Last Wednesday, I went to meditation class. It’s about my 6th or 7th class now, and though I haven’t been showing up mildly soused, as I did on night 1, I’ve been meeting extraordinary people, who’ve been the main reason for my return each week.
I miss my New York posse of close friends — women who’ve known me since college and with whom I can unburden my worries, laugh at my foibles and celebrate my strengths. Our wine-fueled outings kept me sane. Newish in town here in Brookline, I’ve been on the prowl, scoping out potential — for new friendships that may never reach the depths of my old ones — but will nonetheless hold their own meaning.
My second time at meditation, I met a lovely young girl (Granny Alert! I am now, at 41, calling women under the age of 30 “young girls”…) named Sarah — coincidentally, the name of a former co-worker, who was adorable and dressed like a young Jackie O. And this Sarah — my potential new buddy — had a cute Emma Stone stone vibe.
We struck up a conversation, and just as I was imagining our future life together, dissecting the pros and cons of Vipassana versus Zen meditation while nursing shots of Don Julio, she told me that she was moving to Austin, Texas in a few days to join the man she had asked to marry.
Masking my disappointment — “Hey, that’s greeeaat!” — we said our goodbyes. I returned the following week and sat next to a seasoned science journalist, a lovely woman with whom I exchanged Cliff Notes on our mutual love for writing, and our experience of meditation.
Truthfully, I find meditating excruciating. Sitting on a cushion, following my breath, is more mentally challenging that convincing the boychild to let me clip his toenails. I’m constantly fidgeting, annoyed with myself for thinking the ridiculous thoughts that crop up (just why do I need to be contemplating Jennifer Aniston’s relationship with Justin Theroux?), fighting the urge to fall asleep or surprised by the intensity of emotions that arise.
Several weeks ago, I was flooded with a wash of such intense rage, I had to forcefully stop myself from letting out a giant primal scream. Which, on reflection, would have been a great way to attract new friends. With men in white coats.
But after last night’s session, I finally started to understand what meditation can give me. Not friendship with others, but friendship with myself.
There’s a lot of self-flagellation that comes with being a mum (at least for me). The voices say things like:
“You’re not Betty Crocker enough!”
“You’re too Betty Draper!”
“Why isn’t your career more thriving?”
“Why can’t you just be with your kids more, instead of managing them so much?”
It can be downright exhausting, and really, a reflection of what goes on while sitting on the meditation cushion. But instead of yelling at these voices — “Stop!” — meditation harvests compassion for the barrage of inner judgement. With practice, the voice gently says, “I’m listening, sweetheart, but you’re talking too much. Let’s focus on the breath instead.”
In other words, let’s forget this nonsense, and live. Be present. Enjoy the moment.
I’ve met some lovely women in Brookline, and I’d still love to find my dream buddy — with Emma Stone style, Christiane Amanpour smarts and Kristen Wiig humor — to share weekly glasses of wine, giant plates of fries and trade stories from the trenches.
But for now, I’ll settle for me.