MEDITATION CLASS TWO
The second time you do anything is the worst. It’s only the second time you’re doing a thing, and already it’s work. You don’t feel the magic of the excitement of the unknown. You’re not wide-eyed. You have expectations, and when have those ever done anything good for you?
I put off doing a blog for the second meditation class. It just kept not happening. I’m having to play catch-up already, given that I just got back from my third (quite enjoyable) class. And it’s not even like the second class or the evening itself went terribly. For dinner I went to a very cozy Chinese restaurant called The Panda Garden, and despite a glaring lack of both pandas and gardens I enjoyed my dining experience, more for the tidy cavelike atmosphere and excellent service than for the food, which was good but not the britches-cummingly scrumptious taste sensation I was hoping for, which is what I get I guess for trying something new rather than just getting the tried-and-true Pu-Pu Platter that I always get at any Chinese food place and unfailingly love. Wanting to branch out a little bit, I went with the Moo Shu Pork, and it was pretty tasty really, I don’t know why I’m feeling the need to downplay the meal so much. Apparently if I don’t get crunchy, fried bird lumps that can be easily dipped in duck sauce or nasal-passage-searing mustard, I somehow feel like I haven’t had a true Chinese food experience.
The wonton soup I ordered for an appetizer was rather disappointing. Maybe that’s why all the negativity here. It was chicken broth with a couple of forlorn, scrotal wontons bobbing around in the tiny ceramic bowl, their blanched, flavorless corpses a regretful affront to the very idea of the noble if somewhat antiquated soup course. Panda Garden is not alone in its failure to realize the full potential of this particular soup. I order it pretty often at different Chinese places, and what I’m usually brought generally gets the job done, but only just. There is a place in Portland (Maine, that is. I don’t know from the other Portland.) called the Oriental Table that serves a wonderful wonton soup, combining a bold broth with fresh wontons and some kind of interesting crispy thing that might be a vegetable of some sort sprinkled on top of it all. I have yet to encounter anything approaching its equal.
But the Moo Shoo Pork was quite good, although I don’t really know what was in it other than pork and noodles. And it came with tiny pancakes, which I ate like breakfast pancakes but in hindsight were probably supposed to be used like a tortilla to put the Moo Shoo in and thusly make little Chinese burritos, which is exciting because Mexican food and Chinese food don’t get to play together too often. That black stuff in the lower left was somewhat alarming. I put some on my finger and licked it. I don’t remember what it tasted like, but I recall that it made me upset. The waiter came by many times to refill my water and ensure that everything was to my satisfaction. He said, “You’re welcome” every time I said “thank you”, which really stuck out and made me realize that this isn’t something people say too often anymore, in my experience. Usually you get a “yup” or the ever heartfelt “no prob”. Those are certainly the phrases I opt for whenever I’m thanked. Saying “you’re welcome” almost feels too personal. The waiter’s extreme politeness improved the quality of the food, and I made sure to include actual money as part of my tip in addition to the customary expectorant-plumped napkin and drawing of a penis I typically leave as payment for a meal well served.
A young mother and her two mildly rambunctious but essentially well-behaved children were also dining in the restaurant while I was there, and I overheard her offhandedly tell the waiter that she and her current husband had their first date at The Panda Garden, a quick story that the waiter reacted to throughout with several very pleased “Oh!” sounds (probably not how you’re imagining it, you gross pig people. although that would have been a funny response to a mildly interesting anecdote…), and as they were leaving, the waiter mentioned to an older Chinese gentleman near the host stand, who I’m guessing was the owner, that the woman’s first date with her husband was at their restaurant, news which so delighted the older man that he pulled out a little basket of colorful toys of some sort and began rapturously giving them to the two kids, repeatedly declaring “One for you and one for you! One for you and one for you!” It about killed me, and I was thankful for the hot tea to blame tears on.
