Posted on | August 17, 2010 | No Comments
I’m uncharacteristically late so I don’t have the chance to change into my pajamapants as I had planned. As a result I stow them on the coat rack and move into the meditation room wearing tight jeans which are likely to give my balls razor burn if I sit in lotus position too long.
I take a seat cross-legged on a meditation cushion, “Native American” style in front of a room of strangers, contemplating how uncomfortable it is going to be meditating in jeans. I tell myself to concentrate on my breath, not the fabric vise slowly tightening around my balls.
The leader of this class has us introduce ourselves and explain why we joined the class. His name is Chris and he appears to my tired eyes as an acidhead hipster in an eccentric blazer. I can smell weed and I assume that he partook before class. This may be stereotyping, as he is obviously a Buddhist and most followers of the fat man I’ve met like their weed.
The man next to me needs two cushions due to the size of his ass. He reminds me of a black Andre the Giant. He has coke bottle thick glasses and a lazy smile that makes me think he might also be stoned. I want to ask him, “Does anyone have a peanut?” I wonder if he would tell me to “stop it I mean it”. I refrain in fear that he might body slam me and I lack the fighting abilities of Hulk Hogan that would be necessary to fight back.
On the other side of me is a twitchy anorexic boy man with a mullet possessing a shaky nervous energy that reminds me of Mario when he gets a gold starHe looks familiar but I can’t place him.
“My name is Whogivesafuck and I want to learn about meditation,” answers Black Andre the Giant. “I always wanted to learn and I just watched Kill Bill so I’m interested in the orient. You know.”
People laugh in that supportive “I-wasn’t-quite-listening-fashion” that people get when they are in social circumstances with strangers and want to seem likeable. Nobody feels comfortable enough to tell him that his answer was uninteresting and not worth listening to.
“I really want to meet chill people,” says the girl a few cushions away.
I have tuned out most of the names and their respective answers. I note that she is cute and promptly eliminate her response from my memory. It continues like this for a while as it goes around the circle and old and young, men, women and boys tell the stories of what brought them here.
Then the Mullet Man speaks and everything changes.
“I think I’m going fucking crazy,” says Mullet Man. He is quiet yet his pitch sounds like he is about to start screaming. His whole body shakes with nervous energy like a time bomb waiting to explode. I know I have met him before. The voice is too familiar.
“It’s been weeks since I have had a moment of peace,” he says. “No matter what I’m doing I’m thinking about the same shit. Hating myself. The people at the mental health clinic said I should learn to meditate. Said it would help me control my impulses. They said that nobody would be able to see me for a while. A long while. Least six months. Hard to get an appointment without a street address.”
I gave him change a couple days earlier to buy a meal. He’d been dumpster diving for the whole week, eating the remains of meals that we left on our plate. I bought him a meal so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for walking by every other day of the week and giving him little to not thought in the seconds after I left him alone to eat his meal anxious to leave his company.
“I know I gotta do something about this. I got a son on the way,” he says.
I can suddenly read minds. Everyone in the room has just said, “oh fuck” in exactly the same tone.
“ Only I can’t think about nothing,” says Mullet Man. “When I do it all just floods into me and I’m overwhelmed. It’s like I don’t have any defenses. I’m just so scared. I’m worried about what my thoughts are doing to me. I’ve been having hallucinations. I feel like I’m going to do something terrible unless I can do something about this. I can’t stop thinking. Can you teach me how to stop thinking like this?”
The energy in the room has changed from casual acceptance to forced politeness. There is a long silence while people steady themselves on their cushions and fight the impulse to make towards the exit. Mullet Man is running on nuclear powered panic and its contagious.
I’m both moved and a little scared of the Mullet Man. His trembling hand and bugged out eyes are picture perfect cartoon crazy. His sadness verges on funny because tragic characters rarely have mullets.
“Thank you very much for sharing,” says Chris. Apparently sharing time is over, so I don’t get to make up some answer to get laughs from this audience of strangers. “The goal of meditation is to bring you into a better relationship with your mind. Meditating isn’t thinking nothing at all, but the act of mediating your thoughts as they emerge. It’s the practice of bringing yourself back to the moment.”
“How do you do that?” asks the Mullet Man.
“The world of our thoughts can often bring us pain and suffering,” says Chris, ignoring the interruption. “It keeps us from sensing the immense world around us. After a lot of training, you can train your brain to change the way it thinks. By accepting your thoughts and moving past them. By noting this is a thought. You can escape the pain that is caused by your reactions. The ability to meditate doesn’t happen in a day. Like getting muscles, ” he says pointing to his hipster baby arms.
Mullet Man isn’t done by a long shot.
“What if I can’t?” asks Mullet Man. “What then?”
