Friday, July 17, 2009
The normally serene setting of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center - the verdant gardens and tranquil streams - erupted into chaos this afternoon, when a Monk, Nandamala Samvara, collapsed over a small plate of green lentils and fell to the ground dead. Several visitors at the center who witnessed the Monk’s death were still in shock and many said they heard a “popping sound, like a gun shot or a paper bag being karated.” The police have yet to label the death a homicide, but Captain Gaydos said early leads “point to a Chinese Nationalist or a dark hooded African-American male between 12 and 30.” Medical assistance was slow in being called because the Monks were engaged in silent culinary meditation.
Many of the Monks interviewed following Nandamala’s death described their fallen friend as “too chatty,” a “loud food chewer,” an “elaborate under garment wearer” and “jerk” whose fall to the floor was met with blank stares from one and all except the hysterics of the retreat center quests.
Please consult Monks and a Youth by John Gaydos.
Marissa Jones, my beloved student, was injured this past weekend and is currently in ICU at UCLA Medical with multiple face, leg and back lacerations following a fall from a boulder during a photo shoot for Conde Nast Traveller. Paul, her "partner" at the photo shoot, was inconsolable when I spoke with him over the phone, barely able to utter words through sobs of grief. After some coddling, Paul was able to eek out a convoluted description of the moments just before Marissa's tragic tumble.
It was a (sobs) beautiful day. We were both, um, I mean the sun, the sky, the waterfall, Oh, God Marissa…. I’m so sorry. We had just been lowered by helicopter onto the rocks. I had wanted to shoot inside the Yoga studio, but the director and Marissa thought an outdoor location was more yogic and Zen.
Marissa fearlessly found a grip on the slippery rocks and settled into her amazing Parsvakonasana. Everything was one with nature despite the precariousness of our perch. Marissa’s knee was in perfect alignment, her femur bone dead center, her back inner shin working, her ribs not poking and her gaze soft. If only we had been able to hold that moment!
I turned to admire Marissa’s form and to my horror noticed that her front foot had begun to turn in. She, as always, knew before I did what was wrong and went to adjust, However, she moved too quickly (the cameras pop-pop-pop distracting her), her back foot slid out from under her causing her leg to fly off the rocks, her perfect cheekbones crashing into the rock face. The force of the contact of beauty with hard cruel nature sent her summer salting into the air. Marissa, ever the trooper, tried to approximate the perfect drop back into the water, but the blood from her face laceration caused her to over arch her sacral region, bringing her not into the safety of liquid, but into the most horrid bhujangasana (she collapsed the space in her upper back) on a rocky out-cropping. Her pelvis landed with a hard thud (if only she had kept her organs pulled in) and she slid silently off the craggy ledge and into the murky watery abyss. I think I heard her say just before she vanished beneath the water’s surface: “Oh, but not for the momentary perfection of my asana destroyed by poor form.”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
When I was six, my Father procured me a job at the local Crest factory as a toothbrush holder. Dad had dreamed of me acquiring the prestigious and highly coveted post of Mr. Crest, a uniform and title he had held proudly held from the age of four until, as he would often tell the family, “some little punk red headed tweerp backstabbed me during my ninth summer and stole the greatest job I’ve ever had right out from under me,” but due to my coming down with a vicious case of poison oak my neighbor Stevie Jones won the gig. Dad was not happy and he would often regale my Mother with his thoughts on my current work drive: “No kid of mine is gonna waste his days runnin and playin with those dirty mutts in our neighborhood. He’s sick. Give me a break. If he’d stop scratching himself he might become something in this world. Please, Madge, smiling and laughing can only be allowed after one has brushed and flossed for 10 minutes. The kid is a lazy bum. He sits in the chicken coop all morning playing with rocks and staring at this one bird imitating its head movements. I think the kid may be as soft in the brain as a tube of toothpaste.” He was a good Dad. I still thank Daddy each night for instilling such a good work ethic in me at an early age.
It was my job to teach folks how to properly hold a toothbrush. Gently wrap all four of your fingers around the base of the handle. Be careful not to grab the brush to tightly or to loose. An overly aggressive grip and the wrist will fatigue, a grip to soft and the brushes bristles will not have enough force to clean the plaque from one’s teeth. With a slow upward thrust, bring the toothbrush from waist level up past the chest and toward the mouth. When the brushes bristles are six inches from the mouth, lips pursed about four inches wide, point the elbow at a right angle and begin to move the brush toward your teeth. DO NOT DRAW THE MOUTH TOWARD THE BRUSH! At this moment, excited about the prospect of bringing the toothpaste into the teeth, rookie brushers will rush and grip the base with to much force, causing the bristles to tilt and the golden toothpaste to drip onto one’s chest and clothing. Slow down. Take your time.
