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Erick Hagen

Author Erick standing in front of the dryers at the laundry mat wondering if his socks will all match up.

Meditation on Meditation

October 27, 2021

What I need is to find a good cult. I can’t remember the last time I had my brain washed. Frankly, it’s starting to smell.

Gone are the days of the LSD fueled indoctrination by a charismatic sociopath. Or even a well intentioned Methodist preacher, driven crazy by power, ego, and pills, who just so coincidentally is standing at the counter serving punch and revolutionary suicide.

Cults today seem based more on aliens and spaceships. I probably couldn’t join even if I wanted to. I don’t understand how any of that technological stuff works. If only I wasn’t so clueless.

One is responsible for their own brainwashing. I can’t depend on the kindness of strangers (or sociopaths) to show me the way. So my goal of late has just been trying to slow down the hamster wheel that is my racing mind.

My go-to for this has always been meditation. Not because I’ve had any success with it. I haven’t. Therefore, something that hard must be really good for you.

Meditation, for me, has been like my many (more like once or twice) attempts at reading classic Russian literature. I’ll open a book, realize I can’t pronounce any of the names. And immediately place the book back on the shelf, walking away slowly so as not to draw attention. Until I can learn how to pronounce Raskolnikov, it’s going to be all jughead comic books for me.

What I needed to do was to learn how to meditate properly. Not that the way I was doing it was wrong. We all know the basics, you find a quiet place, sit there for about 5 minutes, and wake up 45 minutes later, confused and late for whatever it is you might be late for.

In order for me to explore the unknown I needed to explore the unknown.

In my mind, meditation has always been synonymous with Buddhism. I know very little about Buddhism. They have that statue, and Kerouac wrote that book. But other than that, I’m at ground level.

I found this place online. I don’t want to share the name, on account I might talk shit about it later. But it was in Minneapolis, on Park Ave, by the Diamond Way Buddhist center.

I got there a little late and found a place on the floor. The room reminded me of a yoga studio but smaller. They had pine wood floors and eggshell painted white walls. Pictures of Tibetan men wearing red robes were placed here and there on the walls. Some of the men were skinny and some of them were wider. Some were smiling and some were not. But the one commonality was that they were all bald. It was as if I was looking at a collection of “before” pictures on a Hair Club for Men advertisement geared towards Asian men.

I grabbed a zabuton (mat) and a zafu (small bean bag chair, probably full of variants) and found a spot next to one of the many young urban professionals that seemed to make up the majority of the class. The kind of people that get pissed when you park your 2001 Honda Civic in a spot reserved for electric cars. We can’t all afford to drive Teslas. And I like to remind people of that.

After settling my cynical ass into position, and checking the address on my phone one more time to make sure I wasn’t in a Whole Foods, I began listening to the instructor.

The directions were simple enough.

Breathe in through your nose, hold for about 8 seconds, and release it through your mouth. Keeping your mind centered, free from any distractions.

I began, taking my first deep breath in, feeling my stomach rise slightly, holding, holding, holding, finally exhaling.

My mind is sharply focused on my breath. Nothing can or will distract me. I am determined to achieve a state of total serenity. Nothing will deter me from my mission. I don’t give a shit who my ex is seeing. Why should I? After all, it was my idea to have an open relationship. Who would’ve thought that was going to end up biting me in the ass. God I hate her. I don’t actually hate her. Well maybe I do. It’s funny how love and hate are so closely tied. They say hate is all fear based. But who are they? And how the hell does any of this have to do with what I’m doing?

Frustrated, I adjust my fart pillow, and closing my eyes, I take a deep breath in through my nose, holding for the allotted amount of time and exhale, feeling the warmth of my breath as it leaves my mouth. My body relaxes. I can feel my shoulders loosen up. The tension I came in with seems to be dissipating. It’s really not that hard. It’s kind of like running. When you first start you think there’s no way you could ever run a single mile without stopping. And the next thing you know, you’re up to 10 miles a day. Not everyday. That would be bad for the knees. Though those exercises I’ve been doing do seem to help. The only problem is you have to keep at them. I really need to get a better routine. I should get up early, eat breakfast, then without thinking, just do them. It’s hard though, I always end up getting distracted. I really need to work on my focus…

I snap back. I shake my head to clear the remaining thoughts and inhale deeply, focusing on my chest as it slowly rises with each breath and falls with each exhale.

I wonder how much Robert Mitchum drank on a daily basis?

I shake my head even harder this time and take a frustrating deep breath in…

Before I knew it an hour had passed and I had psychoanalyzed my entire life. I grab the mat and bean bag from the floor, and toss them in the corner of the room, walking out disappointedly.

I stop at the entryway and look at the pamphlets. They’re pretty generic overall. Who is Buddha and what does Buddha teach? Nothing in-depth to be discovered. Nothing more than a few sentences for each header.

I notice the guy next to me, he’s looking at the pamphlets with the same disgruntled look as I am.

“I don’t get it,” he says.

What don’t you get? I responded.

“Why are they all bald?”

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