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Creative Nonfiction

You have twenty minutes. It would be twenty-three if you included the cooldown, but you don’t need to commit to that; just commit to twenty minutes. Yesterday you didn’t meditate morning or night, and you were disappointed. You promised yourself that you’d do better tomorrow, well, today’s tomorrow.

 Swipe up on your iPhone and open the TM app. Don’t get distracted. You know the outcome of last night’s game. You can wait to see who the guest is on Smartless. 

Have some boundaries. It’s too early to feed your addiction to your phone. It’s too early to check Slack, don’t do it. 

People on LinkedIn talk about work-life balance. 

Don’t open LinkedIn. You deserve this time. 

Stop your thumb from tapping the mail icon; no one commented on your recent story. Be better. 

Once the TM app is open, click the icon with the words “Transcend” underneath it. You’re about to begin, so just focus. Go ahead, take a moment to get comfortable. Yes, your back still hurts; it’s called chronic pain. Meditation can help with that. Don’t think about your back right now.

 It doesn’t matter that your ankle also hurts and that you don’t know why, calm down. Focus. Stop looking outside at the neighbor’s house. You can’t control what they do with their backyard. It’s your wife that hates the jungle gym they put back there; you shouldn’t care. 

That is a helicopter flying over your house, and yes, it’s early for a helicopter to be flying around, and it could be a medical emergency, but stop thinking about it. You have to start; you only have twenty minutes. Focus. 

Okay.

Swipe down on the toggle to begin. 

The teacher told you to take thirty seconds before you begin your mantra. Close your eyes. Why are you wondering if “teacher” is the correct title? That doesn’t matter. Yes, you’re right that you wouldn’t call him “Guru” because he isn’t the main guy. Don’t worry about what to call him; just call him "teacher." Fine, call him his name. Call him Marty. We’ll change it for the story. 

Okay, but you’re not supposed to be thinking anything. 

Focus. 

Take a deep breath. 

You’re still inhaling. That’s great. 

Keep going. 

You’re doing fantastic. 

Now exhale as slowly as you can. Why are you thinking about the nurse who taught you how to breathe like this when your blood pressure was too high? Yes, that’s right, you do have Stage 2 Hypertension. 

Wait, dammit, you're fine, and mediation is supposed to help with this. Marty told you about studies that showed it reduced an average of five points on systolic and three on diastolic. You got this. 

Just focus. 

Here we go.

Fine, open your eyes one last time. 

This is it. Close them. 

Okay.

Say your mantra.

Say it again. Repeat it. Say it again. 

Keep saying it. 

You have to keep saying it; just keep saying it. 

You’re doing it right. It sounds fine; you don’t need to say it aloud. You can’t say it aloud. You’re only supposed to say it aloud that one time with Marty when he gave it to you. That was weird. You were in his law office watching him hold a candle in front of a picture of the guru. It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember if you were on your knees or not, but you’re right; you’d probably remember it if you were on your knees because your back would have hurt.

 There were a lot of candles. 

Why didn’t the fire alarms go off? 

Marty knew they wouldn’t go off. 

You need to stop thinking about Marty. All you needed to extract from the experience was your mantra, which you have. Go ahead and say your mantra.

Say it.

Say it again. Say it again. 

You need to keep saying it. Don’t open your eyes; there’s nothing to see. 

The neighbor's blue umbrella in the backyard isn’t touching the fence. 

Dammit, you opened your eyes.

You need to close your eyes. 

Don’t look at the time.

Okay, seventeen minutes left. That’s good to know because time’s going by fast, great. Close your eyes again. 

Here we go. 

Your back’s bent forward like a hook. You know you shouldn’t sit like that. 

Posture is important. Adjust yourself. 

If you need to pull out a wedgie, do it. Get comfortable. 

Move your toes around, and then let them settle on the floor. Feel the floor. You need to buy new socks. Your socks have massive holes in them. The floor’s cold. Go back to your mantra.

This time is for mediation. Shoulder’s back against your chair. Now that your posture is right, your back’s a little better. You feel good, right? Okay, you’re ready. Alright, close your eyes. 

Say your mantra. 

Say it again. 

Say it again. Say it again. Say it again. Say it again. 

You don’t need to worry about how fast you're saying it; just say it. Say your mantra. You’re not saying it too slow or too fast; you just need to say the mantra however it comes out. 

This is your time. 

You hear a garbage truck outside. Don’t open your eyes to check that the windows are closed. The windows are closed; you didn’t sleep with them open. Garbage trucks are loud; don't worry about that, just focus. Say your mantra. 

Say your mantra. It’s Wednesday because the garbage truck is outside. 

Say your mantra. 

Wednesday means the maids come. 

Stop wondering if they’re coming at eleven. 

Please say your mantra. 

Don’t open your eyes to check your work calendar. 

Don’t do it. Don’t open your eyes. 

Say your mantra. 

Don’t reach for the phone. 

Say your mantra. 

