Julia Roberts Ruined Meditation.

I bought some mala beads a little while ago on Amazon. Where else? I am too anxious to shop for such a product in person; God forbid someone ask me about what I’m looking for. But anyway, I shopped in my PJs, received them the other day, and I really love them.

The beads are beautiful white gemstone marbled with grey streaks called white howlite (fun fact: that trendy turquoise stone necklace you got on the cheap? It’s probably howlite that’s been dyed blue.) It has lovely silvery marker beads and a clean white tassel. I chose it out of all of the colour options because I thought they were like, really pretty.

I like to drape them nonchalantly on the decorative elephant in my office.

After I bought the necklace, I decided I should look into what the metaphysical healing qualities of this stone are (even though, to be honest, I don’t buy into that stuff). Naturally, I planned to hand-pick those attributes that best align with my situation, thus justifying and crediting some value to my purchase. Kind of the way a fortune teller does it.

Oddly enough, all of the websites I looked at classified it in the same way: howlite is used to reduce anxiety and tension, and to help bring mental awareness.

Well. I guess I chose the right stone! Although, I suspect that many other stones are claimed to have similar qualities. But let’s pretend for a moment that howlite is the only one that does, so I can pretend it facilitates my spiritual journey and the beads were worth the money.

To be perfectly honest, though, the reason I bought my mala beads was because I am struggling with meditation. I do believe in meditation, and I think it can help me if I can learn to do it.

But the truth is, it really intimidates me. It sounds lovely and relaxing and enlightening, but when it comes down to it, I’d really prefer to re-watch Party of Five and have snacks.

I tell myself again and again that I can find 5 minutes to meditate. Especially since I have so much time on my hands right now. I plan on doing it every day, but inevitably end up half-assing it as I lay in bed at night, and end up just falling asleep.

When I do meditate, I sit there thinking about the movie/book Eat Pray Love. Remember that scene when Julia Roberts is trying to meditate, but all she can think about is decorating her meditation room back home? I think about that scene, then about my own meditation room. Then I think about how ridiculous it is that I’m thinking about a movie scene and projecting myself into it. Do I even want or need a meditation room? I start to think about pretty the meditation zafus that Chapters was selling last year – they were like $75, though. I wonder what I could find online? Oh jeez here I go again, thinking I’m meditationy enough to spend money on a pillow, let alone meditation room. Well if Julia Roberts can, then I can too!

I have not been able to work up to more than a couple of minutes of meditation, all because of Julia Roberts.

Desperate to find something helpful tips, I started reading up on the subject on Pinterest, as we do, and noticed a trend: mala beads. I had no idea what they were. I thought they had something to do with yoga. I dunno, maybe they’re something hippies make while they’re on acid trips.

But reading into it, mala beads are actually a legitimate meditation tool that I thought could help me. They are not only used to help you count the times you repeat your mantra, but the also are used as a physical, tangible meditation guide.

I need a guide.

And not the type who tells me via YouTube to imagine that my body is a melting ice cube.

You can use mala beads to count as you recite your mantra (you repeat it 108 times – once per bead) by moving through the beads one by one. But more simply, and perhaps more importantly, they act as an uncomplicated reminder of what it is you are doing: Meditating.

Some of us are able to “gently return our attention back to our breath,” but I am not really one of them. I start to think too much about how my breath feels and whether it feels too cold in my sinus cavity or other irritating feelings. Trust me to find something wrong with anything.

But my mala beads? They are smooth, cool, and hard. There is a gentle weight to them. There isn’t much more to the sensory experience I have when I hold them. They are just there. And I am able to gently usher my mind back to them quite easily.

So I just hold them. I might try reciting a mantra, since that’s actually pretty easy for me (“money……money…..money….”), but I have come to appreciate them for the simple object they are. I just hold them, think about what they’re meant for (in addition to the fact that they’re said to help calm anxiety), and I can just be.

I totally recommend trying some.

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Downward Dog.

I am really good at clicking and adding to cart when it comes to stuff like gym passes, manicure appointments, massages, and other personal appointments like that. In contrast, I am not good at calling the place afterward, making appointments if I can’t do it online or by email, or – God fucking forbid – showing up for the first time alone.

It’s too much. My mind is flooded with so many what ifs. What if the place doesn’t exist when I call? What if they refuse to honour my purchase? What if they’re completely booked? What if they never answer? What if I know the person who answers and it’s a humiliating appointment? What if they laugh at me? What if it’s ridiculous that I think I can get an appointment any time soon?

I can’t even tell you why I feel all of these feelings. Like honestly, “what if they don’t answer?” doesn’t even really evoke any truly horrible result. I know this. If they don’t answer, then….. well, nothing. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous and I know it. I guess that’s the reason why anxiety is such a fucked up syndrome. Anxiety isΒ irrational.

Last week, I asked Boyfriend if he thought it was okay for me to spend money on a yoga pass. He said yes. (Note: I do not normally ask permission to spend my own money, but since he’s footing all of the bills while I am on leave, I figured it’s fair that we discuss me spending money on non-essentials).

