It’s definitely not just me. It seems that these days every conversation I have with people contains an undercurrent of ennui… or fear… or confusion… or blatant, downright frustration.
Some are frustrated with the anti-vaxxers. Some are the anti-vaxxers. Some are tired of being called anti-vax when they simply want to go visit their family. There are political leftists who wonder when the Left became the bad guys and are shocked to find that they are now relating to the Conservatives’ concerns around civil liberties. There are the right wing Christians who are positive it’s the End Times but they are mortified to see that the Liberal wolf crying about the environment all this time is what eventually caused it. Wasn’t climate change a hoax? What happened…?
The OG hippies themselves, Jonie Mitchell and Neil Young have officially ditched the concept of Freedom of Speech and left Spotify in protest of a wrestler slash podcast host who dared to ask for a second opinion on easily the most controversial topic currently available to discuss. Ava DuVernay and India Arie followed them in solidarity. Isn’t that censorship? Or… censorship is OK as long as we are censoring the opinions that social media has deemed false… for now. Except that the storyline is already shifting.
So who has the actual info then? Whose job is it to find it… political leaders? Aren’t they in bed with Big Pharma though? Or…? Who is the American president again? Wait… was Trump a good guy? THAT can’t be right… right?
The head honcho of Canada, forever seen as the peacekeeping nation and almost too polite on the world stage… is now known for calling a State of Emergency while the world watches him have peaceful protesters arrested and pepper sprayed. Modern day celebrities like Elon Musk and news sites around the world are siding with a trucking convoy that spanned the second largest country on the planet. Which is amazing, but that’s a lot of trucks… and a massive carbon footprint, right? So is that good… or bad?
China and Russia are getting along. Scary. But don’t we want everyone to get along? Has anyone actually seen them do anything to be scared of yet? But…haven’t we seen this before someplace?
…and didn’t China create the virus that has had the world in lockdown for two years? Or was that the US and Fauci…? It’s difficult to say now because we all know that mainstream media can’t be trusted. But independent media is super sketchy. Isn’t it? Or…?
And then there is our personal day to day, which was already… a lot. Make sure you eat well, but not almond milk or quinoa, because that’s bad for the environment. But milk is worse for the environment, so… I think? Tofu for sure is out, it mimics estrogen and causes some sort of medical issue. But only in men. Except that that was disproven. I think. But definitely eating less meat is important.
A few years ago I took up meditation. I was on the verge of homelessness because I lived in a house that was falling apart, in a gorgeous small town in the mountains that was somewhat like paradise, if you were lucky enough to find a house to live in. AirBnB had effectively eaten up all the rental homes in the area and so everyone who was fast enough bought everything available on the market. Overnight there were simply no places to live. I was talking to a good friend and she told me, straight up. Meditate.
Of course I had no idea how that would solve the housing issue. It didn’t. But what it did do, was teach me to get off of the merry-go-round of desperation I was on. I had become so accustomed to living in a state of stress and worry that I didn’t even know how stressed I actually was. The act of intentionally just sitting in silence was an incredible tool I was able to leverage my sanity with. At the time I didn’t realize quite how meditation can save your mental health in such a powerful way.
It took some practice. You have no idea how important your grocery list is until you try to quiet your mind. That thing you couldn’t remember earlier in the day… or week? It’s suddenly right there, front and center, and it’s apparently vital that you attend to it immediately. More than anything else, the first year of meditating for me was an exercise in realizing that my perspective was so far off base I could no longer remember which way was up. If one has no sense of direction in life, how is one meant to survive? Let alone thrive. It took that full year for me to realize that I even was meditating. I was spending all of my time trying to quiet my mind and then suddenly one day halfway through practice, I realized my inner voice had simply given up. I obviously was not going to play, so it had taken its toys and gone home.
Then something lovely happened.
Peace is an interesting thing. It’s not very dramatic. It’s… anti-dramatic. In a world where we obsess over lipgloss releases and celebrity breakups, where we consider warfare to be entertainment and we rate movies on how much of the budget was allocated to the pyrotechnics team, peace is… weird. It might even be kind of uncomfortable at first, but in that same way that your first crush is uncomfortable. You spend all of your time coveting it, not even knowing what you are actually so excited about until one day you look up into the eyes of the only person in the world that matters. It’s like that, but you are that person.
I now understand how monks and nuns and monkeys are truly content devoting their lives to temple prayer. A day spent in quiet contemplation of the universe would not be a wasted day provided you had a secure roof over your head and food for the table. Meditation gives you superpowers. In fact, I’ll bet those monks could levitate if they wanted to. It’s probably their sense of humility that keeps them from floating around on clouds. I’m a ways off from that yet but I definitely have mysteriously acquired a healthier sense of Self. My clarity and sense of worth has returned almost to the levels of arrogant teenager Me. However unlike my teen self, I am now allergic to drama.
This says a lot.
(I suppose you had to know me as a teenager to know why this says a lot.)
I’m not one of those “everyone should do this” people about most things. About anything really. I believe that everyone should do yoga, but you won’t really hear me say that unless it comes up organically in conversation. I think neural feedback is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever invested in, but I don’t really tell anyone that doesn’t ask. My mother? Ohhh… she has that whole “it’s amazing, just do it!” thing down to a fine science. Not in an MLM way, nooo she does it in a fine tuned ninja seed planting way. She will just put the kale in your fridge without you even knowing she visited. But I digress. My point is that I generally avoid preaching at all costs. I do however think that every single person on the planet, and probably some of those monkeys, should meditate. Everyone would get something slightly different out of it, but it would all be good.
It’s very difficult to explain the experience really to anyone who hasn’t become somewhat adept, but that adept point is still in the beginner phase. And like any daily practice, you only get better at it. You can sit for five minutes each morning or you can sit on your silk pillow in front of your personal altar burning incense and listening to a singing bowl if you wish. It doesn’t really matter how you incorporate meditation into your lifestyle, but it is something I think everyone would benefit from. The benefits are easy to list, and there are a plethora of studies showing how meditation can save your mental health. It would be difficult today to escape hearing about how meditation lowers stress, helps you get better sleep, develops concentration and focus, self-discipline and positive mood / mindset. Everywhere you look, from Forbes to YouTube, you will find lists of all the goodness that comes from meditation along with guides, special music or soundbaths while stores now sell meditation specific eyemasks, lighting and even scented meditation candles.
The obvious consumer culture irony aside, this attests to the fact that meditation has become more popular and definitely more mainstream. In fact, a plethora of CEOs and Silicon Valley gurus have come forward to say that meditation has been the secret ingredient of their success. Quiet self-reflection is no longer the property of woo woo zen types, it has officially been co-opted by the suits, who are now regularly found in team building retreats doing breathing exercises and cold plunges. Best selling books abound in Barnes & Noble and on the NY Times lists, and you know what? All of this is a good thing. Slightly unexpected and a little forced perhaps, but also, I get it. It is, after all, why I’m sharing my own thoughts around becoming more attuned and hopefully enlightened. Even just a bit less stress in life is a good enough reason for most.
That voice still shows up, especially if I miss a day (or three) of daily meditation, but it doesn’t usually stick around long. I have learned to treat it patiently like a four year old. Sometimes you need to sit with it and listen to it talk about the day it had, or spend time pretending to know what it has drawn for you while it explains the truly important parts of life and existence, but you know that the sense of serenity that follows its departure is worthy of the investment. In a world that just seems so fractured and chaotic that you often can’t see straight, when you come out the other side with more clarity, calm and self love, you know that you are on the right track.