Archive for January, 2010

Chapter 21. Yoga.

Chapter 21

Yogurt

Yoga. Yoga. Yoga.

This little piece of the manful meditation saga isn’t about yogurt.  Although I will readily volunteer that I have a very powerful affection for the simplest sour plain variety. Although yogurt would be fun to write about, I don’t see how it remotely fits into this story in any possible way.  No, these thoughts are about Yoga. Truth is there is no real connection between Yoga and Yogurt except that they kind of sound alike and I have always referred to Yoga as Yogurt for reasons known only to the idiosyncrasies of my mind.

Ahem.

Here is a plain and simple fact. I could never have crawled back out of the personal abyss of underemployment and understructure without making yoga a regular part of my daily life.  Period.  It has surprised me in its power to shape both my being and my mind.

Yoga blew through every stereotype that I held when I started to practice.  It became my reliable source of strength and energy. I quickly discovered that I struggle when I let life overwhelm my discipline and I forget to practice or fail to make it a priority.  I come back to it every time.  It is both a rock and a teacher.

Through my study of yoga I learned to deal with the strange duality of consistent and incremental success accompanies by mild but consistent failures.  It taught about our human relationship with physical pain. It showed me how to overcome my fear of it.

Yoga forced me to listen to and then begrudgingly respect a teacher once again even if I did not like him one bit just like the relationships that I had with the many teachers I met over the years.

Now I am anything but the prototypical candidate to start a yoga practice.  I have hamstrings that scream every time I stretch them. They still do.  My left knee stiffens every time I run. I suffered serious damage to my hips and groin in a severe bike wreck years ago in which I cracked my helmet in half when I was thrown off. Let that be a lesson to those of you that don’t want to wear one.

The fallout from that accident combined with work tension made me so stiff that several years ago I desperately sought relief from a chiropractor when it got to the point that I could not walk.  That is another experience I hope not to repeat in this life, both in terms of the pain and the treatment.  I for one am not comfortable with the having my spine cracked like a walnut shell although I must say that it did work.

Unlike the journey into manful meditation that I have been chronicling, my yoga practice went pretty smoothly (with the usual strange detours along the way). I think it is the physical aspect of doing yoga that made it easier to learn.

My first interactions with the various yoga schools of thought didn’t help this process in any way.  Does it seem that these days anyone can rent space in a studio pump in some airy music, buy a few mats, blankets and blocks and call him or herself a yogi?  Shouldn’t there be a test or at least some sort of disclosure (where did you go to school, how long have you been doing this, etc.) before you get to toy with people’s bodies?  Are they even insured?  Probably not.

Ah, those first few yoga classes, what totally bizarre experiences they were.  I don’t know how I had the stomach to try it again and again.  Must be that persistence thing.

Yoga training starts from a position that many men including myself find intuitively untenable.  Yoga requires you to be passive.  You are instructed to place your body and your mind under the control of an instructor who knows nothing about you, your physical limitations and your strengths and in 9.9 of out 10 classes won’t bother to ask.  In a group that can be as small as just you or as big as 50, you sit there as the class begins, completely unprotected from a panoply of embarrassing possibilities and routine failures.

There are some really good ways to screw up in Yoga class.  My favorite is the yoga fart.  Yoga’s particular emphasis on stretching your body puts pressure on your core, i.e. your center, and that means your abdomen.  If you are not careful and observant, that same pressure will force that lingering fart out of you at a very inopportune moment.  This usually results in a loud quick announcement that someone has let go of the gas.

The question I always wondered about is why no one will acknowledge it.  Or laugh.  Or say something.  Everyone acts as if nothing has happened.

Is that part of the yoga spirit?  Or perhaps it is a reflection of the collective behavior of yoga students, a group of individuals doing the same activities, sharing the same instructor, but rarely, if ever, acknowledging that the other people around them exist. In fact, it seems that people in yoga classes go out of the way to be sure not to acknowledge each other.

Recently a newly single friend asked me about Yoga.  He had seen a number of good-looking women his age going into a studio near his workplace.  He wondered if this was a place he could meet someone.  I told him flat out not to bother.  No one interacts at the Yoga studio, not on the way in, the way out or during.  Eye contract is frowned upon as are smiles or any acknowledgment that the individual exists.  When eye contact is made it is quickly averted, an embarrassment for both parties.  The individual becomes fully subjugated to the group experience but there is no team.  Another confusing moment for most of us guys who are waiting for someone to block for us as we hit the hole.