The longer you keep your eyes closed, the faster the meditation is over. You know that. It doesn’t matter if you find out about the time of your work call now or in twenty minutes. 

Don’t wonder how long is left in your meditation. You should be meditating. Say your mantra. 

Say it again. 

Say it again. Say it again. 

You have to put your electric razor and water pik under the sink before the maids get here. You have plenty of time. Say your mantra. 

Say your mantra. 

Work will be busy today, and it would be challenging if you had to take your call in the garage, but it’s okay. Say your mantra. Meditation helps with stress just like this. 

Say it again. 

Say it again. 

Say it again. 

It’s getting hot. Your forehead has sweat on it, but don’t touch it. Don’t move your hands. Hold still. Don’t get distracted. Say your mantra. 

Your eyes are moving; this is good. Say your mantra. 

Say it again. 

Your eyes are fluttering wild like a bird escaping a cage. 

Say your mantra. 

It feels like your eyes are trying to open, but don’t open them, keep your eyes closed. Say your mantra. 

Something’s happening. What’s happening? 

You feel dizzy. 

Say your mantra. 

Keep saying it. 

Your head’s circling like a ferris wheel. Keep saying your mantra. 

Say it again. 

This is getting crazy. 

You’re starting to see something like a black hole. This is what you want. Keep saying your mantra. 

You feel like you’re getting closer to the hole. Your head isn’t moving anymore; you’re still. You’re saying your mantra. 

Keep saying it. 

You’re doing it. 

Keep saying your mantra. 

What is that just ahead? Say your mantra. 

What can you see? 

Say your mantra. 

A sudden loud noise; your baby whimpers on the monitor behind you. Don’t open your eyes. The baby’s not actually awake. Babies make strange insufferable noises all the time, but you know you only need to act if they don’t stop. 

You’re hearing is incredible right now. Maybe you should leave your kids access to your journals when you die. Wait, say your mantra. The baby’s not making any noise. 

Here we go. 

You got this. Say your mantra. Say your mantra. 

Just say your mantra. 

Say it. 

Say it. Say your mantra. Keep saying it. 

Say your mantra. 

Yes, you have chronic back pain. Say your mantra. Don’t slam your fists against the table because the world has scorned you. Say your mantra. You shouldn’t be thinking that your mom is stronger than you and that you’ll never be as good as her. Say your mantra. 

It is weird that you are furrowing your eyebrows all of a sudden. Put a pin in it. Say your mantra. 

Don’t open your eyes. 

You opened your eyes. 

Yes, it’s lighter outside, and the window screens are filthy; you haven’t cleaned them in three years, and when you did, it was just with a rag and a cup full of water. Do you remember? By the end, the cup's contents were the color of weak coffee, and dead bugs were floating in it.

Don’t worry about how much time is left. 

Close your eyes. Good. You didn’t look. You don’t have to look; looking makes the time go by slower. You’re in control. Keep your eyes closed. Say your mantra.

Why did you open your eyes and glance at the clock? There are ten minutes left. 

You think that the time’s gone by quickly, but have you done a good job? There’s always better.

It’s time to meditate. 

Close your eyes. Say your mantra. Focus on saying it.

Say it again. And again. Say your mantra. 

Keep saying it. 

Look, it’s not leaving. 

Keep saying your mantra. 

Say your mantra. Keep going. You’re doing it. Say your mantra. 

Your eyes zig zag behind your eyelids, and you see disappearing splashes of colors like gallons of paint poured into the sea. The colors are warm. They’re beautiful. Keep saying your mantra. 

Don’t stop, or they’ll leave. Say your mantra. Say your mantra. 

Say your mantra. It’s like a free high; Now, you’re hallucinating like that one time on salvia when you started seeing motile geometric shapes. There are rainbow-colored hexagons, rectangles, circles, ovals: any shape you can imagine pulsating in the same motion. Say your mantra. Don’t think of how fun it was in college. Let it go. Stop thinking about college. Say your mantra. 

The colors are gone, and you have to poo.

Don’t sigh at me. Can you hold it? Why would you need to open your eyes? Fine check to see how much times-

Can you hold it for eight minutes? Okay. 

Okay, that’s good. 

Okay. Say your mantra. Say your mantra. 

Say your mantra. 

Say your mantra.

Keep saying it. 

Say it. 

Say it again. 

Say your mantra. 

Nothing’s happening. Keep saying your mantra. Don’t you remember you’re not supposed to expect anything from meditation? Just say your mantra. No, it’s not a meaningless sound. Don’t think like that. Keep saying your mantra. Dammit, don’t think like that. This is a good use of your time. Say your mantra. 

You know this is worth it somehow. Say your mantra; just say your mantra. 

Say your mantra. 

It doesn’t matter that you’re probably almost done. 

Say your mantra. 

The baby’s screaming from behind you like a hawk at its prey. Ignore it; say your mantra. You’re almost there. Say your mantra. 

Ah, rats! Your wife’s downstairs, opening the door to the office; you hear it. She must be done with her calls. Why are you worried that she might be up here soon? No, don’t open your eyes.

