I’ve been human almost my entire life. But according to a new meditation class, How To Be Human, I’ve been doing it all wrong.
The “emotional fitness” workshop — which is “like yoga for your psyche,” per the website — takes place at Frequency, a too-cool new Chelsea meditation studio across from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
My Tuesday night workshop promised “magical encounters with yourself and others.” One hour in Frequency’s unapologetically hip “wellness dome” — like an igloo, with pretty geometric patterns splashed across the walls — would remind me “what it means to truly see others and be seen by them.”
Sweet deal for $27.
Still. “Magical encounters”? “Others”? Kind of sounds like my worst nightmare. I’m a New Yorker. My badge of honor rests on my irascibility toward strangers. Now I was expected to make nice — on purpose?
But I’ve been shouldering a lot of stress lately. My actual shoulders rest somewhere near my ears these days. I figured a one-hour meditation in a calming environment wouldn’t kill me.
Still, walking into Frequency’s bathroom to change into workout spandex — do you sweat during emotional exercise? — the walls held enough chalkboard platitudes to make former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson blush. Lululemon’s Instagram seemed cynical next to all the “I see you and I love you” aphorisms.
Out in the dome, I was still worrying if the cool, shaggy carpets were regularly shampooed when my 10 or so fellow humanity-hunters started folding their legs neatly into lotus position. Someone was wearing a sweatshirt that read “100 percent human.”
The instructor, yogi Jayne Ebner, kicked off class by having us walk around in a circle. We were instructed to make eye contact with one another, say hello and — ugh — hug a stranger. Although it went against my every instinct, I tried to be a good soldier.
Next, we paired off. For two solid minutes, I complimented my partner, telling her nice things about herself. She returned the favor. My “journey” and “human spirit” came up once or twice.
After some visualization techniques, led by psychiatrist and Frequency co-founder Dr. Meg Poe, we split into pairs again to — how?! — share even more.
For two minutes, we were told, we needed to monologue our stream-of-consciousness thoughts to our partner, starting with the words “I am.”
That’s where the class got me.
When my partner opened her mouth, I expected to hear a résumé recitation, or maybe some first-date patter. Instead, I heard genuine vulnerability. Pronouncements like “I am judgmental” or “I am lost” can almost feel sacred, especially in the hands of a stranger.
Voices echoed in the dome. All around me, people were baring their souls. There was this sense of freedom — for the speakers, of course, but also for the listeners, who could see their own insecurities reflected back at them.
There was some non-enforced hugging at the end of class.
Feeling invigorated, I stopped to chat with a classmate, Mazal, 32. The Crown Heights resident told me it was her second time taking the class. Her first session had been so moving that she’d purchased a membership at the Frequency ($55 for the month or $499 for the year).
Before her first class, “I was uncertain,” says Mazal, who declined to share her last name. “But it brought out bottled feelings I didn’t know what to do with. I felt suddenly in tune.
“Living in New York, you never have time to connect with yourself, let alone others’ emotions,” she says. “I never gave myself that time before.”
It was inspiring. I was determined to harness this new, connected me. Emerging from the dome onto bustling Seventh Avenue, I walked right into a middle-aged skateboarder going the wrong way on a one-way street.
Usually, I would’ve told him, “I hope you die.” But that night, I used my new “human” skills, and merely suggested, “Go f–k yourself.”
For a New Yorker, that’s growth.