“We can talk after class,” says Chris. “For now let’s see if we can give it a try. I’m here if you need anything.”
“When I try to think about nothing I get images in my head,” he says. “Terrible things.”
“Just give it a try. If it gets too bad you can stop,” says Chris, looking much less Zen as if his buzz had suddenly worn off.
The class is taught at our local Shambhala Center. I only mention this because in this tradition you meditate with your eyes open. There is no manipulation of your breath. You focus some random spot on the floor and just concentrate on the path your breath takes in and out of your nostrils.
Mullet Man twitches off to the side. I wonder what the empty space feels like to him. For me the moments when I escape my thoughts is an amazing high. I’m as light as the helium gas in my birthday balloons as I slowly let them escape my child hands. My body suspended in my dad’s arms, comforted in the knowledge that to him I weigh nothing at all.
Black Andre the Giant adjust his glasses on his bulbous nose and tries to sit up straight and gives me a glimpse into his ample sweaty cleavage.
Why aren’t male breasts attractive, I ponder?
For meditation your posture is important, as an upright back makes it much easier to sense your breath as it enters and leaves your body. As a result my back hurts and this adds to my focus.
Watching the floor my brain begins to play tricks on me. I later learn from Chris this happens a lot. The sensation is similar to being on mushrooms. Random patterns begin to appear in the hardwood floor. No messages from the devil. Just scratches rearranging themselves into some sort of order.
Mullet Man is making strange sounds. Like something is punching him in the brain. According to Buddhist thought our natural state is a peaceful one where we are naturally content. That by silencing our thoughts we find ourselves.
“I don’t want to,” he mumbles. “I don’t want to.”
What if it isn’t like that for him? What if after awhile that feeling of falling becomes your floor? In my life there are a hundred voices that argue with my own twisted doubts. A beautiful girl who tells me I deserve to be loved. Parents that would do anything for me. A sister and a brother who will answer my phone calls at any time of the day or night. Paid for professional help that will teach me the skills I need to talk back to my own fears. Friends who were there through thick and thin. What if all I had were people trying not to look at me as they dropped change into my coffee cup? What if my childhood hadn’t been birthday parties, dance-athons and midget Inigo Montoya threatening strangers with his plastic sword?
What does he think about it when he remembers his family? What will his son think about when he remembers his father? I understand why no one wants to help him. He isn’t good looking. His insanity lacks the charm to be romantic or heroic. He is hard to look at or listen to. Yet I wonder what his son will be like. If he will get to laugh when he let go of balloons at his birthday party and if he’ll ever feel like he weighed nothing in his father’s arms. If the Mullet Man has a name and used to get better haircuts.
He frantically breathes in and out, going for deep and regular and landing on frantic quick inhalations.
I wish I wasn’t sitting next to him. The problem with the stigma attached to mental illness is by and large we all have a somewhat logical fear of crazy people. No one wants to have a ticking time bomb sitting next to them. There is a general sense that people suffering mental illness are a danger to other people and this can be true. For the most part they are just a danger to themselves.
I hope he isn’t thinking of nothing. I can see the torture on his face, wracked by an anguish caused by events that have nothing to do with me.
I try to mind meld with the instructor. Ring your stupid fucking bell and end this madness. Time goes slowly, as I stare at the floor and let my thoughts go. I make peace with whatever will come next. I’m ok whether Mullet Man kills me or the bell rings and I get to eat cookies and listen to a discussion of Buddhism afterwards.
Sweat pours down his back.
Ring the fucking bell you piece of shit hippy. I will burn the rainforests. Fuck every single wood elf in the ass till it dies! I will make a corporation that sells the ying yang sign and protest at every single musical festival that comes to Halifax until they never come back. Ring the fucking bell!
“God….oh god,” cries out Mullet Man.
Tears slips down his cheeks. He runs his hair through his mullet, his fingers getting stuck in random patches of hair.
The bell rings.
I stand up, untuck my balls and stand up.
The Mullet Man is struggling to breath.
Being a person who likes to imagine himself as good I wrack my brain for something real to say to him. Some sort of apology that my life is so different from his. Some way of acknowledging that I know I’m lucky. That I’m sorry he isn’t. That I wish there was something I could do for him. For his kid.
I open my mouth and don’t say anything.
There is nothing I can say that will make any difference.
We’re both crazy. The difference is that I was born lucky and he wasn’t. My Colony will save me and the system lets him beg on the street.
“I hear they are serving cookies at the talk,” I say. “Hope they have chocolate chip.”
He stares at me for a second.
Welcome to the Colony of Losers, a world of quarter life crises, anxiety, depression and the friends and the failures on the way to finding your future. This is the story of Michael Kimber’s panicked fall into adulthood.If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
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