But back to those first yoga moments.  The first class I attended was held in an old warehouse in the industrial part of the city taught by a short and comfortably butch lesbian who ran the hour like a junior high school gym class.  Commands were grunted at us in a secret language I did not understand.   We were told to salute the sun, stand like a tree, sit like a lotus flower, spin like a wheel and kneel like a child.  Other poses were named plank, dolphin, cobra or scorpion.  All of them also had long foreign names that she yelled in clipped angry barks.  People contorted and twisted while I looked on perplexed and confused doing my feeble best not to look like a fool.

Finally the hour passed. At the end of the class, as I stood there looking straight ahead in state of shock and pain, she told us to lie down like corpses while the heater, suspended twenty feet above us, wheezed to life desperately trying to get the room above 62 degrees.  That was the first pose that I got right.

Not a word was said at the end except for what I now know to be the traditional end of class salutation: “Namaste”. As I left the room I imagined her snapping towels at our butts, just like the gym teachers did back when.  The other students picked up their mats, blankets, blocks and towels and just left without a word. This class had the warmth of a February Boston day.  I did not consider a second visit.

That evening I sought out the advice of La femme.  She had been going to Yoga classes for the past few years although I observed that she seemed to switch schools, studios and instructors on a regular basis.  While supportive, she had no recommendation other than to keep trying until I found something that worked. This was not very reassuring because I knew she hadn’t done so yet.

But there is that persistence thing in me.

So I turned back to my trusted old amigo, the Internet and started to search. Let’s see.  “Yoga.  Berkeley. Beginner.”  What would come up?

The first listing that I saw that was close to our home was for a ‘gentle’ yoga class.  As a novice I thought that hey, this might be an easier way to get started; you know maybe do some stretching and get some instruction on how to properly do this posing stuff.

The class was held the next day at 4pm in the afternoon in a bright studio full of plants and sunlight on residential street. I should have know from the painfully insipid sounds of Enya that were playing when I walked in the room (remember her? sadly I do) and the strange mixed scent of patchouli and sweat that this was going to be a stretch (and not in the sense that I wanted to be). The whole room reeked of ancient long expired hippiedom and enforced relaxation vibes.  No good signs anywhere.

The class truly was ‘gentle’.  So much so that we did nothing but search for our breath for the first 20 minutes while synthesizers swooshed and Enya’s voice came and went along with my patience and my mind drifted between what to make for dinner and the current state of Cal football and their lack of a quality quarterback.  Our teacher kept telling us find ourselves, I didn’t know where to look.  Then after some ‘gentle’ movement that barely qualified as stretching we lay down again.  More breathing, I swear I couldn’t take much more of this.  Two more gentle poses where we barely held with our arms above our heads.  More breathing and done time to lie down.   Happy Namaste everybody.  Who wants to play corpse with these corpses?

And then there was the population of the class.  I try to have an open mind. But am I the only man who is uncomfortable in a crowd of graying post menopausal women in tie dye leotards and ridiculously tight stretch pants that reveal way too much detail for visual comfort? I mean is there no shame in your outfits ladies?

There was just something wrong with the visuals that I witnessed during the class. It completely creeped me out.

After that I bounced around from studio to studio and school to school without success including the famous Bikram loss of consciousness alluded to many pages earlier.

Eventually I was saved when my trusty cheap inner self took over.  I already belonged to a fancy pants gym that had regular yoga classes.  Not being able to stomach keep paying for more disastrous experiences I thought I should give it a try.

The next Tuesday I schlepped to downtown Oakland with my mat, some loose trunks and no expectations of what this class could bring, this was a gym after all.

Well, the first class did do something new for me.  It kicked my ass.  I didn’t fall once during class.  I fell 10 times.  I discovered very quickly how hard it was too stand like a tree and to balance on one leg. Or to try to hold your own hand while the other one is tucked inside of your thigh while you twisted your spine and back.  And much much more. I felt the pain of stretching muscles and joints that had not been exercised in my 50 plus years of life.

After class I hurt. I took a long schvitz and a very hot shower. When I came home that evening I took 2 Ibuprophen and passed out cold before her for a change.  Slept like a rock.

I was intrigued to say the least.

