The same thing happens every time I meditate, and I don’t mean total spiritual enlightenment. Instead, random thoughts drift in and out of my head unbidden, like puffs of smoke in an opera house, until one semi-interesting idea stuns in its comparative significance. I don’t want to let that thought go away like the others, so I end up repeating it, searing it into my synapses for when meditation is over, and this thought basically becomes my temporary mantra. The rejuvenating effects of meditation are well-documented and legion, but there’s something about the process that can be difficult to take seriously for beginners. One beginner, however, has homed into his own personal barrier to meditative serenity and turned it into a low-key industry unto itself.
Like many great works of our time, it started as a private joke.
“My wife had this guided meditation recording and we listened to it together a couple times, but because I’m a dumb-dumb I just keyed in on the guy’s voice, and the way he talks, and started doing that voice around the house in various settings,” Headley says. “And then at one point she was upset about something, I don’t remember what, and I just said, like the way that guy would say, ‘Just acknowledge that all that shit is fucking bullshit,’ and we both started laughing. So I thought, maybe that’s something. And I went and wrote it down.”
Co.Create can attest firsthand that Headley’s phone voice is actually as soothing as the typical new age-y fare, like a deep-tissue swiffering in your ears. It was only natural that he used this audio asset to create the video, Fuck That: An Honest Meditation. This beach-set guide to setting all of one’s personal bullshit aside for five seconds went on to rack up nearly 6.7 million hits on YouTube. In the comments, many people left the typographical equivalent of laughter, but many other people legitimately thanked the creator for making something so straightforward. It turned out there was an actual demand for this sort of thing.
Following the video, Headley began fielding requests from his new fans asking for longer versions of the meditation. He responded by creating an app that lets users get anywhere from two to 15 minutes of him swearing at them in comforting tones. The Honest Meditation app sold briskly and paved the way for the next phase of Headley’s improbable growing industry–a book.
The tapas plate-sized tome, F*ck That: An Honest Meditation, is the result of Headley and his editor at Crown working to recreate the feel of a physical meditation. The author’s voice may not be there with the reader to lull him or her into a state of karmic clarity, but the author’s style is all in, instructing users on what changes should start to happen as they turn each page and “feel the horseshit of the external world fade from your awareness.” (While looking at a rainbow over a dewey meadow, no less.)
It may not be a total cleansing of the chi, but Headley’s work is indeed hitting people on a deeper level than he’d intended.
“I started this as a joke—not laughing at meditation, it was a joke on our limitations as human beings to be better people–but then I’d get the loveliest emails from people saying ‘Hey, I’ve tried meditation, and it hasn’t worked, but this does it for me. I don’t know if it’s the swearing, but I’m laughing and I feel better at the end,’” he says. “I had no intention of that, but it’s great, and I hope it is genuinely helpful and I hope it doesn’t end up like The Opti-grab in The Jerk, where everyone ends up cross-eyed at the end.”