I would love to say that I was able to continue my instruction, taking the journey with the individual brusher to the penultimate point of the toothbrush entering the mouth, but that task was the exclusive purview of Mr. Crest. Only my Dad and Stevie Jones know those secrets.
Please consult Monks and a Youth by John Gaydos.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
When I was fifteen I got my first job bagging groceries. It was very repetitive but paid well so I liked it fine. When something’s repetitive, you get good at it. Believe it or not – there is a technique to opening a paper bag quickly. You hold the bag in one hand with your thumb just slightly inside the bag – your other hand is flat, fingers together like a “karate chop” and you slide the karate chop hand in to the bag and spread your fingers quickly. The bag pops open, ready for egg cartons, broccoli, etc.
That summer, I went to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center with my family. We’d been going there for a couple years as guests in the summer. We’d usually eat meals in the main dining room, but at lunchtime you could pack a lunch and take it with you, hiking for the day or going to swim in the creek. There was a table with various foodstuffs so you could pick and choose what you wanted. One day, I decided to pack a lunch. When I walked to the table I noticed three monks sitting on a bench near the dining room. They were sitting very still and quiet. Even at that age I had a meditation practice so I was very interested in how older practitioners behaved – how they channeled their energy. They seemed to be in their own world – unattached to all the activity around them.
Without thinking about it I picked up a lunch bag and did my “karate chop” thing and the bag made a satisfying popping sound as it opened. Instantly one of the monks riveted me with an energetic stare. It was unlike anything I can put in to words…… it seemed to say – “bag opening, no thought, no ego, no past, no future, now is now. Are you realizing this, 15 year old boy?”
I will never forget it. You can go for long stretches where it feels like nothing important is happening – and then the thing that happens can be really, really simple and impossible to put in to words.
Yoga is like that. It’s so easy to get caught up in the words – but they will never explain the experience. I tell my students – “you never need to explain or defend your yoga practice to anyone, if you feel something happening, it’s real.”
So what happened? Did I get something from the monk? Yes. Did the monk get something from the paper bag? All these years I never thought about it until I had to write something for this newsletter. Then it occurred to me that the monk definitely got something out of it – it always goes both ways.
That’s all I have to say.
Next month: How I spilled gravy on a nun. And what she did about it………
Friday, July 10, 2009
A yoga teacher discusses a failed relationship that left him feeling poked, prodded, boo-boos’ untended and left holding the cup.
I like to think I am a man of distinction and sophistication. My passions are plentiful, but if forced to whittle them down they would be yoga, molecular gastronomy prepared in the nude, Jonas Brother’s cover bands, my collection of armpit photography smuggled out of East Germany, antique waffle irons and flours, Joel Peter Witkin, audio erotica in Sanskrit and Nurses.
That’s correct, don’t be so shocked, there was no hesitation as I typed, NURSES!
It may seem surreal in this renaissance period of Nursing and its positive depiction on screen to imagine, but when I was a young boy, a pudgy pimply lad in a small village in Southern India obsessed with soft white shoes, pinafore aprons, tiny paper cups, stethoscopes and Michael Caine (or as I dubbed him – “The Punisher of Female Misdeeds and Wanton Sin in White”) would have been considered “odd.” Back before the ascendancy of male nursing as a legitimate profession - thank you, Ben Stiller and Meet the Parents – men who dreamed of administering thermometers, taking temperatures, changing bed pans and wearing extremely comfortable footwear without shame was as pipedream. Don’t even get me started on the stigma attached to a boy blossoming into a man who asks ever so nicely for a date to come dressed as Florence Nightengale.
My Duhkha (suffering, pain or sorrow) at my growing predicament and very personal pain (Where was the Nurse to salve my wounds!) is best captured in this famous scene from The Verdict. It is, to this very day, known better to me and spoken more than the Gayatri Mantra.
After, after the operation, when
that poor girl, she went in a coma.
Dr. Towler called me in. He told
me he had five difficult deliveries
in a row and he was tired, and he
never looked at the admittance
form. (beat) And he told me to
change the form. He told me to
change the one to a nine. (beat)
Or else, or else, he said...(beat;
starts to cry) He said he'd fire
me. He said I'd never work
again....Who were these men...?
Who were these men...? I wanted
to be a nurse...
Yes, who were these men I ask again and again!
