When I decided to try meditation, I considered all my options, including testing several different apps on my iPhone. It quickly became clear that self-service mediation, with the aid of soothing music or some disembodied voice in my ear buds, was not going to be my path to my meditative bliss.
I learn best in an experiential environment. That is, I absorb information best not by reading about it or watching others do it, but by doing it myself. So I decided that what I needed was a class, one where I would be instructed on how to do it right.
A guided meditation class is way outside my comfort zone. I had visions of hippies and drum circles, really bad shoes and unshaved armpits. In other words, a place I wouldn’t belong.
I worried that they would immediately sniff me out as a commercially over-indulgent yuppie with a mild interest in trying something new. Perhaps a fairly accurate assessment, now that I think about it…
Trying such a class in the mega city of Toronto seemed all the more daunting, so I made the decision to hold off until I had returned to Las Vegas.
There is something very inviting about Vegas, perhaps because very few people are actually from there, making us all kindred spirits in a transplant sort of way. Since buying a home there 4 years ago, I have found the locals to be very accepting, warm and eager to offer friendship.
I find it quite sad that most visitors never take the time to leave the 4.2 mile stretch, known as The Strip, during their visit. At best, some might get to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon, but very few ever see the real Vegas or meet the real people who live there.
Initially I reached out to a girlfriend, a talented artist who seemed centered and spiritual in a non-religious way, and asked her if she knew of a place where I could explore meditation. She suggested a group on Meetups.
The description was very high level and generic, but it seemed to offer what I was looking for: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. So I signed up.
The fact that it was taking place at the Ganesha Center just made it seem all the cooler.
The fact that the meditation guide [a white man named Bart] rebranded himself “Bartji” in the course description made me snort with laughter. I recalled an old episode of Seinfeld where the gang had gone to India for a wedding, and Jerry was re-named Jugdish.
Okay Bartji, I’ll humor you and go with it.
Wednesday would be the day. I was excited. And terrified.
Alas, Wednesday morning arrived and I got a notification through the meetup group that the class was indefinitely cancelled as they had moved out of the Ganesha Center.
It seemed the universe was conspiring to keep me from meditating.
I should have accepted those signs.
In the days that followed, members of the group offered suggestions on other venues offering guided meditations. I researched several and decided on trying out the offerings at a place called Enchanted Forest. How threatening could a place with that whimsical name be?
Their guided meditation session was described as follows:
“Feeling sluggish or stuck? Or scattered and anxious? Learn how to restore balance and heal your energetic system. Our Shamanic healer/teacher and ChinYi/Bogwa Master teaches this two-hour class designed to teach you simple techniques to add to your daily practice to reconnect to the wisdom of your own body, through moving meditations, your chakras, chord release techniques and more… “
I had no idea was ChinYi or Bogwa was, but I liked the sound of moving meditations and reconnecting to the wisdom of my own body. So I signed up for 2 classes.
The venue was a store-front, selling all manner of crystals, beads, essential oils, dried sage, percussion instruments and pretty much anything else that a Reiki master or Yogi might need.
It smelled pretty awesome. Like the inside of an Aveda shop or salon.
The lovely smelling shopkeeper showed me to the backroom where the class would take place. I was pleasantly surprised to see 4 other participants there. If I had been the only one I surely would have turned around and ran away. I kid you not.
Our class guide, Bob [not his real name], described himself as Shaman, with extensive knowledge of Qigong and Hsing-I-Chuan. And also a Tae Kwon Do master.
I don’t know what I expected a Shaman to look like exactly, but I’m pretty sure that none of my mental images would have involved Adidas track pants and a Harley Davidson t-shirt.
At least he wasn’t calling himself Bobji. Or Bugdish. So he gets points for that.
Bob was actually a very nice man. And he believed wholeheartedly in the work he was doing, which made it easier for me to let my guard down and give it a shot.
I tried to curb my inner cynic. I tried really hard. The chatter in my head was never-ending:
me: “Stop looking for the humor in this! It’s not supposed to be funny!!!”
me: “Please stop talking to me — I’m trying to clear my head!”
me: “Oh would you both just shut up already??!!”
