Meditating Hung Over

By Jules Kragen

Meditating Hung Over A journey in manful meditations

1. Introduction; Mantras for the modern man. 2. Embracing the man-bhudda within 3. The man-bhudda speaks 4. Liar Liar brains on fire 5. A vision in the hospital bed 6. This is a rat race 7. But first an important message from your foot 8. This door shuts like velvet on foam 9. The eye of the storm is strangely quiet but still really windy. 10. Back where we started, here we go round again. 11. Papa oooh mow mow. Uh Uh. Shboom shboom. 12. Let’s get this party started.

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13. Coached and contracted. 14. The purple and blue rays of dawn. 15. Heavy Construction
Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter 24. 23: 22. 21. 20: 19: 18. 17: 16: I am not wasted. And I can find my way home. A Snake In The Grass Talking ’bout My Meditation. Yoga. What Is This Manfullness That You Speak Of? Finding a Holy Place In the Left Field Bleachers A Deep Dive in Cold Clear Water. Sunrise Finding An On-ramp in the Middle of the Countryside

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Chapter 1. Mantras for the modern man Last year I lost my job, my hair, my wife and my dog died although not necessarily in that order. Well that is not exactly the truth. In fact, it isn’t even close. But I always wanted to write a country western song and I never got the chance to do so. This is as close as I will get to that moment so please bear with me. Simple pleasures are always at a premium. The truth is that my wife loves me, my dog is alive and well and loves me too and my hair is hanging in there, quite well thank you. I did leave my job on the other hand. That is where this often strange and completely unexpected journey begins. Somewhere along the unnatural path of personal unemployment and global recession combined with the gentle but very firm urging of many others around me, I reluctantly began a personal quest to find myself, to bring peace, contentment and spiritual fulfillment to my every waking moment. Something that was the antithesis of what I had always believed was the nature of my being. My journey into this new world began one afternoon when my wife came home from work early and found me on the couch watching ESPN and tossing buddy biscuits to our dog Kelly. I was
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commanding her to “go deep”, hoping that with the right amount of training she could one day run a proper post pattern. The dog was actually was making progress but my wife was neither impressed or amused by the scene in her living room. Her look said it all and I knew that after an uncomfortable silence there would be trouble. I didn’t even offer up a feeble “hi honey.” I knew it looked bad. Realistically I could see this coming for weeks now. As she looked at me with a tightly drawn expression that could only mean trouble I smiled. She didn’t. After an uncomfortable silence we exchanged a perfunctory greeting. Then, after launching into another pointed diatribe about my lack of progress in finding work she bluntly asked me when I was going to get my ass off of the couch and leave the house. I didn’t have much of an answer to give her. She told me that if I wasn’t going to make any progress in the outside world maybe I should try working on the inside one. Maybe I should try yoga or meditating. To do something. I reacted to her suggestion in the way that many intelligent men might. I laughed. Not an A move. Without another word she walked out of the living room and slammed the door. Not good at all. Later that afternoon, as I watched a rerun of the 49er’s Redskins 1989 NFC playoff and teared up once again over that miserable phantom interference call on Ronnie Lott, I began to think about what she said
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that afternoon. Whether it was the injustice of that call or the way she said what she said to me, or both, for the first time it all sort of hit home. Sitting there I realized that I really didn’t have much to do any more. Most days just sort of passed from one into another, and not only was this a first time experience for me, it was a big big problem. I knew from years of personal experience that inactivity and boredom had always been as toxic as runoff from Chernobyl to me. I had always relied upon the businesses of my career to keep the boredom demons at bay. Now I had a 64 oz. big gulp of both inactivity and boredom to cope with. A supersize helping of trouble. Whether I wanted to deal with my problems or not, inside of me I knew that I needed a change. So I thought, why not try something new. At a minimum it would get her off of my case and give me an excuse to help fill the time. Hey, I thought, this meditation stuff had been around for thousands of years. Maybe it might work for me. Best of all, it was her idea and she couldn’t fault me for trying. So the next day I began to look over the unread books that she had lying around her side of the bedroom about relaxation and breathing while studiously avoiding the self help titles, (btw, what an industry they had, the only persons they were helping were themselves and most of them were never read).

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Eventually I found a book that seemed to make sense. The tile was “Wherever you are you are there.” Well that made sense and kind of reminded me of the title of an old Firesign Theatre album. Maybe that was a sign that this wouldn’t be so bad. So I sat down and began to read. As I read the book the first thing that I learned that I didn’t know how to breathe. Funny, I thought I had been breathing for over 50 years but now I was told that I was wrong. I thought this must be bullshit. It was all downhill from there. In under 20 pages I became thoroughly bored with the book and promptly fell asleep. Where was the story line? Where was the narrative? How much crap about looking inward could I possibly deal with? I didn’t enjoy the laundry. I didn’t enjoy going to the bank. After I woke up a few minutes later I went quietly (but happily) back to the living room couch where Kelly was waiting for me, tail waging and ready to play. After all it was Wednesday and that meant a day game even if the Giants were playing the Pirates. That evening when my wife came home she found me as usual on the couch (for those who care the Giants were losing 4-1). She asked me about my day. I turned down the volume on the TV and told her that I had been reading about breathing and meditation. But before I could tell her how miserably it had gone and how I couldn’t stand it, I saw something in her I hadn’t seen much of since the grim job reaper visited me last year, a smile. And
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then she walked over to me and hugged me. I clammed up and didn’t say a word about the game or more importantly how I had put down the book. It got better. She told her that she was so proud of me that she was going to cook dinner. As she walked out of the room I was stunned. And although I really didn’t get what was going on, I knew that this inner work thing seemed to be yielding immediate dividends. Maybe this meditation stuff was worth looking at in more detail. I certainly had to give it an effort, it was already helping our relationship. So I tried hard to get into it. And failed. Eventually I told her about my battles and to my very pleasant surprise she didn’t react badly. Instead she suggested that I find an instructor to help me. So I did! I found a personal coach to help me on the ways of the East. A real zen master who had studied Buddhism for decades. He taught me about personal freedom, something we are all after. I liked that. He was a good guy and even cursed sometimes during our sessions. That helped me a lot. He told me that meditation was tough and he was right. I went to my classes and read about bhuddas and bodhisattvas and dharma and chakras. I learned to focus my breath until I counted to a thousand inhales and exhales and I sat on my ass till it hurt. Then I sat again. I sat still for hours waiting for some kind of enlightenment. Some kind of inner peace. And then I waited some more.

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And nothing happened. The coach told me that was supposed to be the point. Nothing was supposed to be OK, some kind of perfect state of balance. I didn’t get it. I was supposed to let my gaze go free, to look at the sky, the birds the wind and not to judge. But try as I might I couldn’t stop thinking about other things. Something was wrong. Something was missing from this new found journey into a spiritual life and without it I couldn’t make any progress. So at wife’s urging I tried yoga. Lots of different kinds of yoga. I never knew there were so many kinds of yoga all with names that could not be pronounced. I stretched and grabbed my ankles. They hurt. I thought I would pull all of the muscles in my body at once. I twisted myself into pretzel shapes and even tried to stand on my head. I fell over. Instead of fining inner peace I found inner soreness and a new found love of ibuprophen. Then I went to a Bikram Yoga class that was the equivalent of taking an intense cardio-workout inside of a boiling pressure cooker. After class I nearly passed out driving home and almost wrecked the car. But if anything I am not a quitter. So I kept trying. I sat. I waited. I meditated. I breathed. I controlled. I stretched. Still nothing. And I wanted to quit, I was sick of the nothingness of it all. But as I got more frustrated my wife was more encouraging than ever. “You are doing great” she would say. “Yes dear, I would answer, “you are right.” Even though I
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knew that I wasn’t. And she was so happy about this! Happier than I was! So I kept going every day to classes and instructors and readings. But something was still missing. Something was wrong. Where was that damn moment of inner peace? Why was this so hard for me? As much as I tried to enjoy those empty moments of meditation and relaxation for me they were simply and unalterably boring. Within a few moments of sitting down and breathing my mind would wander off quickly and then permanently. Despite all the teachings that I read and instructions that I received that you were supposed to embrace these wandering thoughts and that this was really OK my mind would never wander back to emptiness and instead stuck somewhere between the dismal state of the GS Warriors and last nights episode of Family Guy. My thoughts remained as random as my web research looking for a job. This was getting me nowhere. And I couldn’t tell my wife about my struggles. But whether I liked it or not, inside of me things were changing and I didn’t even know it. As I pushed on I felt the beginning of a shift happening that I could not put my finger on. I felt that a change was going to come. I found myself playing that beautiful haunting Sam Cooke song on the Ipod over and over those days without knowing why. A change is gonna’ come. And then without warning it did.

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Chapter 2 It’s a sufferer’s style I was lying in bed one grey late autumn Thursday morning, my mind drifting uncomfortably in and out of a bracingly acidic hung over haze, wishing I was still asleep and cursing the awesomely irritating power of her alarm clock that woke me some 20 minutes before. I wasn’t trying to control my breathing that morning so I could meditate. No, not even close. I was trying to control the rising pressure in my stomach, the incredible tightness in my right shoulder and neck and the powerful sour taste in my mouth. Nothing was working. As I lie there staring at the ceiling my thoughts were as random and unfocused as the Oakland Raiders management skills. My emotions careened back and forth between guilt (yes hung over again), fear (what was going to happen when she came out of the bathroom) and anger (why couldn’t I just drink heartily without retribution the day after). Oh yes my dear dear brothers, it all became clear to me that morning as I lay there in that familiar painful fog and listened to the daily habitual sounds of my wife getting ready leave for work. I was dreading what was about to happen. I had witnesses this moment many times before. She would finish blow-drying her hair and in a patronizing but painfully neutral tone, she would ask me how the evening had gone. What she really wanted to know
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was how much I had I had to drink and how I felt this morning, to find out how sick I really felt. And I had drunk plenty and boy did I feel really sick. I could hear her in her daily morning routine in the bathroom next to our bed, the shower was on and soon she would emerge, coiffed, dressed and ready to roll into another business day. And where was I? Lying in bed hoping not to have to leave it’s warm safe haven, pulling the blankets over my head. Let’s face it, I felt like shit. I had been out the night before with the usual suspects in our wine and dinner group. Between the generous plates of appetizers and salumi, followed by squash ravioli in burnt butter with sage, braised pork ragu over taglietelle, braised short ribs in a Barolo sauce and Florentine steak over arugala, we had blissfully consumed a 2 bottles of Gavi, 6 Chianti classicos and finished the evening with a tasting flight of Grappa and biscotti. I couldn’t turn down those Grappas even though I knew how they would hit me hard the next day. We were having a blast and I was more than willing to pay the price. What did I have to do tomorrow anyway? As I continued to lay there my wandering mind finally came to rest on an absolute truth; my wife’s growing dissatisfaction with me and its direct relation to the uncomfortable discussion that we were about to have as result. Notwithstanding the appearance of some successful “inner” progress, I knew that she was growing more and more impatient with my lack of outer progress and that meant finding work.
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I told her that I was looking for a job every day. That was true. I told her that I networking more then ever. Well that wasn’t. I couldn’t stand the concept of networking with people you didn’t care about when employed. It felt even worse talking to them now. What the hell did you say to those people anyway, “Hi, I know that we haven’t spoken for months and have little in common, but you know, I am out of work and brother can you spare me a job? Oh, keep in touch and send me an email when you can. Best to the wife and kids.” What a load of crap. While she had been supportive of me until now, the point remained that all of her fears about my future and thus our relationship were exacerbated by my exceedingly rare nights out with the guys. She was really down on those wine dinners. Yes, she was right, I guess. They were kind of expensive and we were getting a bit low on discretionary funds, a fact made worse by, of all the ironies, the cost of my journey towards inner peace. Worse yet, I was usually out of commission for a day or even two afterward a dinner. Even though it meant much in reality it looked really bad. But those wine dinners gave me something so important, the few remaining happy moments that I had left in my life. And just as importantly, time out having a good time with the guys. Sure they were expensive. Sure I got drunk. Sure, I had fun. Why was that so bad? Didn’t I need some manly yin to the dreadful soulless yang of being home with the cable TV and the pleasures of scanning Internet want ads all day? I needed relief!
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As my thoughts continued to wander I concluded that at this stage of the game the wife didn’t approve of anything in my life except for my feeble attempts at meditation and yoga. Even that was going poorly. I had become so bored with the traditional mediation process that when I tried to do so I would quickly fall asleep waking up hours later with drool coming out of the right side of my mouth, forming nice circular stains of spit on the couch pillows that I would blame on the dog. At least something good came from her being up there with me. What was I going to do? Time was running out, I could hear her shut off the hair dryer. Five minutes to go. OK, I thought, do something. Look like your meditating. Close your eyes even if you are faking it. Slow down and breathe, come on follow that path to peace. Was that a mistake. As I slowed my breathing the stomach discomfort seemed to worsen and I felt increasing pressure, culminating in an early morning brutal after-belch that bordered on vomiting. Yum. I was screwed. As I lie there trying to figure out what to tell her I began to think about the incredible Italian food that I had enjoyed last night. The risotto with mushrooms, so rich and earthy. As it did, the mental images of that meal distracted my from my suffering and for the first time I began to feel a bit better. I started to forget about my hangover, at least temporarily. I thought about the pleasures of well prepared Italian food, the slight bite of the Sangiovese grapes, the drive home in my old Alfa spyder, top down, heater on air cool as the Giants
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lost again and my friendships. My mind focused on these great pleasures and my breathing slowed. For a brief moment I was curiously calm and even my stomach shut up. It was then that a kind of man-bhudda hidden deep inside of me spoke for the first time. And when he did, I had a revelation. A deep and clear voice as calm and clear as the breeze and the blue sky came into my head. I had a vision that touched my inner being. Suddenly it all seemed so easy. I knew what to say to her. At that moment the bathroom door opened and she emerged, looking great I might add. I was calm. I was ready. I wasn’t sure why.

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Chapter 3 Embracing the Man-Bhudda Within Before I could emerge from under covers she spoke. “So how was dinner?” Her usual sharp voice pierced through the morning silence of our bedroom. I knew what was coming. She was ready to put up with my recitation of the list of drinks and wines and maybe some bar stories that flow from another night with the boys. But moreso she was Ready to remind me about where I should be spending my time and our money. Ready to ask me how I would get anything done today in an obviously hung-over state. Hell, who knows what I might have said to her last night when I came home. I pulled the covers away from my face and looked up at her staring down at me, much to close for comfort. I started to speak and frankly, I was surprised at what I said. It was then that this inner voice that I never knew took over and once it did there was no turning back. “Well honey”, I began, “dinner was great”. I paused a beat before I went on. “But you know during the main course the funniest thing happened. I started talking to the guys about what has been going on with me over the past few months and my inner journeys working with mediation and breathing, and, well, you may not believe this but they were all really interested. In fact, we spent most of the evening talking about it.”
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I was waiting for her to say something, to call me out, but she didn’t. She just stood there looking at me fussing with her hair. Was she stunned? Angry? Happy? I couldn’t tell. But this wasn’t the time to turn back and the voice kept me moving. So I continued, “Maybe it was the Chianti or just the times. I went on and on about meditation and yoga and they all wanted to know more. I told them about my Asthtanga classes and Sam and John are going to come and break a sweat with me next week and Ted is going to pick up a book on breathing and mindfulness. And do you know what was really amazing? With all of the talk, we only finished ½ of our wine. Can you believe that? I mean we would up giving the rest of the wine to the staff.” I looked up at her. Hey, was that a smile? It was! To the amazement of my old self, but not to my new inner-man self she believed it. She completely bought into it. She actually stopped putting on her earrings and kept smiling at me. She began to speak. “Honey, I am so impressed”, she said, “That is absolutely wonderful. You are doing such a good job, I am really proud of you. And you must feel so much better this morning than you would have if the evening would have gone as usual.” It would have been great if she stopped there, but newly found karma only goes so far. She carried on. “So what are you doing today?”
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I was amazed that she even was talking to me at this hour. She hadn’t said this much before leaving for work in weeks. I also knew that I felt absolutely awful and that I needed to stay on course. Despite my high residual blood alcohol content that morning, the vision continued. It was clear, awe-inspiring. It flooded me with purpose and enlightment. I went on. “Well dear, I mean you are right. I don’t feel perfect today. One thing is for sure, I certainly would have felt a lot worse. I am trying really hard to keep on course. In fact, I was meditating in bed just now (yeah under the covers no less). I was relaxing and listening to my breathing and thought that would be a great day to take the dog for a long walk. Maybe I will hit the gym later after going through the unwanted ads” She looked at me and I knew that she must have seen the horrifying state of my eyes. She ignored them and went on anyway, transfixed somehow by the conversation. “I am really impressed. You are doing so well with your inner work. Just try to be patient about the job, something good is going to come from all of this.” Then she told me that she loved me, which she hadn’t done for weeks, and that we should have something good for dinner that evening, that she was running late for work. She planted a detached kiss on my cheek and walked out with what appeared to be that same smile on her face. I never left the bed. As I lie there contemplating the highlights of the
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Thursday morning cable TV schedule and dreading the now mandatory 3 pm stretch fest with the exercise witches at the Y, I went over the morning’s events in my head. They were a pleasant but confusing surprise that I didn’t understand at all. I knew that something good had happened. I wasn’t sure why, but I needed to know more if I could hope to replicate them. Throughout rest of the morning I had this strange feeling. There was a kind of a warm soothing peace that had settled over me. My wife was happy with me for the first time in ages, so pleased that I was sharing my mindfulness work with the guys even though the truth was that I had not. I couldn’t have been more frustrated with my journey toward so called inner peace yet my primary relationship was back on course. At the same time I knew that I wasn’t telling her the truth. But that reality was nothing compared to the results that I had gotten. Damn this was perplexing. The rest of the day passed easily and amicably, centered around home made chicken soup with basil and rice for lunch and the 5th season of the Sopranos. I never made it to the gym or hit the ads. I was sick of them anyway. That evening when she came home late from work I didn’t bring up her offer of dinner and she didn’t seem to care or remember. That was completely fine with me, my stomach was still recovering and I didn’t know what else to say.

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I threw together a quick dish of pasta with pesto and a salad, no wine tonight. We turned in early afterwards without a word about the events of the morning. Wife passed out reading the New York Times and I was lulled to sleep by the dreary monotony of the 10 o’clock news, the sounds of gunshots, school closures and the crashing stock market. Notwithstanding all of that I slept soundly that night, dreaming of home runs, mozzarella di bufala and heirloom tomatoes.

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Chapter 4 Liar Liar Brains On Fire The next morning started out like most others. Sweetie was long gone by quarter to 8 and I sat at breakfast, nonchalantly pouring over the National League standings in the Sporting Green and mindlessly munching on a bowl of borderline stale Cheerios, the dog snoring on the couch and the morning fog still thick. Staring at those numbers told me the harsh truth, that for a fourth year in a row that would be no baseball playoffs in our town. With no hope in sports to distract me, I lost focus. My thoughts drifted away from the barren desert of Bay Area baseball. As my mind wandered I started thinking again about what had happened the day before. I knew instinctively that something significant had occurred, but I did not understand its meaning. At least not as of yet. I put the paper down tried to think hard about it. As I did, I struggled to find meaning in the events of that strange morning. Just what had happened? Where the hell did that voice come from? Why did I let it take over? Why did I say those things that I knew weren’t true? And why was I so happy and calm for the rest of the day? As I replayed our unusual interaction over and over again it gradually became clear. I saw that two things that had happened. There had been some kind of change in my attempts at finding inner calm and
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peace. My meditation was different that morning and not just because I was hung over and ready to ralph. I wasn’t sure why, but it had felt much better, easier some how. Yet there was something much more important to consider. Real life bonus points. A Super lotto hit. What I had done had put some sorely needed big time charm on my squeeze. This was completely unexpected and entirely welcome. Let me explain. I still couldn’t believe what had happened with her that morning. Until then I had never ever been able to lie to her about anything. Period. She had a smell test better than a DEA trained beagle checking flights coming in from Cali. Even a slight fib got a raised eyebrow or a poke in the ribs to let me know she knew. But when I surrendered to this inner voice and began talking about meditation and yoga, her super feminine spydie sense just turned itself off and she turned all smiles. That was totally weird. I can’t say that I was proud of it. I have professed honesty in my relationship as long as I can remember and can’t remember the last time I lied. But I couldn’t deny the shot in the arm that it gave us that was sorely needed. For that I was truly grateful. I had learned an important lesson. I had learned that as long as I was meditating or doing yoga or just talking about it, my wife would be happy with me.
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And a happy wife means a happy life. Let that be said again. A happy wife means a happy life. That is the truth.

That fact alone was enough to keep me engaged in a study that I was frankly sick and tired of. No matter how bad this mediation thing had been I had to keep going. I had to keep learning more about mediation and yoga and mindfulness to find peace in the home and if I was lucky within as well. As I brought the bowl of cereal to my mouth and drained the remaining milk, damned if I didn’t hear the voice of the man-bhudda speaking to me again. This time I listened to him closely, now expecting yet another miracle. I realized that I could deepen my study of mindfulness and meditation by turning it into something new. Something that was cosmically connected and unashamedly masculine. Blissed yet brave, heavenly and heroic. A study that was not only mindful but manful. A practice that was built not just mindfulness, but manfulness. Then I straightened up. Was this heresy or my mind finally going crazy from too much time at the casa. Perhaps this whole concept was just plain wrong. Were 5,000 years of sages and bhuddas laughing or at a minimum scowling at me as I sat there? Shit, what if they were right and I had just screwed my shot at an afterlife so far down that I
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would be reincarnated as an ass pimple on an elephant. But maybe not. Maybe I had really hit on something good that would help me and maybe others. And more importantly, weren’t these Eastern deities supposed to be a forgiving bunch? No, I had to go on, if for nothing else for the sake of the relationship. As I sat there the man-bhudda gave me a calling. I had a voice with a mission. To share this experience with others. A voice that spoke to me again over the coming months as I began to write. Calm and courageous, words would spill out of me. Pages filled effortlessly like the passage of the sun across the sky, a thought that that had been putting me to sleep until now. As the days of that autumn passed into winter, I immersed myself in a study of manful meditation. I was awake, aware and ready to kick some fully centered manful ass. I read and I thought. I was touched by the collective wisdom of men throughout time. Overcome by a power that surrounded me and moved me forward. The power inherent in being a man and all that it meant. My focus increased. My strength grew. I didn’t use performance enhancing substances either. My personal journey changed direction and was gaining intensity like a young tropical storm off of the coast of Baja, rising over warm clear Pacific waters heading to class 5 status. Yes, my kick was up, it was straight, long and sailing through the center of the goalposts. In this dream my wife, who hates
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football, was there in the crowd cheering me on. Wouldn’t that make for a wonderful story? I think that it would. But life had many other plans for me first.

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Chapter 5 Green Light Green Light May I Have Another Green Light Please?
In which your author is brutally attacked by a boneless leg of lamb.