My desire to become a nurse, to both inhabit the form, conjoin with a real nurse in sexual congress and to be united in a symbiotic soul coupling has evaded me my entire life. "I wanted to be a nurse!" My film fantasies became a horrid reality, when an unfortunate “snafu” at the Rutgers School of Nursing involving immigration, the FBI, David Mamet and a “woman” who came to be known in the court documents as “Bobbi,” forced me to vacate (through a court order) the State of New Jersey for a period of 45 years.
My dream to roam the halls of hospitals aborted, I became a rabid reader of any tome, magazine, book or audiotape I could find on Nurses, just as long as they weren’t bogged down with medical jargon and lots of blood – that stuff is just plain icky. I did everything I could to stay connected to this magnificent world, even becoming the editor of the now defunct Nursing journal, Nurse Love - circulation 2500 at its peak in Port Washington in 1989. I found myself attending the graduation of every Nursing class in the greater Tri-State (Garden State, why can't I come back to your lush gardens?) area throughout most of the 1990’s trying to find a mate over cheap wine and crackers. My love of Nurses and Nursing had become ekagrata (one-pointedness of mind) in the most destructive way. I wanted, needed, longed for, sought and was constantly denied my desire. I had become an HMO paramour in a PPO club. “Angel in white, come to my bed and give me a sedative for my mad fever.”
Recently, however, I thought I had achieved Samyoga (a perfect union). After serving as the personal teacher for a very famous Nurse on a hugely successful show, decorum prevents me from saying exactly who, but it is on a cable network that you pay money to see that is on Mondays and follows a comedy starring a famous woman about something you smoke, we became lovers. I thought I was surrounded by everything I had ever desired - gowns, IV drips, defibrillator machines, pills, agents, name dropping, fake illness, an endless supply of adhesive wraps, tubing, no chance for real illness or death – but I was soon to be proven wrong. Trouble was etched on this person’s apron from the beginning – they were beautiful, self-absorbed, possessed poor patient and people skills, rabid insensitivity and a love of golf, my dream Nurse was nothing of the kind, instead they were a Doctor, masquerading as an RN.
In yoga, the student cannot take class unless they become a member of the studio or pay my hefty personal private fee, but I had let this person become a donation based lover in my life, the co-pay getting smaller and smaller with each passing week. Our relationship, a sick dance of illegal prescriptions of passion mixed with narcissism soon brought me to a personal OD culminating in my discovery of my lover in a supply closet with a Key Grip and the Set-Medic. Not long after, I realized we weren’t monogamous. The thought of losing this person, their connection to Vicodin and Percasit, their access to the most extensive collection of Nursing uniforms on earth and the ability to tell all my friends and friends of friends and strangers that I had seen them naked was overwhelming. When they dumped me, I had gone from Sloan-Kettering to Medicare.
I tried to renounce my love for Nursing. I placed my uniforms in storage, packed away my needles, beakers and drips, got real sheets on my bed, started even wearing penny-loafers, I banished all the reminders of that magnificent world.
I even started dating again, a movie production accountant, to be specific. Recently, I was in the middle of taking their temperature and kissing them with wild abandon, when a promotional ad came on my TV for my ex-lover’s show - odd how that happened at 9 p.m. on Monday on the station their show normally appeared. Weird coincidence, huh. My sweet accountant was almost skewered by my flailing arms as I was forced to watch the demon Nurse engaged in histrionic dramaturgy. A visit to the ER was only averted because of a firm backside developed over years of Utkatasana practice. Blessed be the Yoga!
Soren Kierkegaard has spoken of his sickness unto death, but my life-long sickness led not to finality, but to a new world of money markets, 401K’s, IRA’s, leveraged buying and detailed analysis of celebrity finances. My Nurse, in all their infidelity, mockery, lying, falseness and fame had taught me that my happiness is not contingent on their attention, but rather on my ability to transfer my obsession for all things white and soft blue, liquids in jars and vials, pills of all colors and shapes, paddles, mechanical beds, pans and biohazard receptacles into a safer and more controlled field – money. No one steals from Bobbi!
Please consult Love Bitten & Drained Dry: My Ex-Boyfriend, the Vampire ~ via Kathryn Budig.
A yoga teacher talks about a relationship that left her feeling…drained.
I have many passions in life, but if I had to narrow it down to just a handful, they would be yoga, cooking, fabulous footwear, dark innovative chocolate and vampires.
Yup, you heard me, vampires.
