For me, meditation is meaningless. I have never been able to “acknowledge the thought that enters your mind and then send it away.” The thoughts that enter my mind are content where they are, thank you; though sitting cross-legged on the floor is a bit uncomfortable, perhaps you could pull us up a chair?
Our leader, a cantorial intern with a lovely voice and a warm presence, had us all close our eyes. Then she said what relaxation instructors have been saying since the beginning of time and Spandex, “Focus on your breathing.”
I inhale, trying very hard to listen to the whoosh of oxygen entering my body, the inflation of my lungs, the rush of air in the back of my throat. But, instead, my thoughts stop at my nose.
Am I breathing through both nostrils? I don’t think I am. Have I ever breathed through both nostrils? Did I use Flonase this morning? Is it helping? I have to have my deviated septum repaired. But what would that do to my face? You know what I should have done is microdermabrasion. Courtney Love did that, and it changed her skin entirely. So weird that Francis Bean is old enough to be getting a divorce. Does she sing?
It’s been said that meditation has deep roots in Judaism. Hannah was so lost in her meditative petition for a child that the priests thought she was drunk. I have prayed deeply. I have worked hard to focus on the meaning of a prayer, the rhythmic cadence of a prayer or the sound of hundreds of people joining together in a prayer. But while I can lose myself fleetingly, I am usually aware of the temperature of the room, the state of my hunger and the location of the emergency exits.
I have a feeling I’m not alone.
Soon we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, the day Jews heard the voice of G-d and received his commandments. While we’re told that Jews at Sinai were awe-struck, what did they do next? The same thing they always did. Fed themselves, fretted over their clothes, squabbled. They were still people, even if they experienced a once-in-an-existence-of-a-species type of event.
Meditation is supposed to carry through a person’s day—or, ideally, life. To infuse her actions with a quiet confidence and give her the wisdom to talk less and breath more. But as the Torah shows us, even the ultimate meditative experience gave way to strife and petty arguments.
So while I am pretty sure I’ll never successfully meditate, at least I can take comfort in the likelihood that I am a true descendant of those Israelites at Mount Sinai. The ones who once trembled at the sound of G-d’s voice—but whose minds still managed to wander in the desert.
Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.