Meditation for Beginners

31Jan08

Last night I attended a basic meditation class at my local Jewish Community Center (JCC). Overall, it was worth my $18. We learned various techniques aimed and helping us achieve … whatever meditation is supposed to help you achieve. I would like to stress, however, that this was undoubtedly a beginner class. One sign of that, I think, is that our meditation guide, Shalom, kept checking his watch when he thought no one was looking. Shalom had spent weeks, maybe even months, of his life being whipped by Buddhist monks in Woodstock, NY (apparently, that’s what they do to you when you fall asleep during your 2-hour, 4:30 a.m. meditation session). Dude was hardcore. But aside from Shalom’s spiritual snobbery, there were other signs that we were not seasoned meditators. Just a little information, by way of background: most of the people were women over the age of 50. In addition, there was one guy in his mid-20’s, one career-obsessed woman in her mid-30’s, and myself. I don’t remember everyone’s name, but if you would have asked me about any one of the women, I would have told you that her name was Judy. There were definitely at least 2 Judys present and everyone kind of looked like a Judy. Except for the guy. We will call him Jude.

So, Judy to my right had some kind of serious physical problem that she kept alluding to. For instance, when Shalom asked everyone how they were doing, she replied, “Good enough to be here, so that’s an improvement.” Now, I realize that the particular exchange just I described isn’t really funny. But if you could just SEE Judy … we’ll call her Crazy Judy … it was pretty fucking weird. I definitely exchanged a few troubled glances with Whooping Judy, who was sitting across the circle from me. See, Crazy Judy had this weird twitch and a high, strained voice with an intonation that suggested she was either demented or feigning politeness. When she spoke, her eyes grew wide and darted around. Plus, her hair was all crazy-like. Anyway, we didn’t know what was wrong with Crazy Judy so we kind of just chilled while she did her thing, in hopes that whatever she had wasn’t contagious. Lucky for us, Crazy Judy’s “thing” involved visuals. During one exercise, she reported seeing technicolor cartoon cupids flying around her neck. After another, she reported profuse sweating out of her face. As a finale, she told us about how during the walking meditation, she felt like she was “… sinking into the earth. The earth, like … a forest, with trees all around, like SINKING, you know?” Thank you, Crazy Judy. Please pass the peyote.

Next to Crazy Judy was the career-obsessed lady in her mid-30’s. Overweight, unmarried, well-manicured (light pink, of course), with a nice handbag, Corporate Judy was clearly sent there as a warning sign for me, personally. She always had this amused look on her face when Shalom would talk. She wasn’t buying any of this crap. In fact, she wasn’t even really there. She was smirking at the power-point presentation she made in up in her head and billed her to client while Shalom was explaining the concept of mindfulness. Corporate Judy sat next to smug-looking Judy with two kids, who all but told us that she doesn’t beat her kids now that she meditates for 10 minutes in the morning after they go to school.

Next to Judymom was Jude, our token male. When Shalom asked us all why we were there, his answer was pretty lame, so I assumed he was there to pick up chicks. Then I saw his wedding ring and decided that he may have been the most inarticulate person I’ve ever met. Christ, Jude … even Crazy Judy can tell a story.

Jude sat next to Whooping Judy who, combined with Yoga Judy to her right, reminded me of my mom. Together, they even looked like my mom. Well, Whooping Judy was a fucking riot. In the middle of one of the meditations, she just spontaneously started coughing. It was more than a cough, though … Whooping Judy was CHOKING. At first, it may have been the funniest fucking thing I’ve experienced in a while. When the cough didn’t let up, though, I felt stress. “Holy shit, we’re sitting here feeling the golden light through our third eye and Whooping Judy is DIEING in the hallway!”

SHALOM: now relax you muscles, up through your knees …

WJ: (cough)

SHALOM: the knees are often difficult to relax, but …

WJ: (cough)(cough)(COUGH)

ME: (Shut up.)