In fact, I consider myself to be fairly schooled in the subject, so much so that I might just call myself a vampirelier: a knowledgeable vampire connoisseur. The funny thing is back in the day, pre-Twilight craze, I would always get the hairy eyeball when people would come over and view my vast collection of books and encyclopedias on vampires. Now the blood suckers are mainstream in Hollywood and it would be frowned upon to not agree that Robert Pattinson is damn hot.
The world has caught up with me, and now realizes the incredible allure of these creatures (or sexy actors that play them), but I still held on to my little fantasy that I would someday run into a Brad Pitt vampire look-alike and he would sweep me away into his sexy, dark vampire world. Obviously, I’m not holding my breath, but I continue to devour the genre of books. I was neck deep (the puns will keep coming, be forewarned) in my current read, longing for the adventure and excitement that the book revolved around. In the yogic world you would call it ‘manifesting your fantasy into reality’. In the vampire world, you could call it ‘summoning’, and what did I manage to pull off? My very own vampire boyfriend. Be careful what you wish for, because he came to my life ready to sink his emotionally draining canines into my heart.
Before you write me off as a complete nut, let me define the three different types of vampires for you (yes, I took a course in college).
1. Historical. These are the deceased that were dug up by early Eastern Europeans. Vampires were often the ‘excuse’ for plagues when there was no other explanation. Dig up the evildoer, stake them and hope that all the town’s woes will disappear. They were the ultimate scapegoat.
2. Literal. You may have heard of this guy called Dracula? He would be the prime example. Any vampires in novels or film.
3. Psychic. No, they can’t read your jugular and tell you your future. These vampires roam among us every single day. Psychic vampires don’t drain blood, they drain emotion and energy to survive. This is where my vampire falls.
I had always wanted a vampire in my life, and in he waltzed! Summoned, manifested, however you want to call it by none other but little ol’me. The funny thing is, vampires are only allowed to enter a human’s dwelling when they are given consent or invited in. Chaos was written all over him from the very beginning: beautiful Hollywood actor, recluse, an emotionally unavailable man with difficulty seeing past the tip of his own nose. We’ll call him Pire to protect the un-innocent. Pire walked in, I called the cards as fate and readily invited him into my life…knowing deep down that there was a major missing link.
What ensued was about a four-month relationship with Pire, followed by a six-month recovery period—and as we all know it’s supposed to take half the time of the relationship to recover. In a phrase: I was pissed. No matter how hard I tried to discipline myself, I found my fingers being lulled to the keyboard to google him (evil, evil tool that google). Every time I ran into him at the studio it was like someone did a swift ninja kick to my knees. Basically, it took an absurdly long time for me to remove the thick veil from my eyes and see the true situation: I was being drained and was doing nothing to stop it except place the blame on him.
In yoga, this draining of energy is a direct violation of the yama (characteristics to follow in life) asteya (not stealing). Both Pire and I were guilty of crossing this yama. He had been stealing my energy, but I was allowing it because of my extreme feeling of lack at the idea of losing him. My belief was that my happiness was contingent on his love…and in believing that, my life force was draining away. I completely closed my eyes to the fact that I had let him in and could rescind the invitation at anytime, but instead fell deeper into his shadow. I slowly climbed back out of the hole, but without any kind of gratitude for what he had shown me about myself. I still only felt a void.
It all came to a head recently when I finally kissed a guy. Not only a non-vampire guy, but a guy that I really, really like. All was going swimmingly until, mid-kiss, an ad for Pire’s show comes on in the background on the TV. I nearly screamed in the poor guy’s mouth (note: the quickest way to freak someone out) in frustration.
I can’t even escape the soul-sucking energy in my first kiss with a potentially new wonderful beau?
After the initial annoyance passed, instead of giving in like I had been doing for months, I opened up my eyes. I had been letting this rancid energy suck at me and pull my life force and optimism for love out of me for way too long—and I was the one allowing it. He wasn’t the demon to fight any more, it was me. I knew it was time to resend my vampire’s invitation. So, what did I do? I kissed right back and allowed myself to be in the arms of someone who truly wanted me there.
Someone who might suck on my ear lobes, but not on my soul. Someone who was solid, and real, and good. And with that, my trance began to fade, the weight on my shoulders began to lessen and I woke up from what felt like the longest night of my life to a new bright sun-filled day, with no more veil blocking my view. It was time to stop blaming, and start being thankful. Pire taught me more about myself then possibly anyone ever has. I now know that my happiness will never be contingent on another being; human or vampire. I will respect myself enough to not let someone steal from my energy, love and ability to see clearly.
Pire unknowingly gave me this great gift, and as a thank you, I staked him.