But this journey does not begin here. No, it starts on an evening like countless others that I had spent at home with le sweetie during the previous winter. I had just finished the daily battle with the traffic on the Bay Bridge driving home from work. I knew the cupboards were bare, so stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up something easy for dinner. While there I came upon the aforementioned boneless leg of lamb, already marinated in red wine garlic spices and lots of that good old tenderizer and the chef’s reliable friend, plain old salt. Feeling a bit lazy and already running behind, I grabbed it along with some fingerling potatoes to roast and an inconsequential vegetable choice. As long as I threw it on the grill, I figured that I could tolerate a store made marinade for once even though it was against my moral cooking code. We were both running late from work that evening and I didn’t get the lamb on the grill until after 8. The boss showed up a few minutes later, thoroughly exhausted from her day at work. After she changed out of the everyday work suit we both went for the usual un-winder that we had been

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enjoying as of late, it was Margarita Time again! I made them fresh with Meyer lemons from our tree (adding a bit more sweetness than limes), Cointreau and a dark brown anejo reposado tequila (hey why not it was Wednesday). They were tasty, refreshing, strong and then gone. Dinner featured nothing special to remember. We talked amicably about my continuing frustrations with work and how much we loved living in the house without the kids. I downed most of a bottle of an average plus Zin, the boss stuck to a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, her choice of late. Just another night. Our meal finished about 10. After cleaning up and going upstairs, she fell asleep. I found her long gone well before I crawled into bed after 11, the New York Times spread out across the bed, her head hidden under the winter quilts. After a few minutes of watching the drivel that passes for the evening news I gave her a peck on the cheek (unnoticed) smashed up my pillow and without much hesitation or delay, I was gone. Or so I thought. For the past few weeks my stomach had been acting really strangely, really unusual stuff. I wrote if off to the pressures of work, too much travel and another sign of age. Still, these symptoms were odd, very different than just the regular upset stomach that visited me from time to time. There was this powerful pressure rising in my chest accompanied by a very strong burning in my stomach. Sometimes these feelings became
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overwhelming. The week before when it hit me driving down 101 through Marin I actually thought about pulling over the car and resting for fear I would pass out. But as I drove over the hill into Tiburon it ended and it didn’t return so I didn’t say a word to anyone. I figured I just had a really really bad upset stomach. Took some Tums. Couldn’t be more than that. Could it? About half an hour later, just past midnight of that evening I woke up. This was not an unusual event as of late. I was waking up plenty in the middle of the night during those days, worried about work and what was going on there. Most nights my fears were accompanied by a host of pains and symptoms that came and went depending upon the evening. A four-star menu of life’s hand picked maladies that contained a dazzling variety of pains and discomfort for my body to choose from. Some nights I would be treated to an appetizer of Tinnitus, real torture for those of us with sensitive hearing. Tinnitus manifests in a loud droning bass tone modulating up and down in frequency and volume, combining the tones of a fog horn with the bass lines of a bad gangster rap song played through the vibrating trunk of a Buick Regal. I really had no one to blame for this condition, having seen way too many concerts in my youth including several bouts with the Who and the Clash, no doubt there had been some damage along with way. After lots of reading and research I concluded that there is no cure for Tinnitus except to take a
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sleeping pill to make you forget it, something that I would not do as a matter of principle. There was nothing to do but wait for it to pass. Most nights it didn’t and I lay awake worrying and wondering. Other evenings there was a really lovely main course, a complex stew of right shoulder pain and neck aches. Starting in the shoulder, a bit of the way down my back, these shooting pains would gradually radiate upwards, crawling slowly and inexorably up the side of the neck and up towards the right side of my head where they would culminate in piercing pain that traveled right through to my sinuses. Nice huh? At least they reacted well to Ibuprophen, which I was consuming regularly in larger and larger quantities. Through in regular stomach upsets and periodic racing heart beats for side dishes and you get the picture. So when I woke up that night I thought oh fuck, here comes another one of those evenings. After quickly surveying my symptoms, I decided to get up and seek relief from my amigo the Ibuprophen bottle, when I realized that this pain was quite different. It struck me that this must be a house special, a dish not on the usual evening menu. Yes, this pain was a new one; radiating up and through my right arm into my chest. It was intense too. And the pressure in my chest was really severe, way beyond what I had felt in the past weeks. In addition, I felt weak, nauseous and most of all just plain strange.

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I listed the symptoms off in my head and as I did they spelled out those dreadful words that you don’t ever want to see on your menu: heart attack. I heard Richard Pryor’s voice deep in my head from his journey down this road. “Now just don’t move motherfucker,” he said to me. "Yes Sir", I thought. See, my father died of congestive heart failure and suffered through Angina for many years, popping nitros like they were tic tacs. I watched his pain and how he would bend over in half from it so so many times. I knew where this could go and I didn’t want to head down that path. So I did the normal guy thing, I decided to gut it out. Maybe if I just changed positions and rolled onto my back to stare at the ceiling the pain would slow down and the pressure would ease off. Maybe I was just being a pussy. It didn’t and I wasn’t. Less than five minutes later I woke my wife. Startled, she asked what was wrong and I told her. She sensed the immediacy of my distress and asked me what I wanted to do. I told her how was I feeling and that I was very concerned. I added that if this feeling didn’t pass in ten minutes she should drive me to the hospital. She said OK, and then faded back out somewhere between sleep and consciousness. Less than 2 minutes later I told her to get dressed and get moving. This just felt way to weird to
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mess with. The trip to the hospital was uneventful, at least the pain didn’t get worse and being late at night, we were there in a matter of minutes. Little was said during the ride, I was struggling with the pain and the uncertainty of it all. The emergency room was crowded even after midnight with a variety of the afflicted, old young and in between. We walked up to the receptionist and she asked me what the problem was. For those of you who have ever waited forever to be seen in the emergency room of the hospital let me suggest a fool proof way to beat those lines and get instant service. Just say these words: “I think I may be having a heart attack”. I have never seen a hospital move so fast. Minutes later I found myself clad in a backless gown on a hospital bed hooked to a maze of electronics and wires and hanging above me from a metal rack, all leading to a heart monitor and an IV in my arm. Try as you want within moments of entry; the heart monitor becomes the dominant player in the room. You watch its green tracks glide across the screen and try to understand the information that it feeds you. Most of all you watch the green lights and listen for the hopefully steady beat of your heart. The rest of the evening was a blur of different doctors, nurses, waiting for test results and x-rays. All were polite, educated and reassuring. My wife and
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the medication kept me calm and we listened to the steady beats of the heart monitor until she fell asleep in her chair. I found out about 5 that morning that I wasn’t having a heart attack and was released about 2 hours later, both shaken and stirred. The doctor told me that I had most likely suffered a different sort of attack, a digestive crisis known as GERD.

With GERD** what happens is this: the pressure of your stomach acid becomes so strong it starts to back up through your chest and into your throat with symptoms just like those of a heart attack. Left untreated it leads to other pleasures like cancer of the esophagus.
**I later learned that I had scored 100% on the GERD attack report card, doing everything human to make sure I had an attack, from eating spicy food late washed down with alcohol to lying down afterwards.

To complete my evening meal, for dessert he advised me that I had really high blood pressure that needed to be dealt with immediately. After receiving my doggy bag of pills and pages on pages of instructions, I left the hospital about 7 am. I swear I heard some of the nurses laughing as I did. But I could have been dreaming. As we walked out of the hospital front door I
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looked up at the morning sky. The air was cool and the sky was clear and blue, something really rare here in Berkeley. I felt that I had been lucky. For starts I had health insurance although I could only imagine what the bill would be anyway. But more important, I had my wife next to me, the sun was out and a new day was just beginning. In the trees next to the parking lot birds were everywhere chirping. The scene was ridiculously positive and for once even my cynical being was overcome with a feeling that was new to me: gratitude. There is a well-known cliché that when you are laid out flat on a hospital bed your life passes before you. Well I am here to report that this is no cliché. It really does and you have both the time and the intense focus to see things for what the really are. You are in for a long conversation with yourself (assuming you are conscious) about life that starts with two simple and basic questions. 1.Would you be satisfied if those green lights stopped right now and that was it? 2. And if they keep going what would you change? As we drove home I thought about the conversation that I had with myself throughout that evening. It had been long and difficult and at the end I was so thankful that those green lights kept moving across the screen. As they did, I realized that I had to make a radical change in my life. I knew why I was lying in a hospital bed on a Tuesday
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evening for a reason and I also knew that if I didn’t make this change I would be back again. Maybe the next time the lights wouldn’t respond so well. There is one other thing that I now realize looking back on that evening. Thinking about making this particular change was easy no matter how radical it seemed. It was easy to think about it because deep down inside I didn’t believe that I could ever pull it off. Not a chance. That was my safety net. If I tried to make the change I would feel better. But there was no way in hell I could make it happen. So I really didn’t have to worry about the consequences. There was no possibility that I could ever ever make that change. The odds were stack. The fix was in. It was truly impossible. Then I did.

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Chapter 6 This is a rat race Ten clues that you are not in a good working relationship with your business partner: 1. He stops working. (You could stop here). 2. He borrows money from the company. 3. He can’t pay it back. 4. He borrows money from you. 5. He can’t pay it back. 6. He spends less and less time at work 7. He spends what little time that he is at work arguing with his credit card companies about personal bills. 8. He spends the rest of the time either dealing with his car or sleeping in it. 9. He passes out at his desk, sometimes during meetings with clients. 10. He would rather talk about anything else in the world than the business that the two of you own. Every time that I ran this checklist through my head, which I did often, scoring a perfect 10 out of 10 was not a good omen for the future of our company, our partnership or my health. And while it may seem funny when you look at his behavior in the form of a list, on a day-to-day basis, working under these circumstances became a nightmare for everyone. Something had to give. For those of you that followed the narrative that
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began in the previous chapter, the change that I decided upon lying on that hospital bed should be obvious by now. I made up my mind to leave the business that I had loved for the past 10 years. The minute details of the transaction that ensued are not terribly important or interesting unless you are type that enjoys stories about business and negotiation strategy and I will try to keep them to a minimum. This is not a business book, it is a personal journey to peace and some sort of redemption. Still, you don’t end a decade of life without a lot of stories. Let me say at the outset that despite our differences and difficulties, there was a peaceful and amicable separation that was negotiated in a shockingly short amount of time. All of this would never have happened but for the appearance of a gentleman who saw strategic value in what we did and was looking to invest in our company, easing my way out the door and onto the street. To him I am forever thankful. So what happened? Why did I go? Leaving career number 3 took tons of internal struggle and soul searching that did not occur quickly or easily. I had to be driven out by pain. By a visceral powerful discomfort and suffocation from just being there. So why was it so hard to go? Well, this was not just a good job; it was a great one. It paid well, it was fun and no one ever suggested, much less told, me what to do. With a good amount of international
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travel to South and Central America and a romantic product line to boot, it never lacked for interest or excitement. Who would want to leave? What eventually pushed me out was one overriding factor. It was clear (both to us and to those who knew us) that we were more than a little crazy. We shared a spectacular level of dysfunctional behavior that alternately held us together like some big extended Chinese-JewishBrazilian-German-African American out of control family while it tore us all apart. At the same time we were as creative and resourceful as a business team could be. But no one took these behaviors to the extreme like my business partner did. He seemed to be a mixture of the Pied Piper, Houdini and Caligula and he played all of these roles with great aplomb. He got away with things in his life that no average person should ever have and thought that normal. Saw himself as a lucky man, somehow blessed by god, as he charmed and then trampled through the world, often leaving destruction in his wake as he played a complex 7/4 rhythm on his conga drums (something he did both often and well). Considering what he managed to do for so long without being caught; maybe he was blessed by one deity or another along the way. This is not to say that we didn’t enjoy each other’s company. We did. We shared deep loves of great food, clean graphic design, jazz and all objects of beauty. We laughed a lot, even in the darkest of
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times and about the darkest of subjects, often the sicker the better. I will never forget the first time I saw the office. There was no paperwork to speak of. No files. No records. No computer. Everything was somewhere else or couldn’t be found. Yet they were doing business and a fair amount of it. In the early days we charged forward, conquering accounts and territories, building sales and sophistication. But the initial joys of building a business soon turned into the day-to-day realities of maintaining one, something I was much better suited at, my business partner began to drift away. I can’t blame him for this; many of us are better suited stay on the creative side of an enterprise and never deal with human resources, taxes, budgets and financial planning. Yet that is where so many of the dollars are made and lost and much of the heavy lifting gets done. Eventually he was overwhelmed by the personal Rubik’s cube of his life. He created an acidic stew of bad credit, too many women, and a lack of care for his body and soul. Work bored him, it was full of forms and insurance policies. Under worked and overpaid, he managed to alienate those around him including myself. The more we tried to help him the worse it seemed to become. In the end, my stubborn efforts to bring sanity to our wonderful little company, whether in the form of regular meetings, budgets or just plain speaking to
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each other in a civil tone eventually withered on the vine and failed. I was overwhelmed by a surging sea of turmoil, cultural indifference and plain old stress. That all became crystal clear in the hospital that winter night. In the weeks that followed I was overcome by an internal mandate that change must happen in my life. A deep will rose from a psychic fissure that had opened bubbling up to my consciousness. An innate powerful and personal knowledge that the current situation could not go on. An understanding made all the more powerful by the growing financial pressure on the business and the amounts of money that I was regularly lending it to keep it going combined with overwhelming resentment at how little effort he made to keep the business alive. I spoke to friends and business associates who I trusted and worked on a strategy to untangle this web. I was confused and focused at the same time. How? Well, the need to leave was very clear but the emotions I carried were so damn complicated. I knew that one of us had to go and it would likely be me. I realized that I would be leaving 10 years of work and countless people that had become my friends and confidantes behind. With all of this stress I was in desperate need of a vacation and fortunately one had been planned long in advance for that Christmas break. Our holiday was spent in Mexico as you might imagine it, a fishing village which had not yet been destroyed by rampant development on a bay that stretched as far
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as you could see. Fish were plentiful as were the hundreds of pelicans that followed them around, the water was clean and blue. The sky was as well. People were friendly and the twin curses of credit cards and ATM’s had yet to reach the sleepy town of La Manzanilla, Jalisco somewhere between Manzanilo and Puerto Vallarta. As long as your rental car had good enough shocks to clear the numerous speed bumps you could get around easily. Unfortunately ours didn’t and we scraped our way up and down the roads. At the same time enough American and European refugees had found it so that you could order a thin crust pizza, a chopped salad (yes with radicchio, sorry) and a bottle of chardonnay while you watched the somewhat limp waves. That is if you got tired of grilled fish, cold beer, raw clams in fresh salsa and chili flavored pineapple and mangoes that were everywhere. The week was refreshing, renewing and just plain fun. New Year’s eve found us dancing in a bar of an Italian restaurant at a table overlooking the Pacific. As midnight struck we took off our shoes, walked out into the still warm water and opened a bottle of champagne, listening in vain for the cork to hit the water. As I stood there in a large moving semi-hug with my wife, family and friends I knew that I had the strength and support around me to make the move. I resolved to wait no longer. It was time to act.

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Chapter 7 But first, an important message from your foot. Just as we left the beach that evening and began our return to the restaurant I felt a sharp small sting in the bottom of my right foot. As we were out in the middle of the country the beach was really dark and the restaurant was not much better in terms of light. Bottom line, I couldn’t see what if anything was going on with my foot. Sure it hurt but when I touched it I didn’t feel the warmth of blood or any obvious foreign objects sticking out. So I had yet another (4th? 5th? No Sabe!) shot of tequila to celebrate the New Year and the end the evening and we began the long walk home up the dirt streets of the town. A quick word about the tourist rental homes in La Manzanilla. Most are located on very steep hills and ravines. You need a 4 by 4 vehicle to drive to them. When we arrived several days earlier, we abandoned our already broken down Dodge sedan a good ½ mile from our home where the road took a turn for the worse in terms of how steep it was and the number and severity of the rocks and ruts. That is where it sat collecting leaves and dirt in the hot Mexican sun. The regular walk home from the beach was equally challenging, culminating in an insanely steep concrete driveway and a quick scramble across a neighbors property (you certainly couldn’t call it a yard) through more dirt and rocks before arriving at our wrought iron gate where more stairs awaited
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you. When we got back to the house that evening I couldn’t feel my foot or any other part of my body between the alcohol and the long walk. We all jumped in the pool and swam until everyone gradually began to fall apart from exhaustion. My foot had been completely forgotten. After drying off I climbed the concrete stairs to our absurdly white bedroom and fell quickly and immediately asleep in the comfortable and stiff bed. I felt no pain. Not yet. No fellow travelers, at least this time I didn’t wake up in the next hour as with my stomach attack of November. I made it to until just about sunrise when the increasing pain in my right foot acted as a highly effective alarm clock. Sadly, I knew just what was going on before I saw it. After I made my way to the bathroom, in the early morning light I found the switch and turned on the light over the sink. I angled my right foot up to see. I could see a slightly puffy red circle with a black stinger barely protruding out in the middle of it, sort of a perfect little target. Bulls-eye Mr. Bee. This was all bad news. Over the past few years I had developed an increasingly bad histamine crazed reaction to all insect bites, be they spider, mosquito or in this case bee. The bites would swell up and hang around for weeks like an unwanted relative visiting for the holidays while I would dose them with any remedy I could get my hands on just hoping the swelling and itching discomfort would go away.

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I pulled out the stinger with my fingernails, also bad in terms of having been there overnight and the probability of infection. I washed the wound as best I could with soap and water. I found an old very funky band-aid in the bottom of my medicine kit and applied it. It sort of stuck there, not that it would do much good with all of the dirt in town and went back to bed. That day wasn’t so bad. The wound stayed about the same size and there was no swelling. I made a quick trip to the local Pharmacia where an elderly woman in white smock sold me hydrogen peroxide and some sort of antihistamine cream, the best she had. Walking wasn’t too bad and I hoped that maybe this time things wouldn’t go so badly. Maybe the antihistamine creams were better outside of the US. They had relaxed laws about testing didn’t they? Maybe this stuff would work. I should have known better. The next day we had plans to visit another beach about ½ hour away where there was snorkeling and a number of beach front restaurants that all seemed to specialize in simple grilled sea food and spectacular home made flans. Despite hobbling around a bit the sting seemed to be stable so I went along for the ride. It was very hot and dry that day. Feeling fine, I joined the group went for a long snorkel around a large set of rocks just off the coast where large schools of fish dodged diving pelicans. It was a really
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good dive and we stayed out for a long time. When I got out of the water I pulled the blue fin off of my foot. It hurt. A lot. It seemed that the combination of the pressure and the rubber of the fin, the bee sting and the ‘anti’histamine reaction (giving you some relief and then making things worse when they wore off) all came together in a glorious symphony of discomfort and swelling. I had trouble walking back to the restaurant where we had stashed out stuff and collapsed into a red plastic chair, pissed off, itchy, thirsty, uncomfortable and hungry. By the time our waitress came around I could swear that the red circle had grown another inch in diameter. I knew from experience that I had an infection from the excessive throbbing and itching. To add to the party, the bright red discoloration was starting to creep up over the top of my foot. To my eye it actually seemed to be moving at a pretty good pace. In our broken Spanish we showed the waitress my red spotted foot as we tried to explain what was going on. She seemed to understand and made the international gesture that that she would call someone. Sure enough, not more than 10 minutes a young Mexican doctor showed up in torn designer jeans a tight white shirt and cowboy boots. While he didn’t necessarily look the part (he looked much more like a model for Zara), he spoke pretty good English and
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had a black leather doctor’s bag. He asked me what had happened and I explained it to him. He took one look at my foot and told me it was probably infected. When not staring at my friend Ed’s daughter or asking her where she goes to college, he assured me that if I didn’t take the shot he was now offering me the infection would race up my leg eventually threatening my life. That was a convincing argument so I took the shot even though I had neglected to watch him remove the needle from some sort of sterile environment or whether the bottle of medication he used was sealed. I had to trust the situation even if we were sitting at a beach side restaurant getting ready to eat shrimp tacos instead of a doctor’s office, there just was no choice. He could be shooting me full of anything. OK, he said, the first one is going to hurt, but it will numb you out for the bigger one. Great. He was correct, that shot into the ball of my swollen foot was searing, but it quickly went away as the area became pleasantly numb and stopped itching. He told me to stay off of the foot for a few days. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and made some off color joke about acetomiphine, why most guys take it and tequila that I didn’t totally understand but got anyway on another more basic level. I laughed. He also told me to take it easy and not to walk much for the next few days. It was easy to follow his advice after we made it home, I even got a ride up to the house from some people we met later that day. T he whole thing cost 250 pesos, the equivalent of 25 bucks for a house call and the
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injections. I spent rest of the week by the pool with the leg elevated and iced chasing the antibiotics with cold cans of Modelo. Only on the day before we left did the swelling go down to the point where I could walk again without pain. This behavior pattern left me with a lot of empty time to kill. While polite, my family made it clear that this was January, there was a beach to be enjoyed and it was warm out. I had very little to argue to the contrary, so they left me alone with my Ipod and the last 1/3 of a Michael Chabon novel that I quickly devoured out of boredom. I guess just don’t get the whole detective/gumshoe genre. After finishing the book it was only 3 pm and I was bored. I had already eaten lunch, they were bringing back the provisions for dinner so there was nothing to cook. I was plenty bored and pretty desperate for something to read. I went back inside the house, up to the bedroom and scrambled through Sweetie’s pile by her bed. She had brought along some of her extensive library of ‘YOU TOO CAN BE A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN IF ONLY MEN WOULD LEAVE YOU ALONE’ type books (toxic stuff in my opinion), a bunch of Cosmos and Elles. Bottom line, no cable TV nothing to read except the economist and that was worse than nothing at all on a vacation (seriously, at that moment did I really care about the jockeying political parties in South Korea or the rising national debt of South Africa?). Maybe there was something to read in the living room…I
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hopped downstairs. Vacation homes attract a random array of orphaned books, mostly detective stories and romances, typically paperbacks and rarely interesting. So much to my surprise I found something to read in the living room that must had been left behind by a previous guest. A book about meditation no less. I kind of liked the title, ‘Wherever You Go There You Are’. Felt like a cross between the Firesign Theatre (you can’t get there from here) and Monty Python. Could this meditation stuff have a sense of humor? Before this trip I had dabbled in so called Eastern thought for years. I had taken a few yoga classes but never with any consistency or success. Never had the discipline or the desire. Still, as is my usual way, I had learned enough to hold a conversation on the subject and do a few basic poses. I did enjoy the stretching, early one of the first mornings on the trip I had scored bonus points and a wolf whistle from the boss and mocking derision from the young ones when I was spotted doing feeble attempts at sun salutes on the upstairs patio in my gym shorts. But reading the book was like reading a foreign language. Bhuddas and Buddhism? Mindfulness? Awareness? What we he talking about? He kept taking the most simple concepts and making them seem so complex and then saying that they were simple. Between the heat and the circular logic my
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eyes began to close and that is where they found me, asleep on the living room couch book in hand. One thing about the book certainly was true. Whatever he was talking about it sure relaxed me that afternoon.

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Chapter 8 The door shuts like velvet on foam. When I returned to San Francisco the next week and thus to work the next Monday, the business felt utterly and completely dead. Some people were still on vacation and the rest who did show up were trying to look busy because there wasn’t much to do. The production line was down to two days a week. The workers spent their time waiting for shoes to drop and looking small. The business had come to standstill, a void that completely lacked life energy and I was no longer willing to play quarterback when we had no line, no receivers and no running backs. After perfunctory hellos, I sat down at my desk to catch up on what hadn’t happened over the holiday season. Hitting QuickBooks, I checked the numbers just to confirm what I already knew, we had a lackluster December, normally the strongest month of the year, down from the year before. January was traditionally a weak month and February would be worse. There were no new accounts in the pipeline, no new products under development and nothing to look forward to except for additional pressure from our creditors and calls for me to lend the company more money. It was cold inside the building and out. All of this reinforced the decision I had made. If ever there was a time to pull the trigger this was it. If I was going to make the change I had to do it now before things just got worse. I could not wait any
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longer for my sake and for that of the business. I broke the news to my partner the next week in the conference room on a Tuesday right before lunch. I shut the doors and pulled him away from his safety net of the Internet where he was no doubt looking at luxury vacations or something else he desired but could not afford. I told him that we needed to talk. I kept the conversation simple, there were differences between us that we both knew could not be resolved and were continuing to grow. They were hurting the business and could no longer be overcome especially in view of the way the company was performing. And most importantly, the business could no longer afford the two of us, our management structure was ridiculously top heavy (and being in sales mode I left out the part about how only one of those two managers actually worked). One of us had to leave the company before things became even worse. I told him to look at it like it a divorce but between business partners instead of a couple. He didn’t laugh or smile or show worry. In fact he acted quite the contrary. He took the news like a call from a bill collector with no show of visible concern. Perhaps he quickly concluded that not working with his “conscience” might be a good thing. Did he feel some kind of relief at the chance of finally being set free to do what he wanted whenever? Was he still pissed about us cutting off his Amex? Or maybe he saw this as some kind of opportunity?
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Maybe he was just plain exhausted. Who knows? I hadn’t been able to figure out his behavior for years and this development wasn’t going to give rise to some new illumination. He certainly didn’t resist and when he finally did speak he asked me what I had in mind in terms of a price. I replied that I didn’t know yet. I did know that it wasn’t worth it to hire an outside company to evaluate what the business was worth like the big boys do, there just wasn’t that much money at stake and we couldn’t afford it anyway. I asked for two weeks to come up with a range of numbers for us to consider. I let him know that I was going to ask a former board member serve as an intermediary between us and to help keep the process moving forward. So over the next few days I did research on comparable companies and dug into the numbers and found that they didn’t matter. As is usually the case with small business, it really came down to what would be enough for one of us to step aside, keeping in mind that one of the two owned the vast majority of the business. Back in the conference room less than two weeks later I put a range (high to low) of values on the table that either could use to buy out the other. After looking them over briefly (numbers were never of much use to him) he said rather unemotionally, “Look, for me the problem is not in the numbers. We both worked hard to build the business and should get something for it. The problem is that I won’t ever
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sell. My name is on the business. I can never leave. I am too old to do anything else but you can start another life.” After a moment I told him that this conversation wouldn’t solve anything. I knew that I could borrow the money to fund a deal, but where would he ever get the money to buy me out? He laughed and replied “Of course I don’t have the money to do that. But I have something in mind.” He then smiled. “What if I found someone to buy you?” I thought about it for less than a moment and replied that where the money came from didn’t matter, if we could work out a deal that would be fine with me. I asked him who he had in mind. He told me that there was someone who was interested in buying into the company for a long time and that we would set up a meeting. He introduced me to a buyer the next week at the office. He was quiet and asked basic questions about the business and why I wanted to leave, all very basic. He also asked for basic financial information and then was gone. For two weeks I heard nothing and waited in a quandary over what was going on. Finally he surfaced and asked for another meeting to talk price. Much to my surprise, despite the minimal interaction that we had, the negotiations were done in less than an hour. We shook hand on the final deal in the parking lot.

