4 Nov
Shark Cages, Guided Meditation, Chilean Miners and Me

The continuing saga of one girl’s plight with unemployment…(read vol I,  vol IIvol IIIvol IVvol V vol VIvol VIIvol. VIII vol IX and vol X)

Let me start by stating the obvious: Bureaucracy can suck it. I mean, back in March when I was first laid off the mighty EDD and powers that be told me (via several sheets of lobotomy inducing bureaucratic black and white paperwork) that my benefits would last one year. Until March 2011. Suddenly, mysteriously, I get another B&W letter that looks just exactly like this:

Those black Xs are BAD. Real bad. After some attempts to contact the EDD (if you want to spike your blood pressure, this is your game) they finally tell me I have to apply for an extension. Huh? Unless I truly have fallen down the rabbit hole at last, I’m pretty sure there’s a little ways to go until we’re in March 2011. Correct me if I’m wrong. To top it off, this week’s UTA job list (basically a list of jobs in the entertainment industry) was the best EVER. Under “Exec/Management Positions” there was… vast blank space…

“There really is something about unemployment, about being flung off the merry-go-round, that makes me want to say what the hell to all sorts of things. Which brings me to my recent experience facing one of my biggest, most gargantuan fears…”

Hit the Jump to continue reading Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. XI: Do What Scares You…

When things like this happen, I try and spin and contort and manhandle the situation around and find some positives. Not in an annoying Pollyanna way. I hope. Really it’s just to keep myself from letting my frustration out with a heavily pumped BB gun and a clock tower somewhere. Or, more realistically, some cheap cabernet and heavily pumped self pity in my apartment. For a while, I would think of the poor miners trapped in Chile. When things seemed bad (parking tickets, new Sallie Mae bill etc) I’d just tell myself, “At least I’m not stuck in a mine in Chile.” And it worked and I’d go about my day. But then the miners went and got rescued. And they looked pretty healthy and eerily calm when they emerged from the capsule. Jerks.

So, no longer able to use the miners as my Prozac, the ominous black Xs got me thinking about all the things I’ve experienced in the last few months that I never would have experienced if still safely tucked into my stable yet predictable job. First one being: getting to zoom around a racetrack in a Formula D car. That was awesome. And it happened the first week of unemployment, on a Tuesday morning, when I normally would have been drifting through a fluorescent air-conditioned nightmare in Century City as opposed to drifting at top speed around a sunny racetrack in Long Beach, holding on for dear life and thinking that even if we ended up in a fiery pyre what the hell I was having freaking FUN!

Since Formula D day, I’ve been asking Madman Mundt to find something equally scary for me to do. For free, obviously — unemployment is not the time to pay for sky diving over the Sahara or repelling off some majestic mountain somewhere. My number one desire is to be lowered in a cage far down into the ocean and watch man-eating great whites and hammerheads circle me, butting their noses (do they have noses? Whatever…) against the cage trying to eat me! That sounds too awesome for words, but I need a patron to sponsor this dream trip of mine. There really is something about unemployment, about being flung off the merry-go-round, that makes me want to constantly say “what the hell” to all sorts of things. Which brings me to my recent experience facing one of my biggest, most gargantuan fears: a three hour meditation class in Santa Monica led by a dude in lace bellbottoms who goes by the name Chaturanga. (he doesn’t really go by that name but I’ve changed it out of respect. His real fake name is much more ridiculous than Chaturanga).

I’ve been in California a long while now, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl and so I’ve always been super skeptical about all the yoga-meditiation-acai-wheatgrass-patchouli bullshit that goes on here. In my experience, the degree to which someone proclaims how spiritual and centered they are is directly proportional to the amount of cigarettes they smoke and to the heights their dick-headedness is able to reach. Eloquent, I know. Pass the Pulitzer, please!

So when a fella I barely know invited me to try this three-hour (THREE HOUR) meditation class he does, I balked. But… I’m in the “try anything” mode, so I swallowed my extreme skepticism and said “Why not!” I put on my velour tracksuit, opened my mind, and accepted this very scary invitation.

“We were speaking in tongue with a gusto that would make Joel Osteen proud. And not in a sexy, metaphorical way…”

The fella told me the class took place in a “non-denominational church” in Santa Monica. I bristled like a Halloween cat. Growing up Jewish in Texas, I heard the phrase “non-denominational church” a whole lot. It was usually coming out of the mouth of someone trying to sneakily convert me to a very denominational Christian way of being. But, I wanted to face my fears with an open mind, so I put down my armor, straightened my velour hoodie, and soldiered on.

It was a church all right, albeit one transformed by candles, burning sage and posters of trippy designs and rainbow flags. The rainbow flag made me feel at ease – open mindedness, there’s nothing scary about that! We sat on pillows. Chaturanga had on tight, lacy black bellbottoms with red fabric that peeked out of the flares when he walked. He wore a color coordinated red silk shirt, beaded necklaces, and a vest. His hair was shoulder length, pulled back and held together with even more beads. I confess the word “charlatan” popped into my head when I laid eyes on him and his ensemble. I spotted a drum and a didgeridoo.