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TBT that time I did yoga in a vineyard. So fetch.

I chose this particular location because it is a 5 minute walk from my house, or a 30-second drive. Let’s be honest. I ain’t walking down the street holding a yoga mat; people will judge me and I will combust.

The next day, I prepared for my first class. It was an easy class, evening time, had the word “candlelight” in it. I looked forward to getting my shavasana on. I’ve been dealing with a back injury for months, so a power class would be out of the question anyway, but since I haven’t done yoga in several months, I felt that this would be the perfect re-entry.

I chose my outfit carefully: all black and grey. I do not like to stand out in a class, especially since my ass isn’t what it used to be. I felt that I looked sufficiently blend-in-able. I gathered my mat, a bottle of water, and my keys. I was physically ready to go. Class was starting in 15 minutes.

That’s when my Ego kicked in and began to remind me of every little thing that could possibly go wrong. My Self and my Ego had a really nice conversation. Just the two of us.

Ego: This is a bad idea. Stay home.

Self: What? Why?! You have literally no basis for this.

E: Are you kidding me?! So many things could go wrong, and you are going to be humiliated. It’s probably canceled! You’ll be the only one there and they’ll look at you like you’re an idiot and tell you to go home.

S: Nope nope nope. I signed up 5 minutes ago! If it was canceled, it wouldn’t have been available on the app.

E: Can’t you see?! This is the first time you’ve ever gone to a class like this alone – you always have a friend with you. You can’t do this alone. You need someone to hold your hand. It’s not safe.

S: I trust myself. Having a friend with me doesn’t change the class.

E: Well, you’ve probably gotten the time wrong so you’re either going to get there and no one will be there, or the class will be half finished, loser! They will all snicker at you and exchange glances and you’ll have wasted $55 because you can never return.

S: *Rolls Eyes* I’ve checked the time three times, and the date too – because I know where you’re going with this.

E: It’s going to be one of those classes where everyone is folded into a pretzel and you’ll be the only one wincing during downward dog. They don’t know you have back problems – it’s not like you can tell them you’re injured! They are all going to think you’re so lame.

S: Ummm yoga is not about how good you are. It’s about honouring and respecting your body, and above all, compassion. Shut the fuck up already.

E: You’re going to get lost on the way and it’ll be too late to go.

S: It’s literally behind my house. I can see the building from here.

E: Well something will go wrong. You’re taking a pretty big gamble by going. This is a terrible idea.

S: No. It’s just a yoga class. I’ve been to 100s of yoga classes. This is a normal thing that normal people do.

E: Well, you’re not normal.

My Ego didn’t stop talking, but I stopped responding. Instead, I walked out the door and I got in my car. My mind was still going 100 miles an hour, but the only way I was going to make it out that door was if I put one foot in front of the other and went. So that’s what I did. I went through the motions, and let my Self simply observe the crazy. And before I knew it, I was in the parking lot right in front of the entryway.

That’s when an actual problem presented itself. My stomach tied itself in to a knot and a cold sensation ran through my body. I felt like my insides dropped out from under me.

The door was dark, the lights inside were off, and there was a “closed” sign displayed.

It was less than ten minutes to go-time; there was no way the studio would be closed at this point. Where had I gone wrong?! I grasped for my phone and checked the time and the date for the 5th time. It all checked out. I had the right address. The name of the studio was on the building. I felt panic beginning to rise.

Ego: Hahhahahahhahahah. I told you, idiot. I told you this would happen. Don’t you dare get out and try the door – it’s locked. And there are probably people watching you in the dark. They locked it because they don’t want you here. You’re not welcome. You’ll look like even more of a fool than you already are if you traipse over there with your mat, expecting to get in there. Turn around, and go home. We’re going to stuff our faces with candy and hide in bed. It’s safe and warm there, and nothing can hurt you. C’mon. You know I’m right. You never should have done this. Next time, listen to me. I know how to take care of you.

I put my car into reverse, and began to release the brake and clutch. I almost felt relieved – I wouldn’t have to face my fears. Luckily, the fear had materialized before I even got out of the car. I mean, thank fucking God right?

But I noticed something. A little sign where the studio hours were posted. It read “entrance in the back.”

I was in the front. This wasn’t the entrance. I smiled. My Ego was wrong. There was another door, and I was going to check it out.

I went to my yoga class, and just like my Self said, it was normal. Just like any other class I went to. Nothing funny happened. No one made fun of me, no one pointed at me, no one locked me out.

I’ve been back there 4-5 times since that first night. Every time, there is a slight boil-up of anxiety when I arrive there, and the parking lot is quiet, and I have to walk up to that door all alone. My Ego still whispers, what if it’s locked? But it never has been.

And even more importantly, I’ve been getting way more out of my yoga (despite my back) than I ever have before. I’ve been on a spiritual journey, and it’s really allowed me to tap into the spiritual side of yoga. Noticing without judgment. Being present. Observing my breath. Being compassionate with myself.

Every time I return to my house afterward, I feel so full of joy and hope. It far outweighs the uncomfortable feelings I encounter to get there.

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