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All during the negotiations I was strangely calm and focused on one thing, just getting the deal done. I realized that if I did not leave the business soon it was going to kill me and that was a powerful motivator. I didn’t flinch when he counter offered or at the eventual deal we made. Cutting the price was fine, getting anything was a whole lot better than being stuck with a chunk of the always mounting corporate debt and my health on the line.

The final weeks were a blur of cleaning files, educating staff and saying goodbye to the people I had met along the way. I made sure that everything was in place and could be found easily wondering if anyone would take the time to look at a file in depth in the future. As the corporate secretary I even had to cancel my own shares and issue the new ones to the buyer. So that is it. One day you can’t delay it any longer. The files are clean. The hands have been shaken and the hugs exchanged. And then you are there. Just as with so many huge moments in life, you look back at something that has meant so much to you at some point and you close the door. One morning in July my commute changed from the ritual of crossing the Bay Bridge to climbing the stairs up to the home office. I found myself in a classic good news bad news situation. The good news was that I had left my company before the
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recession started. The bad news was that I had left my company before the recession started. I found that out very quickly.

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Chapter 9 The eye of the storm is strangely quiet but still really windy. As I looked out from my excruciatingly clean desk through the unevenly cherry stained wooden windows and out onto the traffic on Monterey Avenue that first morning back at home the sky was grey, dark and menacing. A cold wind was blowing and the sycamore trees outside of the house swayed. Prematurely fallen green and brown leaves blew up the street giving it a feeling of autumn and I actually thought about turning on the heater, something completely out of character. Yes, it was just another typical Bay Area “summer” day in early July. Staring ahead sitting at my desk chair with a strong black cup of coffee and wondering just what the fuck had happened, I found myself in a new and stunningly unfamiliar spot, looking out my front windows at the commuters heading towards San Francisco instead of joining in with them. Today I would not be taking the bus. There would be no verbal interaction with the riders I used to pick up so that I could take the car pool lane into the City and no bridge toll to pay if I didn’t. No Bart ride, no lift from a co-worker who happened to call earlier that morning. Just a lot of no’s on the menu with a lot more no nothing planned for this day. I felt like a newborn child that had been hurled
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off of a cliff. As I punched up the old Dell it whirred and clicked itself into life like something out of the Star Wars movie and the bizarre start up screens of Windows XP creaked into life I realized that it too wouldn’t be making the cut much longer. At least buying a new computer would give some thing to do and a treat to look forward to. I had no idea how important the computer was to the home office life. Finally, after a long and excruciatingly slow warm up period, I opened Explorer out of habit and then Outlook. I read the little e-mail that came in that morning, exclusively ads and spam before trashing this pile of junk. There were two phones upstairs, the cell and the home phone. But the phone wasn’t ringing and I knew that they would not be for some time. The dog was sound asleep downstairs curled up into a warm white ball, the wife had left for work an hour ago, the ‘kids’ were where they were supposed to be, with summer jobs in their respective college towns of Boston and San Diego. And there I was. For the first time in I don’t even know how long I sat alone at a desk at 8:53 in the am wondering just what the fuck to do with myself with a day that loomed before me with attitude of a troll watching children crossing a fantasy bridge with a big appetite and a twitching left eye. See this is what happens. When you leave a career, whether in a small entrepreneurial business
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or a larger more corporate venue, you leave much more behind than just the business life. You leave structure. You leave habits, familiarity. You jump off a diving board and diver into a pool of air that has no walls no floor and no ceiling. Everything suddenly becomes nothing. At work you develop the creature habits that define your day. Where you stop for breakfast or don’t, what coffee do you drink to start the morning. What is for lunch and often who is having lunch with whom? Emails come in routinely that need to be answered, phone calls bring a barrage of inquiries what’s why’s and how’s. Even when times are shitty there are challenges to overcome, especially for those of us that relish a fight and don’t back away easy. These are all taken for granted. But mostly there is the constant inflow and outflow of stimulation. Even as slow as our business had been there was still plenty going on, maybe not so pleasant but plenty intense. And when the stimulation stops there is a void in front of you that is impossible to fill. Each and every interaction that occurs in a given work day allows you to define yourself, you read yourself through the interaction with others. When that feedback suddenly stops you don’t know what to do first or where to turn. As the days pass you feel like you are punching the Pillsbury doughboy in his fat white rolly polly stomach. As you hit him over and over again he just absorbs every blow you can muster, laughs at you and asks “Thank you sir, may I have another?” Then he winks.

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No, there is no manual for the newly unemployed that you can turn to. There is no way for you to head downtown to the financial district looking to find a quick work fix. You won’t be hanging out on the corner of Montgomery and California staring out at guys and girls rushing by in their work suits with your hands trembling mumbling “Hey man, where can I score a 4 week consulting contract. I got it bad this morning. I need some work…brother can you spare a deal” To make matters worse, I actually was foolish enough to believe that I would get another job soon after I left. Although I though I would have minded taking some time off, something that I had not done since I was 12, I wanted to get back into the work force more than anything. Wasn’t this the great chance to build on my career? To take the skills I had acquired the knowledge that I had gained and my real word experience and move into a healthy company. You know, make my mark, and maybe even do some good for the world along the way. Maybe not. These feelings were made all the worse by what happened the week before I became one of the hordes of the newly unemployed. Through a friend I heard about Vice President of Sales position with another gourmet food company in the East Bay. The product was very high end and the target market was the same that I had been working in but a bit more corporate. I went through three grueling yet funny interviews with the owner, who was the youngest person (28) who had ever interviewed me
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for a job who cursed freely during our talks. All of this happened during the last few weeks that I was still employed and I was on a cloud. I could see it already happening. I would ask for a few weeks vacation and would start working at the end of the month tan relaxed and ready to work. Maybe not. Maybe I should have known I was screwed when he told me that I reminded him of this father, who he insisted that he loved and respected after I blanched fairly visibly at the comment. I knew intuitively that not many of us would actually want to work for our Dad, least of all me, but I chose to ignore the obvious warning sign. I wound up scoring a bridesmaid result, came in number 2 and got a thank you and bottle of Organic Hazelnut Oil for my efforts. Notwithstanding this result I actually thought this was good news. I wasn’t worried at all about finding work at all. After all I had just missed getting another job. There had to be more out there for me. Right? Right? Wrong. If ever there was an ASSumption** (**Assume stands for makes and ass out of u and me) that I made about the near future of my life that had to be it. Who knew that within weeks of leaving work the United States economy would reveal that behind the curtains it was cratering faster than our company’s sinking credit score. I wouldn’t see a sniff of another job interview, much less a whiff of the odor of a job,
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for another 6 5 months. But back to that morning. Eventually I gave up on the computer and headed downstairs to put breakfast together. The dog didn’t bother to wake up or even move as I walked by. It was if I wasn’t even there. All through that morning that I noticed that there was a tightness that gripped my body. This was not a pain but a sort of tight rod that started at the bottom of my intestine and held the inside of my body hostage. This feeling, call it say anxiety with a dash of impending despondency and touch of dare I say a wee bit of feeling sorry for myself as a garnish would be my good buddy for the next 6 months. We would get to know each other real well. And this was supposed to be a great day of joy, liberation, the moment that I had been waiting for. I should have felt alive, excited and optimistic. I should have been celebrating, but no one wants to on a cold Tuesday morning. No, instead I just felt plain numb. But if anything I am not a quitter. So after breakfast it was back upstairs. I decided to make myself a little plan. A business plan for myself. Yes, I decided that this what I needed a plan to get myself going, to get out there do stuff and most of all get out of the house. After all, I had written countless business plans for others. I knew how to organize a business how to establish order create budgets
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spreadsheets in Excel with almost functioning macros, yes I would create a plan for myself. I opened up Word and looked at that blank screen. I started to type on the blank page. Personal Business Plan. Yes that sounded very good. Really good, hey, maybe this could be the beginning of a new business! Yes, writing personal business plans! Well what it really was the beginning of was just the first of a host of business ideas that I had over the rest of the year that would go absolutely nowhere. So I sat there and I wondered where do I begin. And I sat. And I waited. And the screen stayed blank. After a few more moments I punched back into Explorer and was on my way to ESPN.com to see what was new in Sports. Hey, the Giants, on a Midwest swing, were playing the reds at 4:15 pm. Maybe I could take the dog for a walk. And what was in the fridge for lunch? That was as far as the plan got that day and the next day and for many weeks thereafter.

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Chapter 10 Back where we started from; here we go round again
(thanks Raymond Douglas D.)

Looking back on the first month or two of that summer, I now realize that I accomplished an unrequited and undeniable sum total of fuck all zero. That is not to say I did nothing. Quite the contrary; my days came and went one after another. They all kind of blurred. But when look back at that time I accomplished very very little. Along with my fellow unemployed brothers and sisters, we lined up single file to look for work only to realize that we had become the collective road kill of our crashing economy. This zombie life was bad enough. But unemployment alone wasn’t the only poison that this time period had in mind for us. That wouldn’t do. Not only did we have no jobs and no money coming in, we got a real bonus handed to us: watching the stock market crash daily as our long planned and hoped for retirements plummeted downwards like pigeon full of buckshot and blew out what was left of our remaining hope. Good times. Good times. Going against the advice I had given repeatedly to my children I didn’t rely upon some of my old sources of inner strength to get me through this lost time. I didn’t have a spiritual revelation or start
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listening to Coltrane and early Miles again. Didn’t go back to my old heroes like Raymond Douglas D and Peter T. and Thomas P. Didn’t finish that photo project that I had been meaning to work on for so many years, left the images piling up in digital purgatory once again. Didn’t organize the photos of the kids spilling out of box after box, didn’t use the empty waiting albums. Didn’t get back on the bicycle which sat faithfully waiting for me in the garage. Didn’t start running again. Didn’t go back to that yoga class that I tried once. Didn’t get my shit together uh no no no no. Not at all. Couldn’t seem to get motivated. I wonder why…. I did not know it at the time but I was in a state of shock. Only in retrospect can one see what had happened. For starters, my male pride had been kicked in the groin and then stepped on. From the time we are little boys, men are taught the importance of making money. Women are given this lesson too, but it is different for us. Making coin becomes an integral part of our guy identity. So not only had life blown apart my day to day temporal structure, my masculine pride had hitchhiked out of town. At the same time; while I was thankful that one of us was working, it hurt to see her leaving for the office on mornings when my day was going to be like so many others in that summer, spent just passing the time and holding on tight to myself to maintain sanity. Yes, I took that precious swath of time that had been gift wrapped for me and left it sitting on the credenza not knowing where to look for the
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package must less to open it. But I couldn’t afford to admit to myself what was going or how I felt or more likely I just plain didn’t know what to do with it. Yes, on the surface I seemed fine. Yes, I made sure that I got out of bed every morning before 9 and that I walked the dog every afternoon sometimes for hours on end/ enjoying the tremendous variety of the Bay Area landscape, hitting the trails I knew well in Marin and Tilden park; listening to the i-shuffle and wondering in amazement how it seemed to mock my moods, enough New Order, Lucinda Williams and Portishead songs already. So what else did I do? I watched a whole lot of sports, found myself looking forward to baseball games and for the first time that I can recall, topped that with a solid dose of meaningless television (mostly Food Network and comedy central) to pass the time and to forget about the rock solid tension in my stomach and body that just would not go away. Period. Most days felt just plain dull. Nothing bad was happening but nothing good either. Everything appeared to be fine until you dug underneath it and found the pools of stagnant waters. Many days I relied on plain old physical labor to get me through these strange times. I introduced myself to the garage for the first time in a year. I found it smelling of rat piss and really a mess. Spent the hours cleaning, sorting, and then cleaning again.
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Sorted through files from the past and tried not to linger. Sat in the sun for hours and shredded documents of times and lives past as quickly as I could. Then when the shredder would overheat I would stop and space out. As the summer passed I had a lot of time to think of lots of business ideas that went absolutely nowhere. Here are some of the real winners that I actually recall, god knows there are plenty more that are buried deep in landfills and erased electrons somewhere. Let’s see; open a gourmet taco truck that fused Mexican and traditional Jewish deli recipes. Moishe Gonazales. Can’t you see it, pastrami carnitas on rye tortillas. Sweet tortilla blintzes stuffed with ricotta cheese. I shared this idea with my friends. Their opinion: Ummmm….maybe not. I said if a Korean taco truck could make it why not this? Their answer? Spice. Some of the others? Three months would be spent exploring what it would take to create a gourmet ice cream truck and take advantage of the burgeoning street food scene. But the research came up with immediate problems. For one thing, why start it in the Bay Area where it is never warm? Where there is a new gourmet ice cream parlor or strangely named and sour tasting yogurt stand opening on every corner? At least I learned what 16 percent butterfat really meant and got to travel to New York to check their street food scene and bury a weekend that winter in thin crust pizzas and Northern Italian reds.

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What if we opened a café that sold waffles? Had a great name too. “Waffeltown”. But it felt old fashioned and way too risky for me to pull the trigger when every retail project on earth seemed to start at a minimum investment of 300K. And that issue cut across the board on every retail project that I looked at. Still have the antique waffle irons that I bought on Ebay that week. Every retail project came down to the same question: Where was that sort of money going to come from? A loan against the house, the last remaining great asset? Take more risk in an already high risk world? Start a project whose numbers didn’t pencil from the get go unless you hermit crabbed your way into someone else’s failure. But enough about food for a moment. There were other mismatched and misplaced ideas to explore. In a thoroughly stupid gambit I was amateurish enough to think I could outwit Google’s algorithm police by searching for corporate websites like Western Union and buying ads for competitive products with low bids and similar names like Western Union travel or Western Union Flowers. Smart huh? It worked for one day. Found quickly that Google doesn’t let anyone play games in their sandbox when they marked up the ad cost from 3 cents to 3 dollars. Probably broke some trademark laws too. Ideas so convoluted I can’t remember what I did or why I did it.

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When not trying to start a business I spent the time looking at those other ideas I had when I left my job. Remember that ideal; trying to give back to the community by getting a non-profit job even if it paid very little? Me and every other unemployed business person over 50 had the same idea. Get in line and take a number, we need your money not you was the answer loud and clear to us. We are overwhelmed with your calls. Take a number. And volunteer. That was the one idea that held on and was something I would later do. Then if the morning was really looking grim there was always the clincher, for a really good time let’s try looking for work! Is there anything more degrading to a recently unemployed person over 50, or of any age for that matter, with ‘senior’ management skills than looking for work in the midst of a recession? And take that word senior out of your resume if it is somehow still there. It no longer means experienced….now it just plain means old. Oh the exquisite pleasures of trying to find a job in the modern world. The application process for corporate jobs is designed so that no one will ever speak with you. You fill out complex forms that are more complicated than setting up a bank account, each seeking scads of personal information and history, all for jobs that you have little or no chance of ever getting and never generating even the courtesy of a form email reply. After how many tries do you just stop caring about them? It doesn’t take long.

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And how about those message boards? Tired of the Craigslist shuffle? I know they do a service for job seekers, but how many find themselves addicted to checking those lists several times a day to find nothing new and nothing relevant to your search over and over again no matter how deep you did into the site. Monster? Worthless beyond entry level positions. Ops ladder? Really only for ops guys. Career Builder? A play for you to pay. A word of advice. Keep the searches down to once a week on a concentrated basis and don’t waste your time and subject yourself to this battering. Even though you know better, being persistent you still check them out, exploring each and ever lead going down the road to find it leads once again to that same end. You apply for jobs that you will never get or that barely interest you just to keep sharp. And as the economy would worsen your motivation would decrease at the competition increased. As Neil Young put it so well, ‘Everybody knows this is nowhere’. A funny thing happens when you stop earning money. Instead of earning new money you begin to spend your time figuring out how you are saving money by not working. One bored afternoon I actually calculated that I was saving several hundred dollars a month by not working. There was the commute (an easy 10 bucks with gas and toll), lunches (another 10) and dry cleaning (100 a month). I was up to 700 already and hadn’t done a thing.
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That was my “accomplishment”. I didn’t share it. These shadow days were never even remotely close to being satisfying for me. After trying not to watch the clock and waiting until 12 for lunch I would eat quickly without much pleasure reading the NY times, having finished the comicle by the time breakfast was half way done. Afternoons were adrift with little to do and less to look forward to. I would end the day at 6 pm in the highly unnatural and uncomfortable role of waiting for le sweetie to come home (and hard worker that she was that rarely happened), deciding whether it was time to hit that second Margarita with the stiff anxious physical bar in my body unwilling to back down despite the Blue Agave’s best shot. I would stand there on the back deck feeling like some sort of demented househusband with a three-day growth of beard wearing unchanged sweats. Romantic image isn’t it? And did I imagine it, but to me it seemed that ze sweets was out more than usual during those days. Maybe it was just that I noticed more, but I couldn’t help wondering if she was enjoying the work driven social life or somewhat eager to escape the brooding presence of an unemployed bored and less than happy husband at the casa. This was a time of paradox. No matter how many times you told yourself that you have health, some money in the bank and a solid family, it was not enough to overcome the sheer acid effect of too much time by your lonesome in a newly unstructured environment. I thought a lot about what had gone
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wrong? Was it the pessimism of the economy? Gas pricing? Why did it seem that so many bad stories were permeating our lives? The stories I heard from my friends: “My grandson’s melanoma is back again in his brain. My daughter is in rehab again. Did you hear the story about so and so. Yeah they are finished. He moved out last week. No, they declared bankruptcy, the business is finished. And what about the kids? Well they aren’t taking it well. Yes, dropped dead playing tennis, right on the court”. This was brought to the forefront of my thoughts when I went to check my bank balance one afternoon and discovered that some asshole had gotten a hold of my checking account and pulled some 5,000 (actually 4900 as 5000 is some kind of reporting threshold) out of my bank account electronically sending a payment to GMAC. And the bank, although very professional and courteous, they did a really decent job, said there is no way to stop this. As things become more electronic fraud become so much easier. There are rats everywhere, trying to get to your money and your goodies in the garage. They were right about not being to stop them. Three weeks later they hit us again, this time $4700 paid to a bookstore at a University in Nova Scotia (and just what did the buy with that money? 8,000 Sweatshirts? Free books for everybody?).

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Our egotistical but naive generation thought it would all be different for us but it wasn’t turning out that way. All of our hopes and desires, the skills that we thought would make our world and our kids lives better were unable to evade the sheer idiocy of the current world and the overpowering reality of our exploding genetic pools. Many afternoons I just wondered why bother. Why put out the energy. Why not just stay home with the 1080 resolution 181 channels picture in a picture and nothing to watch. You stay there passively waiting for something to happen watching the ice in the margarita glass melt. That is until some thing changes. And here is the good news. That was it. That was the low point. I was lucky, those weeks in early summer were the bottom of it all for me. While this time period seems remotely funny looking back it is only funny when you are looking back. Day to day it was a struggle to keep your spirits positive. To not feel sorry for yourself was an effort. To keep positive was a battle. That left little time and energy left over for feelings like joy or pleasure or growth. This was a time for keeping your shit together for fear of looking down into the personal abyss and where it inevitably led for too long. This was a time of blind faith that it would get better where you just hold on to the emotional toboggan for dear life. So what happens at a bottom?
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Is there an

epiphany? A moment where the skies part and a white haired Monty Python like blue eyed god-head spoke to me? Did someone hand me a gold key or open a door marked here? No. Not really. It would be so wonderful if that was the case, it would all be so much easier. I could point to that moment and say “Eureka, there it is!” I would have a neat little trick to share that would sell a million books and make a million people happy. You could stop reading in a few pages and change your life too. But there wasn’t one. There isn’t one. That is the very essence of the journey that I began in those bottom moments. As I emerged I realized over time that is not about the clarity and hope of a crisp morning sunrise or learning to take your time and really lean into the downward dog. It is not about controlling your breathing or your mind and setting out on new adventures no matter what they are. It is not about the smile on a child or the loping gallop of a hunting dog in full stride on a beach. It is about all of them. It is about how you greet each moment and what you do with them. It is about opening your eyes to what is all around you. That is where the journeys really begin. One day I realized that I had gotten off of the couch and started moving on. And I didn’t notice that it had happened much less the day on which it occurred.

