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Meditation with Don Draper

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There’s a number of items that I write on my Things To Try This Year list each January, never actually do, then faithfully carry forward to the next list.

Top of the list was meditation. I’d tried about nine different meditation apps in an attempt to calm the chattering mind, but always found a petty reason to abandon them. Like the one with waterfall sounds that made me need the loo. Or the one with the husky, manic pixie dream girl voice that left me a confused mix of highly annoyed and… excited.

Last summer I heard Jerry Seinfeld talk about his 40+ year meditation practice on Alec Baldwin’s podcast. He credited twice-daily transcendental meditation for getting him through the madness of prime-time sitcom life. I hadn’t heard much about TM before, I’d mistakenly assumed it was woowoo hippy stuff. But if it worked for Seinfeld, whose ability to get shit done was something I aspired to, maybe there was something to it…

Next thing it was January and I was yet again writing “learn to meditate” on the list. I was also emerging from a grim period of work-related anxiety. It had gone beyond the usual low-grade rumble of self-employment to barely sleeping, barely eating (!?!!), racing heart, daily tears and throwing up.

Of course managing such a thing takes a multi-faceted approach, but I felt drawn to adding meditation to my toolkit. At the Magic Cottage I asked Sas about her practice, knowing she’d been happily meditating daily for over a year. Turned out she was a TM person, too.

In the spirit of Foxy by 40 and armed with evidence of two awesome get-shit-done TM people (along with… Katie Perry!), I signed up for a class.

I had my first lesson in a little room in Edinburgh with flowers and incense and a painting of Maharishi. The technique took all of two minutes to learn. I couldn’t believe the utter simplicity of it. I was given a mantra, then all I had to do was sit on a comfy chair with eyes closed and repeat the mantra inside my head. Unlike other methods I’d attempted you don’t try to stop your thoughts or notice them or do any kind of thought kung fu at all.

It didn’t take long to get into it. The traffic outside faded and the mantra gently rolled between my ears, like socks in a tumble dryer. My body felt pleasantly still and heavy in the chair.

But then that Maharishi painting floated into my head. I started thinking about George Harrison. Then I heard the broooooooiiiiiiiinnnnng of sitar that kicks off Tomorrow Never Knows.

Specifically, it was Tomorrow Never Knows as heard at the end of Season 5, Episode of 8 of Mad Men. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. I watched Don Draper put on the record and sit down in his swanky Eames lounger. I sang along in my head as my thoughts raced.

This has GOT to be in my top five Beatles songs. Nooo. Top three! 

I love that apartment he had with Megan. I want a sunken living room!

This incense smells like musk sticks. Or is it musk sticks that smell like incense? Could you set a musk stick on fire?

Crikey Don, what’s it like to be so good looking? I still love you even though you clearly didn’t think much of this song.

I felt a giggle rise up in my belly and told myself to focus on the bloody mantra. I found it again. And I started to feel good. Heavy and light at the same time. And hyperaware that under the flesh and lard and innards I was just a freaking SKELETON omg how cool is that?

The mantra, still accompanied by Tomorrow Never Knows, retreated to mere soft background music. I felt a delicious stillness. Then a spooky awesome sensation that my arms weren’t there at all.

Soon the lesson was over. I felt a lovely quietness, yet wide awake and energised.

I floated out of the building and decided while I was in Edinburgh I may as well get the bus along to Waitrose to see what’s new in middle class groceries.

(Waitrose does not service us riff-raff north of the Forth Bridges, you see. So I like to go along a few times a year to check out the adjectives and buy something ridiculous.)

I sat up the back of the bus beside a nanny and her two charges. The misbehaving one was named Zephyr. Zephyr! That was worth the ticket price alone.

I toddled round Waitrose, got some poncy cave-aged cheese then hopped on a bus back to Fife.

The instructor had said you could do TM anywhere, so I decided to try a bus meditation.

I settled in to my seat, closed my eyes and got ready to transport myself to my new personal temple of zen. But… I couldn’t remember my bloody mantra.

It was GONE! Curse you Zephyr, for distracting me.

I googled I forgot my mantra. Google was feck all help, but I did learn that Jeff Goldblum says that very line in his Annie Hall cameo appearance!

(How hot was he back then, by the way?)

The next day I went back to Edinburgh for a group meditation session. That just means a bunch of people all sit round in comfy chairs at the same time. I slinked up to the teacher and confessed I’d forgotten my mantra.

“Ahh,” he said, “Happens all the time!”.

Four months on, the mantra is firmly fixed in the memory bank. I’m still building up to the recommended two 20-minutes sessions a day. It’s more like 15 minutes. But I’ve stuck with it!

It’s been the biggest factor in toning down that January anxiety (Ziggy comes a close second!). The more I do it, the less I run away with unhelpful thoughts. I’m in there here and now more often than not.

