Am I Zen Yet?
It was summertime as I sat with my feet up on the golf cart as my parents and brother played. “Is she sleeping?” I heard someone ask.
“No, she’s meditating” my brother snickered. I could hear the confusion and laughter as I kept my eyes closed and tried to ignore the people around me.
I first heard about meditating on a date at a sailor themed bar in the west village. We had mutual friends and were introduced a few weeks before. And by introduced, I mean I had stalked him years before, knew exactly who he was and was secretly thrilled at the chance to finally meet him. When we finally met for a drink he told me that he worked in music, meditated twice a day and loved going down on girls. Meditated? I was a 24 year old female Larry David reincarnation. Seinfeld was my bible. I prided myself on my ability to stress out about anything, find people’s faults and never be truly happy. This was the essence of the humorous voice that fueled my writing. Being miserable was a small price to pay in exchange for being a good writer.
But the man sitting in front of me was gorgeous and interesting and different than all of the other people I knew. Just a few months prior my brother was diagnosed with cancer, I fell into a deep depression, quit my job and had to move home to the suburbs of New Jersey to live with my parents. My date spent nearly the entire night gushing about his quest to learn the skills to give amazing cunniligus and all I could focus on was that he meditated. Could I really date someone who was at peace with himself? What was that like? Would he try to change me? Make me a happy person? I was in desperate need for some excitement so I looked past his happiness. Everyone has flaws, right?
It didn’t work out because I yelled at him for using me for sex after only making out once. He called me a psycho and we were no longer on speaking terms. I was devastated. I had all of these ideas about how he would bring excitement and new experiences into my life. I was even more depressed now than before.
A couple months later, I was watching Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. Howard Stern was being interviewed and they, two of favorite comedians, the greats when it comes to being miserable and judgmental, started discussing the benefits of meditation. Howard Stern said that it helped his mother out of a deep depression and Jerry Seinfeld commented that he wished he did it while he had his show. They gushed about how meditation changed their lives, made them even more creative and better at their jobs. Who was I to argue with these two? And what a great reason to text my meditating ex. Conversation starter! So I texted him to get some more info. He responded with the name of a teacher and added “but please don’t text me anymore.”
I signed up for the first class; excited to become happier, less stressed and more productive. And secretly hoping I’d bump into him. The teacher promised I’d be more creative and soon wouldn’t need the depression medication I was prescribed. The class cost a lot more than I expected, but they offered a cheap starving artist rate, only eight hundred dollars. That was close to half of all of the money to my name but I told myself this was worth it. My future happiness was on the line.
I sat in the class and tried my best to not think judgmental or negative thoughts. I considered buying baggy free flowing clothes to go with my new “at peace” image but I had no money left after the tuition.
I was going to reap the benefits of this whether my true personality liked it or not. I followed all the rules and took on this new lifestyle head first. I meditated twice a day, once in the morning and once around lunch for twenty minutes each time. I completely cut out caffeine, which was a struggle for my coffee addicted self. And I put up with all the ridicule my family had to offer. But I was determined.
I noticed a change right away. I was instantly over the first date crush. A guy I couldn’t get out of my head at one point was now just an embarrassing memory. I was sleeping better than I ever had. I was happier and less stressed. I felt like a new person. A better person.
I was obsessed. I never skipped a session. No matter where I was, no matter how public the venue, I’d close my eyes for twenty minutes and meditate. Once, as I sat outside Juice Generation in the West Village with my eyes closed on the bench, a man came over to ask if I was all right. This cute doctor thought I was suicidal. Nope, just meditating.
I began to rearrange my schedule around it. Every chance I got I would talk about meditation. I tried to convert as many people as would listen to me. I couldn’t stop talking about its life changing effect on me. I was hooked. And I wanted everyone else to be too.
After three months, not only was I not stressed or anxious but I didn’t really care about anything anymore. I felt like I was floating through my days, watching my life instead of living it. I felt removed from everything. What could be more stress free than that? But, I couldn’t write. My mind was blank. Words that used to fall into place like the two sides of a zipper now hung in the air. I couldn’t put a sentence together. Suddenly, I was the happiest I had ever been but I couldn’t do the one thing I loved. I was no longer myself.
At first it didn’t occur to me to blame the meditation. I thought maybe it was the medication that I was on. Or lack of exercise? I traced my life back to see when this had started and it timed up perfectly with my new at-peace lifestyle. I quickly searched side effects of meditation. I read Harvard research essays on the subject. I spoke to neurologists. And turns out, everything I had been experiencing is real. It’s called disassociation. It makes you feel detached and “spacey”, even from yourself. Was being happy worth losing my sense of self?
I stopped meditating and within two weeks I was back to my old stressed out self. I guess I am such a neurotic Jew that meditation didn’t even work on me.
Six months later, my one-date-ex texted me and invited me to a meditating party he was throwing. I stressed about the text and even debated going and just pretending to meditate before declining. I’m still paying off my meditation in installments each month. And while I might not be zen, at least I know who I am.