Diane Mehta in Longreads:
“You’re dead,” said the meditation guide. “You’ve been dead a long time.” I start crying. “What do you see?” she asked. I whimpered, “My dad somewhere, cremated, maybe a river, gone for decades. My son is older. He has a family. He thinks of me sometimes. I can’t stand it.”
“They’ve been gone a long time. You’re fine. Part of the universe. The beginning of what you were meant to be. Does that beanbag chair in the house that you don’t like matter? What about your job and the argument you had with your boyfriend, that burger you had for dinner? Your dresses, your shoes, your jewelry, your house, your keys. Throw your keys away. Throw them into the magnetic sun. Whoosh. Do it again. Whoosh. How do you feel?” I wiped my tears and scanned my imagination. Exploding galaxies to explore, strange dimensions, star clusters, sunbursts, Earthrise over our moon, star-forming nebula, cosmic microwave background left over from the Big Bang. What does a black hole feel like when you’re disembodied and inside of it? My mind was clear. A cool mist like summer rain while scuba diving underwater but without equipment. She continued to encourage me to throw things away. “It gets easier. Throw it away. Nothing matters. Whoosh.” I winced, then felt relieved, then felt horrible and finally caved and decided to be dead, dead, dead. As shock left me, I imagined looking around at my new home out in space: stars blinked on and off like fireflies, nearby yet distant, planets with inconceivable colors of lilac-brown and red-rust that hadn’t been refracted through an atmosphere and the curve of the turning Earth. Everything gets easier according to everyone who believes that life is a positive cult. This guide said she used to have an argument with the world. She was angry at all corners of her soul. “I’m happier,” she said calmly. “You have a very open mind. You’ll do well here.” I panicked and came back to Earth. My feet reappeared, and my hands, which I’d watched burn away, per her instructions, grew back like a starfish regenerating its limbs. Whole again. Beanbag chair and teenager and dog and boyfriend, jobs and writing to do and the whole shebang of worries. I forced a breath out. She was wrong about me.
The goal of this style of meditation, which my boyfriend signed me up for (sigh — my anxiety is not fun for the people around me, either) and which, in the interest of being a good sport, I agreed to try for a month, was to achieve oneness with the universe. I had just finished a final draft of a novel that had sustained me for seven years, and felt utterly empty without it. Looking for a job felt dreary and anxiety-creating. What would I do for the rest of my life? What should I do from day to day? I couldn’t relax. From meditation I expected breathing exercises, which are scientifically proven to manage anxiety. Instead I stared at a reflective silver circle on the wall, a sticker about five inches in circumference that conceptually embodied the magnetic sun, and called one memory after another up, and threw it into that shiny gravity-sucking sun.