* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like our inner peace accompanied by outer laughter. Follow the soothing voice of Emily Schleiger into a place of terror and darkness.

Guided Imagery: Freedom From Your Smartphone

By:
emily.schleiger@gmail.com

A warm welcome, all of you, to the Balanced Dreams Wellness Center, and to this Guided Meditation class: Freedom From Your Smartphone. My name is Harmony. Congratulations on taking your first step toward release from addiction. Together in this supportive space, we will envision the course of a day without the psychic burden of your tech device.

Let’s focus by closing our eyes. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly…practice gently lifting your chin upward…not down as if you were reading text from your palm.

As we visualize our day without our smartphones, remember: if panic overcomes you at any point, imagine yourself on a tranquil beach listening to waves.

Yes? No, Mike, you’re not worried about sand getting in your phone, because, of course, your phone isn’t there. No, there’s no chance the babysitter from Sandals’ Kids Club might call. This is your happy place. You control it.

I’m sorry, you have your hand up, Andrea? No, you can’t listen to seagulls instead of waves on your white noise app. The sound is a gift from your imagination. If your imagination chooses seagulls, hear seagulls.

Pause a second, everyone, to feel the infinite energy of your soul, the power that needs no cord, no outlet…

Derek — yes? I don’t know how you got to the beach without your Southwest Airlines or Uber apps. Perhaps your soul lives just a short walk from this beach. Yes, that close. No need for Google Maps.

Let’s try to hold questions until the end, okay?

Being present now, we’re heading back to the visualization. Imagine beginning your day with the sun streaming in. Take a moment to stretch, connecting with your spirit. It is a relaxed Sunday. Now, picture yourself cooking a delicious breakfast. Invite yourself to bacon, toast, poached eggs…

Janet, yes. Well, you’re making the eggs by memory. Without a Pinterest recipe.

So! After breakfast, envision taking in the senses of the running water in your shower. Clothe yourself and remain present. Meditate on loving kindness…

Janet again. No, it’s a beautiful day and there is no need to check your weather app for a hail forecast. It’s just a visualization. Yes, you’re safe to put the top down on the Sebring convertible later.

Mike, you appear to be breaking out in a heavy sweat. Can you verbalize your feelings? No, you don’t need to check in anywhere on Facebook. How will your wife know where you were? Um…

Oh, wow! Time flies! That sound means our time is up! What? That’s your Tinder chime, Janet? You have a Tinder account? I mean, you look a little…outside the age demographic for Tinder, but…good for you. Wait — you should not have a ph– that’s your “back-up” phone? Place it by the incense now. Right now.

Look how long you’ve made it without your smartphone! You might celebrate this later! Make room in your heart for newfound feelings of freedom!

Now you will visualize walking your dog. No, Karen, no need for My Fitness Pal app. Assume you burn a few calories.

And it’s a quiet walk, so, no, Madison. No Spotify.

And no, no selfies on Instagram! This is a selfie-free visualization!! No one meditates about selfies! Got it?!

What’s that, Janet? What kind of bird is that you hear on the walk? I don’t know!! You get to invent it. No, no! You do not need your Audubon Bird Guide app to figure that out! Who has that?! Who has both an Audubon app AND a Tinder app?! Why, why, why?!

Ok, now, focus on your dog, after your walk. Does your dog feel distressed not having a smartphone? The answer is no. It’s no, dammit! Don’t even talk. You people are hopeless.

Breathe.

It’s time for our visualized lunch. Now, this is the real test….can you meet a friend for lunch and avoid looking at a phone? I don’t believe you can, but you need to believe.

Madison…you’ve already planned to meet this friend for lunch. It’s a restaurant you like. You don’t need Yelp, you don’t need to text your friend to ask if she’s arrived, and you don’t need to tweet your excitement. Just go eat the damn food. Is that…are you wearing an Apple Watch?! Place it near the incense. No, you will not die without it! Listen up people. Today is my last day teaching this class. Please just try to engage, ‘k?

Mike, your wife approves of your meeting this friend for lunch. She does not suspect you are having an affair. You’ll just talk to, who, Suri? Oh you mean… Siri. No, you won’t, Mike. Siri is part of your phone and she won’t be at lunch. She is a tiny, conscience-less, voice-activated robot, Mike. You shouldn’t have included Siri in your lunch reservation, because she can’t engage in actual conversation. Mike, how about you ask your wife to join you for lunch? No, still out of town with her male boss named Sebastian. For five weeks. Okay. Um…Mike, maybe you want to sign up for our Healthy Boundaries in Relationships Guided Meditation? Mike, no — I don’t think you should wear a wire so your wife will trust you. You poor man.

Oh my God. Did Madison just…spontaneously combust…when she took off her Apple Watch? What-the-

Oh, that gong means our time is up. We weren’t able to finish the guided imagery, so you’ll have to visualize surviving the rest of the day independently. Good luck with that.

