In the third lockdown, veganism and meditation can help get over the blues. Meditations for Good Vibrations’s Aishling Dunne explains how.
Has this Christmas been different for you? Well, for everyone else too. 2020 has been a completely different year for everybody; Christmas — for many, the loveliest season of the year — as well. And precisely because it is, in theory, when we have to be the happiest, it’s very likely to bounce and end up in a very down mood. Have you considered meditation as an opportunity to give yourself some time out and connect with your inner-self?
In September, after the summer and still mild temperatures, a major study from the University of Nottingham revealed a significant increase in anxiety and depression cases. A key factor, the leader of the study said, is to see its extension in time. In practical terms, the pandemic has been here for almost a year, and it doesn’t seem to have a clear end any time soon.
You probably will need to be in peace with yourself to face the last stretch of the pandemic. It will be just one more push, real or not; it’s what Boris Johnson said. Aishling Dunne, 38, says she is a seasonal person. For her, and for many, this time has been much harder. Spring was exceptionally warm, while now it’s colder and rainy: “It’s not in our nature to live like this. We mean to be social, we mean to see our family.”
Dunne is originally from the Republic of Ireland. Since she was very young, she has lived in many places: London with her parents, Asia for many years, and currently in Salford. She tells me that spiritualism found her in her trips: “When I was 23, I went to India for a backpacking trip. There, I found people who were doing Vipassana, a silent meditation technique. Without sounding very cheesy, I really had quite a significant sort of awakening.”
She comes from a vegetarian Irish family which was unusual in the early 80s. Vegan and vegetarian diets, she believes, get people more connected to global issues such as climate change and land degradation. “Veganism gives us harmony,” she says. However, she adds that food choices are very personal, and by no means should anyone tell another person what to eat — except perhaps a doctor for health reasons.
During the first lockdown, Dunne and her partner Bhavan took their vegan kitchen to their neighbours in Salford. They cooked fresh meals, “It’s something I had never thought on that way before, but I realise junk food and frozen food does generate a lot of rubbish, and without a doubt, processed food is not good for you.” It turns something healthy into something with many additives such as sugars and preservatives. Apart from that, eating something made from your own hands is something you can feel proud of.
Thai Curry with raw spring rolls and almond satay sauce
Religions consider meditation as key, but it can take many forms: “When you’re cooking or walking and you feel every step on the ground. When you sit down, and you see your breath going in and going out. So, there isn’t only one way to do it.” Indeed, spending time in the kitchen to cook your own vegan recipes can be a form of meditation too.
People have found the most diverse ways to find inner peace in these weird times. Some tried to connect deeper with nature and started with gardening indoors. Others got the advantage of spending more time at home to improve their health through the kitchen and cooking. Yet more spoke about the positive impact of veganism on their mental health. There might be many reasons to shift into plant-based food: health, animal cruelty and environmental impact being the three most common. All of them are right.
Dunne shared her experience in meditation through free Zoom workshops. She started before Christmas, but after seeing the new lockdown, she is planning on relaunching it. Although she admits that people find inner peace very personal, she wants to help with “uplifting projects”.
She has two types of meditation in mind. There’s the more traditional type of meditation: sit down with nice music, breathing exercises, and look for a relaxing environment. The second one would be an active Kundalini meditation, which means shaking your body. “Worry, anxiety and all of this kind of stuff can be felt through the mind, but we really absorb it through our body. And it can be very subtle. You don’t realise it’s happening, but then you feel pain in your back or your muscles are very tense. And then you just shake it up, and sit down to meditate.”
Some may think we are already experts on how to spend so much time at home in this third instance of lockdown in the UK. Nevertheless, trying new things and looking for inner peace is never a bad idea. To be in harmony with yourself and with your surroundings, meditation is a great practice. Just remember that any act that takes your presence is a type of meditation and beneficial.