“Focus on the breath.” The soothing, melodic voice of the guided meditation instructor is coming from my computer. During the pandemic, a friend has convinced me to try meditation. I’ve tried it before and, well, let’s just say I may not be the ideal student.
On the screen are the faces of two dozen others in the live-stream class, each neatly framed in a perfect square. “Hey, it looks like a giant game of Hollywood Squares!” I say out loud. Luckily, to avoid just this type of class disruption, the instructor has used the Zoom “Mute” option.
“Focus on the breath,” says the voice again. He sounds a little annoyed. Can he hear me, even if my sound is muted? A little shiver runs through me. He does look a little like an incarnation of “Big Brother”.
My feet are flat on the floor and I am sitting up in my office chair. “Try to keep your spine straight. You should be a little bit uncomfortable so you don’t fall asleep. Sleep is good, but it’s not meditation,” the instructor had told us at the start of the class.
“Now, close your eyes and inhale.” I do as I am told and feel the air swell into my lungs and my abdomen. “Hold it in,” the instructor’s voice floats eerily into my darkened office.
“I wonder what I should I make for supper. Ooh, I have some nice fish in the freezer,” I think excitedly before I am told to exhale.
“If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the breath,” the voice says again. Oh, my God, is he talking to me? I open one eye to peek at my computer screen. I see the faces of the other students, all obediently breathing with their eyes tightly closed. Then I find the instructor’s face in the maze of squares. His eyes are open and I think he’s staring right at me! I quickly close my eyes and inhale deeply.
I reach blindly for my mouse and when I feel enough time has passed, I dare to open my eyes half-way. I direct my mouse to the bottom of my screen and click on the “Stop Video” icon . Suddenly, my face is gone from the screen and replaced by a black square.
I wait a few more minutes. Then I get up, grab my sneakers and tiptoe out the door. I think I’ll go for a walk.