I booked this session anyways, did a bit more research (thanks Buzzfeed) and decided it was for me - yes you have to pay for it and the sum isn't on the small side but the fact you can get a payment plan helps, and I'd made the decision to worry less about the money because the money always seems to work itself out in the end. I had an opportunity to learn to meditate in a structured way that could massively benefit my life so that was worth the price.
I have completed my four days - you have your first session solo and the next three days you have to go for two hours with a small group who all started at the same time and you learn/meditate with them. Each day you have to answer questions that your teacher deciphers to see how you're getting on. The silly thing is that it's not this "whole new world" approach, you don't close your eyes and meditate your way into a trance or feel yourself drifting into another dimension or anything particularly interesting... it's normal. It's you in this really relaxed state while your mind is still clear and functioning, calmly repeating your mantra (these are individual to each person - I'll come back to this) letting thoughts come and go as they need to. You are meant to meditate twice a day, I have to say this is the first day I have achieved that within a decent timescale... so I meditated at 10am and then again at 6pm which is about the right gap. It is about rest but the meditation brings a clarity and as my teacher says, it refreshes you for the day or the evening.
It's a pleasant sensation and I know it sounds like you could figure it out yourself, let me just say, as a seeker of tranquillity in my life, just get a teacher and learn. The group meditations are insane and by far the best meditations I have, I don't know what it is about them but I love them. People from completely different backgrounds, lifestyles, ages and reasons for learning but in that moment of meditation we're all the same, all seeking rest, peace and harmony in our lives.
So I said it's mantra based, that's not altogether true... you have your personal mantra which after your first session you don't say out-loud again, the reason for this (which I thought was a great explanation) is that your mantra is your seed to finding a deeper sense of self so when you're given this seed you plant it in your mind and leave it to grow, your mental repetition of this mantra helps it grow and helps move you into a deeper sense of consciousness. You wouldn't plant a physical seed in the ground and keep pulling it out of the ground to see how it's growing, you leave it alone and after a time you see it grow - that's the same idea as your mantra. For me, it's like a little secret.
You meditate in 20 minute blocks with 5 or so minutes around and about to help you settle in and bring yourself back out - important things those 5 or so minutes or headaches ensue. The optimum is twice a day, not too hard you say to yourself but alas, learning to fit this into a schedule is challenging and I have repeatedly failed at fitting in my afternoon meditation. Oddly enough I flag in the afternoon and I know that if I meditate I would have another round of energy to keep me going so it's worth my while to figure it out!
Has it dramatically changed my existence so far? I don't think so... it's perhaps made me a tad more patient in intense situations and if someone is in a bad mood around me I perhaps stay slightly more level-headed but then I've still had those moments where I started to lose my shit over something trivial... have these been slightly less? Probably. So yes I guess it is having an effect. Would I recommend it? Yes, for the sheer simplicity.