I took up meditation a couple of years ago. I like to think it makes me spiritual and healthy. Because of this, I recommended it recently to a friend who is mental. (She will not object to this description.)
Anyway, she went off and tried it for a week, promising to let me know how she was getting on.
“NO!” she yelled on skype last night. “NO NO NO! I CANNOT MEDITATE! I WON’T!” Then she paused and peered at me through her computer. “What are you doing, Robinson?”
I was doing something that I don’t like to be caught doing, which is eating a microwave meal. When she started calling me I had tried to move it out of the view of Skype but now it looked like I was spooning food out of my crotch.
“Eatingamicrowavemeal,” I muttered offhandedly. “Now, what do you mean you can’t meditate?”
For a second she smirked, evidently tickled that this irritating gobshite who had taken up organic food and meditation when she hit thirty (me) had been caught eating filth. But the smirk was fleeting. There was pain to be discussed.
“I TRIED TO MEDITATE AND IT MADE ME EVEN MORE MENTAL,” she wailed. “I KNOW I’M A BIT MENTAL NORMALLY BUT NOT THISSSSS BAD!”
Perhaps realising the irony of what was unfolding, she paused and stopped screeching.
“Um, yes, I am not doing so well at meditation,” she said more calmly. “I get all these thoughts whirring through my head. I get about two seconds of peace and then it explodes.”
I nodded wisely, spooning some sweet and sour beef out of my crotch. “Perfectly normal,” I said. “In fact, your head’s like that all the time, it’s just you’re not normally paying so much attention to it.”
“No!” she protested. “It’s meditation’s fault!”
“It’s normal,” I repeated firmly. I am the zen master, she is the junior monk or something. “But it calms down after a while. You have to keep practising.”
“Balls!” She said. “That mental traffic isn’t going to just disappear It’s like MUMBAI in there when I try to relax!”
This morning, when I sat down for my own twenty minutes of zen, I thought I’d write a note of the thoughts that came into my head so I could show her that, over time, it does get better. My left hand remained limp in my lap, my right gently clutched a pencil so I could doodle. Should any thoughts come up.
Should any thoughts come up. Christ alive. Should any thoughts come up?
Here’s what came up.
I must start breathing more deeply. My breath is still really shallow.
Maybe that’s why I keep getting light-headed when I stand up?
But maybe I’m getting anaemic? Actually, I KNOW I’m anaemic. It’s just OBVIOUS, I’ve been thinking it for months. Shit, what do I do about that? Maybe for today I should eat steak, until I’ve seen someone about it? Oh my god, and I could cook it the way Heston showed me to do it on that programme! STEAK! FOR LUNCH! THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!
But I had beef last night. Doesn’t too much red meat make you die of something?
But I think it’s an obesity-related thing that you die of, with red meat. And I’m not obese. Although I’m sure my chin is less pointy than it was. As soon as I finish this meditation I’m going to check. My chin never lies. Oh testicles. Maybe I shouldn’t have that steak.
BUT I MIGHT DIE OF ANAEMIA.
I should get that weird patch of skin checked out too. I know I’m weird but I just feel sure that I’m going to die of something soon.
Let’s face it. I’m definitely going to die early. I know I am. I can’t imagine getting old, so I must be meant to die young. I always said when I was younger that I wasn’t meant to have a long life. I’m going to die. Early.
Would The Man fall in love with someone else if I died? I wonder how long he’d leave before he, say, kissed her?
I think he’d leave about a year. Then he’d probably leave it another month or maybe even longer before they had sex, because he just wouldn’t be able to do it with someone else.
Although actually that’s really hurtful. How did he get over me so quickly? A YEAR? Is that all I meant to him? And she’s thinner than me! Look at her, sitting at my f*cking kitchen table! She’s thin! She’s properly thin and she has a handbag collection! I HATE HER! AND HIM! WHAT A TRAITOR!
Oh, bugger. I’m meant to be meditating. Ok, breathe in through the nose. Feel it on the back of my throat. Cold. Going out again. Warm.
Ha ha. Stefania says that in my novel. I wish I could meet Stefania. She’s got to be one of the best characters I’ll ever write. Who’ll play her if they make a film of my book? I reckon Emily Blunt, even though she’s not Eastern European. She’s so lush. We could be friends. I could go and watch them rehearsing and she’d be like ‘Hey, Robinson!’ and maybe she’d kiss me on the cheek and then the girl playing Fran would be jealous because me and Emily Blunt are really good friends. I must get some better shoes before I-
Oh. This is a fantasy. Let’s count the breaths instead.
I need to scratch my ear. In fact I think I need to stick an earbud in my ear. I really want to have that ear candling thing too. I might do that as my treat to myself tomorrow. Is it ok to stick an earbud in your ear while you’re meditating?
But I’m writing notes! Why is ear scratching any different?
YOU SHOULDN’T BE WRITING NOTES. THIS IS NOT ZEN BEHAVIOUR!
But I have to! I have to show my friend how much easier it gets!
YOU DON’T! YOU JUST HAVE TO SHUT UP AND START BREATHING! CHILL OUT, MAN!
BUT I DON’T WANT TO BLOODY WELL CHILL OUT! I WANT TO HELP MY FRIEND!
Let’s just try breathing again.
Ok, that’s better.
This is just a bad meditation day. Normally I’m loads better.
That steak. Lunch or dinner? I’d kind of planned on greek salad for lunch, so steak for dinner would be ok.
No, stop it. Think of a zen place. How about that beach hut you and The Man stayed in in Mexico.
Arrghhh, those awful cockroaches. They were so disgusting. Climbing out of the f*cking TAP. Which I’d used to clean my face . . . Oh God! And that couple, the teenage Mexicans who’d rented out the hut next to us so that they could have sex. Oh my god, the screaming. It was awful. Does she think that’s how people have SEX? Poor silly girl.
Should I scream more during sex?
Actually should I scream at all during sex?
I don’t think I’m any good at sex. I bet everyone The Man’s ever slept with is better at sex than me. I mean, has he ever said ‘this is the best sex I’ve EVER had?’
Maybe. I can’t remember. I don’t think so though.
I’m rubbish at sex.
I’m really, really awful about sex. I think I should read a book and learn some stuff.
NO! I’m ok just as I am! Perfectly imperfect! I don’t have to be the best at anything! I just have to be me!
Bullsh*t. Being bad at sex is not ok.
But I hate meditation.
I really want to go and live in New York. In New York men always seem to fancy me whereas here I might as well be invisible. Oh, but I’m not looking for a man any more. But The Man’s going to shag someone else a year after I die! A YEAR!
***LOUD ALARM SOUNDS FROM KITCHEN***
I realised that I was actually shouting Noooo, rather than just thinking it. I was shouting at the top of my lungs.
I tore to the kitchen where the remains of my porridge were smouldering in a now-destroyed pan and the smoke detector was shrieking.
I let rip with a stream of expletives and threw the pain in the sink, and then the porridge bag too, just for good measure. It’s minging porridge anyway. Rice and buckwheat porridge? What kind of sadist thought that up? What kind of masochist would buy it?
I stormed out of the kitchen, stubbing my toe on the kitchen table as I went.
I swore again.
It had been a zen experience, for sure. I could confidently tell my friend, now, that it got easier as time wore on.