So I returned. And as with most of this journey, my progress in Yoga proved incremental. A little better here, a little better there. As the weeks went by and then the months that followed, I went to class once and then twice a week.  Then I purchased a CD of the class so I could add a work out once on the weekend.  As my time spent doing yoga my competency increased. What a surprise!

Just as strange as the relationship, or lack thereof, was with the students, was the behavior of our instructor, who seemed to be another closet fascist hiding out in the world of relaxation.

He said little outside of the instructions, and when he did he told the worst jokes imaginable. Sometimes he would insult a student for being late. Other times he feigned as if he had missed the count of a string of poses, which of course he never did. Forced ‘ha ha ha’ laughter would follow from the collaborator students in the studio while the rest of us just waited uncomfortably for the moment to pass.  Stranger still was the fact that he seemed to have difficulty walking, something incongruous with the core reason for doing yoga in the first place.

But there was no doubting his ability or his dedication to the Ashtanga School.  He knew the exercises and every subtle detail, letting you know when to add an upward twist or a stretch of you toes or to lift your back. These minimal variations in his instructions were always there if you looked for them but never easy to find if you were desperately trying to catch your breath.

Yoga still delivered some way to much detail moments when I come out of a pose and found myself staring at a very large and sweaty butt. But now I just pushed ahead and kept my laughter choked down inside.

In the much larger sense, going to the same yoga class twice a week with the same teacher, same poses and at the same time provided me a key that was missing on my inner path to peace and finding my own character.  The fourth pillar of the world that I had been trying to build that summer and fall without success. Practice.  As my Yoga practice got better the mediation couldn’t help but benefit from the discipline I developed.

I don’t know why I ever imagined that meditation and mindfulness would ever become a part of my life without devoting myself to them.  How did I ever learn to play sports? Play an instrument?  Learn to do anything new?  Why did I believe that meditation was any different?  That somehow it would just come to me when it was so very foreign and if anything required even more discipline in order to push forward.

So it was on. I began to get it. What I put into the practice is equal to what I got out. Energy in to get energy out.

In this world there is no sweaty asshole high school coach ready to kick my ass, no stuck up teacher riding me to finish that paper and no one to answer to if I failed. The only person who decides whether to practice (whether we are talking about Yoga or meditation) on a given day is me. That is a responsibility to myself that I have to fulfill.

I found the energy that Yoga gave me addicting, the clarity refreshing and the physical calm refreshing.  And it was always good to see the smile on the power’s face when I told her how much I enjoyed the last work out.

This part of the inward journey was a lot like riding a bike or going ice skating for the first time.  There were plenty of wobbles and sometimes I thought that I would fall. But in a little while and with some practice and patience I began to move forward with style and grace.

But do not for a nano-moment think that that this was easy.  It was not.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I wanted to just stop.  I got bored and spaced out in class.  The doubters inside my head would come roaring in for their regular visits, it won’t work, you can’t get there, and it doesn’t mean shit, why fucking bother.

That didn’t stop me from getting what I wanted before.  I would remind myself of the simple rule of forward motion: Keep your eye on the prize.  Oh and that other one. Get your ass off of the couch.

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Chapter 20: What Is This Manfullness That You Speak Of?

Chapter 20

What Is This Manfullness That You Speak Of?

Continued proof positive that we are not our fathers.

As I continued to sit there in the comfy chair, I ruminated upon the interesting shapes formed by the beer stains that spread up my groin and down the right leg of my khakis during the 20 minutes or so that had disappeared that afternoon when my Sierra Nevada did a half gainer on my pants.  Were those unusual spots a subconscious sort of Rorschach test for my current state of mind? Did that shape on my upper right thigh look like a holy elephants head?  Or an eight armed female spirit?  Or more accurately, maybe I shouldn’t have drank that third (fourth?) pale ale that afternoon christening the new manspace?

I didn’t spend much longer dwelling on the stains, it was easier just to change into my standard dark blue sweats and get on with butchering the lamb shoulder I would need to make a tangine for the evening meal.  I was already behind on my timing and had to get moving or the lamb would be as tough as the last few weeks in the house had been.

Later that afternoon, standing in the now functional kitchen, carving the lamb, separating out the fat and cartilage in a steady rhythmic motion, knife sharp and hand steady, I kept thinking about how good I felt.  Something had happened that afternoon and I liked it. That positive feeling was a premonition of what was about to occur, a step forward on a conscious trek that was already open to me.

