What started as an informal gathering of friends seeking spirituality, has now evolved into the ‘St Barts Meditation Group’. Every Thursday evening a cross-section of people comes together around flickering flames for tranquil reflection.
The positive energy generated by this meditating circle creates a safe space free from the demands and worries of everyday life … as confirmed by its members:
“The Meditation Group is like a secure anchor in an uncertain and fast-evolving world. This anchor is part of me, my inner peace …”
“Going to a meditation session is like making an appointment with yourself; a time to switch off from the world, to be calm, clear your mind and live in the present moment. Time stops still as soon as you enter the garden of the charming Anglican Church, where a candlelit room is tucked away in a corner …”
“This sacred hour is like a retreat from the busy activity of my working week. The ambiance allows me to sit and quieten my thoughts, while focussing on nothing but the softly spoken dialogue …”
This Meditation Group has continued to exist over many years thanks to the unconditional dedication of Diana Bourel and the late Trinette Wellesley-Wesley. These two core members have each provided inspirational wisdom through their caring guidance.
It was Trinette’s connection with the Anglican Church that made it possible for the Church Centre to be the weekly meeting place for the Meditation Group; and yet it is essentially non-religious and open to all, regardless of sex, age, race, culture or background.
Trinette’s leadership drew a large following of visitors and locals alike, whose word of mouth publicity was all the group needed to attract members.
After her long faithful commitment, Trinette decided it was time to hand over the ‘meditation bowl and baton’ to Diana. After humbly accepting this noble role, Diana has loyally led the group ever since. Her leadership has likewise attracted a variety of participants, particularly those within the wellness community of St Barts.
Diana says that her involvement in the Meditation Group is her “Seva”, her self-less service to others. The weekly sessions now also form part of Diana’s Yoga Summer Camp programme, which equally encourages ‘summer campers’ to attend.
These sessions are held in both French and English, and sometimes Spanish, depending on the attendees. There are no rules or prior experience required to join the group; but participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that is non-restrictive to allow freedom of breath. Both floor cushions and chairs are offered, and there is guidance on how to sit and position the body when meditating.
The chosen style is ‘Guided Meditation’, which follows a short introduction including a specific theme, explored through instruction and techniques. Influenced by Eastern and Western teachings as well as findings in neuroscience, these techniques include body-centred or breath-centred exercises (Pranayama), as well as ways to concentrate on feelings and sensations or objects within the immediate environment. This helps to be present and focussed, while silencing the mind and improving awareness … leading to a state of peace.
The themes addressed during the meditation meetings are those that affect our lives as human beings, such as anger, frustration, navigating loss, death or trauma. These are in addition to contrasting states of joy, compassion, loving, kindness, blessing and gratitude, as well as the softening of karma. While the art of self-care is also a key theme, which is essentially the expression and cultivation of spiritual friendship with yourself.
Diana explains how “In essence, the Meditation Group is a place where we can acknowledge our emotions and the reality of life, to understand that our human experience, though personal and individual, is also part and parcel of the larger experience of humanity.”
Meditating as a group, rather than independently, provides a sense of communal solidarity and companionship, as well as consistent commitment and responsibility. Diana expresses how “It is important to have a space in every community, where we can feel fully and quietly ourselves … This is a welcoming space providing an opportunity to discuss issues in our lives … And through the instruction and techniques that we practise together, it helps us to get to a quieter and more peaceful place.”
According to Diana, one of the difficult things about a meditation practice is that there can be a lot of expectations: “Meditation isn’t always the quiet oasis we imagine. Sometimes, when you sit still to meditate, it is the commotion in your mind that comes to the surface. Learning to sit in stillness, no matter what is happening in our lives, highlights the wave-like nature of a mind that, by definition, is volatile and ever-changing. So we create a relationship with the observer, the ‘I’ that is witnessing all of the feelings, thoughts and impulses that arise.”
Diana concludes by saying how she feels honoured to sit with men and women, who seek to nurture a relationship with their most authentic selves: “Week after week and year after year, the Meditation Group has become a warm and safe place where, without judgement, we can simply learn to be more comfortable with ourselves.”
The St Barts Meditation Group sessions are held in the Anglican Church Centre every Thursday from 7 to 8 o’clock. For further information, please contact Diana Bourel Toral.