Yes, this really goes on in my head. Perhaps now you can see why it’s been so hard for me to get into this meditation thing.
Bob had us focus on our breathing, and used a lot of really effective visualization techniques. I got lost in the exercise many times, until those annoying voices popped back in, begging me to crack one eye open and see if everyone else’s eyes were closed.
Next he took us through a cord-release technique. I will never be able to do justice to this exercise (the most impactful one for me), but I’ll try to describe it anyway.
Essentially, once you are in a quiet and meditative state, you visualize something negative in your life. This could be an encounter, a person or anything that you feel badly about. Something toxic, negative. Something that causes you pain or stress. You visualize this thing, seeing it tethered to you, like the cords or ropes that tie a hot-air balloon to the ground.
Once you see the specific cord that ties that negative thing to you, you grab onto it and start to slowly pull it away from you. You physically pull that cord away from where it is tethered (your body), eventually pushing it out into the universe, severing that tie to you.
The important (and really quite beautiful) thing about this technique is that when you release it into the universe, you do so with love. I learned that we never push hate or ugliness into the universe – even when it’s relating to something toxic we are letting go of. Instead you chant a mantra something like, “I am letting go of you because you no longer serve me well. I wish you peace.”
I got very lost in this exercise. So much so that I found myself inexplicably crying. Big, fat tears rolling down my cheeks and falling to my lap as I pulled that cord away from me and sent it off.
Bob was quite happy with my reaction and told me I had really done well.
I was mortified.
I took a few minutes to wipe the tears and snot and get myself together. I tried to channel my inner cynic for fear I’d lost her forever, when another participant tried to curry favor with Bob by telling him she also had a ‘very powerful response’ to the exercise. Bob looked at her quizzically and asked, “Really, because it seemed like you were struggling to get focused?”
I nearly snorted aloud. My inner bitch was alive and well.
Next we moved on to a chakra-balancing exercise, which also involved heavy visualization. I was in and out of the moment with this one. Overall, I think it was a good exercise, but I think I had given so much in the previous cord-release that I was just exhausted.
Finally we moved into the “moving mediations” portion, focused on Tai Chi movements and deep breathing. This seemed misaligned with the previous techniques, and also felt clumsy in our tight quarters. I like the bits of Tai Chi that I have done in my BodyFlow classes at the gym, but in this environment it felt forced and awkward. Not my favourite part of the class.
Two hours went by very quickly, and I did feel very relaxed by the time I got home, which – I suppose – was the point. I’ll also add that I slept very, very soundly – which was another huge benefit for me.
The class is offered 2x per month, so I attended my second session 2 weeks later.
Only 2 of us in attendance (besides Bob) this time, so I hoped for an even deeper dive into it the second time around.
That is until Chatty Cathy showed up. 15 minutes late.
Chatty Cathy came in just as we were about to start a matrix healing exercise. She introduced herself with, “I’ll be asking a LOT of questions, so just tell me to shut up if it’s too much.”
How bad could it be?, I wondered.
5 minutes later I prayed that a bottle of tequila, some lime and some salt would magically appear in the meditation room. If I was playing the drinking game (take a shot every time Chatty Cathy asks a FUCKING DUMBASS QUESTION), I would have been hammered before we made it out of matrix healing.
Needless to say I didn’t achieve any discernible level of meditation that night.
I was too busy silently judging Chatty Cathy. And willing myself not to visibly roll my eyes at her, Bob and the other participant when Chatty Cathy declared she just signed up for the Reiki Master course.
She wants to become a Reiki healer.
Are you flippin’ kidding me? This woman could drive a person to go postal. She wants to be a Reiki Master?
Oh how I wish I had the nerve to give Chatty Cathy some free advice: Save your money and apply yourself in a career more suited to your persona, like annoying telemarketer, say.
Or maybe it’s not that I didn’t have enough nerve, but that I’ve become so Zen that I no longer harbor that kind of snark inside me.
Nah, who am I kidding?