It’s bonkers that something so mundane can be so helpful. It’s like a tiny superpower, a cloak of calm I can throw over my head, any time or any place I need it. Sometimes when I’m meditating my mind is blissfully blank. Sometimes I figure out problems. Sometimes I just lay back and think of Don.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


24 thoughts on “Meditation with Don Draper

  1. wow sorry to hear you were so unhappy 🙁 I’m so pleased you’ve started meditating – it anchors you so much in what is instead of what might be – and in my head ‘what might be (and its best mate what should have been) are never happy! Om!

    1. “and in my head ‘what might be (and its best mate what should have been) are never happy!” – oh my goodness YES 🙂 Thanks comrade! xx

  2. I CANNOT believe you got to say what is one of my ALL TIME favorite obscure movie quotes (the other fav. is “Abby Normal” from Young Frankenstein). You LIVED that moment–TOO cool. =) A to your Q re: Jeff G. is VERY.

    I really appreciate your sharing this (beautifully told) story. Very inspiring and evocative. =)

  3. Wow, now I’m inspired to try this too. I do the same thing of transferring my goals from one year to the next, it would be nice to actually DO one of them.

    One of the things I read about meditation is that you’re training your mind to be disciplined. When you learn how to do your mantra and block out the other thoughts, you’re learning how to control your thinking when you’re in a moment of stress. So simple and obvious but I’d never thought of it that way.

    I always had a HUGE crush on Jeff Goldblum. People think I’m crazy, but have you ever seen The Fly? Or Earth Girls are Easy? *swoon*

    1. Yes! There is just something about him. Swoon!

      I’m finding it’s not so much about learning to control thoughts but recognising that they’re just thoughts, and I have a trillion thoughts per day so it’s all about which thoughts I hold on to, if that makes any sense!?

  4. You’ve just reminded me that I really wanted to look into this in an attempt to, as you say, stop running away with unhelpful thoughts – I’ll have to get googling for somewhere I can try it in Edinburgh. Thank you!

  5. Is it a personal mantra or a general mantra you can share with the class? I’m curious! Also, does the mantra stay the same or does it change?

    1. We do meditation stuff at yoga but I’m crap at following guided meditation. I always think I have far more interesting stuff to think about 😉 Would love to finally crack this egg because I could sure use some zen in my life.

      1. Yes! I think that was my struggle with the guided meditation too. TM is basically just having a quiet sit-down, hehe. It is not a mysterious or complicated thing. I’m quite a cynical, suspicious person so I’m surprised that it seems to do me some good. It’s more like I notice when I don’t do it, if that makes sense?

  6. To learn from an “official” affiliated TM teacher costs $1500 in Melbourne… I think that cost is fairly standard worldwide. From what I have read there is a bit more to technique than just repeating the manta, or perhaps it is meant to be repeated at a certain speed with a certain breath pattern, not sure? Something that is supposed to make it worth $1500… There are web pages where you can find the mantras they give out so I wouldn’t pay $1500 just for that. I would be keen to take the course but $1500 seems steep. But Jerry does it!!! (so cool!) Might have to guesstimate the technique for now 🙂 so glad to read that this and of course Ziggy are helping with the inner peace 🙂

    1. $1500!!!! Crikey, that is insanely steep 🙁 I did my course through The Meditation Trust and they have a sliding scale of fees depending on your total household income, from £190. That was for the 1-1 session when you learn the technique, then two group sessions. After that you can come along to free “refresher” group sessions if you want to.

      P.S. Thank you so much for the kind words. Cat therapy is the best!

  7. I’ve been looking to meditate and TM has interested me for a while but I wasn’t sure it was for me. It was good to get a review from someone whose opinion (coupled with your healthy dose of cynicism thrown in) that I trust. Did you find that this meditation works better than other guided meditations you have tried? I have a monkey mind and really struggle to quiet it so meditation has been quite difficult. Thank you for the links too. x

    1. Hiya Suzanne! Yes I did find it better than the guided ones, I think when I focus on someone’s words I end up on random trains of thought. Or I focus on their accent or speech patterns and don’t relax at all! For some reason TM seems easier, there’s nothing to do but breathe and repeat the mantra. I can’t stuff that up, hehe 🙂

      1. Thanks for your reply, Shauna. I’ve booked onto a local course through the meditation trust. Thanks for the link. Wish me luck in finding inner peace!

      2. I might give it a try. I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation for a few years now, on and off, but find I have two problems: if I don’t have the mp3 playing I can’t remember exactly what I’m supposed to do, and that’s stressful (well, focus my attention on the breath, but that’s not all there is to it), and if I do have it playing, the narrator’s voice is so soothingly boring that I go to sleep.

        Which is great, if going to sleep is appropriate (and sometimes I use it for that purpose) but the only line from the track I can ever remember is “Remember that this is an invitation to “fall awake”, not asleep, no matter how relaxed you may become…” So I might be better rested but I’m not exactly meditating 🙂

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