Meditation Gone Wrong
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I thought I'd tell you all about a guided meditation I once tried that quickly became one of my favorites, and also a complete disaster.
I've been meditating on and off for a year now, through a variety of apps, podcasts, tarot readings and the occasional Quaker service here in DC. I faced some of the same challenges that I've faced with yoga while trying to cobble together a semi-regular meditative practice. There is tension in meditation, in the desire to remain relaxed, yet focused. The general impression of meditation is often a serious one - I know when I first considered it, I called to mind half-lit rooms hazy with incense, hours of silent contemplation, maybe developing some psychic powers as a reward for such diligence and focus. The practice felt appealing and intimidating in equal measure.
The first meditation podcast I tried out was called, fittingly, The Meditation Podcast. The hosts only release one guided meditation per month, each one is about 45 minutes, and they use "binaural hearing" (sustained tonal frequencies designed to slow the heart rate) for a fully immersive session. The first episode I listened to was called “Self Love” - I was told to visualize myself looking in a mirror that, throughout the 45 minutes, gradually began to glow with light. It was awesome. 5 stars.
I rarely laugh with God, and I came out of this meditation shaking with laughter.
The following week, I found another episode they had put out called "Finding My Truth." The episode was described thusly: "In today's meditation, we journey to our highest Being, our highest Self, to gain a deeper, divine perspective about our lives, our Truth, and our Purpose." And I thought, Sounds vague, but great. Truth and purpose? Sign me up. I changed into pajamas, settled into the old recliner in my apartment and pressed Play.
(The following is mainly paraphrased from memory, as the podcast hosts archive any episodes older than 6 months.)
"Feel yourself sinking into the chair. Feel your body sinking through the chair, into the earth. Imagine rooting yourself deep into the earth under your chair."
Rooted. Got it. I felt my body grow heavy, my eyelids closing. Good stuff.
"Now let your consciousness float out of your body, utterly weightless. Your body is still safely grounded in the earth."
"Your consciousness is a light, soaring, up, up..."
"Above and through the atmosphere..."
The atmosphere? Wait, we're HOW high?
"Soaring into space."
Space?? Back down on earth, in my grounded, rooted body, I felt my grounded, rooted face begin to frown in confusion. But the host encouraged me to pause up here in space, to take in the beauty of stars and planets as they swirled in and out of view. The human brain is incredibly adaptive, and after only a few deep breaths, I was suddenly super comfy up here, a disembodied consciousness gliding through, you know, outer space.
"Now, you see a door. Approach it, open it, and go inside." Sure enough, a door swirled into view. There's a scene in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where Scott floats toward his crush's apartment door, which materializes as a white door with a star-shaped window, floating in the middle of a starry sky. My brain offered this exact image, and this exact experience, minus Ramona Flowers.
And what was behind the Scott Pilgrim door? "Your guardian deity is here, and has been expecting you."
Hang on. My who?
"Your guardian deity stands before you, ready to teach you everything you need for your life's journey."
My who? For my what??
"Take a moment to greet your guardian deity, then sit and prepare to receive what they are here to teach you."
Again, I was a meditation novice. My brain heard "Surprise, you are sitting in front of an authority figure whose full focus is on your life goals" and went into overdrive compositing every bad job interview I've ever had into one moment. Suddenly I was not a beautiful disembodied beam of light -- I was 15, fidgeting in an Ann Taylor Loft blazer, watching the General Manager at Cracker Barrel frown over my resume, my mom waiting outside in the car. Except instead of the General Manager at Cracker Barrel, I was sweating in front of a beautiful being radiating Grace, every gesture exact, every expression a poem. This was a bad job application, and a surprise exam, AND a performance review, all rolled into one.
I was so busy manifesting these insecurities, I didn’t notice the podcast had gone quiet until the host spoke again, jolting me in surprise. "Now that your guardian deity has given you the wisdom you've come to receive..."
So not only had I arrived completely unprepared to receive any kind of wisdom from my guardian deity, but I was so busy reliving every time I've been unprepared for a self-evaluation of any kind, I completely missed the part of the meditation where I actually receive said wisdom. Mary, Martha, eat your heart out.
"... you rise, and thank them for the time they've taken to set you upon your life's path."
Unwilling to even try rewinding the podcast, reliving all that cosmic social anxiety just to ask my guardian angel to repeat that one more time about my life’s purpose, I rose, and thanked them for the time they'd taken to set me upon my life's path. In the space I almost heard laughter, and am now certain my guardian deity was chuckling, having somehow known I would pull something like this.
But the worst was yet to come.
"You've brought a gift for them, to thank them for their wisdom. Hold out your hands, and see the gift you hold for them."
I'm a good daughter of the Capitalist Machine, so I immediately pictured the robin-egg blue box from Tiffany & Co. Apparently in my mind, this image is the highest gift one could receive, the pinnacle of luxury and taste.
"Open up the gift, and present it to your guardian deity." So I opened up the box.
And without warning, my mind yelled, "INSIDE THE TIFFANY BOX IS THE HEART OF A BABY DEER." And pictured a bloody, still-beating heart of a baby deer. To offer my guardian deity.
Back down on earth, my grounded, rooted body froze in horror. WHY would I picture that?? WHO would want that??
I went into overdrive, picturing alternative gifts. What do you get for your guardian deity, the being who, ostensibly, has everything? Well here's what I came up with in those 8 seconds:
A dying star. Prayer. A child's smile. A single blade of grass. The concept of laughter. Red lipstick. Dark matter. A rosary. Teeth. A tennis bracelet. Baby's breath. An actual baby's breath. The sound of a curtain brushing the floor. Solar flares.
The thing in the Tiffany box transformed rapid-fire into each option, a roulette wheel of terrible gift ideas. In the end, bafflingly, I went with the tennis bracelet.
By that point my guardian deity was giving me this loving-yet-exasperated look, like they just caught me playing in a cardboard box on the edge of a cliff. But I sensed something like mild laughter, and the bracelet was suddenly gone from my hand, which I decided to take as acceptance. Then the podcast gently drew me back through the Scott Pilgrim door, and back down to earth; the interview was over.
I've tried a lot of different meditations since then - some creative visualizations like this, some more focused on breathing exercises, some that involve poetry or music. This was one of my favorites, because it taught me the most about visualization, presence and focus. Stillness in prayer isn’t necessarily about staying 100% focused for 45 minutes - when I lost my focus in this meditation, I didn’t slam back into my body on earth. I kept returning to the visualization, returning to that stillness, and the path continued onward. I still may not know my life’s purpose, but there was prayer, and there was communion with the Divine, and for me that's enough.
I mainly love thinking about this one though, because I rarely laugh with God, and I came out of this meditation shaking with laughter. I kept picturing my guardian deity politely waiting until I left the room before tossing my Tiffany tennis bracelet in the trash.
There are infinite ways to have a laugh with the Divine. Find yours with Fratres Dei.
October 30, 2019 | Denver, Colorado