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Chapter 11 Papa Ooh Mow Mow? Uh uh. Shboom Shbhoom!~ Just as there was no blinding epiphany at the beginning of this journey (other than my wife threatening to throw my ass off of the couch, which is pretty damned epiphanous in and of itself) there was no specific moment when suddenly things got better that summer or when I could touch my chin and elbows to the floor when stretching my body across my legs (that still has not happened). Things happened gradually over those first two months post employment in a series of small steps so much so that they were barely noticeable as they occurred. And there were plenty of pratfalls and backward motion to guarantee that any movements forward were haphazard at very best and often painfully nowhere. Illuminated and illustrative paths did not open up to me regularly, chasms of knowledge did not reveal themselves, the clouds or more aptly said, the fog, did not part, it stayed low and close to the ground letting the sun in from time to time only to slowly crawl back as the evening came. Instead of focusing on a search for mental peace, in my typical impatient hunt and peck research style, I kept trying different aspects of meditation to see if they worked without taking the time to fully understand just what it was that I was doing. That is the same approach I used with
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computers, software and electronic devices. I mean seriously, who takes the time to read the manuals? I got better results from Microsoft Office. As you may remember from the beginnings of this adventure, my odyssey into this world of Eastern studies began with a clandestine afternoon raid on La Sweetie’s bookshelf for some research the day after she lit me up on the couch in Chapter 1. The first steps that I took into the world of meditation and mindfulness over those next several weeks into were worse for me than studying French as a kid. The terms and concepts that I struggled to understand were as foreign as the passé imparfait. I believe that they remain just as difficult for most men. But back to that afternoon and my little book raid. I had always been curious about what she was up to when she closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply and why she loved meditation so much. The subject seemed so foreign to her character. Yet it actually seemed to relax her. And relaxation was something that I really desperately needed. So what was this peace and harmony stuff all about? I needed to find out and this was the time. When the thought came to me to raid her bookshelf I got pretty excited. Let’s admit it, there is something guilty and potentially titillating about going through your wife’s stuff, even if it is just her book collection. Celebrating the moment, I opened a cold Trummer Pils for additional mental clarity, grabbed a glass, went upstairs and started thumbing through the bookshelves on her side of the bedroom
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sitting cross legged on the carpet and ready to receive some real knowledge. Well, I wish there was something good to report back about, some hidden nest of European sex books in brown paper covers with lurid instructions or an annotated copy of the Kama Sutra or maybe just something plain funny. No such luck. Almost all of the books were boring, or worse, and not surprisingly directed towards women, their personal struggles and their issues (mainly with men which by default included me). Lacking both the estrogen levels and the interest, I gratefully skipped over them quickly without much thought. To me they were about as exciting as a bowl of warm sour milk on a hot humid day. Finally on the bottom shelf I found a number of books that dealt with what seemed to be Eastern thought and I opened a few up, started skimming and then dumped them in a pile by my side of the bed. And that was it, the journey East was on. Throughout the rest of late summer and into early fall I gave this challenge my best. Most importantly, I made sure that the books were left out around the bedroom for her to see. I read about mindfulness and meditation daily and tried really really hard to make it work. I actually completed several chapters in several books*, some good, some not so. I didn’t finish any of the books; barely got past the first few chapters in most.
**a recommend list of tolerable texts appears at the end of MHO

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What got to me almost immediately was the tone. These authors and their work were ethereal, their advice seemed to float, to speak to people from a different world and not to me. Now this is understandable to a great extent because the people who wrote these books are ethereal. They are monks, Phd’s in philosophy, guys who had spent years in vows of silence sitting on wooden benches watching leaves fall and grass grow and loving it. Of course they were spacey. The problem with these texts and these messages is that I wasn’t. I was stuck here on earth, unemployed and bored. So I read on out of stubbornness but not joy. I would follow their instructions to the letter. I found a comfortable place to sit upstairs looking out at the rooftops of our neighborhood and a cushion to sit on. This was supposed to my “regular” spot and dutifully I went there day after day, morning after morning. I sat on my comfy cushion. I tucked it right up under my butt and I sat there. And I followed those instructions. I tried hard to breathe in and to breathe out and to focus on my breath and to just be. I tried to count to 25 breaths. I didn’t make it past 10 most times. I tried to keep my eyes closed. They wouldn’t stay that way popping open despite my strongest efforts. I tried to keep my legs crossed. I couldn’t because my back hurt and my ankles rebelled. I mixed in a variety of Yoga classes looking for one that clicked. I wondered if it was just my interest or whether Berkeley had been taken over by Yoga
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studios, all with slightly different ways of torturing your body and contorting your limbs. There names were as confusing as the poses, Hatha, Ashtanga, I couldn’t really see the difference between them. They hurt just the same. I never went to two in a row. But my problem was way beyond the physical issues of yoga. The biggest single hurdle that I could not overcome was mental. Simply put, I could not control my thoughts during my early attempts at meditation. Some days I would feel like I was making progress for a moment or two. Then I would blow up again. My meditation practice had the consistency of the 49’ers offensive line play. I recall no Buddhist/Eastern feelings ‘of the moment’ during this period of any sort. None. Everything felt forced, artificial, discounted and disconnected. As I look back on these first attempts to calm my mind several things are now clear. One big one: Those of us with ‘active’ minds (back then they called you an excitable kind of guy or Mr. Smarty Pants. These days they put labels on people like or he has a short attention span or is a.d.d. What I call it is ICD or intelligent concentration disorder.) are not the best candidates for a meditation practice, especially so when you start this work. Our minds cry out to be entertained, and when they aren’t, they are on to the next thing without hesitation. It is only much later in the mindfulness/meditation process that we learn that while we may not seem to be the best candidates for
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this stuff; for those of us who crave constant stimulation, meditation provides us with the chance to turn that switch off for the first time in our lives without chemical intervention. And yes, for you doubters out there who selfishly hang to those old habits, it is worth learning to control that particular switch in this way. It helps us to manage our toxic quest for more more and then a little more with benefits instead of side effects. For so many reasons that I have alluded to above and many more that became clear later on, the traditional approach to meditation did not work for me. I understand that only in hindsight. That realization only came months later after the process finally began to work. I want you to understand it now so that you don’t loose faith as we navigate the tepid ponds and falling oak leaves along the way. There is a goal and it is and was worth the effort. So here is what I believe was impeding my progress. When I tried to meditate I worked hard to block out my daily mundane thoughts just like they wanted me to. But no matter how hard or long I concentrated I could not empty my mind. My mental cache was full and I guess that I liked it that way. I was way too afraid or maybe just lacked the mental command to empty it. Now I will admit without hesitation that when I began this study I wanted to be like all the other yogis and little Buddha’s that I read about. They looked so cool sitting cross-legged on mountain tops by roaring streams and many of them were actually
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ripped (this was something that really confused me). The women yoga instructors were lithe, make up free and beautiful, they spoke clearly and strongly. The men could stand on their head in one quick motion and stay there. They were odd but impressive nonetheless. Deep down I yearned for my mind to be a pure wisp of nothing like theirs, conscious of the world without judging it. I strived to become aware, present, to be fully engaged in the moment; clean, clear and pure. I tried to be aware, to be present, to be mindful** of every moment. I wanted to sit and say to myself, “Look a leaf. Wow what a blue blue sky. Gee there is the sun”. I wanted everything to be appreciated beautiful, meaningful. And I did not see the world that way at all. Still don’t.
Mindfulness is defined as a calm awareness of one's body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself.

This is not to say that those sorts of moments aren’t pretty, seriously, they are. But they were never enough for me. I wanted to focus on something more meaningful, more central to my life. I know now that I was searching for am inner peace that I could understand. So there I was most mornings, trying desperately to think of nothing with my head full of everything. This is not to say that the old time sages didn’t recognize our mental tendency to wander. They called this the monkey mind, hopping from subject to subject, from tree to tree. The solution that they offered was more discipline, more
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breathing, more meditation, more of the same things that already were not working for me. I kept beating my head against this soft wall of down pillows without results during those two months. Trying to think about nothing did have two consistent effects on me. More often than not I would give up. On some occasions I would actually become very still. Then I would fall quickly to sleep. Neither result was very satisfying or calming although I am the first to admit the sleep felt good. My frustrations boiled over about week 4 into this process. I had been hitting the books hard all week and had finally learned to hold a lotus position for more than 2 minutes. This was especially important for show and tell the night before. Fingers touching in a nice round oval, I made sure that she found me in the upstairs bedroom that evening cross legged and eyes closed and breathing slowly right after I turned off the Giants-Mets game as she pulled into the driveway. Even she who is rarely conscious when she comes home from work caught this surprise act and I got rewarded later with more than a smile. The next afternoon found me back in the lotus trying desperately to shut down my mind which was lost in a death spiral of dwindling income exacerbated by a new found well of major expense that had reared its head a week before. The challenge that I was now facing was a leaking upstairs shower. Just like us, home
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maintenance can only be deferred so long before trouble sets in. I had known about this problem for years, tackling it with a dazzling array of caulks, sealants and other stalling efforts that brought me many years of extra use. But these fixes were only good for so long and I knew that the shower base, something I later got to know was the “pan” had finally cracked, sending a slow but steady stream of water leaking down into the studs that support the second floor each time we showered and then soaking the ceiling of my son’s closet. The ceiling which was now brown, grey and black, cracking and turning really really ugly in colors that spelled out a simple three letter word every homeowner dreads. Rot. That horrifying combination of a dank sulfurous smell and a spreading stain that looked like a tie dye made by Nostradamus and gave way when I poked it with my finger made it clear to me that home remedies were now over. This was clearly beyond the usual course of cortisone and antibiotics, surgery would be required. This was not a good subject for meditation but one that kept seeping into my thoughts and wouldn’t go away. How do you relax your mind when the shower has cracked and you can’t fix it and the only solution is to hire a contractor and your income stream has stopped? That was a challenge. A challenge that overwhelmed me that day. So I gave up, stopped breathing in breathing out and got off of the cushion and just stared out the window for a while. I thought to myself that this shit was going nowhere. I was becoming an actor, using
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the appearance of meditating to make peace at home and not believing in a word of it. I would tell her the truth, that the meditation wasn’t going well, that underneath that serene poses I was frustrated angry and bordering on depressed with a steel rod running from my gut to my brain that impaled me 24/7 and wouldn’t let me sleep through a single night in the past two weeks. I was pissing away all the benefits of being out of work and couldn’t do a thing about it. Yes, I would tell her tonight when she came home from work. Enough was enough.

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Chapter 12 Let’s get this party started

When she who lives here with me came home later that day, the first thing she asked when she walked through the door before the usual request for a not too sweet Margarita or a glass of Edna Valley Chardonnay was not how my day went or how Kelly or the kidults were doing or what was for dinner. No, it was “how was the meditation today? Did it go well?” And there went my plan, melting down like warm butter on a stack of steaming hot pancakes. Boom. Gone. My subsequent response was something eminently forgettable along the lines of “uh, really great” and “made some real breakthroughs on the job hunt” and the rest of the evening went like the rest with her passed out early upstairs and me cruising the far end of the cable channels searching in vain for entertainment before settling into yet another cooking show to fill the time until sleep somewhat naturally settled over me. Throughout an uneventful next day (uneventful = job searching + another lousy attempt at meditation + long dog walk + shredding useless paperwork) I swore to myself that the evening would be different. I was determined that it would be. I resolved not to let my guard down for the sake of a future based on falsehoods and to tell her the truth.
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End this hopeless charade and move on. So that evening, between bites of a first rate lamb sausage pesto lasagna that I had prepared to keep my mind off of my rapidly deteriorating mental state that afternoon and several glasses of our solid but unspectacular house made Cabernet Sauvignon, I explained my frustrations to her in rapid fire detail. My clear intention was to tell her that I would be ending it all. She stopped eating and looked up across the table as I tried to put a positive spin on it all. I put my best foot forward, explaining that I had given this meditation thing a real shot. I focused on the inability to concentrate during meditation, knowing that I might hit a sympathetic chord with her and I guessed correctly. When I mentioned this aspect of my difficulties it must have really resonated with her. She replied that everyone has those issues with meditation and that she did to and still does. She continued on, “Meditation is not something that we do naturally or easily. You have to learn how to do it. I mean I couldn’t do it myself, that was why I joined my meditation group.” Uh oh, when I heard the word group the first alarm bells went off I in my head immediately as not only was this was not the answer I was hoping for, it had a lot of potential to keep this process alive. Here I was all set to go in for the kill, put this journey out of its misery. Instead she effectively derailed me and I sat there looking across the dinner table with a false smile on my face while my balloon slowly lost pressure.

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She kept going, “I think that a big part of the problems that you are having is that you are at home too much.” Well that was true. “I know that you want to do everything yourself and that you believe that you can but this is different. This isn’t like using a road map when you get lost. (Which I did by the way). You need to get out of the house, find yourself a group to meditate with just like I did, and let it grow over time. Just think about it, I have been meditating with the same group of women for over 10 years.” Well that did it. These comments set off a series of incredibly horrendous images in my head. I could only imagine the ‘ meditation groups’ that I would find if I pursued her suggestion. For this was not just any American town that I lived in for god sake, this was Berkeley or Bezerkeley as it is lovingly (or more likely not) called. A city which I can safely say after 20 plus years of living more than lives up to its reputation for attracting a population of highly intelligent and very eclectic, often strange residents. My imagination then took over, a glimpse of the future came into focus, I smelled the patchouli incense. I saw a room filled with pale old men with long stringy dirty grey hair pony tales dancing in a circle, chanting dancing twirling praying to a golden bhudda that had Jerry Garcia’s head on its shoulders, chanting Dark Star Dark Star, oh my god this was perversion, when this personal nightmare vision was broken by my wife’s voice. (I had seen this ghost once before at Winterland on New Year's Eve in the 1980's but at that time it put me to sleep).
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“Honey, are you listening to me.” I quickly came back to the room and her green eyes. “Sorry dear, I was just was thinking about what you said.” I stalled for time until I could think of what to say. She carried on. “So what do you think, how are you going to approach this?” Ever the businesswoman, she was right to the point. What was my goal, my objective? What would be the takeaways from our dinner chat? Did I have plan? I went honest. “I have no idea”. “Well,” she replied, “you rely on the Internet to find everything else in your life, why not this?” She was right (again! Damn it!) Over the past years the net had become my major research tool and I used it to find just about everything that I purchased, from restaurants to cars to cameras. The net made sense to me, a source of virtually unlimited knowledge and resource all organized into key words and bundles of facts. If I could find a monkey filled tin roofed rain soaked bungalow with crocodiles when you walked outside (yes true) in Costa Rica for a family vacation, why not search for a coach or meditation group in my own home town? I thanked her and promised to get on it the next day. The next morning I warmed up the new Imac that I purchased the week before (what a pleasure
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indeed quite fast, stylish and simple to operate) and opened up the browser. The first question was always the most basic, just what the hell was I searching for? Um lets see. Inner peace. Too broad. Buddhism? I wasn’t converting. Let’s guess. Meditation? Yes. And keep it local. And maybe a group to start. So I typed in: Eastern meditation groups Berkeley Ca’. I resolved to spend the next week trying different groups to see if they might help me. I wanted to find a men’s meditation group, where normal guys that were trying to better themselves and their homes could get together and not be afraid to go out for a burger or pizza and beer after without dirty looks form the Vegans. Oh there were plenty of meditation groups for women, for gay men, gay women, for Buddhists, the LGBT community, for Tibetan Buddhists, for Christians, Hindus and Jews. But none for guys. Something was wrong here. Why couldn’t we meditate and continue to love pepperoni? So I manned up and headed out of the house and drove up the hills to the local spiritual relief center across from campus the next Monday morning at 8:30 for their morning meditation introduction program. It was held in a funky old school that had been converted into a multi denominational church painted with faded rainbows and surrounded by tattered Tibetan prayer flags that had long since lost their color. There was no sign for the class and it was blind
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luck that I opened the front door and walked into right room. Aren’t their directions on the road to Nirvana? The room was unheated and cold and only 4 people were there. 3 women of unclear age (believe me it is not like I was there to hit on anyone, seriously these women were just plain, amorphous and very ambiguous). One other guy, must have been 60, dressed in multi color sweats. Everyone standing around no one saying a word and no eye contact was being made much less smiling. Not promising at all. A few minutes later a bald almond skinned man of unknown age and just about 5 feet tall quietly walked into the room. He was clad in a brown and orange outfit somewhere between a high priest’s robe and a jumpsuit carrying a brightly multi colored cushion. He smiled subtly at us and then sat down at the end of the room. He moved quickly into a half lotus and spoke softly to us as we walked toward him “Does everyone have their cushuns?” He said it just that way, cushuns. I looked around. Everyone else did, not me. Worse yet they were already sitting down and beginning to prepare for their coming relaxation moments. Cushions? I didn’t know we had to bring cushions. I spoke up. “No”, I replied, “I didn’t bring one. Do you have any that I can use?”

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At that point he went silent and looked at me. This lasted for more than just a moment, to be the point of being a bit strange. He seemed to be considering his options. Was I imaging things or did he actually furrow his brow and start to squint at me? When he finally spoke it was even quieter, the five of us were now hanging on his every word. “Cushun. Do you understand me? You can not meditate if you can not sit properly and you can not sit properly without a cushun. Did you bring a cushun?” I answered again. “No, I replied for the second time, “I didn’t.” He stared for another moment. Then he sighed. A deep and yes exasperated breath, the sort you hear from a disappointed middle level Marubeni executive, just not pulled backwards through his teeth, not meditative or Zen in the least. His gaze had not left me. “Pleassse understand me. Pleassse understand that without a cushun you can not properly meditate. Pleassse read the rules they are posted on our website. Pleassse come back with one tomorrow and we will meditate together. I hope that you will join us then. You must remember that the path to enlightenment is long and takes both will and discipline. So pleassse go now and come back tomorrow when you are completely ready to join us.” And that was it. I was banished by a passive aggressive monk.

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I was flabbergasted. Stunned. Outraged. What had just happened! Where was that old mellow team Zen spirit? I looked around at my fellow meditation inmates for support but I should have known better. They were fidgeting uncomfortably on their cushions, waiting for their instruction to begin and looking for me to leave because it was obvious that they were not going to get started until I did. Collaborators. Administrators. Vichy sympathizers. And thus ended my one, and maybe fortuitously so, foray into the world of group meditation. A crash both sudden and swift. Without looking back I walked out of the church and almost, but didn’t after exercising considerable personal restraint, slammed the large wooden door. As I drove home I made an easy decision, I still needed help, but until I found a group of like-minded people, I wasn’t meditating with anyone else. I mean who needed to be pushed around by a kid in a saffron jumpsuit to learn what had been written about for thousands of years. I needed a coach. Someone who could help me to solve these questions that kept bothering me about meditation, Eastern thought and how it could mean something for the modern American male.

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Chapter 13 Coached and Contracted (El Yingo Yango)

After traipsing up the stairs to the office cave and opening up the Mac once again, I made a list of potential coaching categories to check out. At first my toss was broad, “Coaches San Francisco Bay Area. This brought me hundreds of results. The next hour was spent eliminating the obvious freaks. Trainers who would get you in touch with your past regressed life, hypno-therapists looking for the moment when the someone out there broke your spirit, the aura readers and soul searchers all of whom made a living from the psychological weaknesses that pervade our funny neighborhood. Eventually I narrowed the search to these keywords: Coach, breathing eastern thought, meditation, men San Francisco Bay area. This net brought in a more focused catch. Two of the entries on the top page were of interest; a man in the Oakland hills who felt a bit like East meets career counselor and a woman located in San Francisco whose web site emphasized personal fulfillment and relaxation. After my experience with the uber-under priest that morning, I decided to call
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the woman coach first. Her name was Margie and her ad looked pretty straightforward, her photo (good looking so what), her location (San Francisco), rates (which seemed a bit high) and a discussion of breathing and relaxation techniques for women, men and couples. My rush to judgment was not the best move, I should have read the details a bit closer as it turned out. Expecting to reach voice mail or maybe an answering machine I was surprised and unprepared to respond when she came on the line with a really husky and I will be the first to admit it kind of sexy voice and an English accent to boot. “Hi, this is Margie, who is this.” “Uh, I sort of stammered, uh this is Jules”. Was this an appropriate question? I guess it was. ‘Hi Jules’, she replied, ‘nice to meet you. Do you want to schedule an appointment?’ I don’t know why I didn’t think anything unusual with the situation, I mean there really wasn’t a reason to wonder at that point, so I said sure, and she said how about today, and I said do you have any appointments this afternoon and she said 3 pm, so I said sure and she said you will see my address on my website, when you get close to the flat, call me, and I will give you the code to get in. Maybe alarm bells should have gone off over the same day appointment or the alarm code but then again, who knew, I mean what if she was a coach in a
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secure building. It wasn’t that unusual, was it? So later that day I headed off across the bay on an unusually bright sunny afternoon, enjoying the view of the city (after 30 years still looking good to me) as I crossed the Bay Bridge and made my way south to a neighborhood full of newer condos and apartments on the way to the ballpark. Now maybe that should have tipped me off that she wasn’t a regular breathing coach. But it didn’t. After I parked at a one-hour meter ($2.00 in quarters for one hour, ridiculous) I called the intercom, and she gave me the code and the details. I buzzed myself in, went up the elevator down the nondescript hall to her apartment and knocked. She opened the door but did not look out and asked me to come in. When I walked and around the door, I saw that despite the thick black leggings and capezio style multi colored tie-dye top that she was stunning. Not just pretty. She was stunning in a sort of beautiful mid-thirties hippie way that the Bay Area (and Santa Monica,, Pacific Beach and Park Slope) seem to support. I must have been staring at her for a moment because after she closed the door and said hello she asked me if I was OK. At that point confusion had seeped its way into my consciousness. My reasons for this sense confusion became all the more prevalent with her first question. “Would you like to take a shower?”. I had taken one this morning so I knew that my smell wasn’t the issue and the scene became even
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stranger to me. Something wasn’t right. “No thanks, I already did earlier.” This whole thing felt strange. “Can I ask you a question?”, I asked. “Of course.” “Great. Look, I have never been to a coach before so I am little nervous.” She told me not to worry, everyone has a first time and that she would take good care of me. I went on. “OK, so let me explain why I am here. I left my job 6 months ago and since then things have, well, been a lot less than perfect, especially on the home front if you know what I mean. My wife suggested that I that maybe meditation would help, and I really have tried to do it but it just hasn’t worked for me. I just keep losing my focus and then I start thinking about sports and it all goes away. She smiled and said that she understood. “Great. So then she suggested that I look for someone to help me with the problems that I have been having focusing and breathing, someone who could help me to concentrate. So that is why I am here. Let me be honest. I have never done anything like this before. I don’t even know what it is that you do. But does this make sense? Can you help me with my problems? She smiled and standing there in her hallway she looked me right in the eyes. I was spellbound.
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And then she went off like a Zen roman candle. I do believe that she had given this speech before. “ Yes, I can help you with your problems. Before you can learn to meditate on the true power within you need to focus on your breathing. You must learn the power of tantra.” Tantra? I had no idea what she was talking about. She didn’t wait and carried on, Do not worry, I am a trained tantric breathing master, I have spent hundreds of hours training and assisting men, women and couples.” She went on without pausing. “First you will relax and we will work on your breathing. Breathing is the center of all life and conciousness. Together we will explore breathing and its power. Then we will break through your barriers as you explode.” Wow, I thought. What a character she is, entertaining too. I stared straight ahead and kept my mouth shut, not that there was a moment to say anything. Her train was on the tracks gaining speed when it took a real interesting turn without signaling first. “Breathing is the center of all energy. It is the core of our energy, our orgasmic energy. Imagine the possibilities that exist when you link your breathing to the internal temples of orgasmic energy. As you embrace your most vulnerable inner soulbeing reaching levels of ecstasy as orgasm follows orgasm in your own personal temple. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the inner love you will feel. I will train you in tantric breathing, the first step to joining our temple of communal orgasm. Breathing
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as you have only imagined it, a gateway to pure alignment of spirit, body and ecstasy.” I was speechless. We had barely said hello, I thought I was going to meditation class and she was redefining my sexual being. I didn’t know what to say or was going to happen next and I realized that I didn’t On a more basic level I had no idea what she was talking about except that it concerned sex which was at face value kind of intriguing. After a lengthy pause I worked up the courage to form what I thought was an intelligent response. “Ummm. Shouldn’t I be working on this sort of stuff with my wife?” Not missing a beat she came back, “Absolutely. I highly recommend working with your partner when exploring the kama sutra. (I made a note to myself to find out what she was talking about). In fact, I really enjoy doing couples work. The three of us can explore new worlds together.” Wow…was she suggesting a threesome? Then an image of the honey bunny’s stern forehead came into my mind and those thoughts were quickly and efficiently extinguished. I didn’t know what else to say at that point so I just stood there and smiled. She smiled back and we both stood there for more than an uncomfortable moment just sort of standing there in an uncomfortable karmic stasis, neither really sure of what more to do or say just smiling to keep doing something until she spoke and finally broke the
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quiet. “You really are kind of lost aren’t you?” She was right, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. She took the lead. “Well you seem like a pretty decent guy and I have nothing else booked this afternoon. Why don’t you just sit down on the couch and let me get us a cup of tea. I can see this is going to be a very different kind session. And don’t worry about the money just pay me what you think is fair.” Elouise, her real name as it turned out, was a kind hearted model turned masseuse/yoga coach who really believed in the world of chakra, kunalindi, tantric breathing and extended communal orgasmic release, a concept which she tried several times to explain to me during the next hour but I still could not understand. What I was able to grasp is that this process involved small groups of people meditation together somehow reaching orgasm collectively numerous times yet never coming, something that made zero sense to me. I also learned that she made most of her living massaging men and I guess women on a more conventional level. The rest of the hour passed quickly as I settled into her couch and walked her through my frustrations with meditation and my dream of finding inner peace from a guy’ perspective. About ½ way through my diatribe she interrupted me and told me that she knew of a coach in Berkeley that combined Eastern and Western treatments that I might be interested in looking. She went off and looked him
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up on the trusty Internet and gave me his address (located very close to the house) and phone number. At the end of the hour I paid her ½ of her regular fee, her suggestion, which came to $100 and I got ready to leave. As we said good-bye she took my right hand and held it. She looked me in the eyes again and told me that if I ever wanted to experience the power that was wrapped up inside of me to give her a call. I smiled, realized that the crows feet around her eyes were deeper than I first thought, removed my hand from hers, thanked her for the green tea and left. “Be quiet on your way out,” she added, I don’t want to disturb the neighbors.” I was. The deal that I thought I got on this centering experience and my momentary inner peace were quickly eviscerated by a 50$ parking ticket dead center on my windshield that I discovered when I returned to my car. It had been written just two minutes earlier. I called her suggested coach that afternoon, he sounded like a regular guy on the phone and we made an appointment for the next week. Along with my nascent search for a coach, at the same time I had begun to look for a contractor to fix the shower, a process that turned out to be equally if not more bizarre. If the roller coaster of personality types that I confronted during my search for a guide on the path East could be considered bizarre, then
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the borderline types that I encountered trying to find someone that I could work with to repair our home without doubling the mortgage can only described as ridiculous if not just plain hysterical. These guys were as varied as the characteristics of the human face itself, in terms of skill set, competency and plain old ability to communicate. I can’t say which process was stranger, finding a Zen coach or a building contractor. I had learned from previous construction projects at the house (read: French doors, decks, landscaping) that the worst mistake that a client could make was to leave the scope of the job ill defined. The narrower the job the more control you had, ‘twas better to say no to the gold handled faucet you didn’t really need as a suggested add on then to have it part of an existing job (replace bathroom sink and handles). But first I did my homework. Called a plumber to look at the leaking shower so I could learn the scope of the job. He was competent and thorough and came through with just what I wanted: a written quote. Any hope that this could be fixed by opening up the floor and fixing the leak was quickly and immediately dashed. He proposed to rip out the existing shower and replace it with all new tile including the offending pan and have a subcontractor come in to do the actual tile work. Total cost was just under $15,000 give or take depending upon the choice of tile. He was adamant, you couldn’t take out the tile floor to do the work, the whole shower had to go.
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If only I would have hired him and followed my own advice. But are we not our own worst counselors? Why don’t we follow the advice that we give to others and that we know to be true? Is it the famous Groucho Marx line that we don’t want to be part of any club that would let us in? Instead I put together the mental laundry list of what was bugging me in the house. This was easy to do as I was home a lot for the first time I could remember since childhood. The problems that had seemed tolerable when I was working full time now drove me crazy. I resolved to get them fixed finally, when else would I have the time to actually supervise the work and make sure it was done they way I wanted it. Number 1 on the house chart was water pressure. Not only did the shower leak, it had the water pressure of a dribbling 65 year-old man with ongoing prostate issues. If I was going to fix the shower then let’s get the pressure up to it. And that is where this particular map to ruin began. From the heater next to my bed that sounded like a 747 revving for take off at 2 in the morning to the slow constantly leaking faucet in the front yard, every one of these household hits get airplay in the next months once a contractor got his foot in the door. I started by calling people that I knew to see if they had a contactor they knew that they would recommend. There were numerous suggestions but those guys all had one thing in common; they were
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working. It was getting toward the end of the summer of 2007 and the full effect of the recession hadn’t hit the contracting world, most of whom seemed to be finishing large jobs already under contract when the long slow descent began. The few that were available to being work anytime in the next few weeks would come in for their appointment before or after work. All seemed to have about the same routine. They would examine the shower, the leak and then crawl under the house to look at the pipes. It didn’t matter if they were silent older white Greek men, their arms covered with sagging tattoos who couldn’t speak English, single operators who couldn’t work with anyone else or the crew of Ukrainians that appeared to be fueled by something a lot stronger than coffee (“we work very quickly”), the result was always the same. They could not give me an estimate and the work would be based on time and materials. They muttered phrases like: “ Looks like a month and a half.” Or “We really don’t know what we are looking at until we open her up.” They all wanted one thing, time and materials where there were no caps and thus no idea of what the job would really cost. When I would say are we looking at 15, 20,000 they would shrug their shoulders and say such illuminating phrases as “Who knows?” And who can forget the union crew? 7 guys showed up to do the estimate. Plumber, carpenter, tile guy, three apprentices and a foreman. I could only imagine what the “job site” would look like. The estimate? It’s gonna’ be north of 50. I took the whole contractor search with a grain of
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salt; it was kind of funny and helped pass the time. It did not deter me from the other search that I was pursuing and one Tuesday I found myself in what was without question a psychologist or psychiatrist office sitting in a comfortable chair face to face with a balding middle aged man dressed in faded jeans, Birkenstocks, a grey T-shirt and an orange down vest. Before starting our session I asked him about his work. He explained to me that he practiced psychology for over 15 years and that he had moved into an Eastern direction that he now integrated into his work. That sounded reasonable. Then he asked me about why I came to see him. Over the next 45 minutes (he practiced the classic 50 minute hour) he sat and stared at me. When I finished talking he wrote little notes on a pad and would ask such probing questions as “tell me a little more about that” and “what else made you feel that way”. He offered no advice, no counseling, no direction. When the session was done I realized that he had said about 20 words including the fee, $150 for 50 minutes of listening to myself. I told him that I didn’t bring my wallet or my checkbook and to send me a bill. He asked me when I would like to schedule another session. I told him that I would call after I checked my schedule. I never did. As I walked out of his office I was 150 dollars lighter and felt worse than ever. Did anyone license these guys? What gave him the right to sit in an office and charge that kind of money to do nothing?

