One of my earliest memories is being held in my father’s arms as a Thai monk tied a small piece of blessed gold thread around my wrist. We were at a local monastery that my family visited occasionally during my youth. “She will be protected until the string comes off, but you mustn’t cut it. It must fall off naturally.”
Without their natural born Judaism (or any organized religion) playing a major role in either of my parents’ lives, they both sought alternative means of spiritual fulfillment. Thankfully, Los Angeles in the nineties offered an abundance and diversity in just that, and as a result, the practice of meditation has been a part of my lifestyle and vernacular since I can remember—and largely ignored for just as long. Through the years, my parents went in and out of regular self-practice and attended different meditation groups, and I went with them, bringing a backpack full of supplies to keep me busy: a journal, books, homework, and a portable CD player with Pure Disco 2&3 (I don’t think I ever did get 1) and The Wedding Singer soundtrack. While my parents got centered in someone’s Laguna Beach living room, I listened to Culture Club, waiting for the sweet Thai treats and tea to be served at the end. I always enjoyed that part. When I was old enough to stay home alone, I can remember my dad channeling his inner 1970’s backpacking junkie by packing up his one-person tent and a sleeping bag, and loading both into the car, heading to Temecula for a weekend meditation retreat.
Having grown up in a home where meditation was accepted, understood, and practiced, it’s no surprise to me that I never took an interest in, or tried, meditation. Who wants to be into the same things as their parents? Lame. But, things are often cyclical and here I am experiencing two years of anxiety that I have never before felt as an adult. A couple of years ago, I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend, which was a big change and commitment for me. That’s when it all began. Shortly thereafter and in quick succession, I got into a car accident, it was discovered that our apartment building had bed bugs, and I found myself wildly miserable at my job. My circumstances got better, but I was never able to dig myself out from under the stress and anxiety caused by that four month period. In fact, the anxiety snowballed. Now, waves of fear, a fixation on seemingly silly things, and constant digestive woes are part of my day-to-day. I’m at a breaking point, tired of feeling crummy, and I’m looking for solutions and tools to control these feelings. And, my childhood reluctance to admit my parents were ever right about anything is waning. OK, I’ll say it: maybe they were right about meditation. I’m ready to join the other 18 million adults who practice meditation. I recently checked out Headspace and, even though I was completely open to it, I still harbored some skepticism. My mind moves roughly a mile a minute, and the thought of it standing still seemed far-fetched. I imagined two little crossing guards blocking thought traffic from passing––if only it was that easy.
I was nervous to try it, because when I’m not good at something, I rarely try it again. And given the 24/7 thought parade marching through my brain, I had a strong suspicion I wasn’t going to be very good at meditation. I hated sitting in silence with my parents’ meditation groups—why would it be any different now? I put in my headphones, afraid of the deafening silence that was about to ensue, and was completely surprised when Andy’s voice guided me through the entire ten minutes. He never left me, which kept me focused on his words and comforted that I wasn’t doing this alone. In fact, this practice allows you to (GASP!) have thoughts. It doesn’t punish the wandering mind, but rather gently nudges it back on track like a little kid who’s getting too close to the street while walking on the sidewalk. Turns out, I wasn’t that bad at it, which means I did it again, and again. I just started, and I already feel better, so I can’t begin to imagine how good I might feel in a few months. Even though it’s hard to admit your parents were right, sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re even cooler than you, and they have been for a long time. I’ll try not to take it too hard when they read this and say, “I told you so.”