You think that you have to go to the bathroom? 

Calm down. Take a deep breath. 

It’s okay that the baby’s screaming again and that your wife’s running the faucet in the kitchen. Say your mantra. 

No, don’t open your eyes. All you have to do is say your mantra. 

You opened your eyes.

There are three minutes left. You pick up your phone and think that you pretty much meditated the full twenty minutes because the last three minutes are supposed to be a cooldown, and you can do that in the bathroom. You ignore that the actual time was supposed to be twenty-three minutes. You think what you did is better than nothing, and, you’re right, you saw the colors; you must have transcended. 

You meditated! 

You’re on the toilet now. You remember that the maids are coming and feel anxious that their arrival might clash with your work call. You look at your phone and see that there’s a minute left. 

You swipe out of the TM app, find the calendar icon, and learn that getting your house cleaned isn’t going to ruin your day. There’s a weight that’s gone.

And you meditated. You started the day out just how you wanted it, and you’re reaping the benefits. 

You should go and tell the people on LinkedIn about it. Why can’t you post? You’ve been working awhile; you’ve got things to say. Open LinkedIn and scroll the timeline. 

Gary V is inspirational. He’s rich too.

You should post. Type up a message. 

“Waking up and meditating for twenty minutes is the best way to start the day. Highly recommend it if you haven’t given it a try.”

That’s solid. Add a “100” emoji and a black power fist with a yellow skin tone. 

That’s solid. You’re sharing good advice with people. Post it. Do you think it will get some likes? Yes, twenty-five or over would be a win. 

The baby bursts out crying, so loud the monitor distorts and sounds like a blown speaker. You’re still on the toilet. 

The baby’s crying is not torture. Calm down. 

You’re right; probably, there’s nothing wrong with it.

I understand your blood is boiling, but you need to calm down. You’re sitting on the toilet; your wife will get the baby.

Okay. 

Good. 

Try not to think about your back hurting. 

Sit up straight. 

Focus on the task at hand; get this one out. 

Nothing’s coming out. Don’t get upset. 

I know everyone is already up, but you shouldn’t feel behind; you’re on the toilet. 

You just mediated. You didn’t do that yesterday, right? You’re getting better.  

Come on. 

You can do this. 

Adjust yourself on the toilet, so your back doesn’t hurt.

You got this. 

The baby’s still crying.

You got this, right? 

May 20, 2022 04:28

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10 comments

Zack Powell
00:58 Jun 02, 2022

My bad for reading this so late, Scott - this story was a blast! I read quite a few stories for this prompt, and this is the only one that I saw that was written in second-person POV (which I think was a wonderful choice). There's something infinitely more close, more relatable, about second-person here that writing this in first-person wouldn't have achieved. We're really embodying this narrator ("Stop your thumb from tapping the mail icon; no one commented on your recent story. Be better" was the moment I hopped on the second-person hype ...

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Scott Skinner
16:57 Jun 02, 2022

TYSM for the feedback! You calling out a couple lines that resonated makes me get a better feel for what's working well, so I appreciate that you took the time :) Your most recent story blew my mind btw - excellent job!

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Shea West
18:52 May 28, 2022

Dammit, you opened your eyes. (Me, anytime I'm asked to close my eyes!) This was a fun spin out of trying to meditate and not doing it well. I think the matter of intention should always be considered.. Like you get 2 gold stars for trying anyway! The baby's still crying? Meditation ain't for the weak! Scott, sorry I was so late to this story!

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Scott Skinner
03:57 May 30, 2022

I agree - intention should count for something! It's all part of the process, is the way I reason it. Thx for the read!

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Mike Panasitti
23:04 May 25, 2022

A twister of creative nonfiction. What on Divinity's blessed Earth is the mantra?

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Scott Skinner
04:31 May 26, 2022

I could never say! ; ) Thanks for reading - I like thinking of it as a 'twister of...'

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Riel Rosehill
20:33 May 23, 2022

I'm so here for the meditation struggles in this week's stories, it's so much fun to read! (Michał Przywara and Bradon L had a good take on it too!)

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Michał Przywara
19:13 May 20, 2022

A wild ride! Probably anyone who's tried to meditate can immediately relate. Unwanted thoughts and worries are relentless. I like the name of this piece. If we have a person on the inside, we have a person on the outside too. So two people, and the story demonstrates this nicely. A perfect use-case for 2nd person as well. But look at the conflict here: you both do and don't want to meditate. You do, on a rational "this is good for me" level, and you don't on a "there's noises and problems all around me! Panic and solve!" emotional level. ...

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Scott Skinner
05:00 May 22, 2022

Thank you! I've never written in 2nd person before - it was strange - but I'm glad there were pieces of this that resonated. It is a bit of a wild ride to be in this character's head. I bet anyone's conversation with themself is pretty crazy BTW, I was stoked that when I checked my mail, there was a comment this time around lol

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Shea West
18:49 May 28, 2022

You haven't!!! Why do I feel like his isn't true about the 2nd POV!

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