November, 2010 Archives

Yoga, The Ultimate Sin

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November 29th, 2010

I enjoyed my morning, parked in front of the television and sinning like a man destined for the abyss, while I slowly breathed deeply and stretched my aching muscles. I was practicing yoga, attempting to coax my body back into some semblance of normalcy and while doing so I was apparently committing a mortal sin […]

I enjoyed my morning, parked in front of the television and sinning like a man destined for the abyss, while I slowly breathed deeply and stretched my aching muscles. I was practicing yoga, attempting to coax my body back into some semblance of normalcy and while doing so I was apparently committing a mortal sin against Christianity.

Those are some steep consequences for using the Nintendo Wii.

It caught my attention the other day when a casual chat with a number of college friends on Facebook turned heated as we discussed how the ancient practice of yoga puts your soul in jeopardy. If you’re a Christian in good standing who treats people decently you can suddenly be a candidate for the fiery depths if you so much as breathe deeply or sit in any way remotely resembling a lotus flower.

In response to a Hindu group trying to acquaint Westerners with its roots, the New York Times reports the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.

All this time I thought it just imperiled my ability to hold back gas while doing funny body twists. If you’ve never tried yoga, it’s one of the best ways to mistakenly elicit a fart amongst a group of leotarded women bending in silence.

Now I have to worry about going to a hell which I don’t even believe in.

The fight between Hindus and Christians over the topic of who owns yoga is about as absurd as arguing over a fantasy soccer or cricket league, (yes they, unlike hell, exist). Can’t people just go to their community center in peace, roll out some mats and do dopey looking things for an hour? (NOTE: This is the reason why I do it at home now in front of the Wii; I look terribly silly but don’t have to worry about the escaped eruptions delineated earlier).

At the end of every session we say to each other “Namaste.” It means, in totally heretical laymen’s terms, “The light in me, honors and bows to the light in you.” Who can find fault in that? Who cares whether it began in the mystical east eons ago or the phantasmic 60s of Berkeley, California?

And while we’re at it, who cares what other people do to relax, de-stress, exercise or build muscle tone as long as it’s not illegal and doesn’t harm small woodland creatures?  When I mentioned to my collegiate associates on Facebook that God has many different names, one person I hadn’t even thought about for 25 years told me how wrong I was.

I didn’t know I was being so ignorant thinking we were all talking about basically the same thing. But then again I didn’t have my Nintendo console there to help me. And besides, my daughter had the Super Monkey Ball disk in the drive. Once you start taking spiritual advice from a monkey hopped up on Red Bull and bananas you know things are going to get a little nutty.

Namaste.

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You Asked About The Meaning Of Life

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November 20th, 2010

When we finished talking the other day I couldn’t help but feel I left you hanging. You’ve been my friend for many, many years and even though I couldn’t completely explain what it all means, I felt as though I just gave you some pat, standard answers. I apologize for that. But it’s a tough […]

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When we finished talking the other day I couldn’t help but feel I left you hanging. You’ve been my friend for many, many years and even though I couldn’t completely explain what it all means, I felt as though I just gave you some pat, standard answers. I apologize for that.

But it’s a tough question, “what’s the meaning of life?” You and I have known for years that there’s more to our saga than is apparent in everyday, 9-5 life. We’ve spoken many times about there being invisibles, intangibles that help us or benevolently exist as buffers or soft bumpers gently bouncing us in more or less the proper direction if we are sensitive enough to feel them.

And you, with your Protestant upbringing, have long felt the tug of higher planes and beings who, even though you were indoctrinated more than most, still hold a tender place in your soul. So really, your question doesn’t ask if there’s a greater construct or wider plans, but more, what do we do with this information once it’s firmly taken hold in our gut.

I hear you. I think billions of humans hear you too. They’ve heard your question since conscious thought was a part of primitive humanity. It has plagued civilization throughout the millenniums and yes, I used the word “plague.” In some aspects it gets in our way and causes undue stress. But in other ways it forces us to ask why we bother getting up in the morning.

I am by no means a sage, advisor or guidance counselor. Nor did my run-in with leukemia bring out a mystical, magical essence no matter how badly I wished it would have. I’m just another guy with another blog trying to explain things through my own warped perspective. But maybe, just maybe, my viewpoint makes sense to you.

I think we’re here, as my favorite author Richard Bach writes, to learn and to love. But we’re also here to experience, form inter-tangled relationships, get dirty and messy and deal with issues that we haven’t fully dealt with in this or previous lifetimes.