This was the start of another breakthrough period that followed during the next few weeks. Over these weeks I made a number of small but significant adjustments in my practice.  For one thing, I began to actually try again. That alone produced immediate results.

It seems clear why that happened. All of the pieces were in place; now everything was destined to get better.  I had practiced relaxation for months now.  I worked with a good coach.  I went to yoga regularly.  And now, a holy manspace was established and blessed while the little gem of a TV remained incognito, under the radar and undiscovered. Having a regular space to enjoy relaxed me and it showed, both in my continuing attempts at meditation and relations on the home front. As I continued to relax so did La Sweets.

Then without thinking about why, one morning I opened my eyes while I meditated.  This too had a positive effect. First of all my breathing wasn’t nearly as bad.  By keeping my eyes open I avoided the panic that ensued each time I got to 5 breaths with them closed. I even found a meditation website full of people in white flowing outfits that said it was OK to do to meditate this way. After that I felt less like a heretic every day.

It was just as the books said, as the breathing got better I was able to meditate for longer periods. For the first time thoughts came and went lightly and sometimes I embrace them.  Other times I let them just drift off without stress.

Just as with every other stop along this bus line when I would pause and reflect on where things were going I could see the changes.  However, when they were happening I could not.

So this was it, right?  Isn’t this time when I should have faced another epic personal disaster? When some horrible event comes along that brought the familiar dramatic tension that seemed to rule my everyday life back from the dead, zombie hand rising through the floorboards of my house grasping my spiritual throat, painful headaches creeping up my shoulder to my neck.

Nope.  It all just kept getting gradually better and better from there.  This was the sweet set of moments when it started to fall together.  When a meditation practice emerged from the unformed firmament and began to take shape that I could live with.

As my comfort levels increased I spent more time practicing.  When I did, I thought a lot about why this was happening. Just what was working for me, an unemployed middle-aged male stuck in the middle of late 2008, trying to make sense of the world as it collapsed in financial ruins all about us while I, weirdly enough, found more happiness than I had in many many years.

There were several changes that revealed themselves during this fertile period.  I continued to be amazed by the abundance found in creating a state of mindfulness.  I spent a lot of time reading and learning more about it. It provided me with a new found sense of relief and calm, something so so foreign to me.  It was an oasis and I drank at the well with gusto.

At the same time I finally ascertained there was another factor that walked hand in hand with mindfulness that made it work for me this time.

There was something in common between the formative meditating hung over moment of August and my beer induced space out that October, an incident that I came to understand was a deep meditative dive into the green of the soccer pitch.  It wasn’t the alcohol either.

Once again I had meditated on a subject that I loved so much, except in this case it was sports instead of food and I got much further out there.  Thinking about the great sports moments that I had enjoyed over the years and the great meals, I understood that there was something greater afoot.  This was a power greater than I had found while meditating while focusing on things that I loved.

For me to make this inner journey a success, I wanted to meditate on the joy we find in our lives as men.  Put differently, to focus on things that were both mindful and manful**. It wasn’t enough to become just mindful. It had to be manful as well.

****Manful: adj.  Having or showing the bravery and resoluteness considered characteristic of a man. Manfullness is a really a subjective concept that is more easily explained by looking at the lives of other manful men. Do you want a manful role model to illustrate this?  Think about one such man: Quincy Jones. What, close to 200 Grammies, 5 wives who all love him, 2 of which just happen to be Natasha Kinsky and Peggy Lipton.  Now that is living life as a manful man in the moment.  What man wouldn’t be awake, alive and aware in that life!

This core teaching formed the base of my meditation practice that I follow to this day.  Not meditation, but manful meditation.  A path that I built step by step as I explored my work in this new kind of meditation over the months that followed. A study built upon a regular practice of meditation that focuses upon those things that are manful.

There was another shock to my system right about then. To my surprise I wanted to share this study with others other men in transition like myself.

There were good reasons for this.

Manful meditation calmed my mind and let me take control of my life through a regular practice of relaxation training that I enjoy and look forward to.  It provided me with mental freedom that I have never imagined.  It is fun too.  This alone was worth sharing.

If only someone would have taught me to relax years ago.  How differently those years might have gone  How much time wasted and how much pain suffered unnecessarily.

