Calm Down

by Doug Fredericksen


            It’s been eight months since the Coronavirus hit our shores and I don’t feel guilty at all.

            The lockdown and isolation have been stressful, with many people overeating, not exercising, and throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to purposefully catch the virus. But it’s not those bad habits I should feel guilty about. It’s the healthy ones.

            At the beginning of this journey I was always a bit anxious, a borderline bi-polar case. But I saw a therapist, did my best to practice mindfulness, and kept a daily journal of my exercise and healthy eating habits. This helped a bit. The real breakthrough came when I discovered the benefits of daily meditation.

            Over the years I’d attempted meditation, slipping into daily twenty-minute sessions of self-hypnosis and special projection. Eventually I would lapse into shorter sessions and get bored with the whole process. My personal victory came when I finally downloaded the popular meditation app, Calm Down.

            Nearly everybody we know is using the app now. Anyone into yoga, vegan food, or meditation seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on the site, duly measured and reported back weekly to the user by the app itself.

            Calm Down is engrossing and nearly all encompassing when it comes to mental health. There are daily meditations led by different speakers, but most often it’s the soft, soothing voice of Tamara Love, their most popular meditation leader. There are a multitude of musical tracks, all of the spacey, new age variety. Famous musicians and actors do dramatic readings of “bedtime stories”, often with lush soundtracks. Typical stories would be “A Walk Through A Rainforest”, “A Train Journey Through India”, or the reading of classic short stories such as “Winnie The Pooh” or “Through The Looking Glass”. Their bedtime stories are all focused on getting the listener to fall asleep before they are finished, and true to form, I rarely last through to the end to shut off the app.

            Lately I’ve been concentrating on the different meditation guides and they really seem to help. There was a time when I would spend a restless night and rise in the morning dreading the day and feeling beaten down before I even started.

            Now, I sleep soundly and can hardly wait to wake up and do my daily morning meditation. I look forward to my days and don’t spin into a cloak of despair over our damaged planet and the contentious political world we now live in. I have become much more positive in my outlooks and accepting of different views.

            The price for the Calm Down app is amazing. For the full experience the app is only $10 a month. I’ve used it so much that it seems to pay for itself in my savings from no longer taking anti-depressants or sleep aids. But to make it even more inviting, nearly every health care system, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield, and even the small companies were supplying free access to the Calm Down app to their clients. It made sense. At one time their mental health systems and psychiatry departments were overloaded with clients, now those needing mental health preferred the app. Most of the clients used the software, meditated, took Tamara’s suggestions, and then never bothered the health care company again. A win-win situation.

            At first the app lures the listener in with soft water noises, a burbling spring, a waterfall, or waves at the beach. Slowly, the app brings its gigantic catalog of new age music, meditation guides, and celebrity advice to the listener. Eventually the user winds up listening to the Daily Meditation Guides developed and performed by Tamara Love.

            Just this morning she walked us through the self-hypnosis steps; deep breathing, counting down the breaths, and emptying the mind of all external stimuli. Then, after a five or six minute warm-up she’ll get into her daily message. Today’s message centered around people’s perceptions. The gist of the lesson was that other people’s opinions don’t count. Do what you need to do. Live your best life.

            I always feel refreshed after these little meditations. My mind seems clear and I go through my days with mindfulness and purpose. Occasionally there is an exercise that Tamara wants us to perform, but that is always trivial in the big picture of the pandemic.

            Once she suggested we take a walk in the early morning, before it was light, to sharpen our senses. On another day she suggested we try yoga or tai chi. I remember the first time she suggested we look to the future and take control of our finances. At first I felt weird accessing the ATM after meditating, but then eventually I found it was liberating. With my finances in order I didn’t have to worry about the myriad of economic nightmares the pandemic created.

            Another time she suggested we mail a small donation to people who were worse off than us, so that we’d inevitably shed our collective guilt for isolating the less fortunate. She was right. Once I made the donation I felt a world of incrimination and privilege lift from my heavy shoulders and I slept much better.