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Then I realized that the person I was most pissed off at was myself. Once again I had left myself in a position to be taken advantage of. I hadn’t really checked him out. I didn’t ask him what he did or get a reference before I let him go to work. I was doing a better job checking out the guys working on the shower then the one working on my head. The comparison between the two experiences made me think about one other thing. If we can spend money on showers, cell phone and cable TV, why are we sometimes reluctant to spend it trying to better our own lives and who we are? I didn’t have an answer to that question, but it was something that I would be working on when I finally found a coach.

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Chapter 14 The purple blue rays of dawn In which the author learns that freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose.

QuickTimeª and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.

Not unlike those bottom moments that I experienced in my grapples with meditation and life in general during the summer, the low spots I encountered in the search for a contractor and a coach weren’t really all that bad, although I was more than ready to make progress on both fronts. Then without fanfare or much additional effort my part, both searches fell easily into place without any additional pain the next week. The contractor came first and from an unlikely source at that; my gardener. My gardener, a battle tested and bitter veteran of the urban outdoor environment, stubborn enough to use a leaf blower (against the city code) and pesticides (against the city’s morals) in the People’s Republic of Berkeley at least until I finally got him to lay off of the Roundup.
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Yossi was also capable, if you let him, of talking your ear off as he chain-smoked his hand rolled cigarettes. He had spent way too much time in the garden, when he saw a plant he saw its eventual problems, from lack of sun, to how wind would effect it to moisture (always too much or too little). The former kibbutznik didn’t see the plants growing anymore, instead he saw them dying of fungus, too much fertilizer or the legions of ants. He regularly accused me of treating our garden like a beautiful woman (stop putting on the lipstick he would chastise me). It took me years to learn that inside of him just below his madness was an intelligent loyal and trustworthy person, the kind that who you would always want on your team. Someone who would be there for you; that is if he understood the directions and it was before 4 in the afternoon. Standing in front of my house one early autumn afternoon listening to Yossi go off on the state of my garden for the who knows how manyeth time, he pointed again to the leaking faucet, now covered in duct tape. “For how many years are we going to let that go on for?” he inquired, unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. I told him to cool it, I had been searching unsuccessfully for someone to fix my house and that I would get that person to do the faucet once I found him. It was then that he suggested that I contact Earl Andrews, a contractor that he had worked with in the past and someone who actually had dug a trench in my front yard years before when we experience a leaking sewer pipe. I remembered Earl as a 5-foot tall bowling ball of a man, quiet but efficient and strong as a bull. He
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promised to get me a phone number and he did a few days later. Meanwhile back in the coaching department I received several references from an old contact that had been out of the country for a few weeks in response to an earlier email from me. One of her recommendations was that I contact someone that she knew in Marin, otherwise known as “the county”, home of hot tubs, peacock feathers and million dollar views along side of some truly famous centers of Buddhist thought such as the Zen Center and Spirit rock. So I did. There is no funny story to tell about what happens next, there is no low cut blouse I come face to face with, no brooding psychopath or passive aggressive priest. Instead there is a really good guy who listened to my challenges in life as I tried to build a successful meditation and mindfulness practice. Someone who made a lot of good suggestions, some of which I followed and others I didn’t. It is strange isn’t it? There are a lot more heroics when you are dealing with monumental and stressful issues that involve life-changing events. The day-today grind of effecting change in your life is much more workman like and frankly a lot less interesting As I worked through this, I realized that engaging a coach, especially one to help you work on these sorts of issues, is an unusual process. Your coach is part shrink, and part personal advocate.
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They work on your behalf blending the often painful neutrality of a psychologist with the enthusiasm of your high school counselor (or coach if you played organized sports. They feel free to actually call you out on issues not just ask you to consider them, to point out paths, not just suggest them. The coach that I wound up working with was a self- described “bhujew”. Equally steeped in Western Jewish and Eastern traditions, he could talk about a Passover Seder and hours spent in blissful pre-dawn mindfulness with equal ease. His years of Eastern training combined with real life experience as an entrepreneur made him an ideal selection for me. I realized this only after I finished working with him did I realize this. In that sense anyone who looks for a coach should not understate the importance of this point. Your coach will be a lot more effective if you can relate to him or her, something that becomes very apparent early on. After learning about him I checked him out on the web, he seemed very normal (for a change) had written several books about bringing Eastern thought and training into the workplace and was a frequent lecturer with a small counseling practice. I called, we spoke quickly, and we set an appointment. I drove up to Mill Valley to see him the next week. And that was it. We didn’t waste any time, got right down to business and went for it; engaging in a three-month dialogue about life, unemployment, human nature and how we can do a better of job of managing our day to day moods by expanding our mental toolbox.
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I did make one adjustment in my approach this time. After my experience with the silent listener shrink, I decided that I would take charge of the situation. I had learned from countless but effective sales and marketing seminars that most efforts will not succeed without those faithful old friends, objectives, goals to meet those objectives and a plan on how to achieve those goals. So I applied the same logic to this engagement. What were my objectives in seeking out this counselor? First and foremost it was to help me teach myself how to achieve inner peace, to accept the confusing position that I had placed myself in by leaving my job and entering the free fall of unemployment and excess time. Second, it was to get rid of the rod in my stomach that was stopping me from moving forward and away from my past and wouldn’t go away. My goals, were to learn more about meditation and mindfulness to see if they would help me to achieve these objectives. My plan was simple, to work with this coach for the next few months and to set benchmarks on whether I was reaching those goals. Our first sessions focused on the most basic technique that supports all effective meditation. And that meant learning to control my breathing for once and for all. When he brought this subject up I was resistant, I thought what is all fuss about breathing? I am already breathing already. If I wasn’t I’d be dead.
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Right? Who would ever have thought that breathing would turn out to be such a challenge. We breathe in and out about 40 times a minute. That comes to 240 ins and outs an hour, 5,760 a day. We breathe without much effort. We breathe when we sleep. No problem. So what would happen when I tried to control my breath by consciously breathing in and out there in that Mill Valley basement? By the second breath after I closed my eyes I would panic. Controlling my breath didn’t relax me, quite the contrary, it scared me. When I started thinking about my breath my immediate fear was that it would be my last. This was completely irrational and later as we worked on this issue I gained my first insight about just how damn anxious I felt about my current life situation. What I realized is that I had been trying to gut my way through the vicissitudes of the emotional upheaval caused by leaving my work life behind. This should come as no surprise, men are taught early on to struggle through our problems on our own. Men are not told to be ‘in touch’ with their feelings. Quite the contrary, men that are born ‘emotional’ or ‘sensitive’ are regularly castigated, called out on the testosterone carpet as fags or in your early life as cry babies, mama’s boys, wimps. For this is the curse of the aware and sensitive male. We didn’t ask to see the behaviors that the other guys missed. Hell, it would have been a lot easier not to see all of this shit.
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We didn’t ask to have cold unengaged fathers who did not know how to connect to us except in socially sanctioned events such as sports. Or didn’t understand us at all. We didn’t sign up to have close and often suffocating emotional relationships with our poor scarred moms. We had not choice. We had to talk to someone. But hold on, what does any this have to do with breath? As one of the discussions with my coach slowly turned form learning to breathe under control (which I kind of did over time) to why I was so afraid of losing control he taught me a key concept. After listening to me launch into a particularly emotional diatribe about the pain I felt in my continuing disconnect from the outside world he responded in a way that hit me foursquare and solid between the eyes. He said this word: Freedom. Freedom. Said it this way: “You have the choice and you have the freedom to make the choice about how you feel and what you do.” I had never thought about my life in those terms. My ears and my eyes opened. The concept of inherent personal freedom changed my vision of how I look at the world on an everyday basis. It came to the realization that I had the freedom to try things until they worked, to accept or reject advice and to make up my own mind while allowing others to help me. I also came to understand that if I did not take advantage of that freedom to create change that none would ever occur.
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I began to comprehend that too many of my behaviors were reactive, no doubt a result of the sensory overload that results from my often painful sensitivity to all that is around me. I resolved not to put up with shit. Not to be rude, why bother, but to move quickly away from the people and the behaviors that were not honest. All of this because I couldn’t breath more than three breaths in a row without going in to a mild panic attack. At each class my breathing got a little bit better, at least when I was under instruction. Eventually I put together a few breaths in a row, long enough for my mind to begin wandering again. This remained a challenge that I could not overcome. No matter how much I read about the subject, no matter how much we talked about it, it remained difficult for me to imagine how I would ever gain any benefit from this meditation stuff. I could barely breathe under control and when I did my mind went crazy. While I enjoyed our discussions and the freedom to spend my time (and our money) working on why the simple act of breathing caused such a complicated response in the mind that I had always trusted as my savior I was still coming up short. Making progress yet still lost on a day to day basis as the phone stayed quiet and hope of working again disappeared. As to our contractor, he did a brilliant job of marketing his craft. First he gave me the estimate to do the work on the shower and it was reasonable,
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detailed and fair. I accepted it and he started work with his small crew a few days later. Over these same weeks the house became a beehive of activity, a series of distractions that evolved around canvas tarps, nail guns, caulk and rotting floor boards. Did you notice the word rot? That is another issue entirely.

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Chapter 15 Heavy construction It’s a beautiful autumn morning outside. The fog is starting to burn off and the sun is poking through the skies. Can you here the sweet songs of the contractor king bird as he drives his turbo charged diesel pick truck up the block? 80’s rock blaring loud from the satellite radio, a little Foghat, a little Humble Pie maybe even some Zep. And soon he alights in the driveway next to your house. The contractor bird sees you. He begins to sing about the projects at your home one by one. He hums a tune about the pipes that lead upstairs to the shower he is working on, “Well we didn’t know that the dirt in the basement was piled up quite so high from the reconstruction of the house when the upstairs was exposed and the foundation was capped thirty years ago, I mean can you believe they just left it all there? It’s going to take a lot of extra work to clear that but I’ll only charge you by the bucket instead of the hour. Don’t worry about it.” Chirp chirp. He starts to sing loudly. “Did you know that dry rot is like cancer? Lucky we caught it early, just sign the change order so we can pull out those 2 by 4’s. And while we are here, just take a look at this. These are the rusty pipes that flow from your washing machine, there is absolutely no way this thing could even still be working, I mean look inside the pipe (it
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was highly constricted, his chant was true) and those laundry fittings, they are ready to burst and did you know that these old plastic hoses that lead to your toilet those could go at any minute, I had a client where one burst and the flooding cost them $10,000 replace those hardwood floors alone wouldn’t want that to happen here and tweet tweet are you really comfortable living with that old knob and tube wiring you know if the city hawks ever inspect this job they are going to red tag it until you bring this place up to code.” His song goes on week after week, morning after morning. “Look at that old pipe not only is it lined asbestos it must weigh 600 pounds completely sitting free without bracing when that quake comes it is going to move around like a giant bowling pin and oh shit, look at that, it isn’t even connected to the water heater you have been leaking carbon monoxide all this time. To listen to his song, it is a wonder that we aren’t all dead. But he is not done. “You might as well fix it now you know”, he hums, “you will pay for it later in the negotiations when you sell after they inspect the house and hey I have my crew here already, yeah, don’t worry I can hire some extra guys because I have another job scheduled this week don’t worry I will be able to supervise both.” Tweety tweet tweet.

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I don’t any one to have the impression that hiring a bonded general contactor was a mistake. In fact I learned a lot from him and his crew. Once I gave up trying to figure out just how much I was spending and how long it would take to pay it back it sort of became fun. Without feeling the needle go in we broke 6 figures with ease on the work he did that fall. We wound up with a functioning new shower, a new kitchen and countless projects that helped bring this old house into the 21st century. The greatest benefit to me, at best an amateur putterer around the house, was learning how this 80 year-old house craftsman bungalow fit together and what an amateur job the gentlemen (two gay men named Bill but THAT is another story) who “modernized” it did before it was sold to us. To put it simply the words straight and plum did not seem to be possible when describing the work they did. This gave the contractor lots to talk about. In addition, I had a good time working with them. Yes, I am not the first guy to submit to the lure of the tools. They even let me even play with the nail gun once under supervision. But mostly I wound up going to the hardware store to pick up something that was missing, and why not, they charged out at 65 an hour and I had nothing to do. I enjoyed the chatter of the crew as Ernie brought earth, dirt and crawling under the house back into my life, a bright contrast to the previous state of things. The house had become deathly quiet over the summer, what with La Sweetie during her
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early morning clear out to work and faithful white dog Kelly sleeping more and more as she got older; just not a lot was going on. Now the day started with coffee, canvas tarps being spread throughout the house and the workers talking about their various girlfriends or not, Raider games (I forgive them I guess they grew up here when that team cold play) and the regular conversations of guys in their late 20’s working construction in the Bay Area. They were far from working idiots, one was a former cook and the other had worked in grocery jobs all his life before starting on the crew. At mid-day my lunch moved from a sandwich at the desk to going out to get burritos for the group (grilled chicken super please thank you so much extra green hot sauce) that we usually ate together. It brought rhythm to the house, something that had been sorely lacking. It also brought back my negotiation skills. As each change order neared its end another job seemed to pop up like a wild mushroom 14 days after a heavy rain. Negotiations with Ernie were tougher than dealing with insurance defense counsel. When things weren’t going his way he always claimed to ready to pack up the crew and take off for a weekend of dirt biking near Tahoe. Yet somehow, despite the threats, he never did leave the job and we were able to work out most of our differences without bloodshed over those 3 months. The down to earth experience of construction was book ended by regular weekly visits with my coach. While I can’t say that our progress was quantifiable, a theme that ran through my entire
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experience with meditation, I did begin to see gradual changes in the way I approached it. For starters I stopped hating it. I now see that this was my first step toward reconciliation with the path towards peace. These changes were a direct result of our continued work on breathing. At his urging I began to do short exercises every day at the house. I would find myself in a comfortable chair, ignoring his instructions to sit up straight on a mediation cushion and hoping that the sense of relaxation that I found my favorite comfy chair might limit the recurring stress I experienced while working on my breathing. Every afternoon I would go upstairs and sit in the lazy boy looking out at the rooftops toward the bay (not that I could actually see the bay itself). This by and of itself was unusual behavior for me. I actually forced myself to sit still without an agenda on a regular basis and at a set time. By doing so I made relaxing a priority, something I had never done either at work or at home. Relaxing was not a natural behavior for me and by putting it on a calendar basis, as sad as it seems, I wound up doing it more often. I developed a routine. I would recline that puppy way back and get really comfortable. Then I would close my eyes and try not to think of anything. It would always start out so well, but after two minutes of sitting what happened? All hell cut loose in the old brain like a stampede of mental elephants, the bull called fear leading the way snorting and looking very
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angry. I worked hard with my coach to try to understand the lack of control in my mind that allowed my already anxious state to blossom into full-blown breathing interruptus. We explored my personal habits in great detail. During one session he asked me to look at my behavior in a typical day. Most mornings after breakfast I would open my computer, start five programs and jump back and forth from subject to subject without focus. While I believed that I could get things done most of projects that I intended to accomplish either stalled or just plain got lost while I wandered off into my comfort zones of sports, music and food. Coach explained to me that I needed to learn how to focus. He was right about that. He was adamant that it all starts with breathing. That by teaching myself to control my breathing I could learn how to focus my thoughts. This seemed like a stretch at best to me and I had real trouble buying into it. I think that I would have blown the whole thing off and gone back to Sport Central if I wasn’t becoming a bit undone that summer. I was motivated to do something as I could not stay in the emotional condition that I was in much longer. So I kept plugging away without a real sense of progress. He went on: “Breathing is the first thing that we do when we get to this planet and the last when we leave. It is a foundation of life and a foundation of your meditation practice. Once you learn its power you will be able to turn your mind on and off like a
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switch.” It sounded so good when he said it that way. I couldn’t wait for it to work for me. So we worked on the breathing exercises. Once I sat down with him I would start to count my inhales and then my exhales. During the first week I made it to 5 in and 5 out without feeling that death was imminent. He pushed me to go to 10. He wanted me to start to lengthen the time of each breath. No go at his place. No go at home. He told me: “You are breathing but you are not listening to your breath.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt pretty stupid at this point. I imagined how good it would feel to breathe under control. To be like that yoga guy at the gym balanced in a hand stand, eyes closed focused and calm (without the dreads and the body odor though). How maybe controlled breathing would clear out some of those mental cobwebs that were filling my head with doubts and give me some real clarity to get my life back on path. I yearned to go home from these sessions, which were costing us plenty at a time where I was making no money and paying a contractor thousands to boot, with something substantial to talk about over dinner with you know who that night. To ease some of the guilt I felt in spending that money with some tangible results. But I knew that I was making incremental progress at best and getting nowhere fast. At the end of the day I was up against a wall of my own making and I couldn’t or didn’t know how to overcome it. So I did the only thing that a man can do when
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confronted with a real crisis of the heart and the mind. I fled. The words hit me right between the eyes. Road trip.

