was all I could do not to go to sleep.
Inhere’s co-founder Adiba Osmani reminded me that meditation used to be about the quest for deep existential truths: the inner peace it fostered was a side-effect that took off, like the discovery of Post-it notes by scientists who were trying to create the world’s strongest glue. The soundtracks, or certainly the one I chose – designed to give you strength for the mountainous challenge of the day ahead – are focused squarely on your interior life.
This will sound bad: I can’t remember exactly what was said. You can’t take notes. That would be the least mindful thing ever. I’m not ruling out the possibility that I went to sleep without realising, but I prefer to think that a sense of peace washed over me so completely that my executive function took a break. Notions floated in and out – root your feet to the ground; feel the power of your connectedness rising through you. Concentrate on breathing. It’s such an unfamiliar feeling when you properly do that: it makes me wonder what I’m doing to get air into myself the rest of the time.
“Before you even think about the words,” Osmani told me, “just consider how rare it is to take 20 minutes out.” Stepping out of the world is its own reward. For some reason, sitting in a cafe doesn’t cut it.
I chose a 20-minute session – you can do between 10 and 40 – because I was worried I’d be bored. It is categorically not boring; all the old saws about meditation – you need to do it a lot in a disciplined way before you can lose yourself in it – are not quite right, though there is a transcendental state beyond “half asleep” that I haven’t reached yet. Still, even for a frenetic novice, the difference is alarming. For the rest of the day, that whirring, ticker-tape mental activity – remembering to do things, getting distracted by a fly – seemed to slow down to something much calmer, more methodical. I cannot put my finger on anything more I achieved, no great challenges met, but I seemed more centred, focused.
The only thing I couldn’t say for sure is whether or not you’d get the same effect at home, sitting quietly in a comfortable spot, filling your lungs to their unfamiliar limits with purest air, rather than in a special seat. But when did you last have the time and (head) space? Was it even this century?
What I learned
If you meditate a lot, according to a University of California study, you will find it easier to concentrate, even on repetitive and boring tasks.