Yes, I’m one of those odd ducks who feels our souls have been around forever and have visited this and other realms again and again. It seems to me that when we jump off this plane: we rest up for a while in the afterworld, have some amazing ambrosia, catch up with our pen pals then decide to do it all over again only this time as pygmies or dolphins or pretzel thieves.

But why? Why experience life? How the heck should I know? But I do know this; the very fact that you and I communicated a few days ago and the very fact that we’ve been friends for so long is part of the answer. We are sharing this acid trip along with zillions of others past, present and future. So you have to find stuff along the way that juices you and makes the struggle worthwhile and fun.

You’ve done that. You have your family and your travels and your seeking. So maybe if you’re looking for an answer, flip it around and look at the question. Why are we doing this? Maybe partly it’s to ask why we’re doing this. See my point? By simply asking the question you have received your answer.

Tricky, eh?

If that doesn’t help; if finding the answer in amongst the question is too trite for you, I apologize. I’ve given you the learning/loving/connection spiel. So the only other thing I can try is to share where I’ve struck gold.

I’ve found meaning in sharing my life with others. I’ve found meaning through my family. I’ve found meaning through travel. I’ve found meaning through the visual arts. I’ve found meaning through yanking words out of nowhere and tapping them into submission. I’ve found meaning through teaching. I’ve found meaning through the love of friends. I’ve found meaning through deep, intimate love. I’ve found meaning through deep, intimate food. I’ve found meaning through humor. I’ve found lint in my pockets.

That’s about the best I can do and I should’ve told you all this earlier. But that’s the thing about conversations; they can last a lifetime. 

Beginning Of The NDE

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November 15th, 2010

Food arrives at our place on an almost routine basis these days. Organized by the amazing Carol Pochodylo, a chuck wagon rolls up to our house several times a week in the form of our kids’ friends’ parents, (if I’m allowed to use double apostrophes). The meals have been luscious and much appreciated. And wow, […]

Food arrives at our place on an almost routine basis these days. Organized by the amazing Carol Pochodylo, a chuck wagon rolls up to our house several times a week in the form of our kids’ friends’ parents, (if I’m allowed to use double apostrophes). The meals have been luscious and much appreciated. And wow, the stories that’ve arrived steaming hot have also been delicious.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting one of the parents whom I’d never run into before. For the sake of anonymity I’m keeping her name out of this but will gladly add it if she agrees later on. Her story was phenomenal. Having had brain surgery after brain surgery over the years the woman could more than empathize with my plight. But when she told me she actually clinically died twice I knew I had to ask.

“Did you see the tunnel?” I almost rudely inquired. To which she simply responded, with a large smile, “Oh yes.”

To elaborate, for years I have been interested in Near Death Experiences, (NDE). I’ve read widely about different people’s and different culture’s experiences with them and to say I’m intrigued by the phenomenon is a gross understatement. I’ve only actually met a handful of people who have agreed to talk to me personally about them. So when I see an opportunity, I swoop in all vulture-like.

Her story was routine and earth shaking. A huge percentage of these experiences follow her narrative but when it happens to you it’s anything but mundane. What I’m told is she was at a routine dentist appointment — nothing to do with all her brain tumor work — when she somehow got penicillin, which she is allergic to. She ended up dead on the floor.

A great white light tunnel hovered in front of her and she described a profound feeling of happiness, joy and ultimate, unconditional love. “Once you go there, believe me you never look back,” she explained.

Being nosy or being a journalist I pushed even further, “who did you see?” Everyone reports seeing somebody or some being. “Oh, my grandma showed up and that’s why I’m here today. She told me I had too many commitments to my small children and husband and to leave them now wouldn’t be right at all. So I came back.”

She then described coming to in the ambulance and being discombobulated but remembering the soul releasing experience of pure love. God do I love hearing people talk like that. She went on to say the little things here on earth are just that, little, minor details that shouldn’t be given too much weight.

She gave me directions on heating up the wonderful dinner, told me she absolutely adored my eldest daughter Skye, then floored me by asking for a hug before departing. “Heavens yes,” I thought joyfully, otherworldly, gratefully, I’ll take a hug.

So when Marci and Taylor came home I showed the food off and shared the story and my wife quickly pointed out, “Oh, it sounds a lot like Grandma.”

Taylor agreed but I had somehow forgotten the story. It turns out Marci’s grandma had a very similar experience after an unsuccessful C-section of her first child. Way back in the 1930s, she temporarily died and her baby fully passed on. As she was hovering in that place between life and death she saw her husband bent over, weeping uncontrollably. But here’s the thing, she also saw the overwhelmingly beautiful light and was drawn to it like all souls would be. But no, she stopped somehow and realized that both her child’s death and her own death would be too much for her husband to bear. So she went back.