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Chapter 16 Finding an on-ramp in the middle of the countryside. (Road trips, remodeling, recession and re-birth) The road trip. Legendary and historic escape route for men from 16 to 60, it called out to me like a siren’s song on a foggy lost cove on the Oregon coast in the dead of winter. This was a classic male solution tried and true to the myriad of difficulties that I faced that fall. I succumbed to this urge without resistance (why resist?) and the next morning I got on the usual travel websites and began looking at some of my favorite destinations. Fall would be great in New York, what is on Broadway, at the Met? A little autumn weather some falling leaves and a little black and white photography, just when is that Robert Frank exhibit coming in? And what is happening food wise, got to hit Yelp and who is playing at the Blue Note? That might just work…how are the airfares? That high? Damn. Then maybe New Orleans, catch some jazz at Snug Harbor, yes, some great meals at Cochon, or Uptown or Brigstens and don’t forget the real soul of the Acme Oyster House or a classic lunch at Antoine’s. Some Po’boys, some Etouffe lots of butter topped off with a dose of hearing Winton Marsalis and some local blues, yes, that would be very good. Walking the Quarter and seeing how the recovery is going vote with our dollars to help the city. Can we get uptown are the trolleys running? What about Santa Fe for back up? Too dull. Mexico? Not sure the crew will want to go that far.
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So I settled on the Big Easy and after some preliminary research on airfares, I got on the phone to the guys. I suggested we go in October, weather isn’t too bad, summer heat and humidity are gone. I quickly found out fast that the only ‘easy’ in these conversations was in the nickname of the Emerald city by the Mississippi. The realities rained down and down over me over the next few days, all polite but firm. “We are really busy at work and there is a recession going on, can’t take any chances. Are you kidding me, she would kill me. And did you know there is a recession going on? No I am not doing that again especially now during this recession. Not this year, we are barely getting by in this recession as it is. Hey, have you noticed that we are in the middle of a recession? Are you awake? Have you looked at your retirement account lately? We got smoked by the recession.” A few days later I exhausted my list of buds. Alas, here was another good idea gone. No one wanted to play. As I moved beyond any personalization of this situation (the leprosy of the unemployed?) I gauged that there was something much larger afoot. An incredible and indelible sense of malaise caused by, yes never a doubt about it, the recession. Not a very tough call to make.
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The combined effect of being unemployed during this recession was like having a bad toothache that had now become infected as well. Your spirit ached constantly, some days more often than others with frequent changes in severity that seemed to vary from hour to hour. When you tried to forget about the pain it would remind you in a hurry that it was still there (helllloooo I am not going anywhere it would whisper) Then as it finally diminished in intensity, it lingered in the background of your conciousness without ever going away, coloring your every moment during the rest of the day. A veritable roller coaster ride of mental discomfort. And what about our Buddha buddies, what did they say about tough times? In Eastern thought you are often encouraged to embrace difficult situations. The teachings stress that pain is be felt, examined without judgment and explored. There is even a meditation that urges you to imagine your own death, visualizing your corpse in the ground as it begins the cycle of rot and return to the earth. Well the recession that vise-gripped America in the fall of 2008 did not need to be visualized or embraced. It was everywhere, ubiquitous in its form and intensity, all around you like a haze of rotting gauze that filtered out joy and optimism from the spiritual sky. There was no need to actualize what had become all encompassing. People around you had changed and not for the better as their lives were gripped by a parade of failures and fears both personal and societal. It
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seemed as if everything was placed on hold. Society froze in its tracks watching billions of dollars in wealth vaporize and there I stood, arguing with the power about the color of the crushed quartz countertops we were looking at for the kitchen. Incongruous? Absolutely. I don’t know why I wasn’t stopped cold in my remodeling tracks by the grueling visions of society falling apart all around me. Sure, I felt guilty every day about what we were doing, remodeling in the middle of a time of so much uncertainty around us. So why didn’t we just stop? Maybe I was being selfish or just doing my part for the failing economy by borrowing more money to put into our single most important investment; my home. It just didn’t feel as wrong I thought it would or should. So we moved forward from countertop to countertop, politically and State of California building code correct LED light fixture to LED light fixture, new ceiling fan to additional gfc outlet as America gurgled and spit up another brown yellow chunk of thick economic phlegm. Was this a happy time for me? Not really. As the work around the house went on week after week and check after check, I struggled with where and how to end it. My contractor had the sales lamps turned up halogen high, “just think of the light and space we will create when we punch through that ceiling? What about the additional storage space that will be created when we go through that wall. We can pick up another 50 square feet if we just move that pocket door…” It would go on and on and
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each check that I wrote felt heavier and heavier as the pen left my hand. I kept looking for the right exit sign, this was worse than ending a relationship with a shrink. Eventually I just stopped without much reason, just like I did with my shrink 30 years ago. I just felt it was done. Told him the money was gone, the rest of the projects could wait. Quiet returned to the house the next Monday morning. On the other bank of the river, the spiritual one, despite the best efforts of my coach to create balance to my life, many days remained lost in the low thick valley fog of those days. Others soared a bit too high on small victories such as a job lead, a great meal or a good walk with the dog in the late afternoon watching the fog dance through the golden gate bridge as it crept towards the East Bay. Life was feeling stale. Sure, the kitchen looked great but it was done and the rest of home improvement dollars were buried in the walls and under the floors of the house. I had given up on the search for work, hitting a classic why bother stage, brought on by the same old suspects; frustration and a strong feeling that I would never be hired again. The one and only thing that resonated with me on a consistent basis during that summer and fall was food. Boy did I cook, it gave me something to do with that good looking remodeled kitchen and it seemed to please the honey bunch. A day might start in front of a variety of websites researching
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recipes and looking for ideas on what to cook for the evening. My dinners suddenly became architectural works that grew higher and higher, complex sauces appeared for the first time in years, meals looked and tasted perfect. I was so bored that I even gave up my long standing and admittedly chintzy habits of recycling food from one evening’s dish to start another just to have something to do. Dog Kelly found herself the real beneficiary of this sudden excess in the kitchen, over those months I had to loosen the notches on her collar several times. She began having difficulty jumping onto the couch and suffered numerous “accidents” for the first time as her diet became way too rich. Even La Sweetie began to wonder why dinner had to be so fancy every night and quietly stopped finishing her plate without comment. But as the fall progressed even food lost its allure, becoming just an alternative to watching more cable. Somehow the taste of dishes began to fade as I came to rely on them too much for personal satisfaction. We seemed to finish a bottle and a half of wine (1 for me ½ for sweets) every night without great pleasure. I would find myself waiting for the clock to pass, starting at 5 pm sharp (it’s always 5 somewhere indeed) with a glass of white as dinner simmered and moving into red as the evening wore on. Evenings would end with a glass of aged rum or maybe a port by the TV as Kelly snored and the news droned one. I was adrift, unemployed and growing very
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restless as result of the continuing lack of structure in my life. Tired of the gym, struggling with life’s imperfections and losing touch. And then, after months of small imprecise, minimal victories and resulting incremental growth, both personally and spiritually, something significant happened. Finally there was a big jump. On that one hung over morning a door opened for the first time. A personal revelation occurred that would whack away the dead wood that held me back from achieving real personal growth. Was it an accident? A twist of fate or a little fib that I turned into something so much greater? I will never know. In the end run, it hardly matters. My path, my life’s direction changed on that afore-mentioned hung over morning. Without knowing how or why when I, likely out of sheer desperation, tried to meditate that grey dark fall morning under the covers, I did an accidental 180 that changed my life. Now all I had to do was take the time to figure out what it meant and how to deal with it.

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Chapter 17 Sunrise. Allow me a few moments to explain what I believe happened on the tumultuous hung over morning that spawned this whole mishegas (mess). After all there are only so many crucial turning points in a story and in this case this is it. As previously noted, the day after said morning interlude with the power, I found myself sitting quietly at the breakfast table, staring into an empty bowl of cereal. I continued to poke about in the milk for those last few Cheerios trying to understand just what the fuck had happened the day before. As I sat and sat (on a dining room chair, not in a lotus position that issue surfaced later) I gradually came to a realization, albeit in a nascent form, about what happened when I hid under the covers fearing for my future and in an act of desperation tried to meditate. Why that attempt at meditation was so much easier for me than all of the other attempts during the previous several months notwithstanding a state of mind that approached that of Bukowski’s. What I came to understand are the lessons that carried me forward for the rest of the year and then onward, letting me create a delicate and personal balance of eastern thought and western normal guy logic that actually works. My first steps on personal path that propelled me into the winter and on to the
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success of the next year. What I now understand is this: When I closed my eyes and began to breathe that morning; I focused on a subject. I thought about something instead of desperately trying to think of nothing. Not only was this subject a something, it was a ‘something’ that I dearly love and care for: great Italian food and red wine. When I did so I believe that my brain began to engage in a calm and clear way that I could maintain without freaking out. And then what happened is that I relaxed. I even felt better, so much so that I was able to forget about the fact that I was utterly hung over with my marital relationship hanging by a thread and no plan for my future. Only then did I begin to calm down and to breathe, and even better yet, I kept on breathing without panicking. This seems close enough to meditation to me, whether it fits the textbook definition or not. I realized that a traditional meditation practice, such as the one that I had been pursuing was pointed in a completely wrong direction, at least for me. I had experienced a true quantum shift, a turn in my previously futile attempts at meditation and search for balance in a world that was about as stable as an amusement park ride that spins until you are stuck to the sides as the floor recedes, freaked out and ready to vomit. Just as in every part of a journey into personal redemption, all of this was not really clear at first.
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But early on I gained confidence that maybe some good would actually come out of these efforts towards so called personal growth. There were several reasons for this new-found hope. I got enough of the idea to realize that there had been a change for the good. I wanted to try out my ideas about meditating on interesting subjects instead of nothings and that excited me. But here is the important by-line to this story. The bonus points that made damn sure that I kept my eyes focused on the prize. The chocolate sauce on my very own personal plate of profiteroles. As you may recall during that very same hung over morning when I told La Sweetie that I was meditating when in fact I was thinking about Italian food and Chianti Classicos, she went all smiles and positive vibes. Not only that she never suspected that I was faking it. That fact alone was genuinely and utterly wonderful enough to wipe out any doubts about doubling down on my efforts to move on down this path. During the next few weeks in October that followed the Meditating Hung Over moment, things got better and better as I grew to understand this process and how it worked. My attitude towards meditation changed. I understood for the first time that this meditation journey had real big time potential for me and for the two of us. I also came to the conclusion that I had to figure this thing out and how to make it work for the sake of our mutual sanity.
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I thought about the MHO morning incessantly as I developed a theory that expounded on my initial ideas about what happened. I distilled those moments over and over and as I did so it became clear that it wasn’t just about focusing on any old subject. I began to believe that meditation would work better if I focused on the things that appealed to me instead of concentrating on the usual suspects in the line up of ethereal elements of peace. Here is an example. Think about sunsets. People drive hours to see them and then when they get there all time stops. In my opinion sunsets may seem great in concept but in reality, most are duds and the few that are good disappear in a matter of seconds unless you are someplace really special like Maui and most them suck over there too. I just don’t get them. So what is the point? I had long known that it was a radically different set of subjects that excited me. I instinctively knew loud and clear about what I wanted to meditate about and why not! I wanted to close my eyes and hear the sound of the swish of a three point shot from 26 feet out (nothing but net thank you) instead of a babbling brook. The particular deep growl of a Porsche engine as you down shifted into second with the mountain air in your face and lungs, gave it gas and let out the clutch on a tight sweeping curve on the Pacific Coast, not jut the scent of those pine leaves and ocean. The tannic bite of a still slightly young Howell Mountain Napa Cab, the taste of perfectly a grilled wild salmon
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steak cooked on a cedar plank, the crunch of crisp home fries covered with coarse salt, smoked paprika and home made vinegary ketchup. Simple pleasures like a ripe Brunelo against a spit roasted veal chop with some broccoli rabe and nettle raviolis in brown sage butter. A beautiful woman in a tight sweater, a tightly thrown pass reaching the outstretched arms of a receiver. The piano of Bill Evans, the trumpet of Miles, the horn of Coltrane, the laughter of Richard and Lenny. Now those were subjects that I could focus on! I was exhausted by all this study about nothing; I wanted to think about things that made me happy. I knew that I could concentrate on things that I cared about. Well, when combined with the upside of repairing my love and personal lives, I was ready to give this stuff a real try. I wasn’t going to back down from a bunch of guys in brown robes. I was going to whup on it. How very Eastern of me. And how very clueless.

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Chapter 18 A deep dive in cold water Before I could hammer out a serious meditation move to put on the sweets, I had to figure this whole damn relaxation thing out for once and for all. I knew deep down inside that I needed to understand and respect the wisdom of the past before I could move out into a new future even though I hadn’t realized it yet. Armed with this newly minted theory of how to meditate, I actually believed that I could single handedly move beyond thousands of years of study and tradition. I was motivated, ready to roll, totally and completely psyched and just as equally lost, overconfident and completely naive. I badly wanted to move forward with this fresh attempt to study meditation and relaxation but as I began I noticed that I had no idea where to turn or what to do. Not knowing what else to do and too embarrassed to talk to the coach about it, I went back to the books again to see what I could learn this time. Maybe f I could take the knowledge inherent in these traditional teachings and combine them with this newly focused approach things could work out for me. I was really motivated to make it happen this time if for nothing else than to be sure I kept looking good in the power’s eyes as she had thoroughly bought into the process. I had to learn the basic concepts of this world and learn them well for this to
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fly under her radar and evade closer scrutiny. I needed cover and an understanding of the terms of art so I could issue regular progress reports to management in the lingua franca. I mean seriously, I had no idea what I was doing and if I didn’t learn how to act like I did, the truth of where I was at would stick out like an old basset hound’s balls. As I began to read, I quickly confirmed that the way that I sought to practice meditation and study mindfulness was, well, not exactly traditional although not heretical by any stretch of the imagination. It was just different, like most of the things I had experienced in my life. In that sense this was familiar territory. As I re-read those texts for a second time, the basic principles became clearer. I am not sure if it was the repetition or my new found inspiration, but this time I began to get it. So what did I learn? I learned that there are 4 basic concepts to master (or at least learn enough to talk about). The keys to leading a relaxed and focused life and thus creating peace in the casa. The 4 concepts that I learned over those next few months are: Mindfulness. Breathing. Meditation.

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and: Practice. While they seemed difficult at first they weren’t all that bad. And more importantly, they eventually created real tangible benefits in my day-to-day life as I learned how to adapt them to my needs. But hold the phone. I know many readers might be starting to wonder about this particular fork in the road. Maybe you are thinking that my journey is getting a little too serious. What about the funny title? Is he going to get drunk again? Where are the jokes? Is there going to be any sex? Will she ever learn to love an unemployed man again? Just hang in there. Don’t skim over the next few pages to look for the funny stuff you might have thought this story was about. After all, these are the concepts that led me out of the mental ditch that year. I recognized that moving forward without understanding them would be as much of a failure as the last 10 seasons of Clipper basketball. I had to master these basic concepts before I could pull out of the driveway, let out that clutch and hit the fast lane towards inner peace. So I put in the effort this time and hung with it. It is the same for all of us who want to make their lives better. As I read those books again I often heard the
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voice of the holy mother (i.e. mine, may she rest in peace) as she said to me many times, “Not so fast mister big shot”. She was right, there is hard work to do before finding personal nirvana. No foundation, no internal house standing straight and tall. So here was the first thing that I did, something new during this hugely unstructured phase. I got organized. This meant, in my case, that I put aside an hour each and every day to turn off the TV, stop reading the paper and staring at the computer praying for change and bear down on those texts instead. That part of the learning process wasn’t funny or easy. But it isn’t like I had that much to do as autumn waned and winter approached that year anyway, so I hit the books with discipline that made up for a lack of enthusiasm. The first concept that I grasped was mindfulness. This was the easiest of these four concepts to understand at a gut level. So just what is it? For those of us who like or need definitions, let me toss one out. Mindfulness means being aware of the moment, whatever it is, and the once you are, accepting it. By no means is this some kind of weeny concept where you don’t have a backbone, be assured that it doesn’t mean being passive. It also means being free to say no. I’ll come back to that concept in detail later. How did I finally get it? I am the sort of person who either learns best through doing or seeing others do it. So what was the first example of mindfulness that was easy for me to grasp? How did I
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begin to get it? One afternoon as I reflected on the meaning of this initially obtuse concept, I suddenly realized that mindfulness existed in a realm that I completely understood and loved: Sports. In sports there is a moment known as being in the zone, a place where conscious and unconscious merge and the player is perfectly in place as he acts. For most of us at the mention of the zone, an image jumped into our heads right? It could be Jordan floating above the rim or the focus in Jerry Rice’s eyes as he caught a sideline pass without going out of bounds. When I thought of it in those terms mindfulness suddenly made sense to me for the first time. Sounds simple right? In a sense it is. Because the core of mindfulness is being there, consciously present and in the moment just as you are when you swing that club perfectly or the instant that you hook that trout or cut that garlic razor thin. It is clean and clear. All has stopped, all is at peace, the mind and the moment is transparent. Easy right? Not at all. Well that all sounds great, but how do actually you become mindful? To become mindfull it helps a lot to meditate. Meditating helps you to focus on mindfull moments when you are fully engaged in the present. By focusing on the moment you become more aware of the every day joys of living. Then as the focus becomes greater you will become more mindful. Yes, that is a tautology and it only became clear over time. Eventually I learned that mindfulness is being in and of the moment without judgment or fear, truly
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being here now. That knowledge came later after a lot of hard work and many failures. To reach that state I needed to meditate and I couldn’t meditate until I learned to control my breathing and that aspect of my life like most of it was far from perfect. I was still falling asleep regularly on the comfy chair and fighting to make that 10 count on the breath scale. At its peak mindfulness is a sense of complete awareness of what is going on around you. Once aware, you realize that there are things that can be controlled and those that can’t. You learn to let go of those that can’t. You focus on those that can. That is the freedom that follows this study. This is an aspect of mindfulness that especially liberating for men, who have been taught all of their lives never to “back down”, it is a powerful thing to learn to walk away and not to engage. You can. It gives you the power to choose when, where and how to draw the line. It takes away the blindness of rage that blurs your intelligence and puts you into situations that either can’t be overcome or lead inevitably to failure. Still, at this stage something big was missing and until I put my finger on it the breathing thing and thus meditation was standing in the batter’s box, bat on his shoulder, studying the spin on the curve of the opposing pitcher. Waiting to step up to the plate and hit that sucker out of the park. Sadly, when this particular pitch crossed the plate I was out in front of the slider it turned out to be as it broke beautifully downward, leaving me flailing trying hard just not to hurt my mental wrists.
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Chapter 19 Finding A Holy Place In the Left Field Bleachers 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 prior 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
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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
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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
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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.
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Wood paneled den. Pool hall. Fraternal orders. Orthodox synagogues (just kidding but less so than it first seemed). 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 way that 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
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variety of wooden buddahs, 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 including numerous laundry baskets, suitcases and travel bags all of which were tossed about without an apparent plan. 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
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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 bhudda 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
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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?

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“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. taken the drink from my hand. She still hadn’t

“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
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was it, time to go deep with this idea, either my mancave theory was going to work out or it wouldn’t. This was sort of a 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?” that the worst was over. I knew from her tone

“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.

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“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
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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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Chapter 20 What Is This Manfullness That You Speak Of? As I continued to sit there in the comfy chair, I ruminated upon the interesting shapes that 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
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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.

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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
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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 seminal 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
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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 pain suffered

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unnecessarily. I dreamed of being to turn on that power whenever 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 21 Yogurt

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
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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 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 a rock and a teacher. Through a study of yoga I learned to deal with a 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 many relationships that I had with the teachers that I met over the years. My love of yoga surprised me. You see, 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. I suffered some serious damage to my hips and groin in a severe bike wreck years ago in which I cracked my helmet in half. Let that be a lesson to those of you that don’t wear one. The fallout from that accident combined with work tension made me so stiff that several years
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ago I desperately sought relief from a chiropractor. That is another experience I hope not to repeat in this life, both in terms of the pain, it got to the point where I could not walk and the treatments. I for one am not comfortable with the having my spine cracked like a walnut shell. Now, unlike the journey into manful meditation that I have been chronicling, my yoga practice went pretty fairly smoothly with the usual strange detours along the way until I found a regular practice that I adopted. In the end run I believe that it is the physical aspect of doing yoga that makes it easier for me to grasp. 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
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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
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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
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above 62 degrees. 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. On return from class 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 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.
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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 to report. 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 as my mind drifted between what to make for dinner and Cal football. 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 we barely held with our arms above our heads. More breathing and done time to lied 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 mostly 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?
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There is 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 something new for me. It kicked my ass. I didn’t fall once during class. I must have fallen 10 times. Some falls were comic, some short and intense where an arm you were relying on caved. Others rolled softly like a 3.5 trembler ending in a slow rolling collapse. I discovered very quickly how hard it was too stand like a tree and to balance on one leg. Or to hold your own hand while the other is placed 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
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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. I was intrigued to say the least. So I returned. And as with everything in 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.
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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 missing key to my inner path to peace and 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
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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 coach ready to kick my ass, no stuck up teacher riding me to perfect that pose and no parents to answer to if I fail. 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.
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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 off of the couch.

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Chapter 22 Talking ‘bout my Meditation When I think about meditation the first image that comes to mind is that of a vaguely Indian, dark skinned, very thin boned and old holy man with wispy white hair sitting cross-legged staring out over the snow capped Himalayas in deep silent contemplation. Or maybe it is an old hippie, with equally wispy hair, gazing out at a field of ferns by a Pacific redwood grove by the coast, lost in her memories of numerous acid trips gone by with an internal soundtrack by the Dead and imaginary little bears dancing in her head. Neither image is really fair to the practice, but both illustrate the stereotyping that I, like many others, had fallen victim too over the years. These were the caricatures that I had to overcome if I was going to break through my natural internal resistance (caused by a deep and addictive love of stimulation) to a world of what appeared to be enforced tranquility. Relaxation was never natural to me. It was boring. A word that I always equated with moss. Or fungus. Or being dumb. And never with pleasure or stability or personal progress. As November progressed and the Thanksgiving holidays now loomed around the corner, I was

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making decent day-to-day strides in both yoga and meditation, but nothing earth shattering. This limited progress was very fortunate, because any hope of landing a job, something that I believed I had every right to do and really wanted, was now fading into the distance, barely a faint light fading slowly into the bleak horizon. The resulting lack of work gave me way too much empty and alone time to fill every day. The combination of yoga and my funky attempts at mediation helped to deal with that time. These disciplines also gave me strength to help navigate the complete and total lack of structure in my every day life. The combination seemed to be working. I meditated with my eyes open. When I did I became more comfortable with my breathing. I sat in my comfy chair and I relaxed. As I did, I kept coming back to one concept that was inescapable. When I thought about the things I loved while I meditated I focused. And the things I loved were manful. Together they made my meditation work. My manful meditations became more regular. Most times I found myself thinking long and hard about food in my sessions. With a subject to work on I started looking forward to meditation. Many times I would spend the rest of the day preparing the recipes that I was thinking about during my meditations. Other times I skipped meditating entirely and just cooked. Who knew the difference?