I dreamed of being to turn on that power when I wanted and then enjoy it for the rest of my life.  To have the mental discipline to choose what I am feeling and when I feel it.  To weed out the negative poisons of anxiety and fear.  Then these dreams became part of my life.

This is the end game of a manful meditation practice.   What right thinking man couldn’t use a bit of that in the daily wars of life.

Chapter 19: Finding a Holy Place In the Left Field Bleachers

Chapter 19

Finding A Holy Place In the Left Field Bleachers

One step forward, two steps back.  One step forward.

October became a memory and the holidays rapidly appeared on the horizon in its place.  I had worked hard on relaxation and meditation techniques for months now.  And the jury was far from in on the results.  My well-documented failures were still in charge of day-to-day operations and they showed no signs of early retirement from their posts.

Some real internal frustrations were building up inside.  And along with those deviations came increasingly regular return visits from my very own personal pusher of anxiety and fear, my dear old friend  doubt.

Doubt.  Doubt in myself.  Doubt in what was doing and more accurately doubt because of what I was not doing.  Accompanying doubt, I experienced a re-occurrence of stomach discomfort for the first time since I was hospitalized the year before.  To be sure, these pains weren’t brutally severe and they came and went without a real incident. They served as a sort of reminder of my earlier life, a tattered business card from a past associate that you would much rather forget that you find in an unused drawer.

As doubt took hold every obstruction that I met in my odyssey towards a peaceful centered life was now met with an equal reaction of plain old-fashioned I don’t give a shit behavior.   I regressed quickly into old comfy and unproductive ways, all too easily embracing the ease of falling into familiar darker paths.  Days would pass when I just gave up, pushing the breathing exercises aside as soon as they didn’t feel right, which was pretty easy as they didn’t work very well any more.  I let go of any and all attempts at meditation and quit my work with the coach. In other market news, soon a day was a success when I just passed the time without having a drink before 4 pm when I started cooking and pleasantly burned through the rest of that afternoon.  Or was that 3?  I began to lose track.

The Internet returned to reprise its previous Oscar-winning role, starring as the senseless time waster that only it can be.  Where else could you pass the hours in such semi-intelligent fashion and feel that you were accomplishing something when the opposite was so true?  Hours wasted on sites you can only imagine (and those that you probably shouldn’t). And thank god Macs don’t attract viruses and I know how to erase a history, it could have been much worse.

The tension on the home front returned with a vengeance and began to rise to new heights as we hit new lows punctuated by uncomfortable silences and suspicion of what I was “doing all day long” and how often she found me at the end of the day with another gourmet meal ready to eat and a serious buzz on.

When she asked what I was up to I relied on the old warhorses, “ Oh you know, looking for work.  Great networking lunch.  Spent some time meditating.  Beautiful day to walk the dog up in the hills.”  She was growing impatient with me. Believe me, I knew that she expected more and I wish I had something to say.  But there was nothing new to report on any front. Some mornings it just felt like I was walking in thick thick mud covered with a central valley ground fog at the speed of a zombie.

I had made a vow to myself to read a book about Eastern thought every day for an hour.  At least.  That time was shrinking fast, some days I would skip the readings entirely, preferring to bury myself in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, old issues of the NY Times and Sports Illustrated.  And then I guess I just got lucky.  When reading one of the texts I hit upon a concept that would help to bring me back on course or at least buy me some cover. It showed me a faint but clear sign that helped me get back on the road to balance that I so wanted and get the Power back on happy street with us.

So just what juicy transcendental trinket did I find that was M.I.A. in my flailing attempts to find inner peace between quarters during the commercial breaks?

Here is how the recovery played out. To help with my breathing challenges I knew that I needed to practice more.  One of the texts suggested that to practice effectively, I needed a regular place of my own where I could get away, a personal space where I can be left alone to leave one world and enter another. That is what hit me. I immediately and intuitively understood what needed to be done! I would create a modern mancave.

OK, my approach was a bit out-of-order. From what I read that I was supposed to master the breathing and the meditation stuff first.  My problem was that I was so easily distracted.  I thought that maybe a finding a regular place to unwind would help me to focus.  Yes, if I had a place to practice regularly then the breathing might come easier.