We settled in and zoned out. Chaturanga explained what would happen over the next three hours. He soothingly uttered things like “breathe through your third eye” and “I will open the portal” and “root chakra.” A dude walked around with a thing of burning sage in one hand and a large eagle feather in the other. To say I’m not a fan of burning sage is a ginormous understatement.  When I lived in NYC I had to walk past a dude selling burning sage on the corner of 15th and Union Square every day on my way to work. I would silently curse the dude and his damn sage each time I passed through the clouds of awfulness he was subjecting me to. But as this stranger in Chaturanga’s employ used the big eagle feather to waft the sage at me, I made a decision to accept it and not curse him like I did the Union Square man. I liked it. I silently thanked him for enveloping me in the sage that would keep the evil spirits away. That’s a nice gesture, dude. I’ll take it.

We went through a series of bizarre meditation exercises: the laughing meditation: the jumping meditation; the gibberish meditation; and the breathe-through-your-navel meditation. These were all fine and actually pretty relaxing, despite the fact I was bouncing around and speaking in tongue next to a cute guy I had only known for about eight days. And not in a sexy, metaphorical way. We were really speaking in tongue with a gusto that I bet would make Joel Osteen proud. Eventually, I was getting into a zone and kinda enjoying it. All the while three dudes roamed around the darkened room playing the didgeridoo, a flute, and the little drum. It kinda sounded like that band Dead Can Dance. I dug it. But the real shit was about to hit the spiritual fan, my friends. The time had come to attempt breathing through our third eye.

Our dear Miss Simpson, attempting to breath through her third eye…

Chaturanga told us to focus on the spot between our eyes — the mystical third eye — and to imagine breathing through that spot. He said, “don’t try and cross your eyes to do it” which was very good advice. Anyway, after a few minutes focusing on this third eye thing, something happened. I felt that spot get kind of cool and I knew I wasn’t literally breathing out of my damn forehead but in a weird way I kind of was. That probably makes little sense and I’m not even gonna try and explain it further. Suddenly I had all sorts of writing breakthroughs (things I had been blocked about for weeks suddenly made sense and clicked, it was awesome) and I just felt ridiculously positive. I fought the urge to dart across the room to my purse and jot things down because this meditation thing was getting too good. And then… it got better.

You know in voodoo ritual stuff how people’s eyes can get all crazy and roll around in their heads like they’re possessed? Well. All the sudden my eyeballs started fluttering around uncontrollably, and I couldn’t open or close my eyes all the way — they were stuck in some half-opened state. I could just make out that the drummer dude was playing his drum right in front of my face and I wondered if he could see what I felt — were my eyeballs indeed spastically dancing around in my skull? That meditation ended (thank the lord) and it was time for Chaturanga to “open the portal.” I was ready.

Without getting into too much detail, the portal thing was some crazy shit! The eye fluttering happened to me again, only this time I was standing in the center of the room with three other people. Our eyes were closed and the musicians walked around playing and Chaturanga walked around to each person making weird “swishing” sounds and pulling bad things out of us… I guess. I was too busy experiencing my ecstatic eyeballs to really care what the hell Chaturanga was doing to me. It got so out of control and scary intense I almost bolted out of the room but it was also amazing and weird and just too odd NOT to experience, so I stood still and let my eyeballs do their thing.

After the class, we all sat in a circle because Chaturanga wanted to get to know us. He was really down to earth and cool for a dude wearing lace bellbottoms. I liked him. He didn’t try and sell us anything or babble on about jesus or some sort of god we should get to know. He said he was happy to have tea (of course it was tea) with anyone who wanted to talk about their experience or ask questions. I’ve been thinking of hitting him up to ask about my eyeballs.

I made it out alive. I now get why people who meditate a lot always have those loopy, wide-eyed smiles on their faces all the time. I had that loopy smile all the next day, I was high as a kite and wrote like a maniac. The night after the meditation fiasco I met with a director who was in town from the east coast. Right before we sat down to have a drink my euphoria went south and I was more tired than I’ve ever been in my life — well, at least from something that didn’t involve magical illegal substances in college. I wasn’t really down, I was just kind of flat lining all the sudden. I told him about my jiggling eyeball experience, and how great I thought it was for clearing your head and for creativity. He looked at me with east coast pity in his eyes and said: “Well, um… I usually just go for a long run.” Yeah. I guess that works too. But can jogging make your eyeballs mamba in your skull?

Hopefully I’m not in the beginning stages of being sucked into a sage-infused didgeridoo cult of some sort, but I want to go back for the next chakra that Chaturanga decides to delve into or open or whatever. I certainly don’t want to walk around the west side of Los Angeles in my velour tracksuit, grinning like a buffoon and oblivious to anything besides root chakras and wheatgrass. I think it’s good to balance this stuff with a good bout of depression and a shot of Cuervo from time to time. But it’s a new experience, and I’m open.

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