One day when I was angry over the constraints of American society, I created a 20-something, closeted bi girl named Jessie. Her story took place in a yoga studio where she was trying to discover why her artistic inspiration had vanished. Without thinking twice, I threw in my favorite meditation.
The idea of this meditation is to envision yourself lying in a beautiful forest beside a river, surrounded by fallen leaves. As a thought enters your mind, you picture yourself picking up a leaf and dropping it into the flowing water. It drifts onward and away, just like the thought drifts in and out of your mind. But Jessie is a ruminator, and also resistant to change, so her version went like this:
“She envisions herself lying in the woods by a creek, the warm sun beating down on her skin. Breathe in, hold, release. For every thought that enters her mind she picks up a leaf from the ground, feels its crinkly, dry edges on her fingertips, and drops it into the water. Then the leaf plasters itself against a rock, splayed out so she can see every word of the thought shining in the sun.”
Whenever I tried this meditation again, leaf thoughts started splaying out for me, too, and I could no longer let them flow onward. My favorite meditation was ruined. I told myself that day: be more careful about turning real life into fiction.
As I was drafting my first novel, a futuristic dystopian story about a young musician connecting with her radical side, I found myself analyzing the reverse of this. Just ask any sci-fi writer: fiction can become real as quickly as reality can become fictional. 3D printers. Tablets. The metaverse. All of this was thought up in fiction well before it existed in real life. If you can dream it, you can make it.
I began to wonder what the difference between fiction and reality truly is. Isn’t society itself just one big Paracosm, an incredibly detailed, imaginary world, that we’ve all agreed to believe in?
I find this thought to be full of hope. The next time I sit down to meditate, I try the river in the woods again. The leaf thoughts drop into the water, flow toward a rock, and, for the first time in years, keep going, the river carrying them away toward a future built on dreams.