80 days and 80 nights

Back in September, my wife and I took a trip.  We were heading to a facility in Rhinebeck, NY.  This was a place where she had gone two previous years and had come back with a refreshed outlook on life.  The focus of the trip was to meditate, find inner peace and walk in front of a very holy man once a day. 

If you read my stuff or talk with me on a regular basis, you probably know me to not exactly be the type to sit still long enough to meditate, never mind discuss anything related to God or religion.  Meditation can take many forms though, drumming is a form of meditation for me.  Even with other people playing, there are times when I can sit, feel a nice groove and play song to song while feeling relaxed and almost apart from myself.  This is usually when my jaw goes slack and people wonder if I’m still conscious with swinging arms.  As for belief in God.  I believe in God, I think God loves all people and have long since questioned the teaching of my Baptist upbringing that somehow suggested that the only people who would get to heaven were Baptists.  That I no longer believe. 

Belief is such a personal thing.  You can be raised one way and either continue your life thinking that same exact way or you can question or at least open yourself to other views.  The same can be said for politics in a way.  If you grow up in a small town, there may be a decent chance you are rather conservative.  Then you go to a university filled with people from all over the globe and that can potentially change your views.  The big question is are you open.  By that I mean, are you willing to listen, to observe, to experience something different from what you are used to, all with a conscious eye on your being. 

On the drive out on that last Sunday in September, between half hour updates on the NFL scores “let’s go to the passenger seat for our 30 at 30 update…” we had discussions about the upcoming event.  I asked things like, “why do we have to wear white all the time” “what am I supposed to do when I walk in front of this person” “how will I understand what he says” “if he tells me I need an intervention, will I really have to go through with it”  All answers were satisfactory and the ultimate answer was, whatever you want to do, you can do.  It was optional to go to this event.  I did not go the first two years, but felt like this would be the year to go.  It had been a rough year with many changes and I really felt a number of times like my mind was moving into a dark place.  Not any place scary, just in a negative direction.

I’ll spare you the details about the drive (constant rain), room (clean), cell reception (spotty) and food (also spotty) and move to the experience in the tents and rooms.  This place was all about energy.  Not energy drinks, not electrical energy, human energy.  You could feel a buzz when you sat in certain areas of the room.  People came from all over the country representing all kinds of religions.  Prayers were said in the Catholic manner, but people were encouraged to pray as they preferred.  The first day we were to walk in front of the holy man, we walked in groups.  I was in the group of first timers.  You formed a line and then walked through a room where a number of people were meditating.  I know I mentioned this wasn’t about electrical energy, but when you walked into the room you felt a buzzing, an electrical current almost.  I walked in front of the holy man, touched his hand, he said something in Portuguese and the woman next to him gave me my instructions.  That afternoon I was to return and sit before heading back to my temporary residence and remain there for 24 hours.

Are you kidding?  Me?  Stay in a room for 24 hours?  I can’t even stay in my house for 24 hours and we have more than one room.  But this was different.  The time I sat before heading to my room had the same buzzing energy.  During the time I was back in my room I slept, ate, read a little, slept some more, ate some more, dreamed, wrestled with my mind, slept and felt like something was working on me.  I’ll spare you some details, but it seemed like I was cut open a few times.  I’m not a big fan of needles, scalpels, or really anything that punctures the skin (one of many reasons why I do not have piercings or tattoos in spite of being a musician) and this really made my mind jump.  When I was finally able to go back outside, I stayed away from people and felt almost crowded.  24 hours after my encounter, I went in front of the holy man and was told I needed to do it all over again.

This time was a bit more mild in that in the next 24 hour period in the room I didn’t feel like I was cut into at all, but I still wrestled in my mind, slept, ate, slept, more mental wrestling, lather, rinse, repeat.  On the final day, I took one last walk in front of the holy man and was given a blessing and sent on my way.  That’s when the real fun began.

For 8 days following each of these events, I could not lift weights, run, bike ride, or really do any physical activity that I enjoy.  Since I had two events, the total was 10 days (you know I was marking those dates on my calendar).  For 40 days following the first event, there is a prescribed diet which is actually just a list of things you cannot do.  Avoid pork, spicy foods, energy work (acupuncture, massage), alcohol, and sexual energy.  We’re bordering on too much information here, but lets just say that I avoid pork as a general practice in my life and aside from salsa and nacho cheese, I can do without spicy foods.  Massage is helpful since I sit in a chair all day, but I can go without that.  I’m married with 2 kids so I’m not sure I have to explain that 40 days isn’t exactly an abnormal amount of time to go by without what Marge and Homer Simpson call snuggle time (today’s blog is rated PG).  Alcohol?  Now that’s a challenge.  Here’s another fun wrinkle, because I had two of these interventions, every one of those suggestions held (with the thankful exception of the sexual energy one) for ANOTHER 40 DAYS!!!  So if you’re scoring at home, and if you are, congratulations, that’s 80 days without beer.

A few short thoughts on beer.  I really like beer.  It is tasty, can be paired with almost any meal, and as one country singer once wrote “it makes me a jolly good fellow.”  (this portion of the blog is currently open for sponsorship)

Now that I’m on the eve of day 81 (meaning I can have some salsa and bacon at midnight if I want), I thought I’d take stock in how I am doing today versus September.  I think things are different.  My wife said she has seen a positive change in me.  I’ve been attempting to have a more positive outlook on life, be a better father, husband, employee, band mate, son, son-in-law, and client.  There are still ways that I annoy myself, watching TV when I could be writing, wasting time at the gym berating myself for not running another mile, or having a complete argument in my head while in the shower.  However, I’m recognizing that more now and trying to head it off before it really gets rolling.  So was this just like attending a self-improvement seminar?  I guess you could think of it that way.  Except instead of having some blow hard who made their money by selling two self-help books and conducting seminars, almost everything is done on my own. 

So yeah, 80 days is a long time to not have pork, peppers, Pinot or Peroni, but on the bright side, I lost five pounds and waited until yesterday to pull a muscle in my shoulder just in time to get a massage.  Cheers!


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