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Yes, all seemed well. I was finally having some fun or at least remembering what it felt like. Along with this joy there was a sense of relief between us after the continued low-level angst of the past months. I have to say that everything was looking up. And it was. That is until SHE found me one Thursday night (at 8pm no less), sound asleep, snuggled deeply into the reassuring folds of the comfy chair with a down blanket over me, the TV on, the dog asleep and not fed with dinner uncooked in the oven. Oh, and to make matters worse, the back door and the garage were wide open, adding to her unending opinion that my sense of security in my own home was foolish and naive. (I had argued unsuccessfully that both times we were robbed the doors were locked but this didn’t seem to matter to her.) One of the characteristics of an old home is that many of the doors stick. On that day it was the creaking sound of her opening the bedroom door to the mancave that pulled me out of my peaceful slumber and back into the cold November evening. The truth was that had been a lot of fun to do this little hustle over the past few months. To set up a mancave and bring down the comfy chair as my new mental throne. To buy the still incognito TV (how could that be?) to watch cable. To set up these little holy symbols. At the same time, as I rubbed my eyes and she came into focus I wondered, could I have gone too far with the lackadaisical and perhaps
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dishonest use of meditation as a charade and cover up for my slack work habits and retreat from the outside world? Could it be that the jig was up? Was the cover blown? Or maybe, since things really were going a bit better, what with the increasing daily awareness and signs of inner calm, was an act even necessary? I could tell her the truth, right? That lots of days I just blew off the whole meditation shtick and just fucked off playing around with the dog and relaxed. Or more importantly, that when I did meditate I was thinking about how bad the Warriors were this year? I should tell her the truth. Shouldn’t I? One thing for sure, returning to the current moment, the blazing intensity of her look said that this was not a typical ‘hi honey’ evening. Not in any way shape or form, uh-uh. She just stood there in the doorway and stared at me without a sign of emotion. That was a very bad sign. Maybe truth wasn’t such a hot idea right now. I understood her position. She had a job, worked hard all day under great pressure and what did she come home to? An unemployed amateur cook/photographer/writer/ex-lawyer/businessman with a three day growth wearing jeans with holes and furry slippers asleep on a chair. To make matters worse she was playing dirty,
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using the weapon that she knew always really threw me completely off center; silence. That destabilizing force, the behavior that knocked me off balance, off of the perch off of everything. Silence was my worst nightmare, with no input to react to or markers to read. It drove me crazy. She knew this. She just stood there and looked at me, dressed in a typical workday grey pantsuit and red scarf, still holding her briefcase as dog Kelly circled the comfy chair over and over, unsure about the strange vibe in the room and the lack of an outstretched hand to pet her or throw her a treat across the room. Oy, what a situation. What to do? Now that push had come to shove did I dare go the well of the meditation story again? My thoughts raced around my head. I hoped that there would be some good ones soon. I was clearly running out of time to respond. My mind kept racing. What to do? So was this it. The moment that I would come clean about those afternoons like this one when I wasn’t making ‘inner’ progress and spent instead perfecting the crust on a grilled aged cheddar cheese sandwich? (BTW, get some butter in that cast iron pan next time.) Another afternoon lost listening to Live at Leeds (god Peter could you play), playing Tetris and then falling asleep in the holy chair after a few cold ones? Was I ready to give it all that up? Well here is the manful moment that followed. Yes sir, I sat up straight in my chair and looked her
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right in those deep green eyes, no smile on my lips, there would be no cocky attitude about meditation this time, no little happy stories. I was going to come clean damn it. Tell her about my struggles to. To. To. To what? Er, maybe not. I admit it, looking at her at that very second I panicked. Honesty went fluttering out of the window. I couldn’t do it. The show had to go on. Once that decision was made the words just streamed out of me slow, easy, calm and committed. “Hey honey”, I began, smiling and taking my time for maximum effect and stall and hoping that she might smile back. No smile? None. Damn. I pushed on anyway, no choice now, “I am so sorry that I didn’t feed our girl Kelly here, she must be starving.” Response to the soft toss sympathy play for the dog play? None. Damn. OK, move on, hope for the best. “This morning I cleaned the garden.” Bad move. She doesn’t care about the garden. Still no change in her look or a word. Push forward! “Then I took Kelly on a really long walk in the hills, what with the break in the rain and all, pretty muddy. Afterward I did a yoga class, I have it on the CD now so I can do it a home.” Cover cover cover. Keep the story straight. “I made a great lunch did some reading and later that afternoon well I went into this really deep
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meditation in the chair and I guess, I am sorry, I guess I just fell asleep. I was so tired.” Reaction? Nada. I can’t say if she bought it. It even sounded bit hollow coming out. And I could see by her expression that her reaction was lot less favorable than it had been on previous occasions where I had invoked the holy explanations. Maybe the old Eastern act was beginning to wear thin. Without saying a word she turned and started to leave the room when she turned back and said in a completely tepid and 100% unemotional voice, “Well, then what’s for dinner, I have been in meetings since 10 and I am starving.” Ouch. Business as usual. No acknowledgment. Double Oy. “Um….I forgot to make it…” No point telling her about the prosciutto sage stuffed chicken breasts sitting in the oven that had risen to room temperature about 5 hours ago. They were headed for le garbage can. She looked at me again without reaction. “Well, if dinner isn’t made, order some cheeseboard pizza then.” She paused and then added: “And next time you might try to stay awake when you meditate, will get more out of it.” She walked out and headed up the stairs without another word or a glance in my direction or the time of day………. And that was it. It was pretty clear what had just happened. If I didn’t do a better job of getting myself together the delicate armistice between us would
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end. I knew that today’s use of meditation was an emergency life-line that I couldn’t use again. This much was obvious, if I keep falling asleep my cover will be blown. She will figure out just what I am doing and there goes all that trust we have been building. Going. Going. Gone. Just like Barry Bond’s hopes of getting into the hall of fame. Later, as I drove the Honda to the gourmet ghetto in North Berkeley to pick up the Asiago, Provolone, corn and arugula pizza (yes I know about the rap on arugula but it is damn good on pizza), I couldn’t help but think about the next steps. What the hell was I supposed to do? I couldn’t fix the job market or the economy or do any more meditation and yoga then than I already was. Then I realized something. Maybe there was a solution. Yes, I wanted to improve my practice but if I couldn’t pull it off in substance I damn well better do so in image. I had to look better, like I was completely serious about the inner work. My image was too flippant, not respectful enough and it was damaging my meditation cred. Now did that mean sacrificing a dear friend. Was the comfy chair at risk? No. I am not suggesting that I considered dismantling the man cave and moving out the chair. Quite the contrary, my dear chair would continue to be a holy space of regular and deep solace for me. No, I had to improve the look of my internal work.
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As I neared the Cheeseboard, looking at the line and dreading it, I came up with the first step. It was time to face the facts, I had to step up my game. The answer was obvious, I needed a meditation cushion and a place to sit. If I was going to move forward in meditation I had to learn to sit or at a minimum find a place where it looked like I had been sitting. There are lots of reasons why. Think back to every image that exists of people meditating? What are those people doing? They are sitting. Every photo of everyone who meditates is sitting. Everyone that your wife knows that meditates sits. When she meditates, she sits. As such, I had to sit or at least try to do so. If I could sit and maybe even get on that meditation look, I would be golden. They sit, you sit, no questions are asked. Sit in a chair and you fall asleep. Then questions arise. I had avoided the subject of sitting from the beginning. Why sit I wondered? Sitting still and doing nothing while staying awake and aware is as common to most men as putting on mascara before you go out on a date with your wife. It is not present in our mental tool boxes. It plain feels strange. There was another reason that I avoided this development for some time. Pain. Sitting still for a long time hurt, another leftover of the fateful bike wreck all those years ago. I thought about telling her that I have health reasons that prevent me from sitting but that wouldn’t solve the image problem I
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faced. I wondered about the pillows in the house. Could I use on of them? Clearly I had to stay away from those fancy pillows in the living room that she brought back from vacation in Tuscany. Just what were those things for anyway? No one ever dared sit on them, even the dog somehow knew to stay away. The rest of the evening and dinner passed without further comment or dissonance, our spirits soothed by the crisp crust and the healing powers of Sauvignon Blanc and Dolcetto. The next day I went out to the all Nepal shop on Solano and brought back a real beauty of a cushion from the most unusual looking salesperson. A brightly colored pillow with powerful geometric shapes numerous of tassels and took it home. And there it sat on the floor of the mancave for several days, looking at me as forlorn as dog Kelly begging for a whole wheat corn free biscuit. The last steps of avoidance of the inevitable. Finally I decided that I was being ridiculous. How bad could it be? Yes, it was that moment. I had to sit down on it. I had been doing Yoga for months so I was relatively confident that I could do this without severe discomfort. So I put it down on the floor of the mancave and got ready. Then I had a thought. If I was going to go through with this what I needed was evidence. If I could just cross my legs over my ankles long enough
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for a few moments, I could take a photo of myself using the timer on and email it to her! That would do it, I could get some credit out of this. There was no more waiting. I went upstairs got the camera, came back to the cave and got started. Yes, let’s see, just lower myself down that’s it, not so bad. Ok I am sitting on the cushion with cheek bones engaged and legs pointed forward. Now raise one leg up and move it bend it over the other, yes pain but not too bad, then the other and cross them, hey this isn’t so bad at all. OK, now get the camera, bring it over to me and set the timer. Yes, the timer. Looking over the body of the all digital Nikon I couldn’t see anything like the simple mechanical bar on the face of the body that controlled the timer on cameras long gone by, another analog reminder of simpler times gone by. I turned the camera around and opened the menu, started to scroll around, maybe it was here. Went through the image quality, checked the ISO, was 400 right? Did some adjustments, amazing how much we forget about our digital assistants while we use them. Then I looked at the program dial on the upper left. What is this multiple image view, hey, there were some photos I haven’t downloaded yet, so I checked out someshots of a trip to Healdsburg. Now, just what is this button here, no that is the manual focus. Then it hit me, shit, I was lost, where had the timer gone? Several minutes later I found a strange icon on
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top of the body that sort of looked like a clock. Yes was a clock. The timer clock! I pushed it. Nothing happened. Oh to go back to the simple manual days. I started to play with the toggle wheel and then the symbol changed. Then I pushed the exposure button down and a chirping high-pitched noise emerged from within the Nikon’s computerized mini-mind. Eureka! There was no time to do more than hold it an arm’s length away so I did and it took my picture. The picture was comical at best. While I was looking at it I realized something more important. I had sat in lotus for almost five minutes while I worked on this problem and not felt a thing. That was a win. I set the timer and took another shot. Much better. Still, looking at the second photo there was still something missing and I knew what it was. I didn’t look the part. And to do so, I had to take my hands and put them above my knees, fingers touching, close the loop, feel the power. Feh. As I did couldn’t help thinking that this looks really weird. Who sits around their house on a Thursday afternoon in a full lotus? What happened to my inner captain of industry? Where had he gone? The truth remained evident. I knew that if I put my hands above my knees and let them rest there and then put a half smile on me everyone would
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think I was really into this. And that is what is important. I had to let go of how dumb it looked to and focus on the results. If I was going to do this the half assed effort had to come to an end. The next question was just as obvious. Where should I put the pillow for regular sessions? I had to find some place where she could see it and that defeated the man cave concept entirely. No answer revealed itself. That afternoon I thought long and hard about where to sit. As I did realized that the question should never be where or whether to sit. The question is this: Where is a comfortable place for me to sit? A place where I can hang out. Have you ever seen your dog check out a place where he is going to lie down? How he circles and circles until he finds that one spot and then collapses? I was looking for that spot. I had no idea where it was. I never did send that photo to La Sweets but I wanted to be sure that she noticed anyway. Later that week I went back to the all Nepal store and bought three more pillows. Put two in the bedroom, one for me one for her, and one in the living room. She who sees nothing that does not interest her saw them immediately when she came home that night and gave me that look that we are all looking for.

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She picked one up. “Cute,” she commented. “And just what are these?” “His and her cushions,” I replied. “Thought we might meditate together sometime.” She smiled came over to my desk and gave me a sincere hug. Looked me right in the eyes. “That”, she replied, “would be very nice”.

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Chapter 23 A snake in the grass (Hey motherfucker, can’t you see me hiss?) It was just a few weeks before that the worst thing that could possibly have happened to me actually did. Something completely out of the blue, completely unfair and entirely destabilizing. Without warning I was contacted about a real job opening, a good one where I had a real chance of getting the position. The effect upon me was as immediate and visceral as the first shot must be on an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in years. The information burned as I drank it down. It felt so good as the thoughts pulsed warmly through my system, but my joy was tempered by the instinctive knowledge that I was opening a door that I had sealed tightly shut for a reason. Oh my friends, this wasn’t just an opening that I read about somewhere or a Craigslist ad or a rumor on the street. It was a direct referral through a mutual friend who knew the owners of this company. I knew the owners as well from my previous work. Their business was in a related field. I respected them and their product, loved their team and the brand’s personality. He told me to give them (a husband and wife
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team owned the company) a call this week. Sure enough when I did their reaction could not been more positive. “Happy to hear from you. Yes heard you left your former position. How is it going? What have you been up to? Great. Yes, we are thinking about hiring someone. Yes we should talk. Can we have lunch next week?” Sure, I could make the time. The next steps were just too much fun. Several lunches at good restaurants in the City talking business, family and philosophy over Pad Thai, garlic eggplant and beers. Relaxed discussions about where their business was and how I could help it. Brainstorming sessions with their key managers. Perfect South of Market location, lots of light, exposed ceilings, open floor plan, plenty of bright people, so different from the places where I had worked in the past. Several weeks of discussions followed that stretched right through into November. I committed the absolute sin of visualizing myself working there. How much a reasonable salary would be. Could I get it together to be ready for the next Fancy Food Show in January? How good it would feel to make that announcement. Over time the moment of truth came in a natural progression. We defined the position as President of one of a consumer product division and had reached a go/no-go point in the negotiations. We hadn’t talked salary yet, but they had assured me that it wasn’t an issue. They just wanted to think about it
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some more. And as they were busy finishing the remodel of their home they couldn’t give me a final answer until next week. That seemed fine. Reasonable. Sure. No big deal. Nothing to worry about. Right? Weekend? No one calls on the weekend. Monday. Silence. Tuesday. Silence. Wednesday. Too much silence for this boy to stand. I emailed them that we had long planned to spend some time with our daughter in Boston and would be gone for the next week. The husband got right back to me in minutes, apologized and reiterated they were busy with the house and promised to call me on Monday to let me know the decision. We headed back East that Sunday to enjoy ourselves. I focused on keeping my thoughts positive and not worrying about the situation, what would be, I told myself, would be. Then Monday came. Monday Monday, the Mommas and Papas sang, can’t trust that day. True here to. Just as dreaded, Monday came and went without word one from them and that triggered a new dilemma. Do I call? No. It is the wrong move, this is only pride that is speaking now. You don’t want to look as anxious as you are. So we helped ease the pain that evening by going out to dinner at Neptune Oyster, an exceptional seafood restaurant on the North End with a take it as it is attitude matched by the freshness
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and quality of the oysters (never thought there were so many kinds), local beers and new to me East coast fish (haddock? Black cod?) all washed down with a classic crisp tall necked bottle of the Loire’s finest Muscadet. We had a great time walking back to our hotel in the cold but clear winter evening. Forgot all about the job until I woke up the next day and it roared front and center into my cerebellum just as my eyes opened. But Tuesday came and went too. The anxiety began to mount. Why hadn’t they called? We all know what this meant. It was a bad, very bad, sign and the famous boo birds inside of me began to sing out in their plaintive dark and shrill voices, ‘fucked again, yes, you are fucked again.’ As such Tuesday was a thorough disaster. My mind was completely preoccupied with the job. I was restless cranky and generally a complete pain to be with and to make matters worse the girls wanted to shop. That evening I drank a lot (yes again) at another wonderful dinner (yes again) at the counter at B&G Oyster House trying to distract myself, surrounded by the love of my family who did their best to tell me to be patient and that things would work out. I didn’t buy into a word they said, barely listened to them, the boo bird song was all that I heard. Fucked again. Fucked again. Found myself staring at the intricate tile work the deep fryer and a bottle of Pinot Noir. To end the evening I ordered a cognac, always a
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favorite personal down drafter. It felt so good going down, nutty viscous and dry. Sure enough it came back to bite me right in the ass later. I didn’t sleep well at all that night, tossing, turning and battling the hotel’s lack of fresh air, miserable pillows and noisy fan. It felt like I was up every 15 minutes. Lying there in a damp sweat, shifting from uncomfortable position to uncomfortable position, unable to fall asleep I couldn’t shut my mind off as wife slept soundly along side me blissfully unaware. I was, once again, the mouse on the mental wheel, running fast and getting nowhere. All I could think about was how much I wanted to go back to work. That feeling was overpowering, a faucet of pure bitterness that I could not turn off. As I routinely checked the digital alarm clock I could see the hours pass, 1, 2, 3 and then 4. I got very angry. I was pissed off about so many things. The economy. Joblessness. Bush. Restlessness. A lack of purpose in life. And mostly about the fact that I knew that I wasn’t going to get this job. I could feel it coming even though I had no idea why it was or how I could stop it. I awoke at 9 dry mouthed, bleary and unfocused. Took a shower without caring, got dressed. And sure enough, a little later Wednesday morning while we sat at the counter enjoying the very blueberry pancake breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shop, a very local hole in the wall that defines the words
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local and hole in the wall, the call came in. Seeing the Caller ID, I stepped outside into the cold Massachusetts air between the smokers on the sidewalk and listened for my fate in the cold morning air. The call was quick, honest and cordial. Really nothing to argue about. ‘Sorry mate, change of plans and all that. Recession and all you know old chap.’ Decided to keep the division manager that they described to me as a complete and utter idiot. ‘Chin up though. Let’s have lunch sometime. Don’t be a stranger.’ I held up my end fine, sure I understand, keep me in mind for the future, blah blah blah, blah and blah. No problem. Right? No problem! Yeah, I am cool. Todd Rundgren once sang a song about relationship break ups. In the chorus he asked “Can we still be friends?” Maybe in love. Not possible in business. No problem? Bullshit. It was a problem. As I pushed my way back into the restaurant, through the long line of customers waiting on Columbus Avenue for their chance at breakfast, I felt the flood of emotions and the sour taste of last night’s dinner and drinks push its way up my stomach and into my throat. Anger quickly gave way to sadness as self-pity stood waiting in the wings for its chance to take center stage. By the time I made it back to the counter I was ready for a full on wallow in the pit of self-loathing.
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Wife knew I didn’t get the job before I even sat down, it was inscribed on my face and etched into my expression. “Bad news, huh” she asked quietly. I didn’t answer. She knew. She put her arm around me and I asked for the NY Times. This just wasn’t a time to talk, even for me. I didn’t know what to say anyway that wouldn’t sound just as shitty as I felt. There was nothing I wanted to share and no one I wanted to talk to. To her credit she left me alone. Well to be honest she left me alone after I barked at her after she asked me if was OK. “Do I fucking look OK? Are you blind?” That killed the chat very effectively. It was one of those very very rare moments where I seriously thought about a cocktail before noon. Later, after we walked in silence to the hotel, daughter called wanting to know what we were going to do for the day. She had planned to do some food shopping with us and was ready to make plans. Food was my lingua franca with the kids, always a source of pleasure and comfort. And I knew that the semester had been a bit of struggle for her. She had taken the time to clean the filthy kitchen of their ramshackle Allston rental and was and that she was looking forward to cooking us dinner that night.
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Wife told her right off that I was in a horrible mood (so true) as the word had come down that morning about the job and it sure wasn’t good. I begged off food shopping with them, something completely out of character and no doubt not fair to my daughter, but I was worthless at that point. I stayed behind as wife caught a cab and took off and for a while I just stood there, looking out over the grey winter downtown Boston skyline and trying hard to understand the meaning of what had happened over the past two weeks without opening up the mini bar and grabbing a stiff one to help the translation. As I thought about the situation I fell into the terrible realm of remorse. I reviewed each step of the negotiations in painful and unnecessary detail, where I had made comments, what I might have done wrong all without any particular insight other than perhaps not to be so excited next time. Then I became bitter. I looked at my life through the black lens of entitlement and the taste of the heart of an almond seed. Everything felt horrible, disjointed and ugly. As grey as the day. All of these skills, all of this knowledge, degrees, experience. What good did it do for me? The final emotion that I crossed that morning was despair. Just how long would this go on for? When would this shit end? How long did I have to stay at home and wonder what to do the next day?

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I don’t know how long I stood there staring out without purpose, it must have been for a good while, until I stopped feeling so damn sorry for myself. Either I had reached a crossroads or gotten bored. Maybe both. Eventually the pain began to recede and some shockingly clear thoughts came into my mind. First: ‘Do not focus on what you cannot control.’ Ooooooh, what was that? Then another. ‘Accept those things that have happened.’ Finally this: ‘Learn from what has happened. on.’ As I concluded this sequence of thoughts I laughed out loud in the empty hotel room. These were new concepts, ideas that I had recently learned in the past 6 months of study. Yet they had become completely internalized, a reservoir of strength that I never had before. These concepts were strangely calming and very reassuring. What I needed was to understand my situation not to block it out and hope it would go away. Then a truth hit me. What was I angry about? They hadn’t misled me or even led me on. They had treated me with respect, listened to me and made a hard decision based on the economy and what they
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Then move

believed was best for their company. So what was I pissed about? I also realized that what I really needed was a good workout and a sweat to burn off some of these toxins. I called the concierge and asked if there was a yoga studio in the neighborhood. I don’t think he knew what I was even talking about but he did suggest that there was a gym on the 4th floor. That is where I stood 20 minutes later, after some basic stretching, up on one leg trying to stay in the tree posture and not lose my balance, hoping no one would come into the gym, not that this was likely at 11:00 am in the morning. It took me about an hour to finish my sequence and then I went back to the room. I thought about calling the girls for company, but I knew darn well that they were busy and why not, they should enjoy their time together. I was ready to turn the TV on when I stopped. No, this was time for something different. I had to honor the process that had saved me. Slowly, I pulled a pillow off of the bed and put it on the floor. I sat down and crossed my legs into a lotus, began to breathe in and out. Yes and as I did my mind calmed and settled. And then, there in the middle of this oasis of peace and tranquility a vision emerged. A holy manful meditation image of pure elegant humble ecstasy. Simple, balanced, perfect, hovering it seemed above the bed set against the
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white curtains of the room. A hamburger. A perfectly cooked hamburger, still pink in the center, juices flowing as I cut into it sharp mustard sharper cheddar caramelized onions thinly sliced half sour dills, slightly toasted egg bun…. Oh hell yes, I was hungry. Then my grass fed day-dream was interrupted by phone call from a friend in California. As we chatted I bitched out the job opportunity, laughing now, and thought about how many things I had to be thankful for. There were a lot. As it turned out dinner that evening never happened. The girls got busy shopping for clothes and never made it to the food store. Daughter got a clean kitchen and we went out for Shabu Shabu hot pot in the neighborhood instead. The company was sweet, the place was packed, the food was great and the Kirin beers were dry and cold. Daughter admitted that maybe she was beginning to like Boston. La Sweets showed some pubic affection. What more could a guy ask for?

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Chapter 24 I Am Not Wasted and I Can Find My Way Home. What is about airplane flights that provide us with such pure concentrated time to think? Is it the thin metal skin that surrounds you? The artificial space that feels like an illusion of structure? The total disconnect from the world below? Or the undeniable fact that you are hurtling through the sky at insane speeds sealed in an oxygen cone, activities that defy logic. Who knows? The results are what matters. For me, a plane flight has always been one of the best places to read and think. Positively 100% away from it all. And you don’t have to drive. On long airplane flights time disconnects. Watch checks become way too frequent and usually wrong. Time seems to move even more slowly on flights coming home to the West Coast. And it truly is thanks to the trade winds that move against us. That is not always a bad thing. Our flight home the next day from Boston was wonderfully uneventful, from decent weather to a mindless car return to short lines at check in right through to empty security and an on-time departure. Less time at Logan is always the better. What a pit of an airport. Once onboard, the experience that we currently call flight is incredibly insulated. I submit that this is
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for the best. There is nothing, including the last vestiges of customer service (that disappeared with the 401(k) programs of the attendants) to interfere with a good novel or magazine, your Ipod music shuffle (from Monk to Dvorak to Muddy Waters) and lots of time to just think without interruption. People no longer talk to each other on planes. Just as in our cafes, we would rather look at a screen than each other. In addition, we no longer face that hopeless feeling of wondering whether to eat that questionable airplane food. It is gone from the unfriendly skies along with our blankets, pillows and the remnants of airborne dignity. Now you have the choice of not paying 8 dollars for trail mix, crackers, inert cheese and salami. That is a quick decision to make. It is just so much easier not to have to deal with what was at best a marginal experience in the past. As we flew to the west with El Dulce sleeping contentedly along side, I set down my latest in a continuing series of food themed books and tucked it into the pocket of the seat in front of me. I gently closed my suddenly burning eyes and reflected upon what had happened in the past few weeks. That supercharged cranked up feeling sparked by the hope of employment followed by a very rude body slam into the ocean floor of not getting the job. I thought about why it hit me so very hard this time. That turned out to be a quick bit of analysis. It hurt because I came really close to getting a really good job that disappeared just as quickly and easily.
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That combined with painful truth that I knew the next one would be a long way off. That issue closed, as the flight continued I wondered about the meaning of the floating hamburger that appeared hovering over the bed in my Boston hotel room the day before. While this vision appeared at first impression to be random it was no accident. My bovine yet spiritual moment was a predictable result of the last few months of my life and my nascent journey into manful meditation. A potent symbol of where I had come from and a preview of where the next steps would take me. All of this in a hovering juice dripping imaginary burger? Yes and then some mustard please. My reflections began to drift a bit as I my train of thought turned inwards. By beginning this journey I intuitively recognized where I was a person. Perhaps more importantly I recognized where I wasn’t. By taking action I made a decision. I decided that I didn’t want to stay in the mindset of the past. Something sparked within me and once lit it continued to burn. Phrased differently, it has been said that we all come from somewhere. However, as one of the many wise sages I studied as a young man said in response: “But you can’t get there from here.”
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I had come to that point in my life. I could not get there from the here that I was now living. My inner manful spirit was searching for something more, something greater, but I did now know yet where that road began or where it leads. I knew that I could not continue down the path towards enlightenment without finding an onramp. But my personal onramp had no signs. I was driving down the 405 into the smog filled LA basin and then back up to Mullholland again and again searching vainly for the exit. As the plane flew on I continued to wonder. Where does my road to enlightenment begin? Does it have a beginning? Yes, it did on that hung-over morning And does this road end? I believe that it does not. For this road is endless yet finite, limited yet infinite. My search for manful enlightenment is like trying to find the open highway itself. The only speed limit is the personal energy and discipline invested. I knew that the road to happiness that I sought is not free. There is a toll and it is not monetary. The tokens that open the gates to happiness are found in the basic teachings and the discipline to practice them regularly. You see, the search for regular and successful manful meditation had become more and more dominant in my life. But without discipline there
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would be no chance of success. Without a regular study of manful meditation, my attempt at creating this practice would be as naked and exposed as the sweaty, hairy and bare ass-crack of a fat man ready to pass out during a hard work out. Yuck. Stepping away from this philosophical exploration, I recognized what was coming and I welcomed it. As the flight crossed the Midwest I decided to make my first attempt to bring discipline to my manful meditation practice. It was time to create a manful meditation plan. Over the years I have learned not to fear the blank page or in our modern world, the blank screen. I have actually come to enjoy it. The blank page of any plan, whether business or personal, contains elements of pure clarity and infinite possibility. It is the sketchbook of the author, a canvass open to the creative spirit and soul of the writer. So I reached down and fished the old reliable clunker dell laptop out from the backpack and booted it up. And, after the usual slow start up, there sat a perfect blank screen empty save for a small flashing cursor in the upper left corner. Now what? Having no particular inspiration, I typed the words ‘manful meditation plan’. And there those words sat for several moments while I fretted about the flip side of the discipline that I was so excited about just a moment before.
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Consistent approach isn’t it? Wasting time, I wondered…can you plan for spiritual success? Does planning destroy the joy of exploration? Can you plan creativity? Excitement? Stimulation? Or were these just excuses I invoked whenever I stood at the precipice of focused effort, little ADD flavored chirps from the creative punk wannabe within. After that little inner bitch was dismissed, I started to write. 1. What are my objectives? To To To To To create a practice of manful meditation. achieve greater clarity. be more relaxed. accept my limitations. banish my temper and my anger.

