By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I'm sitting across from a not unattractive gentleman in a popular Lakewood Italian place. So far, so good. Tall, athletic. Shirt's a bit too big, though. But this is only our first date; we can work toward appropriately fitting clothing later. I tell him about an article I'm working on involving a suicide.
"I know eight people who have committed suicide," he tells me.
We hadn't even ordered appetizers yet. I go straight for the pasta and shovel down my penne. Yet another Dallas dating disaster. My love life's mildly moist spell was threatening to turn into a drought.
In 2001, Forbes rated Dallas the ninth-best city in the United States for singles, taking into account coolness, cost of living alone, nightlife and a host of other criteria. Five years later, we've plummeted to 29th. And that's taking the Ghostbar into account. If you can get into that place on a Friday night, you have to try hard not to get laid. But I can't get in, so it's weekends with the cat and BBC America for this girl.
But then, from the Internet sprung forth a ray of hope. I got an e-mail from a local pan-religious organization called Global Mystics advertising a meditation class that could teach one how to "Bring love into your life when and how you desire." When? Now! How? With gusto! I signed my single self up. After all, the desert wasteland of the Dallas dating scene couldn't get more deserted, could it?
The two-story building in Richardson that houses the Global Mystics offices wasn't exactly the temple of all-knowing, all-seeing hocus-pocus I'd hoped. I was shooting for catacombs and a creepy guy in a turban. Instead, I got a pleasant rose-scented room and a cheery woman named the Reverend Dr. Judie Arkow. With a trace of a Brooklyn accent, Dr. Judie told our group of about six women and two men that she considered herself a Jewish Sufi, or a "Jewfi." She would be our guide through the class "Astrology, Planetary Influences and the Use of Breath Practices and Ceremonial Movement." We'd learn breathing and walking techniques named after the five elements--earth, water, air, fire and ether--and the planets Mars, Mercury and Venus. Ommmmm. Or, you know, whatever.
Dr. Judie, as she calls herself, collected her modest fee--$6 a class for three sessions over three weeks--and asked us to go around the circle and say why we were there. I couldn't bring myself to admit that I was tired of hanging out with my cat on weekends. After all, I didn't want to look pathetic in front of a bunch of people sitting in a dimly lit room learning how to breathe in unison. I said I wanted to learn "calming techniques" to quiet my stressed soul. A woman in maroon glasses wanted to learn how to really listen to her inner voice. I guessed her inner voice wasn't the same as mine, which tells me to eat more Cool Ranch Doritos.
Two hours later, after one rather contentious discussion about the power of positive thinking--does it change the world, or just yourself?--Dr. Judie had taught us the first of five "elemental breaths." The earth and water techniques were meant to increase our "esoteric magnetism" and purify us through "ongoing radiant baptism," respectively. Then, we walked really slowly around the office building for a few minutes in silence. Not exactly the art of seduction I'd hoped for. In any case, I had my assignment: meditate every day with what we learned.
As if by fate, I was set up that weekend on a blind date by a co-worker. Score one for "esoteric magnetism." Over drinks and a show at the Darkside Lounge, I decided that Blind Date Boy had real potential. We hated the same things (Addison, namely.) He had a dog. He didn't smell bad. I decided this breathing thing was where it was at. I continued my daily five-minute meditations and walks--carefully out of sight of my roommate, who would probably think I'd been huffing the Lysol disinfectant if she saw me at the super-slow Buddhist walk. I hid not because she'd be concerned for my health; that stuff is expensive.
Lest we forget our mystical purposes, Dr. Judie sent us home with handouts explaining how our new meditations worked. I managed to get through Derrida in college, so how hard could the "Four Perceptual Aspects of Being" be? Ommmmm.
Part of Dr. Judie's mission at Global Mystics is to find common ground among all religions. "At a mystical level," she says, "they all agree." Whether it's Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or Hare Krishna, there are "celestial covenants" of all global mystics. For example, she says, all mystics believe we are a part of "divinity," holding an element of the divine inside our physical bodies. They also agree that life is "a partnership with God," meaning "God needs us, and we need God."
Dr. Judie's curriculum stems from the work of Master Sufi Murad Chisti, better known as "Sufi Sam," and yoga guru Sri Swami Satchidananda. According to Dr. Judie, the eyes perceive "vibrations of the physical world," the mind perceives "vibrations of thoughts," the psyche perceives "vibrations of feelings" and the soul perceives "below the level of atoms, the essence or consciousness of the world." Ommmmm, like, for sure.