            At first it was just a small, token donation here and there to assuage guilt. But the app is all encompassing and knew that we’d never be fulfilled if we did it as a one-off. So it became a regular visit to the ATM to withdraw funds for various needy individuals and organizations. It was liberating.

            I remember the first time Tamara asked us to visit our local City Halls to voice our opinions about controversial city projects. The City Council had no idea that there was such a groundswell of public opinion and duly changed their project to the suggestions put forth by this new army of concerned citizens. It was empowering.

            It was inevitable that we would progress from healthy lifestyles to philanthropy and then to civic mindedness. The world was changing and the healthy mindset of a huge group of passionate people made all the difference. We were becoming a force to deal with as we freed our healthy minds from all external distractions.

            Calm Down was almost like a religion in that we followed a proscribed set of instructions, almost like commandments, and then gained a healthy, at ease, mindset. It was almost like gaining eternal life. We were becoming our best selves. It was intoxicating.

            I can’t emphasize how important it is to maintain your mental health. Though I am somewhat biased, I really do recommend Calm Down as an appropriate guide and teacher. Most health organizations support it and pay the yearly subscription. For those worried that the occasional donations to charitable organizations might create more financial problems, I can put that worry to rest. Since becoming a daily Calm Downer for the last nine months my financial situation had actually improved. People just seem to send money to my bank account out of the blue.

            Just last month I conquered my fear of flying and staying at hotels during the pandemic by taking a long weekend and going to Colorado. I went to Colorado Springs, which is right next to the NORAD installation which controlled the country’s nuclear arsenal. The trip there was nerve-wracking at first, but eventually I felt more comfortable in my KN-95 mask and my carefully thought out strategies for social distancing.

            Since the main point of the trip was to ease my anxiety, Calm Down also suggested I meet some people in Colorado Springs at a bar and try to make my life as normal as possible. It was great. I went to the bar at the appointed time and met several of our country’s best and brightest scientists. I bought a few rounds for the group of semi-nerdy physicists and had a wonderful time. There was a woman I went home with, but we drank so much that night I blacked out and don’t remember half of what happened when we went back to my hotel room. She was gone when I woke up, so everything must have gone well.

            To document my success in conquering my fears Tamara suggested I take a few photos to record my victory for myself and to share with the other Calm Downers. It must have gone off seamlessly because the next day I already saw photos of the nerdy scientists partying in the bar and several somewhat intimate shots of me and the female professionals from NORAD. I was conquering all my fears.

            Sure enough, a few weeks after my Colorado trip my bank account grew. There was no explanation other than the fact that the app had helped me take control of my finances through meditation and mindfulness. There have been a few other trips suggested by Calm Down, all focused on my mental health and conquering fears or unreal expectations.

            There was a trip to Denver, one to Seattle, and one to Los Angeles. On each trip I was required to perform a certain task to conquer my anxiety and prove to the world that I was stronger through mindfulness and attention to detail.

            I need to get ready for another trip this week. Even though the pandemic is raging throughout the country, there will be a Presidential Inauguration in a few days. My fears of going through Homeland Security checkpoints and airline searches were the target of my suggested trip. I had been given detailed instruction on how to get through security checkpoints without being stressed out or looking suspicious. There are also some details about a big rally I’m supposed to attend on the Capitol Mall.

            Large crowds are one of my phobias and the app was certain to cure me of my fear of being stuck in a crowd during the pandemic. I was supposed to wear a red hat and there was a variety of signs the app suggested I carry. Tamara told me that others in the crowd would also be Calm Downers and that they would all be wearing red hats. This group of people were the ones that were to be trusted and I was to join them in their protest. I was becoming more social.

            I am looking forward to seeing history made later this week. This trip will demonstrate my progress. There are a few items I was instructed to purchase at the local sporting goods store though, and as soon as I get through their background check I should be ready to go. I am determined to become free of anxiety.