"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OF: That One Week I Sought Enlightenment

So, guess what kids? I did some new things this past week (yay for spontaneity)! And how does the universe repay my noble effort to be less hermit-like and more experimental? With vomit, that's how.

Some back story:

My best friend Ronnie is in a World Religion course that requires him to visit two non-Christian religious sites. Being the good friend that I am, of course I was happy to oblige his request to accompany him to the Shambhala Meditation Center in Decatur. Not only did I go, but I invited my Mom, brother, and his girlfriend Raven to go for the ride. So we rolled-up-deep-in-da-place on Sunday, ready to get our enlightenment on.

What we got was a lesson in how NOT to meditate. After arriving and trying our best to respectfully mimic the behavior in the room, we were tapped on the shoulder and asked to move into a separate room for a bit of private meditation training before heading over to the main meditation room. That's cool, I thought. How attentive and welcoming these hippie folk are! A stern-looking older man wearing some kind of farmer get-up instructed us in the fine art of Shambhala meditation. We were taught the proper sitting posture, breathing techniques, thought-cancellation techniques ("Imagine that you are popping each thought as it arises, as though it were a bubble"), and then he walked around correcting our sloping postures and chiding us for closing our eyes as opposed to maintaining a "low, inward-gaze."


After a few more minutes of practice, we were herded back into the adjoining room for more meditation before heading over to the main hall for walking meditation and additional seated meditation. At this point we'd already been at it an hour. I was exhausted, and trying not to look at the rad decor, which for me was the highlight of the whole experience. At the center of the room was an altar of sorts with seven bowls of water, two purple potted Chrysanthemums, a crystal ball, two pictures of smiling monks(?)/elders(?) flanking a tapestry of an angry-looking deity with his tongue hanging out, incense, two oil candles, and gongs. Everywhere symmetry. Everywhere plumes of incense. Everywhere cross-legged Atlantans of all races seated on blue and red cushions shaped like macaroons. I wondered what circumstances brought them all here. Were they getting anything out of this practice?

All I seemed to be getting out of it was a lesson in my own erratic mind which refused to pop and dispel individual thoughts as though they were harmless rainbow-colored soap bubbles. Instead my thoughts were like Hydra in hyperdrive: cut the head off of one and three grew back in its place. All I could think of was how annoying the floor creak was, or how hideous someone's corns were during the walking meditation; the wormy, internal sound of someone's digestive tract churning; opaque cobwebs growing unchecked in the high corners of the ceiling. The smell of incense placed my mind firmly back in the basement bedroom of my high school boyfriend who played Tool songs on his electric guitar and smoked bowls of marijuana. The song "I am the Walrus" by the Beatles played on an incessant loop in my brain: "I am the eggman. They are the eggmen. I am the walrus. CucooCACHOO!"

I gave up after hour number two, when the woman in front of me broke the silence, quite literally, by cranking out a whistly fart. I could not contain the tide of my laughter. I got up. Bowed. Left.

Life lesson number 5,325: I am not the meditating kind.

The other thing I did was try Bikram yoga. Hot yoga. Yoga in a room set to 107 degrees at 40% humidity on purpose. I met up with my lovely friend and colleague, Kate, who invited me to participate. I planned my entire morning around this class. I didn't eat at least 3 hours prior, I hydrated myself...etc..etc...I was so excited, guys. I really was!

BUT. Fifty-five minutes into class, even something as basic as a warrior pose was making me die. The heat was starting to make me nutty, woozy, aware of my hulkiness as the toxicity of my decadent lifestyle came spewing from my pores, literally.

Our instructor--a cute brunette with a high, chirpy voice, and the most perfectly-sculpted yoga tush I have ever seen--decided to celebrate the autumnal equinox symbolically by having the class form a large circle, and support the weight of the person on both sides while doing a pose. "Look class: BALANCE. ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL?!" I managed to do it once, suppressing murderous thoughts. When is this $%^&* woman going to end this class? When do I get to lay down and have a cold lavender towel for my face?

When she instructed us to do the equinox-balance-pose-thingy a second time, I sat down, breaking our lovely harmony circle--leaving the broads on either side of me in an awkward spot. I literally sat down and crossed my arms like my four year daughter does when she's miffed. Then it hit me. Waves of chunkage climbing up my throat. I covered my face with my towel, ran to the locker room, and barely made it through the door when I puked down the front of my t-shirt. Nice. Any normal human being would leave the studio immediately, right?


There was the issue of my friend Kate, still waiting in the studio. I didn't want to be lame and not finish the class. I stripped off my shirt, mopped up the small pile of vomit that I couldn't contain, threw on a jacket that I'd stashed in my locker, and went back in. I finished the class: like a (smelly) boss. The difference between this and the meditation, is, despite one very embarrassing moment I do feel like I got something out of it. My limbs felt taut and sore for a week following; sore in that good sense of having accomplished something. My skin glowed. Jury's out on whether I'll try it again, though.


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