Since the Atheist Prayer Experiment ended, I've been meditating daily. I've missed a few days but that's all. I've also been listening to a lot of Buddhist podcasts and reading books. I've reached the point where I describe myself as a secular Buddhist.
The food thing isn't resolved, but my mind has become much quieter through the discipline of meditation. I very rarely count calories (or WeightWatchers points) and, although I still overeat at times and feel anxious about my weight and body shape, I generally rely on how hungry I feel to determine whether or not I should eat. The incessant food-related mind-chatter is pretty much gone and I have to tell you - the relief is enormous.
Anyway, a new experiment. The idea for this was brought on by the death of one Margaret Thatcher. I spent the first seven years of my life in a mining community in South Yorkshire and then moved to Sheffield, a town known as 'Steel City' until, thanks to aforesaid deceased lady, the steel industry was pole-axed. Given the devastation her policies wrought on communities in the area in which I spent my youth, it is hardly surprising that I was not fond of her. I'll be honest: I wasn't sad that she died. But I wasn't celebrating either.
I exchanged a few messages with a fellow graduate of the Atheist Prayer Experiment. Being from a (formerly) industrial region of north England, she shared my feelings about the Iron Lady. In one message, I wrote that I'd only really be able to celebrate when Thatcherism was dead - when the selfish, acquisitive "I'm alright Jack, I've got mine and if you haven't got yours then you probably deserve to suffer" attitude had been buried as the bastard offspring of the Just World Fallacy that it is. Alas, I pondered, if I wait that long to celebrate, then I'll probably be put on ice long before the champagne can come off it.
We decided that we'd do our bit to erase this aspect of Thatcher's legacy. And that's where I got this idea.
Every now and then, your Facebook friends (and maybe even you) will post the Gandhi quotation "Be the change you want to see in the world". Possibly accompanied by a picture of Gandhi. Or a sunrise. Or a unicorn. Anyway - it's the sort of thing we all read, nod in agreement and then surf over to a debate forum to slag off Republicans/Liberals/members-of-a-demographic-group-with-which-we-disagree.
So, my experiment is to be the change I'd like to see in the world, for 90 days. Not to admonish others for not being the change I'd like to see, but simply to try to embody the attitudes and behaviours I think would make the world a better place. Specifically, I think life would be better if people:
- were friendly,
- showed an interest in each other's well-being,
- went the extra mile to make others' lives easier; and
- communicated with each other on the level of their shared humanity, rather than as bearers of labels.