One difference between countries that Spaniards see very clearly when moving to Ireland is the time variation. And I´m not talking about how in the Emerald Isle it´s an hour earlier than in the Iberian peninsula (though it is, we´re in the same time zone as the Canary Islands), but the time of the day when we usually do certain things.
For example, in Ireland, people usually have lunch and dinner much earlier than in Spain, and shops also close earlier, for the most part. My explanation for this is that in Spain, due to the good weather, life is much more outdoor-based, and we go to bed later, while in Ireland, people go back home much earlier in the day, especially during the winter, when days are much shorter, and it gets dark pretty early.
This is something worth remembering when visiting Ireland: even tourist attractions and museums (and coffee shops!) close really early compared to the Spanish standard, typically around five or six pm at most.
Except one night a year.
Culture Night. «La noche en blanco», which took place just this past Friday.
It´s an evening where museums and other places of interest are open until late, access is free (although some places require booking), and there are programmed cultural activities all over the country.
I´m a big fan of Culture Night, so last Friday, I made my way to Dublin city centre, ready to roam and snoop around a bunch of exciting places. This time I visited the City Hall, where I was able to listen to a lovely choir, the State Apartments of Dublin Castle where the viceroy used to live, back in the old times (it had never occurred to me that Ireland had a viceroy), and a Zen Buddhist centre in Temple Bar, where I took part in a zazen meditation.
And it was there, in the zen centre, where I heard the idea that inspired today´s headline. A Buddhist priest explained to us the basic principles of this branch of Buddhism, which has meditation as its core practice, and he placed a lot of emphasis on the premise that, for them, meditation doesn´t have any particular purpose: there´s nothing to achieve, nothing to aspire to, no chasing illumination. You meditate for no reason. You just sit down. That´s it.
For no reason.
Obviously, that´s not all; it´s just the starting point. In reality, there´s always a reason. For everything. That reason, that motivation, is what moves us to do what we do. But I think I understand what they mean: this kind of meditation is based on staying in contact with reality without blocking our senses (in fact, our eyes must remain open throughout, which confused me a bit) and confronting reality face to face, instead of trying to abstract ourselves and escape from it. But as soon as we set a goal for our meditation and create an expectation of the result we want to achieve, we´re moving away from the present reality.
I found this approach really interesting, and I also got to think about how society nowadays tells us that we must be productive all the time, that everything we do needs to have a reason behind, a purpose, a tangible benefit. Have you ever felt guilty of "wasting time"? - it used to happen to me a lot, and it still happens today. Some of us find it really difficult to slow down, and even harder to sit down and do nothing.
But when we finally get to do it, we begin to realize things.
I must admit that meditation is one of my pending items, and it´s been for many years. But who knows, maybe this time round, curiosity and the paradox of not having a goal will finally be what motivates me 😀
Would you like to start with me, just because, for no reason at all?