It’s Only Paranoia if the Buddhists Aren’t Out to Get You

meditation2013 was the year I decided to pursue a lifelong goal and finally learn to meditate. But my progress hasn’t been as swift as anticipated. Despite committing to a full five minutes a day for the last six weeks, I’m not feeling remotely enlightened. I complained about this to the ToolMaster, who suggested I attend a community class.

“Why?” I said. “So I can sit beside other people pursuing the same goal, which as I understand it, is to be able to sit beside me and remain completely oblivious to my presence? I don’t need to leave the house for that.”

Anyway, despite rough road conditions and -43° weather, I decided to give it a try. Last night was my first meeting.

It was a gross disappoint.

To begin with, one gentleman–let’s call him Don–used a clumsy metaphor to justify training the mind. If you’re walking across a lawn strewn with sharp stones, he said, you have several choices. You can complain about the ground, attempt to cover it with softer material, or you could do the simple thing and put on shoes. (First problem of the night: In this example, your feet represent your brain and the ground is reality. If you were going to assign a body part to represent the seat of consciousness, wouldn’t you go for something more elegant than feet?)

This is where I decided to be a proactive learner. I raised my hand. “What kind of shoes?”

“Excuse me?”

“Are we talking tennis shoes or high heels?

“I…don’t think it matters. The principle–”

“I don’t think you understand. Put us all in high heels in January, and we’ll end up with broken ankles, Don.”

“Okaay. Then tennis shoes are fine.”

“Saucony or Nike? Because I’ve restarted dance class and can’t risk plantar fasciitis again.”

Then Don got red in the face and a female teacher took over for a while. While I’m sure she’s a nice person, this is an example of her lecture style:

“It is vereeeery imporrrtant to hmmmmm. Otherwise you can never be free of hmmmm-hmmm-hmmmmmmmm.”

<class laughs>

<teacher laughs joyfully and nods> “And we all long to be free of hmmmm-hmmm-hmmmmmmm, don’t we?”

All I could think was, Consonants are your friend, people. Claim those consonants.

But this continued. For another twenty minutes.

It seemed so purposeful, I decided on possible explanations:

1. Someone in that room owns  a hearing-aid business.

2. I’ve stumbled upon a cell of Buddhist extremists. (At first glance this would seem ridiculous, but please note I was the only newbie in a sparsely attended meeting, and I’m certain when I asked the shoe-question they made raised eyebrows at each another. Also? There were unfamiliar words they kept using, like “Bodhisattva” and “sūtra.”

Let us not forget that in the 7th season of 24, when the President’s sister’s co-worker is held at a detention facility, he observes grown men calling each other “brother”, slapping shoulders, and uttering foreign-sounding phrases. Thanks to his vigilance, for a few hours there they thought they’d crack a terrorist plot, save the US, and made President Palmer look good. While it’s hard for me to believe my prime minister would look good in any circumstance, I can’t allow partisanship to dull my intellect.

3. Learning to meditate causes you to become a mumbler.

4. This is their idea of Buddhist humor, giving the new girl a mindf*ck so as to convince her she desperately needs their help. Buddhist gaslighters. Go figure.

But I don’t know, Zesties. Between the whole ignoring one another thing, and the mumbling, and their disinterest in my foot-health, I’m not sure I’ll go again.

Would you attend a meditation class? Have you? How is your hearing at public events? Lastly, runners or high heels, and why?

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36 thoughts on “It’s Only Paranoia if the Buddhists Aren’t Out to Get You

  1. I loved this post. And I want you to try yoga next. I got kicked out of yoga for interfering with other people’s auras.

  2. First: LOL! Several LOLs, in fact. So thanks. Second, this is the route to peace you were recommending to me, a mere few days ago? Thanks a lot for that, too. 😉 Finally, even though I suspect you’re safe from a being sucked into a plot to topple Ottawa, I think the only reason to go back is for laughs. I’m tempted to root for more, so you can rattle them repeatedly and report back for our entertainment. But that’d be mean, wouldn’t it? 🙂

  3. LOL! You are always so much fun! I would have loved to have seen Don’s face for myself. I’m nodding the whole while at your take on the ungracious fumbling of what should be a divinely spiritual connection.

    Me + meditation = Epic fail. When you discover the secret, please let me know. 😀

    1. To be fair, I actually enjoyed the meditation itself. (I do at home, too, though I’m being gentle with myself and aiming for such a modest time period, a sneeze would be longer.) I actually think I need a hearing aid. But since I’m not ready for that step, if I decide to do another class, I’ll probably look for a different location.

  4. Meditation and I do not play well together. Yoga, I adore, but my mind only clears in class when I’m struggling to breath holding a pose. During the whole corpse pose/empty-your-mind crap at the end of class I’m usually running story lines. Great time to think though.

    Oh, and neither sneakers nor heels. I’m a flip-flops Florida girl all the way.

  5. Jan, clearly this was the wrong class for anyone to learn meditation! 🙂 But I do highly recommend it to quiet the mind, and sometimes to allow enlightenment to enter – even if enlightenment is temporary and simply the answer to a mundane problem.

    I am easily distracted, so I find a CD or online guided meditation works for me. Have you tried that?

    1. I’m experimenting, Deborah. Right now I’m reading Sharon Salzberg’s “LovingKindness”, and she suggests phrases to repeat in your mind as you breathe. I seem to do better if I have something to focus on.

  6. Jan, you made me laugh out loud. Thank you!

    My yoga class does a brief meditation at the end, and I find by then I’m so exhausted my brain can be still. Only time it happens.

    I have a lovely collection of high heels, but for the past eight years I have been flats all the way, the better to sprint after Dennis The Menace.