And there was another simple goal that revealed itself during construction.  To find a place in the house where I could, well, hang out and ignore everything without judgment or rebuke.  With some luck, if I played this right my wife would learn to actually adore me for doing nothing.  Now that was not a bad concept at all.

But back to the work at hand, the Mancave.  When this idea hit me I got stoked.  Mancaves have existed throughout history.  Yet they have recently fallen into disparagement as a result of continued (and in this case misguided) feminine and feminist attacks on this critical aspect of our male well beings (sorry girls, it is just true you have driven us out of these safe spaces as the demands for gourmet food pantries, children’s playrooms and family viewing rooms took their place).

There are so many wonderful historical examples that come to mind when I think of the great mancaves of the past.  Workshop.  Garage.  Wood paneled den.  Pool hall. Fraternal orders. Orthodox synagogues (just kidding but less so than at first blush).  The rectors of the priesthood.  I close my eyes and I see images our collective fathers, Jackie Gleason with his raccoon hat, my dad fixing a broken appliance in the garage, a neighbor overhauling the engine of his car underneath a fluorescent light.

Yet there was always something missing in those holy spaces of mandom:  Her unconditional seal of approval. And how to get that precious stamp?  I found the answer through the simple study of the way the opposing team built their she-nests.  Just what had she done that I could co-opt in the construction plans for this new impenetrable male environment?

I had the breakthrough one evening as I contemplated this dilemma lying next to la sweets just watching her, she already deeply sound asleep on the other side of the bed, eyes closed, breath heavy and obviously happy to be (a concept that has always honestly always evaded my comprehension.  What male enjoys sleeping the way that they do?).  As I lie there looking over her and at her side of the bedroom, I saw that she had created a she-nest right there in our bedroom space.  That ruled the bedroom out for me, there just was not enough room left over to create a holy space where my work on manful meditations to continue.

I studied her tools of the trade, a ganesh (the holy elephant), some candles, incense burners a variety of wooden buddhas, and some polished stones.  Books, a prayer rug and a shawl. These were the symbols of meditation to her.  I needed to borrow them to lend credibility to my version of this trip east.

Living in a small but sweet bungalow didn’t allow for many alternatives as I ran the floor plan of the house through my head and thought about where I could hole up for this holy work. With no office, a garage regularly attacked by rats and full of slowly molding paperwork, unusable clothing, my tools and my wine cellar; there was no easy spatial solution that came to mind.

Then it hit me.  What about my daughter’s room? Someone had to take one for the team and what were we hanging on to anyway?  She was the one who grew up and left for Boston to go college.  Now the room sat uncomfortably between her past and the present, full of stuff she wouldn’t be needing anytime soon and a collection of odds and ends that the Power couldn’t store anywhere else in the maison.

The next afternoon as I looked over her room and laid out the dimensions of my new manspace. I took a quick mental inventory of holy images and symbols I wanted to surround myself with to encourage my inner search.  Heroes I could relate to.  A black and white photo of Bill Walsh and Joe Montana taken in 1981, god did Montana look young and happy.  A baseball signed by Barry Bonds. A black and white photo of three bottles of Chateau D’yquem that I took in Paris so many many years back, portraits of Bill Graham, David Byrne and Bruce Springsteen.

Now, I needed a black stone buddha and an incense burner for cover, I could always get those from the other side of the bedroom.  Let’s see put a few of my real holy texts on the desk and maybe get a prayer rug to hang on the wall.

More importantly I need to move in the holiest embodiments of the peaceful spirit of all men, my comfy chair and a TV.   I knew that the chair would be an easy explanation (it is about relaxing isn’t it?), but the TV was the wild card.  I had already spotted a 21 inch flat screen on Craigslist for $150 that morning and was going to pick it up later that day. It was going to need some creativity to make that move fly, but I had a some time and her wonderful indifference to details to work that out.

The next day after La Sweets left the house I purchased the TV without incident (or question on my part) at a run down but clean home just off of San Pablo Avenue after seeing it work no questions asked. Paid cash.  Then under the faithful but somewhat confused supervision of white dog Kelly, I began the process of converting the daughter’s room into my new modern man cave.  After moving her bed I had enough space to put the TV on the desk and surround it with my holy symbols.  The comfy chair went right between the desk and the wall so I could settle in.  I thanked my spirits that we had wired her room for cable when she demanded it while she was in high school. As I worked I rehearsed the introduction of the new man space to her that evening, angling for maximum effect.

