THE past few months have meant drastic changes for everyone, and for many people it has been a difficult time for one reason or another.

Advice on the telly suggests we try to de-stress, relax and look after our mental health.
I reckoned this was good advice so, propped up in bed, I flicked through YouTube on my telly and found a meditation tutorial.

“This should help with any anxiety or stress,” I thought.

A few minutes in and the calming music was overridden by a soothing voice.

“Trust that now is the time to let go... Settle into your bed, lie back and start to relax.”

“Mmmm.” I felt chilled already.

“Just focus on your breath and feel the sensations of your breath.”

Well, next thing I knew it, it was 5.30am and I had slept right through the tutorial!

So, I reckoned when life got back to some sort of normality, I might be better attending a meditation class.

And then I vividly recalled a Sunday afternoon class I attended (endured) with my friend Moira last summer.

“Meditation?” she shrieked when I suggested it to her. “Isn’t that what monks do?”

“Moira, it has many benefits and can help to declutter your busy work and home life.”

With her looking unconvinced, I added: “It can also help clear your cluttered mind and have a wonderful calming effect.”

So, reluctantly, Moira joined me and 20 others who were already seated in the dimly lit room.

Settling next to each other we were instructed to make ourselves comfortable, take a deep breath and concentrate on the giant orange dot illuminated high on the wall in front of us.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a soothing female voice echoed around the dark room.

“Take a deep breath. Mmmmmm...

“In... and out,” she repeated. “In... and out. Feel your body relax from your head to your toes.”

The slurry voice attempted to loosen up every part of our body.

I could hear Moira taking deep breaths in and out as instructed. For a while, all seemed to be going well, and I was starting to relax as I peered intensely at the bright orange dot.

Whoosh... I exhaled in unison with the others in the room – until out of the blue I was suddenly elbowed sharply in the ribs.

“Janice, I need the toilet,” Moira whispered.

“Argh... great timing,” I sighed.

Shuffling past the others, Moira returned and finally flopped back into position next to me as I gestured to my annoying pal to focus again on the illuminated dot.

Sitting back in position, she beamed and silently gave me the thumbs up while I prayed that most of our classmates were oblivious to her antics as she yet again attempted to inhale deeply and focus.

Only trouble was – she was exhaling whilst everyone else was inhaling!

A few peaceful minutes later the deep voice drawled again.

“By now you should be awake inside without being aware of anything except awareness itself.”

Another poke in the ribs.

“Eh, whit does that mean?”

Knowing Moira has the attention span of a five-year-old, I reckoned this class was going to be a challenge, so I tried to silence her by giving her the evil eye.

Again, in and out we breathed slowly in silence until...

The voice instructed: “Train your mind like you would train your body and observe your wandering thoughts.”

Another dig in the ribs.

Attempting to maintain the calmness of the room, my eyes were almost out on stalks as

I gave my fidgeting pal another silent but deadly stare.

“You are now aware of your middle eye which is centred in your brain.”

“Oh no.” I shook my head in anticipation of another poke in the ribs, but managed to scold Moira into silence with one eye open and one eye closed.

After all, I was still trying desperately to focus on the illuminated orange dot which was going to change my life.

Secretly scanning the room, I thought: “How can this be? There is calmness all around except for me and my disruptive pal.”

“Whoosh. In... and out. In... and out,” the voice repeated.

“Practice. Practice. 

“Breathe in... and out.

“Practice, practice, and eventually you will be able to stay happy all of the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.”

“Practice?” a familiar voice whispered. “Have we got homework then?”

And that, as they say, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I abruptly cut short my first and last mediation class.

Homeward bound I foolishly attempted to sum up our new calming experience.

“Well Moira, do you feel mentally decluttered and calm?” Because I certainly didn’t.

“Emmmm... calm? Sorry Janice. I don’t think meditation is for me,” she puffed. “My mind is like my garage. Cluttered, full to bursting and crammed with useless things.

“And I don’t think an hour’s meditation will clear that anytime soon.”

And funnily enough, neither did I.