Open your eyes, inhale, exhale, bring your hands to heart center. Just an announcement: after today classes will no longer be held at the Wellness Center. As you may have noticed, the lobby was turned into a Pokemon GO Gym, which makes conducting these classes even more difficult. If you need more practice, today’s exercise will be available as a podcast on our website.

Peace on your journeys.

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are so open-minded we like to think that even a demon-possessed pig has a voice. Unfortunately, the voice is at the funeral of Emily Schleiger's mother.

Open Letter To The Priest Who Read About The Death Of Possessed Pigs At My Mother’s Funeral

By:
emily.schleiger@gmail.com

Dear Father,

I’m left with questions about the unconventional readings at my mother’s funeral.

In our hasty church shopping to grant our mother’s last wish of a funeral mass, my brother and I considered your parish. We had some distant family history there.

But we finalized our decision based on the endorsement from the funeral home. In the midst of our mental and physical exhaustion, we were reassured that you, the pastor, were “laid-back” and “like us.” The funeral home professional described you as casual, often going by your first name when you enjoyed craft beers at the neighborhood bar.

In the brief planning phone call, you told me you “just liked to make things simple for the families,” and only asked that we recruit a reader for the Old Testament passage. I sighed with relief as we concluded our conversation. I liked “simple” in a time of high stress and emotions. I liked the idea of relinquishing some responsibility.

When I met you before the service, you asked questions about my mother, then told me, “We just go with the readings of the day, to keep things simple.” I nodded in a similar chill style. “Simple,” again.

I get it. Why micromanage the message?” I thought, trustfully.

Then you said, without apology or hesitation: “Just so you know, today’s Gospel reading is Mark 5:1-20. When Jesus heals the possessed man by driving out demons via pigs.”

I should have just politely asked, “Aren’t there some nice verses about God being a shepherd?” But I didn’t. Grief’s dominant stages of shock and denial don’t steer people toward sensible reactions. Instead, I tried to prepare family members. “Well, I guess Mom’s dark humor strikes again! Ha ha! Well, you can’t control life, can’t control funeral readings!” When their eyes grew bigger, I walked away. “Trust the priest,” I whispered to myself. “Don’t get worked up. Be cool. He likes craft beer.”

As the service began, I realized you hadn’t even warned me about the first reading. My poor aunt had consented to be our volunteer reader. She cringed as she recited Old Testament verses about murderous and wicked men, followed by a reference to lopping off a dead dog’s head. Thoughtful words in memory of my mother who was a dog lover.

And then, as you’d warned, you read the Gospel according to Mark. The bit about the possessed man in shackles and chains, bruising himself with stones, and the evil spirits coming out, saying, “We are Legion, that’s our name because there are many of us,” followed indeed by Jesus forcing Legion into a herd of pigs and sending them over a cliff to drown in the ocean? Well, I started to sweat just a little. I mean, even you, Father, have to admit that’s a bit intense. My mom, a loyal supporter of organizations like the Humane Society, wasn’t really into stories about the deaths of a thousand formerly innocent, then suddenly possessed pigs. I’m sure my face flushed as I thought about the handful of Mom’s high school classmates present, probably questioning these reading selections. “Susan must have had a rocky relationship with her kids,” I imagined they’d whisper later.

Now, I do have to give you credit for appropriating the two horror readings into a eulogy. Yes, my mom is free now from the shackles of a stressful life. And she will never again be metaphorically stoned by cancer. And while you didn’t throw this in there, it was also pretty easy to imagine Legion as the many personalities of her ex-husband, my dad, from whom she is now truly free forever.

Still, I have to wonder if there wasn’t a less demonic Bible verse to add to the mix, for balance. Like, maybe something from Corinthians about love being patient and kind. That would have worked. It’s not like we can request a re-do service; there’s nothing more final than a funeral.

Have you used these readings at other funerals? Did you question at all your policy of “just using the readings of the day?” Are there no “back-up” readings, anything slightly more vanilla?

Or, did you know something we didn’t? Was my mom some form of the Antichrist? She did have a very protective black dog, as did Damien in The Omen. And that dog never loved any of us like it loved Mom.

Or, given our distant family history with the church, maybe my grandparents somehow slighted a previous pastor at their matrimony. Perhaps a forgotten tip at my mother’s christening. Maybe my Dad, Legion, attempted a curse on the building at my own baptism. He often loved stealing the stage like a macho Maleficent.

Or maybe you sensed there were many among the crowd who had left Catholicism, and the readings served as a warning. I noticed you pierced my atheist brother with your eyes, then insisted that he accept the crucifix at the burial. Maybe despite your easygoing nature, you remain a determined crusader? In our defense, though, Father, no one burst into flames upon entering your church, nor did the sky turn black, so any such worries about our collective salvation are probably baseless, if not a tad dramatic.

While I await your response, I’ll do my best to explain to others why I tear up at exorcism movies. “You do realize, this character’s demonic possession is just a metaphor for the all-too-common struggles of life, right?” I’ll sniff. “That verse about the pigs…always takes me back. Be free, Mom.”

In Simple Confusion,

Emily Schleiger

 

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