For years she told that story to the next four children she successfully birthed and to some of her grandkids as well. She always told my wife she didn’t fear death and actually was kind of looking forward to it. Living to a ripe old age of 93 she apologized to Marci one time before going into surgery on my wife’s birthday. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to mar your birthday with my death,” she told Marci.

Obviously she knew something, because she let go on that very day. But I don’t think anybody in the extended family felt an overwhelming mourning because of everything she’d said all her life.

There’s comfort in food and found awakenings. I don’t know whether the women I’ve written about would agree, but I imagine they look at their metaphysical experiences as silver linings amidst their own personal tragedies. Regardless, they exude an inner peace.

To us, we outsiders who’ve never had the fortune or misfortune of experiencing such trauma, their stories are gifts far more impressive than BluRay players, iPhones or new cars. Their gifts are guideposts along our own epic sagas and there’s nothing like pausing during our journey and seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Or as my childhood friend Marc wrote recently, “the cake at the end of the funnel.”

Our Hallucination

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November 7th, 2010

Imagine I wrote this post a few weeks back. I was telling my cousin-buddy Chris this story and he asked why it wasn’t up on the blog. We were sitting in the parking lot outside my daughter Skye’s play, waiting for the crowd to all enter the auditorium so I could ghost in and sit […]

Imagine I wrote this post a few weeks back. I was telling my cousin-buddy Chris this story and he asked why it wasn’t up on the blog. We were sitting in the parking lot outside my daughter Skye’s play, waiting for the crowd to all enter the auditorium so I could ghost in and sit in the back with a CDC mask. I told him to give me a break for not actually writing it: I wasn’t able to get out of bed too long back then.

There were a few nights that I was on heroin or opium and I really can’t remember what happened. That sounds like the beginning to a really great college story. Unfortunately this one involves poo. The actual drug I was imbibing, every 15 minutes via a convenient pump mechanism, was dilaudid — a derivative of morphine. Deluded is a better name for the painkiller.

Not going into too much gross detail about my gross motor skills, let’s just take it as assumed that eating and swallowing were out and pooing was in — way in. There’s one night in particular that I have not been able to get independent verification on but a shadowy part of my memory recalls being hoisted into rubber pants and being told to just sit there while a battalion of midnight shift workers took care of “things.” I know I wasn’t imagining this.

But I probably was.

The doctor told me one of dilaudid’s side effects was hallucinations. I told him, seriously as I could, “I’m not having any problems with that until I close my eyes and the room fills with people I’ve never met.”

One of the greatest benefits about being a jokester is people think you’re kidding when you’re really being serious but shouldn’t be. I wasn’t ready for the drug to go bye-bye. Neither were all my friends who instantly arrived whenever my eyelids blinked. They were a great group of partiers who would hang out everywhere in the place, gravity not being a concern to them. Were they the dead? Were they from another realm? Were they fig newtons of my imagination?

None of them were evil, many didn’t even seem to notice me and only a few would sit or float bedside and carry on a brief conversation. No, I can’t remember what they had to say but there was a whole passel of them just enjoying the jam of being in my head and showing me an alternate reality.

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Having beings and buddies, not-too-real but nevertheless present, was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t prepared to call them hallucinations but I wasn’t ready to dismiss them entirely. As I tap this out — munching on magnesium-producing brown rice with a nightcap of yogurt to continue curing my insides — I look at the hallucinations as wacky windows into something else. Whether they were real or imagined I’m glad for their existence. They were nonchalant and I felt comfortable around them. That may be the best message ever.

If that’s what other realms are about, I can handle it. If that’s where my mind goes in the end, I can handle that too. It’s these glimpses that I’ve gotten along the way that provide a sense of something eternal.

And then as if scripted, my cousin and I float back into the auditorium and there’s my daughter on stage talking in Our Town about how dead people finally understand there’s something eternal to all of this. Here’s what she, I mean Thornton Wilder said:

“We all know that something is eternal, and it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t the earth and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has got a lot to do with human beings. All the greatest minds ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years, and yet you’d be surprised how often people lose sight of that. There is something eternal about every human being.”

She dedicated this next line to her Mom and I and even added it to the program.

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.”

If my daughter sees Marci and I as a saint and a poet, we’ve already achieved eternity. And that’s not being Deluded one bit.