From there I went to the library, and spent a disspiriting fifteen minutes or so with Richard Roeper’s “Schlock Value”, one of those “this is why I think everything sucks” books that we all like so much because we’ve given up. The very sight of Richard Roeper makes me feel like I’ve lost an unimportant argument with my least favorite relative, or perhaps like an acquaintance that I thought at least kind of liked me has physically harmed me in some small but painful way, possibly via a Smurf bite. He exudes petty dissatisfaction, and has never made me want to either watch or avoid a film based on his take. Why did I pick up his book, then? Because I love books about movies more than either books or movies, and the “Mad” magazine-lookin’ cover caught my attention. And I like “this is why I think everything sucks” books, because I’ve given up. Or there’s hope for me yet, maybe, because even though he’s not wrong about Drew Barrymore and Chris Rock making terrible movies (with, respectively, “E.T.” and “Pootie Tang” being notable exceptions, although really neither of their contributions are all that essential to either film’s success) and while I’ve no reason to doubt his claims that Russell Crowe and Michael Moore are depressing people to have to encounter in real life, I just found no reward wallowing in the badness. And a blandly crappy mood was born. Thanks, Rich! As Roepers go, you’re a distant third behind Stanley and Helen.
So from there I went to class (after changing my clothes in my car, which was not in any way an improvement over my experience in the dressing room last time), and before we go any further I’d like to introduce a few characters. These are fellow classmates who stand out for one reason or another:
THE INTIMIDATING CHIROPRACTOR: A burly, moody-seeming back-cracker who has shown up faithfully to all three classes so far. He has done nothing to warrant my fear of him other than be large and frown a lot. Like myself, he finds the accepted meditation position physically unbearable, and evidently has taken up the practice of meditation while walking, something that interests me but not to the point where I dare ask him about it.
THE UNSETTLING PSYCHIATRIST: A floppy-haired fortysomething male with a penchant for shoehorning unrequested/upsetting information into conversations that clearly weren’t set in motion in the hopes of encouraging his participation. He always wears shorts to class, which you don’t expect of a psychiatrist somehow. Frequently makes mention of the unbearably depressing nature of his patients’ lives. Oh yeah, and instead of a blanket or pillow, he sits on a brick.
THE INTERCHANGEABLE OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN: There are three or four or perhaps seven or two of these in the class. They’re bright and early and ready and rarin’ to meditate. They like to talk before class, during class, and after class. They all say the teacher’s name a lot. Their spirit is inexplicably irritating, but they always have a smile and a hello for you, so in the long run fuck me and my bullshit.
THE UNASSUMING ACUPUNCTURIST: Not an overly dynamic presence, but notable in that she’s an acupuncturist. You don’t run into those every day, I suppose. On the heavyset side and prone to wearing mildly sarcastic tee-shirts.
THE INAPPROPRIATELY DRESSED HIGH SCHOOL GIRL: Pretty well says it all.
THE EMPTY NESTER, HER DAUGHTER, AND THEIR TALL SMILING FRIEND: I only call her The Empty Nester because that’s what she calls herself. The Empty Nester stands out from The Interchangeable Overly Enthusiastic Middle-Aged Women by being rail-thin and always looking like she’s just barely keeping it all together. I get a heavy several-packs-a-day vibe from her although my only evidence is that crazed questioning facial expression, so I could be wrong. Her daughter, on the other hand, is portly and relaxed. The Empty Nester and Her Daughter brought Their Tall Smiling Friend with them to the second class. She seems very nice.
That’s the cast thus far, though there are a good deal more who attend that simply smile and listen and don’t talk about themselves or display easily labelled quirks. I’ve been to three classes so far, and each time it seems like a completely different crowd. There’s always someone there who wasn’t there last time, or maybe people are getting frequent haircuts, I don’t know.
I arrive at the studio, and Teacher is milling around in the entryway, there to let people in as nobody involved with this building seems to know how to prevent the door from locking at 7 PM. With her is The Intimidating Chiropractor, who is regaling her with a story about some lackluster customer service he recently received at a printing company. It’s not the type of story that does its listener any good, and I feel bad for the Teacher that’s she trapped in it, but not bad enough to hang around in the cold entryway and try and likely fail to overtake The Intimidating Chiropractor’s anecdote with a better one of my own.
