I thought I would write a few lines to you, telling you about my new discovery — the power of meditation and mindfulness. I used to go to sleep with a fan to create white noise, listening and feeling the circulating air, while listening to a talk show on my iPhone. I listened to Sputnik News, a mouthpiece of the Russian government, who never said a word about what was going on in their own country; instead, they always talked about the United States, about what a dysfunctional place it was. They kept bleating about American imperialism, government cruelty toward its Hispanic population, the rich versus the poor, the black people versus the white people — the list of grievances were endless, calling out the empire for what it actually was: a giant octupus with its tentacles spreading out all over the globe, sucking dry all the resources of the earth, belching tons of black smoke into the air, filling the ocean with disposable plastic, concentrating wealth to the privileged few, and bringing war and destruction to foreign lands. The commentators on Sputnik News continued to pontificate upon the things America was always guilty of, while the Russians were equally culpable of the exact same things. Ever since my psychotherapist, Dana, recommended the mediatation apps for my iPhone, I gave up Russian propaganda, which sometimes kept me awake with its attempts to mold my attitudes, and now I listen to bedtime stories, followed by the sounds of water flowing slowly down a ravine, coupled with the sounds of singing birds, or, perhaps, a roaring campfire, listening to the sticks crackle and pop as they are consumed by the flames.
The last of the ancient Greek philosophers, Plotinus, wrote centuries ago that in each and every person is a soul, a tiny spark which is part of an everlasting fire. This tiny fire inside us comprise the tentacles of the true being, part of the all-encompassing One, representing the Good and the Sublime. This is the thing which brings human beings together for eternity, and does not divide us.
We can never find happiness by focusing on powers we cannot control. What we can control is our minds — keeping them focused upon the immediate moment — not contemplating the past, nor thinking about what might happen in the future. Concentration on our breathing and driving out all other thoughts will bring us inner peace when we need it most. These techniques have been handed down to us by Buddhist monks, who have attained an acute awareness of the body, filling it up with mental sunshine from the tips of the toes — slowly, like filling a receptacle — through the arms and fingers, to the top of the head, releasing all tension in any form in your physique.
I was thinking of these new ideas as I was riding my bicycle to Greenville, in the mists of dawn, to make it to the medical school where I was to pay Dana another visit. The sky was completely grey, being the source of thunderstorms the night before, the fog obliterating the tops of distant trees. There was rain in the forecast today, and I had a change of clothes wrapped in plastic inside my backpack, so I was prepared in case I got caught in a downpour. As I rode past the tobacco fields, I could smell the aroma of the plants, as they stood tall in the muddy ground. I was serenaded by the staccato chirping of crickets as I traveled down the rural roads, which were mostly devoid of traffic. When I was about to arrive at the city, I looked towards the east, noticing the murky disc of the sun as the clouds began to recede in their thickness.
I made it across town to the Human Services building, having avoided the rain. After securing my bike upon the racks outside, I called my girlfriend Laura to wish her a good morning, and I went inside the building to cool off and dry out from the summer humidity, spending some time in the library, then I entered the waiting room of the clinic. I was sitting there — as my appointment time was drawing near — and a young man with long hair, dressed in women’s clothes and carrying a purse, entered, sitting in a chair opposite me. As he was looking into his iPhone, I couldn’t help but notice that fingernails were painted, as were his toenails (he was wearing sandals), and, when his therapist called his name, and as he walked briskly toward her like a young female, I could never imagine the distress it would cause a person to be a woman trapped in the body of a man. I have often expressed to you the humiliation I have felt from being stigmatized by society because I’m disabled, but this is nothing compared to the baptism of hatred that this same institutional brotherhood expresses towards transgender people.
But these contemplations were soon interrupted when Dana called me into her office. When I entered and took my seat, it wasn’t long before the difficult part of the session began, when I told Dana that I was experiencing violent fantasies, using knives as weapons — watching the blood spouting from my imagionary attackers — but I have never acted upon these notions, nor did I have any of these weapons at my disposal. We discussed the neurology behind these fantasies, and I told Dana I felt like a caged animal, being teased and taunted by someone outside of the cage, wanting desparately to lunge at my tormentor, to sink my fangs into his cowardly flesh, but I remained confined by the bars of my cage — feeling wild and rabid — and powerless, demeaned, and degraded. I mentioned an incident in Central State Hospital, where I was tied down to a bed in the seclusion room before receiving an injection, and I was being taunted by a staff member. I wanted to bite one of his ears off, but I couldn’t do it because of the restraints upon my arms and legs.
We talked about my attendance at the food bank and the distress it was causing me. Dana suggested a method of creating boundries between myself and that place over there, so I would deal with this unpleasant task when the time came, and, when I made it back home, I could leave the housing projects all behind me, not letting them feed into other parts of my life. I told Dana that things build up in my mind and my ideas become distorted, and it would be several days before I would realize the truth of the situation. When I observed people at the food bank breaking in line to get more food for themselves before it ran out for the others, I felt like it was the classic Survival of the Fittest scenario, and it filled me with agitation, giving me the feeling that I must fight or be killed.
Dana told me that this was because, in the past, I was actually in situations where I must fight or be killed. I told Dana that this discussion we were currently having was torturing me. I felt a strange sensation around the crown of my head, and I was seeing spots in front of my eyes. Dana conducted a meditation with me in her office to ease the pain.
Dana concluded by complementing me on the hard work I was putting into my therapy.
“I have only one life,” I told her, “and most of it is already gone. I’ve continued for years with obesity, bad mental health care, along with all the lost time which I shall never see again.”
Dana replied that this was time that was taken from me.
After the session was over, I exited the building and there were already sprinkles coming from out of the sky. As I traveled through the city, the sprinkles turned into a summer shower. I was tired, wet, and hungry by the time I arrived at Laura’s house. I reached into my backpack, pulling out my dry clothes to change into, and Laura saw me as I was pulling off my shirt in the bathroom, telling me that I was too skinny. She fed me some leftovers from the last time I took her out to eat, and we sat in front of the television, watching a show entitled Undercover Billionaire, which asserted that America was a meritocracy, and anyone, with a little ingenuity, could get rich as an entrepreneur, building a million dollar business in ninety days.
This was propaganda from America instead of Russia.