I don’t enjoy meditating. I’m aware that I’m not ~chill~. One of my legs is always bouncing. I crack my knuckles and bite my fingers. Not my nails, my fingers.
Perhaps sitting on the floor with my legs crossed for thirty minutes a day would somehow change this, but I hate the idea of being a prisoner, stuck on the ground with the one person in my life who’s responsible for all of my problems.
My cousin isn’t like me. She enjoys meditating, or at least pretends. We can’t ever really know. She tried to get me to meditate a few years ago by having me text her each time I completed a session.
“10 minutes, unguided session,” I’d text.
“Unguided, 20 minutes,” she’d respond.
She kept beating me with longer sessions. And so I stopped texting.
She and I are both from San Diego. When I tell people that I’m from there, no one believes me because San Diegans are ~chill~. My first interaction with any new person leaves them thinking that I have underestimated the potency of my Adderall, or perhaps am too comfortable with a morning regiment of cocaine.
I’d like to be calmer. But it also scares me. I view my anxiety as one of my greatest strengths. No need to finish that proposal when getting fired is just another part of a life you naively cherish.
But there are reasons to be calm.
Those who are calm are usually hotter than I am. They have better skin, and less sunken eyes. I’ve tried quieting my internal monologue many times and in many ways. Meditation groups in East LA, yoga centers in New York, breathwork classes at Burning Man — but no. Every attempt introduces me to yet another clique of Zens who seem to be in touch with something I cannot.
I downloaded an app called Headspace, which had a British guy's voice — Andy Puddicombe. After 7 minutes, Andy said,
"Now, take a deep breath and hold for five seconds." Then he counted down. "As you exhale, watch your thoughts move through your head like cars passing on the freeway."
And so I breathed out, and upon doing so, saw, in my mind's eye, the car of Matt, a boy I'd been texting. And then I was thinking about how it had been forty-seven minutes since Matt had last texted me and I wondered if forty-seven minutes was enough time to have passed for me to reply to Matt so as to not look desperate or if I should wait till the end of the Puddicombe's session with his metaphor about traffic which would finish in eight more minutes, but then I was cognizant of the fact that eight minutes might be the differential that would make it look to Matt as if I were intentionally trying to text him more slowly which would be even worse than just texting him too fast. And then I picked up my phone and texted Matt, throwing myself into Puddicombe's metaphorical traffic.
It’d be nice not to be like that.
In another life, maybe I’d be one of those Hare Krishnas. The ones in Union Square, who all seem unmoored by trauma or disappointment or the unknown. Who knows if I’d be happier. They’re all probably just as lost as I am but have convinced themselves that sitting in an orange robe, singing a chant in Sanskrit, is somehow more “right” than sitting on a couch, laughing at kids getting hurt on TikTok. Each of us just holding on to that which makes us feel whole.
Anyway, the Headspace app came and went. Calm was the same but in blue. I tried Insight Timer, which had photos of real gongs — their competitive edge. I’ve joined ten or so meditation communities. All mind-silencing tribes showing me glimpses of the present, just so they could laugh at how quickly my ferret-brain took the glimpses away.
I won’t be surprised if I soon join a cult. It does seem like the perfect storm: single 32-year-old Jewish man changes his name to Ravi Pragyam and moves to a hippy commune in Tulum in hopes of finding himself.
Perhaps that’s the right path. I’ll leave my stressful money-grabbing western life and escape to a place where I can sit in the sand, drinking mung bean soup while my mind turns off long enough for me to become a being of pure light.
I can’t wait much longer. It’s exhausting at this point. In a moment of desperation last month, I texted that cousin again, the one who we aren’t sure likes meditating.
In hopes of sticking with her as my accountability-buddy, I’ve been more honest with my texts.
Last week I sent her, “10 minutes, guided meditation.”
She responded with, “11 minutes, unguided :)”
And so I wrote, "I hope next time, that at minute 9, you have a stroke, and that you die.”
It’s probably not the healthiest practice, but an unexpected text from her will supersede anything else I’m doing — I’ll just drop to the floor and clock in my minutes, refusing to let her beat me. Nothing is more important than my fragile ego.
Anyway, my friend Alicia recently told me about a meditation app with a leaderboard. A world in which everyone in the group can see who is the real meditative winner and loser. Perhaps I'll try that next.