This didn’t solve the bigger issue of why I needed a TV as part of this path to Eastern holy thought.  But I was working on it.

The installation took less than two hours, easily done before lunch, a prosciutto and mozzarella panini with some aged balsamic which was particularly tasty that day.  I passed the afternoon in the comfy chair watching the Food Network and reruns of South Park just to be sure that everything worked right.  It did.

When SHE arrived home late as usual and tired from work that evening I had a margarita in hand waiting for in the kitchen.  Normally she would welcome this but her fem-sense went into high red alert instead. This was not a good sign.  There were dark clouds covering the emotional horizon. Before saying hello she looked at me standing there with her drink and stared at me silently.  She finally started in. “Ok, so what is with the margarita tonight.  It’s Wednesday, isn’t it?”

I ignored the obvious bait and stayed positive. “I thought you would enjoy it.”  She didn’t budge.

“Did something go wrong today?

“No.”   Not enough.

“Did you get another job rejection?”  Another bad sign, she didn’t remember that I hadn’t applied for a job in over a month and nothing was pending.

“No.”  Keep it short.

“Have you been drinking?”  Well I had, but that wasn’t going to help anything now.

“None of the above,” I answered.  “Nothing went wrong today and believe me nothing is happening on the job front, good or bad.”  I couldn’t resist that one.  “I just thought you would enjoy a cocktail after work.”

She looked at me skeptically.  She still hadn’t taken the drink from my hand.

“Come on now have a drink with me, I have some good news”

She took it and just stared at me with the drink in one hand and her clutch in the other, sort of pursing her lips and furrowing her forehead without saying another word. I was beginning to worry about how she might react.  Was this a mistake or was she just making me feel uncomfortable? Why I was feeling so anxious about what she would do when she saw what I had done to daughter dearest’s room when I knew this was a good thing.

No, I wouldn’t let that happen. I knew that this was it, time to go deep with this idea, either my mancave theory was going to work out or it wouldn’t. This was a sort of coming out for the concept of manful meditation.  I needed to declare my new space to my wife, just like some roaming Fido leaving his mark on that tree outside the house. I wanted to lift my spiritual leg up high and say:

“Honey this is the space where I am most comfortable with my meditation practice.”

Five minutes later I opened the door to the bedroom and said just that. When I opened the door and turned on the lights she just smiled.

“What the hell is this?”  I knew from her tone that the worst was over.

“This is my new meditation space.”

She smiled.  “Did I give you permission to borrow Ganesh?”  There was enough a tease in her voice to let me know that she didn’t really mind.
Would you like me to get you a new one?

“No, you can use it until you are ready to give it back. I can’t believe you did this.  You know, it makes me feel good that a part of me is down here with you when you meditate.”
This was going really well. So I went for the jugular.

“Fantastic. So when I am here meditating, I would really appreciate it if you let me do this alone. It helps me focus on my personal growth.”

Hey, I will admit it.  I had always imagined a moment when I could tell her to leave me alone and she would want to do so!

“Of course honey,”  and yes, she smiled again as she  replied, “just don’t spend all of your weekends in here.  I can get lonely.”

Wow! This was a 4 star experience.  She walked out of the room and went upstairs without another word. Or a mention of the new TV that sat on the desk.

So here is what I learned on this occasion. Every home has a space that a man can carve out for himself and every woman will let him create one as long as she believes that it is part of a journey to inner peace. Yes, before getting ready to engage in the practice, the student must retire to his holy space. All you need are the symbols and the space to do it.  Once you close that door you are in control.  No one knows what the hell you are doing except you. And what possibilities existed for further exploration.

A few days later, as I enjoyed the mid-afternoon repeat of the English first league match between Leeds and Manchester United, I felt just wonderful.  I sat, well more slouched than sat, deeply rooted in the comfy chair with a cold Sierra Nevada in hand enjoying the rhythmic passing and stout defenses.  Things were dandy, wife was back in the fold, I had a new TV and no commitments on the horizon.

Somewhere during the second period I absolutely spaced out for a good 20 minutes.  I mean I must have missed 1/2 of the period and when gradually I came out of it I felt refreshed, focused and relaxed.  I knew that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet my beer had spilled on my pants and I hadn’t even noticed.  Just what the hell had happened?


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