Enlightenment can rear its divine head in many ways. In my case, it came in the form of a postcard someone placed on my car windshield in a strip mall parking lot. For a mere $199, it said, I could attend a four-week "Life Optimization Workshop" and experience weekly sessions with "like-minded people," two 30-minute phone consultations "to get [me] on my A-game," recorded meditations to "keep [me] on point," and an "optional cleanse to look and feel bangin'."
Having not been banged in a while and being balls deep in a seemingly endless existential crisis, $199 seemed like a small price to pay for such a workshop, even if it was put on by a company called ChicGuru and irritatingly titled "2015: Like a Boss." I found it improbable that a lifetime of consciousness could be aligned with such an inane catchphrase, but hey—growth often springs from the strangest places. (Or so I've been told. I haven't grown since George W. Bush's first administration, mostly out of protest.)
My fellow attendees at the workshop's first session were all dressed for comfort, albeit cutely. Their slouchy, deliberate layers made them appear as though they had emerged from the pages of an Anthropologie catalog. These layers, I assumed, were meant to be representative of the layers they incorrectly believed existed within them. I did not feel as though I was surrounded by "like-minded people," but rather a collection of sentient sun hats. As a person who would rather die than brunch, I was wholly out of my element.
As they introduced themselves, I continued judging them, as I am wont to do. This crippling, overwhelming, and ever-present judgment was something I hoped the course could help lessen, as it is the bane of my existence and primary roadblock to inner peace. Seeing as the course had just begun, however, I gave myself a pass to think less of a woman when she described herself as a "creative empress."
"It is magical to work in a group," said one of our two shamans, a woman with the tattoo of a lotus on the palm of her hand, after we finished introductions. The more people we have in our corner, she said, the more powerful we become. I found it difficult to empathize with her impassioned musings on the self as they related to the group dynamic. I, after all, have never been a team player. I refuse to belong to any human race that will have me as a member.
Being "a boss," our gurus informed us, entailed taking full responsibility for our lives and actions, and not allowing ourselves to be victims. (This is true: Most bosses aren't victims, they're victimizers. Wake up, sheeple, and rise against your corporate oppressors). I was told I could accomplish this seemingly impossible goal by refusing to give my power away to things that existed outside of myself. But what, then, would I do with all this accursed power?
The topic of week one, "Releasing the Past," took us all the way back to conception (y'know, where life begins). Where we placed our minds, we were told, was where our life force went. Putting it in the past was a form of disempowerment, a noun and feeling I knew all too well.
We were told to look within ourselves and discern what our stories—as in, the tales we used to define ourselves—were. If we let go of those stories, we were asked, who would we be? The fear of that unknown is what controlled our lives, making us complacent and reticent to change.
My story? I'm a walking apology. I use the phrase "I'm sorry I'm like this" so much, I've started to get the impression I'm not actually sorry. Which makes sense. I've nothing to be sorry for, because nothing's my fault. My blame is ceaseless, and mostly rooted in the past. I can't be a decent, accepting human being because I wasn't raised to be one. That's what I tell myself, anyhow.
By saying I can't be a better person, however, I'm limiting myself. Living in the past, I can never enter the future. I was told to leave these reservations by the wayside and walk the fuck along.
As the weeks progressed, I began to acknowledge the power my complacency had over me. Should I send that passive-aggressive text message? Should I spend all afternoon lying in bed, telling myself I was crippled by my own procrastination? Should I keep stewing over the fact that someone brought a dog into a bar I was at a week ago? No, no, and no. I did those things for decades, though, because they were comfortable. Attempting to curb them was unspeakably difficult, but a necessity if I don't want to be miserable for the rest of my miserable life.
I asked Gianna, one of the gurus, why I was so judgmental. I wasn't actually judgmental, she replied—rather, I was intuitive and sensitive. I over-feel, more so than others; as such, I am quick to absorb other people's shit. When I judge, I do so for protection, in order to feel safe. I needed to realize, however, that other people's problems are exactly that—other people's problems, and worthless to me. She suggested the mantra What is mine is mine, what is yours is yours.
My phone session with Naada, her palm-tattooed companion, was equally enlightening. She said she found it vulnerable that I was taking the class; I concurred that it was. It's also vulnerable for me to tell you that I found worth in her advice. It's vulnerable for me to tell you that a class called "2015: Like a Boss" actually bettered my life. I mean, I'm one of the biggest misanthropes you've ever encountered. Larry David with tits.
I initially judged Naada and Gianna like mad, both aesthetically and personally. I did so to distance myself, so as to not associate with what I perceived to be their hippy-dippy bullshit. I did so to maintain the story I had created as a skeptic, as intelligent, as better than women who seek to better the lives of others. Not only am I no longer a fan of this story, I must say it hasn't served me well. It's exhausting, being so hypercritical. Which is why I'm trying to change it. Every day I write the book.
They taught me that embracing the acts and choices of others is a superfluous exercise. Absorbing the perceived failings of another person into yourself is unnecessary because they, in the grand scheme of things, don't matter—the only thing that matters is the way in which one chooses to accept this meaninglessness. By ignoring other people's shit, you get an opportunity to work on your own. It's easier to grow when you're not bogged down by worthless negativity. This is true positive existentialism, not the half-brained philosophy I had cooked up, probably while drunk.
The way in which Naada and Gianna have chosen to market their message is, of course, not the way I necessarily would, but that only dilutes the message itself to the extent I allow it. By letting my guard down and listening, instead of wantonly judging, I actually learned something and, in spite of it all, grew as a person. After all, who am I to judge? What is mine is mine, what is theirs is theirs.
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