I make my way up the stairs to find The Unassuming Acupuncturist waiting by the shoe benches with an Interchangeable Middle-Aged Woman, who is making the Acupuncturist stand in front of her so she can read the funny things on the back of her shirt. It’s basically a list of problems that the tee-shirt wearer supposedly has, most of which are related to mental issues and stress but which also, somewhat alarmingly, includes diarrhea. ”Diarrhea?!” the Middle-Aged Woman repeats with loud incredulity, just as The Unsettling Psychiatrist arrives. ”Well, good evening to you, too,” says The Unsettling Psychiatrist.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember much else about the second class. Part of it is because it was a couple of weeks ago now, and my memory isn’t the best, but even trying to relay the experience with any clarity back to my wife immediately upon returning home had been a chore. We sat in a circle, the Teacher said some stuff, and we meditated. A yoga teacher sat in on the class, right next to me in fact, and she made it a point to work a lot of painful-looking stretches into her meditation, which negatively affected my concentration, to say the least. Yoga pants: they’re downright pornographic. Also I had a pretty bad cold, and everything was aching. It didn’t click like it did last week, and I spent the session snuffling and worrying that I was wasting money, which of course I was, given that I was spending my meditation class worrying about wasting money. It didn’t work out all that well. I left dismayed, wanting to turn my back on the whole thing.
This is the part where I usually give up, waaaaaaaay early in the process of whatever it is I’m trying to get into. I hit walls early, and I succumb to them. On the drive home, I was aware of my dissatisfaction, but I was also more aware of how I operate than usual. I would continue my home meditations and I would return to class the following week, putting as much stock in the discouraging, seemingly unproductive classes as in the invigorating, momentum-filled classes. Whatever it is, be with it.
Below are my journal entries, ending with the one I did during the second class:
Used white noise app on iPod. Thought then it might be cheating but remembered can’t really cheat – is that true? 1st used special meditation app but felt wrong. Took off glasses again, eyes open in baby room. Worked pretty good. Focussed on rug. Thought about Videoport & Dennis’ party, wanted to go. Able to achieve tingliness. Lorrie came in to get something & I stopped. 11 minutes. Felt weird w/her coming in though I should have been able to keep going. Not at that point with it yet. But this room will work fine. Undecided on white noise, maybe should just deal w/house noise.
Forgot about meditation & drank a few good gulps of not great but OK wine from Austria then Annie reminded me to meditate. No iPod this time, just me in the diaper room. Rug works well. Things got pretty tingly but how much was wine-caused? Will try not to meditate drunk much. Had “The Viking” and 2 R. Kelly songs stuck in my head. Thought about blog which is distracting – maybe even unhelpful. Still it “worked” tonight better than last night but again need to consider the Austrian wine factor. Disappointed that I forgot almost.
Tried to do it while pooping – nope. In diaper room again. Closed eyes this time. What was good about that was could see a little purple orb of light floating that I could focus on. Kept almost “getting it”. Kinks & Warren Zevon in head. Plow going by outside – comforting. Annie opening snack in kitchen – angering but I calmed it down quickly.
Tired & coming down with cold but this went pretty well. Songs in head as usual, thought about high school friends. Light was annoying in room – can you meditate in darkness? Why not? Seemed close to some kind of unplaceable breakthrough but lost it or maybe just stopped. Legs/back get uncomfortable. Prob need to get in shape – sad that even sitting is hard. Anyway pretty good session.
Stuffy nose sucks dick but still zoned out pretty good. Eyes open – I like it better. Focussed on big baby face on Pampers box and it worked well. Might need to figure out what to sit on. Rug hurts.
OW! Back! Pretty zoned out though. Kept wanting it to end – doesn’t seem good. Did feel whole self slowing down but almost in a submerged way, not really relaxed.
I thank you all kindly for sticking with me to the end of this post, and I will probably have one for the third class up within the next couple of days, given that I have to crap it out before it all falls out of my brain. Be well.