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Nagarjuna’s what you need…

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Just off the A14, one of the worst roads in the western hemisphere, is not a place I thought I would find calm. In fact, that damn road has caused so many late appointments, it nearly broke me.

The Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre (yup, try saying that on a glass of Pinot) is just off the busy road, but far away enough away to feel like you’ve stepped into another world. Set in acres of beautiful Northants countryside, this Kelmarsh retreat, serves as a special place of peace and refuge, where you will hear no demands of ‘where’s my dinner’ or ‘the milk’s past it’s sell by date by two weeks Mum’ (the rugrats haven’t realised they can nip to the corner shop and actually purchase milk themselves). Anyway, back to world peace…

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I was introduced to it by a lovely friend of mine while I was going through a particularly traumatic period in my life. She told me they ran lunchtime meditation classes, 45 minutes long, so you can easily fit them in your day without too much disruption. Just to clarify, I’m no hippy chick or spiritual aficionado, and the last thing I thought I’d be doing on a week day afternoon is sitting crossed leg in front of a 5ft golden Buddah, but hey, life can be tough, and that sometimes calls for unusual measures. Which is how I found myself sitting with 20 strangers, singing a very catchy song, and emptying my mind of all the ‘external noise’ (I mean really, how do we fit all that crap in one tiny head?).

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Nagarjuna, which I’ll henceforth refer to merely as the meditation centre, offers classes for all levels of meditators (is that even a word?). When I visited to do the Muddy review, I dragged along two mates, meditating virgins, but very willing to give it a go!

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It also runs day and weekend retreats, and for those really needing a large dose of calm, you can even move into a self contained apartment, and volunteer at the centre. I spoke to Tam, a volunteer and student of the teachings who now lives at the centre and she said that everyone can meditate. Even if it’s just for ten minutes a day, most busy modern people can incorporate it into their lives (does switching off and reading Grazia count?).

Over the last year I’ve been to a few lunchtime classes, sometimes they’re taken by robed Buddhist Monks, and other times, practitioners look just like you or me. On the day we visited for the review the guy taking the class looked more like a bouncer. He had shoulders like a power lifter and a shaved head, but when he spoke, his melodic antipodean voice had us immediately calm.

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Tony, as I later found out he was called, was never into the whole Buddhist thang, but one day he was driving his wife’s car and she’d left a meditation CD in the player, and the rest as they say, is Ommmmmmm history.

The lunchtime class consists of an opening song (it’s not as cringey as it sounds and in a Pavlov’s doggy like way, I experience immediate calm as soon as it comes on) a couple of meditations, and a 15 minute talk. The teachings include nuggets like ‘anger is a mind that’s looking to blame, and calm is a mind that’s looking to solve’ and basically gives us the message that we can’t rely on the external world for our happiness. Obviously I can’t encapsulate the whole of Buddhist teachings in one small blog post, but take my word for it, it works, even if you’re crap at concentrating. Squirrel!

Another bonus of the retreat is that it has The World Peace Café (always thinking about my stomach). It does great coffee (£3.50 for the lunch time meditation, INCLUDING a coffee) and there’s a good selection of properly tasty vegetarian food for around the £5 – £7 mark (you can just go for the coffee and cute little shop, you don’t have to meditate).

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It really is a friendly place, and somewhere great to go alone (I sometimes find I like to get far from the madding crowd, with just my own inane mumblings for company). I looked up the general benefits of meditation, and after a year of mediation this is how it has worked out for me:

  • Improved concentration and focus in daily life – I lose my car keys at least 50 per cent less.
  • Less stress, worry & anxiety – This still happens, but now I know not to palpitate like I’ve had 10 cans of redbull.
  • Reduced irritation, anger & frustration – now I only want to swear at my partner instead of hit him over the head with a frying pan.
  • Greater inner peace & happiness – YES. I do. It’s perspective, and the ‘life’s too short’ mantra.
  • Increased confidence & self-esteem – yup, I definitely gained a ‘if you don’t like me, that’s still ok’ attitude.
  • Improved mental and physical well being – just the act of turning off your TV set and doing something less boring instead will help.
  • A positive outlook on life & better relationships – see all of the above.

Don’t leave this Meditation retreat as just a treat, trust me, you will feel better just stepping away from your computer screen/screaming kids/cricket obsessed hubbie. Take 10 minutes and Ommmmmm!

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THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Almost anyone with a smidgen of an open mind.

Not for: Those who will get the giggles or anyone with a flatulence problem. It gets very quiet in the mediation rooms (eat beforehand to prevent a rumbling belly.)

£: Cheap as chips. Lunch time classes £3.50; vegetarian lunch from £4 to £8, selection of cakes for under £3.

The Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre is a member of the New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union. It offers a variety of introductory meditation classes, meditation retreats, one-day meditation workshops, art courses, and in-depth study programmes.

Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre, Kelmarsh, Northants NN6 9LZ Tel: 01604 686 778

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