It was about a month ago now that I found myself sitting cross-legged in silence among nineteen or twenty strangers, experiencing increasing terror as what I imagined to be a bombshell of a burp climbed my esophagus and threatened to acquaint itself with my serious-faced companions.
I swallowed loudly, for what felt like the thousandth time in mere minutes, self-consciously certain the clicking of my throat sounded like a thousand katydids in heat. Shortly thereafter, I also became certain that a fart was bullying its way out of my backside, threatening to tear a hole in the delicate fabric of silence that we had spent the past several minutes agreeably weaving.
Not now. Please not now.
I straightened my spine to drill sergeant standards, inhaled deeply, the way the Doshi had instructed me during my introductory session the day before and started at one, again.
Four... Why did my mother-in-law say that? Was it rude to tell my neighbor's young son not to interrupt our conversation? Am I going to fart? Oh God, or Buddha or whomever - there goes my stomach again. I'm sure everyone can hear it. I'm not doing so well at this meditation thing...
Five... Wait, wait. No thinking. Or am I supposed to be thinking about what I'm thinking about? I think that's what he said.
Six... I wonder how much time has gone by.
Oh boy. This is going to be a long half hour.
Turns out, it wasn't. It went by in what felt like five minutes. And so went my very first Sunday practicing Zen Buddhism at a nearby "Zendo" in the rolling green hills of the Pennsylvania countryside.
I've been going back ever since. After sitting and walking meditation we have a Dharma lesson, which is similar to Sunday School class, for those of you who, like me, grew up in a more traditional Christian church. After the Dharma lessing we have tea and discussions and I love it. I love every bit of it. The practice, the people, but most of all, the mind work. The knowledge.
But I'm not only sitting (the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism calls it "meditation sitting" or "zazen", if you want to bandy about a bunch of fancy Buddhist terms) with the group, but alone in my room whenever I can. Ten minutes, fifteen - whatever I can squeeze in. But let me just stop there before I sound annoyingly serene. I can assure you, most days I am anything but serene. But it's helping, it's making a noticeable difference and I have experienced a few mind-blowing realizations that I'll save for another time.
This whole Buddhism journey has been a long time coming for me. Over the years I bought books, even Buddhism For Dummies which, reading that book to really learn about the practice of Buddhism is akin to trying to teach someone to talk by showing them silent movies from the twenties. But, well, I was trying.
The other thing I've long held an interest in but have been too lazy to really get it going - especially in confluence with Buddhism - is yoga. They are quite complimentary to each other and work well together. Ever notice how calm and peaceful you feel after yoga? You walk taller, slower... That's kind of how I feel after meditating. Yoga draws the attention into the body, specific body parts, and focuses on breathing and sitting still so the body isn't lethargic or over-restless which is similar to what Buddhism does for the mind. Oh. And hey. It also has the potential to give you Jen Aniston's body. I mean, I know I'm not supposed to covet and all but JEN ANISTON'S BODY. She's over 40, people. I am not ruling out the power of yoga. And a bizillion dollars in Friends money, yes, but yoga too!
So I was happily scratching the beginnings of this whole Buddhist thing when I was contacted by a site called Udemy.com. Udemy offers online courses in everything. Seriously. Everything. Not just the usual learn to play a guitar, learn to cook, learn a language, learn to take great photographs courses. Want to learn how to be a vegetarian? They've got a step-by-step course. Want to design a logo for your blog? There's a course.
Udemy contacted me to ask if I wanted to take one of their yoga courses. And yes, yes I did. I've dabbled in yoga and had a somewhat serious affair with it when I was about 25 and had all the time in the world to devote to that kind of thing. I enjoyed it, liked how relaxed and strong I could feel at the same time but I admittedly never got really good at it.
Coincidentally, I had been considering giving a yoga class at the local YMCA a try right when I heard from Udemy so I thought, what the hell? Let's do this thing. I ended up choosing what is called a 14-Day Yoga Detox and Empowerment course because it seemed to mesh well with what I'm trying to accomplish within the practice of Buddhism.
Now, if you read this blog with any kind of regularity you're probably aware that I enjoy beer and nachos which kind of seems like the opposite of detox and empowerment, although I feel pretty powerful while in the midst of horking down a nachos grande supreme but I think that's just the power of my jaws unhinging so I can fit more chips in my maw. So yeah, okay, beer isn't the healthiest beverage of choice, I know, and I needed a jumpstart for this clean eating thing touted by Buddhism. I don't want to crave Doritos, I don't want to shovel food in my mouth because I'm tired or sad because it just makes me more tired and sad. I want to feed my body good foods that make it happy and give me energy.
So I chose this detox even though detox brings to mind horrific visions of guzzling gallons of lemon water with cayenne pepper and being encouraged to get coffee enemas on the regular but this isn't like that! The only liquid you'll be ingesting is through your mouth! And it isn't really even a detox in the traditional sense. The instructor, Sadie, just talks about how to eat cleanly and offers some cool detox smoothie ideas - all of which I was able to read about from the comfort of my home. The real deal is doing the yoga courses once a day, which, again, I can do from home. I like this. Add the twenty minutes it takes me to drive to and from the Y and take a yoga course there would require two hours of time that I just don't have. With this online stuff I'm up and at it in seconds. It's kind of like having a personal trainer, actually.
The course offers 14 chapters featuring the fundamentals of yoga. You read one chapter a day and do one session of yoga and then the instructor throws a smoothie recipe at you. And listen, I'm actually digging most of this. I am drinking tomato juice on the regular. I jazz it up with some Tapatio hot sauce and a little horseradish and put it in a fancy glass with a stalk of celery and I feel a bit like Norma Desmond, swooshing around the house with an elaborate "cocktail".
Lest you think Monica The Beer Guzzler is joking about all this I assure you that I even bought flax seeds and protein powder. WHO AM I? But, I repeat, it's not a detox. The best part is I can take it or leave it. I like this shake, I drink it and make it again instead of another shake I may not be all that into. I don't like this part of the yoga lesson, I wait until she moves on. It's at my pace and I'll have access to all the stuff forever. Just like Jen Aniston probably has forever access to her yoga instructor Mandy Ingber, whose name, sadly, I knew without even having to look up. But what I'm saying is, I'm just like Jen what with my private yoga instructor that I can summon to my bedroom at any moment of the day!
To be honest, I'm not getting all nutty about it. I'm doing it on my time, slowly but surely metabolizing the info and inserting it into my life when I'm in the mood. It's been a nice compliment to what I'm attempting to do with Buddhism which I plan to write more about very soon. I feel less bloated and have noticed an obvious uptick in my energy levels, for sure. I'm not gonna say I'm bounding joyfully out of bed each morning or anything because that would just be sickening, but I'm not dreading the moment I wake up and dragging ass downstairs to glug coffee. In short, I'm liking this, I really am.
So hey! If you feel like giving the 14-Day Yoga Detox and Empowerment course a try all you've got to do is click here and sign up. Use the coupon code to get 61% off the $59 price tag. That's, like, what? $23? More than half off. You have access to the course (the lectures, recipes and yoga videos) forever. If you do give it a try come find me on Facebook and let me know how you're digging it. We can talk flax seed and protein powder together! And then brush each others hair, paint our toes and look at photos of Jen Aniston.