SHALOM: release the tension. Moving up to your thighs …

ME: (Is he gonna say crotch? [chuckle] What is he going to do about the crotch?)

SHALOM: up into your …

WJ: (COUGH)

SHALOM: waist …

WJ: (stifles cough)(leaves room)

ME: (Good call on the crotch. That would’ve been awkward. Glad WJ left.)

SHALOM: you feel completely relaxed. Now move up through your chest …

WJ: (echoing in the hall: COUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGH)

SHALOM: though your back …

WJ: (still with the echo: COUGHCOUGH-HACK-COUGH)

ME: (Seriously?)

SHALOM: up through your neck …

WJ: (more of the same)

ME: (This is actually pretty fucking funny.)

SHALOM: though your jaw …

WJ: (more of the same, plus gasping — I swear, no exaggeration)

ME: (Holy shit, is she OK?)

SHALOM: and up through your head. Now feel a light, a golden light …

WJ: (COUGHCOUGH-HACK-GASP-COUGH-GASP-COUGH)

ME: (Should someone go help her? Should we call an ambulance?)

SHALOM: radiating through your third eye.

WJ lived, although it seemed touch-and-go there for a while. For the most part, the other Judys weren’t very noteworthy. The Judy sitting next to WJ taught yoga and had been a practitioner for many years. By her own admission, however, Yoga Judy never mastered the full lotus position. Anyone reading, please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the full lotus nothing more than this?:

 

full lotus

Get it together, Judy. Next to Yoga Judy sat Shalom. Since Yoga Judy was, after all, a “teacher,” she kept trying to co-teach the class with Shalom, which Shalom did not seem to appreciate. It was amusing to see our bastion of Zen get his panties in a twist. Anyway, to Shalom’s right was another Judy, who said nothing the entire time, and next to her was a Judy with a black eye. The whole thing looking kind of like this:

 

MedGroup

 

Anyway, it was weird to see an older lady with a black eye. I’m much more used to seeing them on young, kind of dumb, men … you know, gangsta’. Or on my best friend, who is the opposite of gangsta, but went through a mosh pit phase. But while Judy Tyson was nice enough, you got the feeling like she was there for a REASON. Not that we all weren’t there for a reason, but JT was there for a REASON. As the risk of sounding like an asshole, because really, I crossed that bridge back at Crazy Judy, it just seemed like JT needed a lot more than a little meditation. Like, maybe a social worker. Or a handgun.

Aside from all of that, or should I say, in addition to all of that, the class was pretty sweet. There were some useful practices: the counting of the breathing, the mantra, the walking meditation … there was one that I just couldn’t do, though. It was an exercise to promote mindfulness. Shalom gave us each a “snack” and we were supposed to really think about where it came from, all the steps it took to get to us, etc. and then be aware of all our senses as we consumed the thing. I was pretty hungry, so I was really diggin this snack idea. My excitement turned to dismay when Shalom introduced the snack. We each got a raisin. “But can we take- … ” “No. Just one raisin.” So, OK fine, I don’t need two raisins, anyway. Still, I thought the exercise was a cool concept, so I was down. When you’re in a room filled with grown adults who are sitting in silence, staring at raisins, however, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to laugh. Truth be told, I may have loved the exercise had I read a book about raisin production prior to the class; but I didn’t. I have no idea how raisins get from wherever grapes are grown to my hot little hand. All I knew was that I was sitting in a room of people staring at raisins. Corporate Judy also just kind of gave up. Presumably, she knew how to count and she knew how to breathe, so she closed her eyes and did something that may or may not have combined the two. Or she wrote an email and billed a client for it. Either way, she made it clear that corporate people don’t have time for inefficiency.

So that was it. I like meditating and I’ll do it again. Hopefully by the time I have kids and a family, I’ll be totally, yet naturally, zonked out. Also, I look forward to seeing the Judys again. Particularly Yoga Judy. I would want to see Crazy Judy again, but she was a rancid bitch when she wasn’t hallucinating. But then again, so am I.

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