  7. I sent this link to my husband, Jan – he started doing TM (going to classes, etc.) a few months ago. My brother has been doing TM since he was in high school. It’s worked well for him, apart from the time he was robbed while meditating outdoors once, years ago.

    As to the shoe question, I think you were spot on. These details matter!!

    1. Marty started a few months ago, Becke? I’d love to know what prompted that. Is he enjoying it?

      Doh! on your brother’s case. That’s darkly funny.

      Many thanks for forwarding. I appreciate it!

      1. Jan, I tried meditation for many years – but found that I got bored or fell asleep too much. I first heard of TM years ago when the Beatles made it popular. So I recently bit the bullet and took lessons. It’s fairly expensive – which might deter many – but it REALLY works, and is truly effortless. It doesn’t require knowledge of any religion – it does use a silent Mantra, which, for me is much easier than following my breath – which usually turns into a loud snore!! Write me if you want to compare notes on different types of Meditation – I’ve literally tried them all!

    1. I began with 5 minutes a day, Lisa, 6 days a week. I’ve increased it to 10. I’m finding I do enjoy it a great deal and have chosen to do it even on my “off” days because I feel calmer.

  8. I must get back into Karate–I know it’s not the same as meditation but I find it really helps my flexibility and balance. It saved me from a nasty fall because it kicked in automatically to equalize my body in ways I never expected. Only drawback–the running. Nobody said there’d be running. It’s embarrassing being passed by the five year old.

    As for shoes–barefoot really is best (except this far north–not a good idea outdoors.) People who go barefoot have fewer foot problems. They don’t get invited to many black tie affairs but still…

    1. Years ago Frank tried karate for a brief spell, and OMG with the running! I had no idea. (Indoors, with running shoes, in this case.)

      I can see you as a karate practitioner, Phyllis. It fits your personality.

  9. That rocky ground metaphor was indeed a bit odd. It’d of been best to suggest not dulling the mind with shoes, but to be like a good Buddhist and rake the rocks away, taking the hard thoughts out of our environment, so everyone can walk more easily.

    As for needing a meditation class, nope – even Jesus said the best way to pray is to go somewhere alone and close the door. It might be good to learn how, or to keep you motivated, but the best way is to sit and quiet the mind. Or go rake the yard.

    P.S. Best book on meditation I’ve found is A Gradual Awakening, by Stephen Levine. Good luck!

    1. I’ve since read several books on meditation but not that one, Steve. Thank you for the reference.

      I haven’t been back to class since, but I’m continuing with daily meditation, simply following my breath. I’m finding it worthwhile, definitely have more clarity and peace on the days I follow through.

  10. I’ve been doing the Mind Movies route lately. It’s given me something to focus on in addition to work and grief. Life gets sad if you don’t grab something positive and hang on. Of course they’d like to sell me a system for creating my own mind movies. Unfortunately for them I’ve been making short video clips for a few years. It was very kind of them to inspire me, though.

      1. The grief seems to be doing okay. I don’t fight it, which is what (I think) messes up a lot of people. It’s a process, not a race. I cry when I feel sad and return to my fun-loving self the rest of the time. Of course there’s a book in the works…there’s always a book or screenplay in the works. It means a lot that you remember my situation. Thank you.

        Mind Movies is a shortcut with the law of attraction. Hey, we make commercials for everything else, why not short affirmative films about what we want to be, do and have in life?

        1. Yes, I remember. I was touched that you made time to comment when events were so fresh for you.

          Re the mind movies: that’s interesting. Have you heard of Jason Selk? He coaches world-renowned athletes and a big part of his work with them is about the development of a 90-second visualization incorporating past, present, future performance successes. It’s more than a movie, though, as it incorporates all the senses. Still, there’s good precedent for the technique and scientific evidence it helps athletes perform at the top of their game.

  11. I too have been exploring meditation – Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenges have proven to be an effective way to get in the groove. Each one is purposeful and begins with a brief explanation of the days centering thought, he gives you a mantra to say (to yourself – in your head), tells you when to stop, and even provides an online journal that asks specific questions. Yoga I do in a studio with teacher – meditation I do on my couch. When there is no challenge available I put a timer on, play some zen birdsong type music, and just listen to myself breathe – the challenge of simply emptying my head of thoughts is enough to focus on most of the time.

    I love that you asked about the shoes…LOL…

    1. I’m not normally such a PITA in a classroom setting. 🙂

      Thanks for answering my questions about the Deepak Chopra meditations. Amazingly, I hadn’t heard of this challenge before. Looks interesting!

  12. Jan, I’ve been doing Deepak Chopra’s 21 day Meditation Challenge. I’ve found it incredibly helpful. I do it in the morning and feel energized and inspired for the day. I’m really sorry it’s over, because I’ve discovered I do need that type of motivation to really meditate regularly. In the beginning, contemplating setting aside 15 minutes for this seemed interminable, but each day I look forward to Oprah’s and Deepak’s words of introduction to the day’s centering thought and the remaining 9 or 10 minutes of quiet meditation goes surprisingly quickly.

    As to a group, monks meditate together all over the world so apparently this can work too if you wanted to find a group that worked for you too. One of my sisters teaches Yoga in Australia and she does a meditation at the end that feels wonderful after the exercise.

    1. The appeal of a group is that it forces me to prioritize and complete valuable exercises. I’m not bad at self-discipline, and in fact meditate briefly most days of the week, but I like the “hit” of enthusiasm I get when in the company of others.

      Could you restart the program, Deborah? When I looked at it yesterday, it appeared to be open-ended. (I almost joined.) Maybe a new email address would be required

      1. It was such a good suggestion, Jan, that I tried it! But it still only gives you access to the last two days. The others are no longer available.

        It really has given me a better sense of what works for me and jump started a more regular meditation schedule, so I will find other ways to keep it a habit.

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