2. The Goals? To do a 10 minute manful meditation every day. To do at least 4 hours of yoga a week. Not to drink 3 nights a week. To walk the dog for 30 minutes every day. 3. How to keep the process creative yet disciplined. Item 3 remained blank. No inspiration came just yet. As I re-read the page I felt really good. I had a plan! Now I could turn the computer off and relax. I
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swore to stay away from the 40 channels of tempting flickering TV images and to start the process now with a 10-minute meditation. It was 3:40 pm West Coast. Time to start. Closing my eyes for a moment and wandering off into the faint hiss of the little air that was grudgingly provided to us it, the vision came back to me, as if it was somehow burnt into my memory. The burger was back and it felt great. Why did I believe that this revelation would help me? I theorized long and hard about how mediating on objects that I loved made it easier on me to meditate. Yet I had no proof. I was in a mental diaspora, wandering from subject to subject without plan. Now, for the first time the same object had reappeared in my mind several times. The lesson was as plain to see as ketchup on a white tablecloth. I was ready for a series of focused repetitive meditations on the subject that I loved most in life. In this case that meant one thing and thing only. Food. (sorry hon, it is just so). It was the burger that stepped up from my subconscious and volunteered to be my meditation guinea pig. Once again food had come roaring out of my subconscious to save me at a critical moment. So there was the path, the hamburger as the study of my first organized meditation. There was no turning back. I was going to do this, even though my legs weren’t crossed. Eyes closed, breathing steady my mind drifted lightly and easily through all things
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that meant hamburger. The effect was remarkable. My mind instantly visualized a sequence of hamburgers. They came to me in waves, a study in meaty contrasts at 40,000 feet. The burgers whirled as they changed sizes, from sliders to quarter pounders to 16 oz. behemoths. Eventually, my mind’s eye settled on my image of the perfect burger, about 8 ounces of medium cooked heaven placed gently so as not to pierce the slightly charred crust, open face on a warm diner style plate just off of the charcoal grill, cooling as it relaxed, juices just starting to flow. Then the meditation glided to the assembly of the burger (as I wondered, what is a burger, is it the meat or the whole shebang? Or both?) Which mustard to choose, brown, whole grain, Dijon or dull French’s? What lettuce? Romaine for firmness yes. Thick slice of tomato, a dab of mayo and sour pickle relish. Bun? No question for me, egg yellow and lightly toasted with sesame seeds. Now I slowly began to assemble the finished product. As I looked in my mind’s eye at this imaginary plate I knew it looked naked. I tried to discipline the process and stay off of the sides but they came roaring through anyway. Eyes still closed, breathing so relaxed and deep I let them tease me. Insanely crisp double cooked thick French Fries were next, dipped in a vinegary tart ketchup with just enough salt. I danced back
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and forth in an out of spicy peppery cole slaw, the guilty pleasure of bbq potato chips and some savory baked beans. Yes and and well, then I felt a pain, a rumble, a powerful movement that pulled me right out of the world of manful meditation and back to seat 19B (yes sweetness had taken the window). Ouch! This pain was real, it was no meditation. My stomach was rumbling bad. The meditation had brought on a serious case of unexpected munchies. I was starving and my stomach let me know it. I looked at my watch. Good news bad news followed. Good news. It was 4:05. I had been gone for 25 minutes! Bad news. There were three hours left before landing. Sweets had packed some slightly over the hill bananas and oatmeal raisin cookies that I fished out and proceeded to devour. While far from perfect, they held serve until we touched down. Slightly fed, I relaxed again as the plane flew onward to the west coast. I smiled. I realized that I was ecstatic about this development. I had a plan. I would bring order to my life and discipline to my meditation work, spending the rest of the year working through glorious subjects of my choice. This would keep my mediations strong and my mind focused. I would start with a week dedicated to burgers. Then maybe continue the beef theme to steaks. Either way, the next month would be focused on food. Then I would review my progress before
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starting a new manful subject. And she would love me all the more for it. Landing was on time and even the baggage showed up in less than 10 minutes. I forgave the airlines for their aesthetic transgressions, their job was to get me home safely and on time and they did. As we pulled out off site parking I made another decision. Instead of the usual trip north on 101 we detoured south immediately after landing. Only the primal joy of double-double with cheese and onions, fries and a vanilla shake could ease the remainder of my inner hunger. The sleeping white dog could always wait a few more minutes before we came home.

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Chapter 25 Home Again. (And again.)
Do you want it well done?

The next day I returned home to the every, every and give it to me one more time, every day routine. It didn’t take more than another long dull morning with no set plans to reduce my newly found confidence to that of a third grader who has lost his milk money. It is amazing how corrosive having nothing to do is to my well-being and to my confidence. And that is the point isn’t it? Doing nothing or even doing less is seen as a defeat both by society and by myself. Men, and certainly those of us that have a burning drive to succeed, are taught over and over to go for the gusto, the gold, the big prize. To win what’s behind the third door. Anything less is a considered to be failure. There are no awards for those who came in 10th out of 10,000 runners even though they are in the top .01% of whatever they are doing. No consolation prize is offered. Yes, us guys aren’t trained, or perhaps just not aware enough to enjoy the simple day-to-day victories in our lives. The place where real satisfaction is found. Worse yet, we are not rewarded for accomplishing them. So we keep trying to hit the ball out of the park.
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Men tend to run in packs. As such, it is not surprising that our behavior patterns have turned out this way. Look at the messages we receive in the ads we see. Have you ever seen a beer ad (remember that beer is one of the big rewards guys are presumed to look forward to in order to enjoy themselves) that features a solitary man dealing with the broken drive belt on a washing machine, a leaking faucet or a faulty gas valve on the backyard bbq? You don’t see him finding that missing password on the email account or fixing the router that is down before he gets a cold one. Yet these are the everyday tasks of the modern man. While this is the realm where we do most of our work we receive no rewards for these tasks except our own personal satisfaction. Unfortunately, we come to believe that this alone is never enough. How many of us spend our days driving through the wide-open countryside, working on large construction projects with concrete and mud in the beds of our sweetly tuned pick up trucks? Not as many as the ad companies would have us believe I suspect. We are more likely to be painting a wall then building a new one (or hiring someone to do both). Why is it that the daily work that men do is simply expected of us? Is it because we are taught not to ask for praise or a thank you? Have our spouses and partners become immune or oblivious? Maybe there is another reason.
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Men are expected to hit the shot, the target, the bulls- eye. When we succeed, it is assumed instead of appreciated. Women, on the other hand, do a much better job of letting us know when they want to be recognized for success. And when they don’t succeed, they are more accepting of their failures. We just get ‘er done and if we don’t, say fuck it, if we say anything at all. And that isn’t all. To make matters more complicated the she’s have left for work permanently and once that door swung upon it stayed that way. Our wives (and/or partners) aren’t coming home to polish the floors and many of them are out-earning their husbands and boyfriends. (As a quick aside, if you can’t handle that fact, check your pride at the door and grow up. You are a couple. Period.) The rules of engagement have changed. The downside of their mass departure from the casa is that now you can add a crying child that refuses to be calmed, a sink full of dishes and, in my case, a sweetie pie that doesn’t want or care to cook to the male taskbar. Now in all fairness that last aspect of the current state of affairs is just fine with me. I am not sure how I would have handled a competitive voice in the kitchen. Frankly, I don’t think it would have been easy for me to have a collaborator jousting for position on the cutting board. I bring this up to illustrate that the list of required
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guy tasks has broadened beyond firing the back yard grill on Sundays. It now includes cooking a mean beef stew (if not a boeuf bourginon), knowing which red to serve with it and how to make a passable dessert. Ah but once again thoughts of food overwhelm me and I immediately digress from the moment at hand. It is a complicated set of tasks that we all face. These feelings are brought home when we don’t have careers to rely upon and the days are no longer structured. But hold the phone there was good news on the line that particular morning. Instead of wandering back into the double-edged sword of wandering the Internet as I did so often, I chose another route. I took action. The day witnessed a change in behavior. The morning would turn out different. I had a battle plan and now it was time to launch it, an alternative to the continuous mild discomfort and excess down time of the unemployed male. No more talk about starting my meditation plan or outlining what to do. It was time to start the mental engines. So I fired up the 6-pound Dell and threw my little meditation plan on a flash-drive. I quickly transferred it to the Mac. Then I opened Ical and created a new calendar group titled ‘Manful Meditation’. Ignoring for the moment how blank the week was, I blocked out 30 minutes every morning to walk and thus exercise big foot white dog and myself, 30 minutes for yoga and 15 minutes for manful meditation. Every day, 3 blocks of time to focus on and hopefully
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provide a structure for the day. Yet, looking at those isolated bright blue squares spread out across the days of week, I felt kind of sad. Did I really need to do this? Putting order to my life had as much appeal to me as the taste of castor oil to a 7-year old, or at least how I imagine that taste to be. We never had it in the house. On the other hand, we had other flavor tortures way back then like tongue and bone marrow, now both hip but that is another story completely. The screen was doubly depressing as there were no other entries for the entire week. But I had to try to get some discipline into this process or nothing would ever change. And this was that moment. It was early enough in the day put my plan into action. To hear the white dog cry out with happiness when the magic world ‘walk’ was uttered and head up the hill together for a strenuous hike before the rains started later that early winter afternoon. I threw on some old sweats and left the house with the ipod blaring. The music kept my pace strong as my furry companion pulled me up the path to Indian Rock and onwards. It was a cold but clear day and the bay shimmered out in the distance as I climbed the North Berkeley hills. As I did, the ipod shuffle program uncannily scored a 10 of 10, tossing out a variety of music and styles that made me smile. Here is what it played: Today’s real life shuffle 10 (courtesy of the ipod)
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-Bumpin on Sunset. Wes Montgomery. Just as funky 50(could it be?) years later. A guitar sound of his own. -Gone Baby Gone. Violent Femmes. Filthy. Depraved. Love your dress. -Angel Eyes Ella Fitzgerald w/ Frank Sinatra (live). Two masters. -Should I Stay Or Should I Go? The Clash (live). No comment needed. -Secrets. Eliane Elias. Smooth as a 25 year old Flor De Cana Nicaraguan rum. -What I See (Family guy) Randy Newman. Very funny. Where did this come from? -Breakdown (bootleg live) Tom Petty. Yes, everyone sings along with Tom in California. -Blame It on Yourself. Ivy. This breathy French girl is just such a bitch? Yet he still can’t help himself from wanting her. -Superlungs. Donavan. The ultimate hippy singing a b--track. about a 14 year old pot smoking girl. -Rahde Krishna. DJ Chebb I Sabbah. Om meets hip in trancelike grooves. A set no radio station will ever approach. game changing device it is. What a

The walk flew by and I picked up some fresh Kaiser rolls. After returning home and putting my stuff away, I threw down the yoga mat and began a light work out with the traditional ashtanga sun salute poses, stretching and calming. A little tree, a little spine stretching. It felt good. Then I walked downstairs and found the cushion, white dog wisely
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staying upstairs to absorb the last of the morning sun on the beige wool carpet. After shutting the door to the mancave (why I thought, no one is here…)I sat down, moved into a lotus (without thinking about pain or worrying!), closed my eyes and began to breathe. Time to implement the burger meditations. So I started looking for them. Nothing happened. Where were they? When would they come? What was going to happen? My brain flooded with doubt. Would this work I began to wonder? Was my theory of self-directed male oriented meditation just plain vanilla bullshit? Was I kidding myself trying to find an excuse not to follow the rules where none was truly needed? Why couldn’t I just settle for thousands of years of proven relaxation techniques? Not good enough for the big man? Why did I have to rebel against these well-known and successful schools of thought? Perhaps it was the effect of growing up in the 60’s and 70’s where we rebelled against everything and tore so much down, always believing that there would be something better around the corner, that we could improve on whatever was out there no matter what we started with. Or maybe it was my early exposures to mediation. In high school I met people who were chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for a new car, a television or a million dollars. What material nonsense. Other practitioners appeared to be lobotomized, the Hare Krishna dancing blissfully and mindlessly down the street. Still other forms of meditation focused on a phrase, a mantra repeated
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as nauseum. All of that sounded horrible and contributed to my instinctive distrust of those practices and thus Eastern thought. Now I hoped that I had a much better route to finding some kind of peace. I had to know if I could make it by thinking and meditating about those things that make me happy. So I closed my eyes again and this time I let go of all thought. Without further effort the second hamburger meditation commenced after a few minutes of emptiness. And what a beauty it turned out to be. At first the meditation resembled that of the previous day in the airplane. That part was great. I thought about the burger itself, a humble yet exalted food capable of infinite variety. I continued my personal search for a perfect burger, exploring the relative virtues of cooking temperatures and the results, rare vs. medium, well done to steak tartare. I visualized charcoal and gas, frying pan and oven broiler. Everything was going great but as the meditation continued on without warning the burgers began to change and not in a good way. It stared innocently enough. I started to think about ground meat. Why was meat that you purchased at the store red on the outside and grey on the inside? Rookie mistake. The mental banana peel to a host of horrors. I saw visions of frozen meat packed into cardboard boxes marked not fit for human consumption. The boxes contained countless pre-formed 3-ounce
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patties made from beef blended with ammonia processed fat remnants that could barely be called meat. Burgers full of saturated fat and sodium. Others laced with e-coli that I couldn’t see but felt. Frisbees made of fat and slat that destroyed societal health in the name of providing cheap food at unrealistically inexpensive prices subsidized by government. Things got darker and darker. I pulled myself out the meditation when the maggots started to appear a bit shaken by the power of the visual imagery. All this in the image of burger. Yes yes yes and more. I looked at the clock in the mancave. 30 minutes had gone by. Despite the negative ending, I felt strangely calm and rested and some of the anxiety of the early morning was gone. The rest of the day passed easily with a quick lunch of teriyaki chicken with udon and mixed vegetables and some overdue work in the garden. I was peaceful throughout. I continued this pattern for the rest the week. A walk in the morning followed by yoga and then a focused burger mediation. I wanted to see if I could spend a week on one subject. The third meditation of the burger sequence on Wednesday was really sweet. It began with a reflection on the many different kinds. Ground turkey started it off followed by chicken and then lamb. The lamb took me briefly into a sort of Greek theme and
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my mind watched a shimmering ground meat shwarma spit turning and turning in front of a fire for what seemed like a very very long time. Thursday’s fourth burger meditation started innocently enough before I went all Sinclair on it. I spend a lot of time looking at the structure of the burger itself. Some were so simple and elegant focused on the quality of the meat, the way it should crumble in your mouth. Others were huge productions with a host of additional ingredients from onion rings to blue cheese to half sour pickles. But most of the meditation looked at the role of the bun. It is the foundation of this house. It must be thick enough to support the meat but thin enough not to get in the way of the main feature. As the burger is eaten it becomes something new, part of the evolution of the meal itself. The juices drip into the structure of the bread creating something akin to a miniature Yorkshire pudding or a French toast with gravy as the lubricant. If only the dark side of my brain would have left well enough alone. At some point I got lost on the meat itself again and this time that led right back to Bessie. Oh you can guess where it went from there. Do not pass go, head directly to holocaust like images of slaughterhouses and feeding pens full of terrorized bovines. Suddenly I smelled the awful stench of the feeding pens on I-5 driving from SF to LA. It was all spinning out of mental control when I heard the voice (of all damn people) of Anthony Bourdain and his speech about animals and why
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even though we don’t enjoy it, we love to eat them too much to stop. To quote:
“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.”

Truth that. Eventually I calmed down. I finished the meditation in a field of fat well-fed beer drinking Kobe cows grazing the hills of Japan with an imaginary snowcapped Mt. Fuji looming in the background. As the end of the week was upon me it was time for the fifth burger and final burger meditation. This time I had a goal, I decided to think about my favorite burgers over the years. Eyes closed, breathing normally and deeply and comfortable on the cushion indeed, I went right into this historical jaunt. The first dish to come to mind was from my childhood. We never had burgers at home so I spent time in an image of my mom’s meat loaf, always served in the same oval blue baking pan and covered with a sauce that I later learned was ketchup that she liberally applied during the last minutes of
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cooking. For our house, a real gastronomic event. I moved from there to days spent with a junior high friend at a long gone burger stand that his parents owned on Crenshaw Blvd. south of Santa Barbara (now King) in LA. There, at a burger stand owned by Jews no less, we broke all of the Kosher rules with their boring but passable cheeseburgers and greasy fries that we gladly devoured after school. From there my burger mediations moved to a chili size (a burger in chili covered with cheese and reheated in the oven) at the Hamburger Hamlet on Sepulveda Blvd. on the west side that we loved in high school and where I saw my first leather booth. I still can’t forget the first taste of an In and Out burger on Arrow Highway, our escape from the dorm food at Claremont Men’s College. Then on to Clown Alley and Grubstake at 3 in the morning when I first moved to the City and what about Barney’s with the kids bridging the decades. Then the era of fancy pants burgers arrived and they suddenly appeared at fine restaurants throughout the city, somewhat out-of-place at dinner, the country bumpkin invited to a fancy dinner with fine china and real silverware. But they held their own and now I can enjoy a good burger just about everywhere. As my mediation ended and eyes opened I realized how burgers had followed me throughout life. They were always there. whether I was rich or poor. What
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amazing dishes whether eaten simple complicated, true food chameleons in our lives. All this in a burger indeed.

or

Only the noodle has more variations. Noodles… hmmm,, maybe that would be the theme for next week. I had to leave the mancave at that point. We had company coming over for dinner that night, sweets was working late (surprise that), the house was a mess and the shopping wasn’t done. I handled the tasks easily that day and enjoyed them. The resentment I so often felt about my life situation was missing for a change. I hope it enjoyed the vacation from my life. I was curiously calm. The weather was actually pretty nice that evening, so much so that I uncovered the bbq. I grilled swordfish. Chili Size Grilled hamburger patties Chili. Any recipe is fine. Just have it cooked beforehand. Cheddar Cheese shredded. Chopped fine raw onions. Portions to taste and to size of crowd Grill your burgers to medium rare. Have your chili
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ready and hot. In a baking dish arrange the patties. Cover with chili and top with grated cheddar cheese. Cook in hot oven until cheese has melted and is bubbling. Top with chopped raw onions. Buns are completely optional, as the Chili Size is historically served open-faced.

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Chapter 26 Pass the turkey. Thanksgiving 2008 passed amicably and easily in spite of the turmoil that reeked havoc on the stock markets. Having survived the October assault to our financial well being when the Dow dropped to 8500, things felt a little better as it began to slowly climb upwards in November. Maybe, we thought, just maybe the worst was over. Hitting 10,000 was just over the horizon and this would all end soon. A new year and a new government were coming! Fools. None of us could imagine the economic horror that the winter of 2008/09 had in store. We didn’t dare even contemplate the possibility that the crash of February and March would happen. No, that crushing blow to our spirit was still out there spinning in the monetary cosmos growing into a category 5 monetary hurricane, waiting to kick our wallets and our financial integrity smack in the balls. Instead, and likely because of this stress, we focused clearly on what we loved during the holiday. Watching the descent of market had become a habit by then, too gruesome to look away from. At Thanksgiving we finally turned off the TV and took time to escape from these incessant fears about the state of our money. For a precious moment Americans paused to reflect on the things that mean the most to us: Family, friends and of course food.
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Both daughter and son made it home that year and the house quickly regained the energy it had for so many years as they grew up. While young adults now, they still carried many of their brother and sister habits intact in their expressions and mock arguments which offered La Sweets and I a reminder of days gone past. The long weekend progressed wonderfully. Dinner flowed into dinner, turkeys were brined, stuffed, baked brown and devoured. Sweet potatoes were peeled and pureed, cranberries were served chopped into relish and sauced as tablecloths cringed in anticipation of the beating they would take. Gales of laughter filled our lives and for just a little while we forgot about the powerful spiritual malaise that had surreptitiously crept into our American homes while we were justifiably distracted that year. This host of temporal dust balls that now inhabited the corners of our collective psyche. A sort of low level mental flu that had infected us and was about to get even nastier as it mutated during the next spring. But weekends pass quickly. The kidults went their way as they should and by Sunday night the house returned to its quiet self as we poked at leftover turkey and mashed potatoes rescued with butter and cheddar cheese hoping to ease the tension with a buttery chard. We tried hard to balance the pleasure of having the house full with the emptiness we felt when they left and came up short. As adults we learn to adjust to so many fundamental
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changes as we get older. For me, having our children leave the home remains one of the most difficult. This is made all the more clear when they return for short times and then go. While we may have the maturity and depth to understand that this is normal and best for everyone and blah fucking blah, I miss throwing them around the pool. I loved being a parent and always will. Plain and simple. Then my last glass of dessert sauterne was gone, dinner was over and we went silently up the stairs to bed and feel asleep without saying another word. I blinked and it was 7:30 am, El Amour Travajo was long gone and another Monday morning was leering at me long in the tooth, pasty and colored pale grey. My weekly calendar was as empty as the house, the pages were blank except for my self-prescribed treatment of yoga, meditation and dog walk. The choice of whether and how to cross this spiritual river was once again entirely up in the air. And this is one of the most destabilizing aspects of under- and un- employment. Every day lacks a pre-determined structure. As a result, it forces a choice of emotional paths on you every morning. This is all a bit too much. Underemployment already throws so much into question about say, for example, your abilities and your financial future. So who needs this extra burden? Who wants to wonder “what kind of Monday am I going to have?’ But if you are still alive and kicking, you have no choice but to wonder just that: “what kind of Monday is this going
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to be? Was I going to pass the time feeling sorry for myself? I know that it doesn’t do any good, but I can’t help the signing the “I was” blues from time to time. It starts with a plaintive “I was a successful (now you fill in the blank) once”. Throw in a chorus of “what did I do get to this place” and sweet harmonies of regrets and the song is just rolling. Once that tune starts it inevitably unleashes a torrent of personal shit that we selectively design for ourselves over the years of experience that we call our lives. One ‘I was’ leads to a thousand ‘I cant’s’ and where are you then? Lying in bed watching the golf channel at 10 in the morning in your pajamas wondering whether to shave today? Thank god I was too motivated to ever go there. I have way too much pride to climb back into bed, at least in the morning. Afternoon naps are another story. Not that I didn’t have plenty of doubts and ‘I cant’s’. I did. Plenty. Along with lots of ‘I won’t’ and ‘Why bothers’, the personal favorites of pride, my dear and oft-dangerous buddy, that I had to beat into submission on a regular basis. So there I sat on cold November morning sitting looking at a computer screen again. With little else to do I reflected on the 6 months that passed since I left the working life, hoping to find some meaning in what I had done. After I realized that finding a job was just about impossible, I looked for opportunities that would
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build on my experience and keep me in touch with the business world. Volunteer work, advice to businesses, anything to keep me busy and out of the house. Through LinkedIn, the Facebook for wandering professionals, I took a position working for free, with a hint of stock in the future as bait, on a failed consumer product. That project ended rather abruptly in October without remuneration or satisfaction when the investors/board suddenly voted to shut what was left of company down. Didn’t even get my hard costs back, not that they were many. When I asked they just blew me off. Told me to file a claim. I put plenty of effort into the job and while it passed the time on a satisfactory level intellectually I wondered whether it was worth it. I couldn’t answer that question. So why did I do it? It is important to keep the calendar alive. To create a mosaic of people and possibilities, priming the pump so that if a shot is out there you will here about it. Not that there was back then. But no matter how much I disliked this aspect of creating opportunities there is little choice. For some strange reason I was comfortable branding and marketing products but never myself. I had to get over that. After that uplifting review of the past, it was easy enough to do some Yoga that day, anything else felt good. The morning walk was uneventful and
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uninspired. The white dog with brown ears raced ahead oblivious to command and barked without reason or control. The Ipod, eerily prescient of my mood responded with a shuffle package that matched the mood of the day, unfocused with tinges of grey mixed in with moments of blue sky clarity spiced with sparks of thunderous anger. Here is the Ipod shuffle of that day: -‘Down by the River’, Neil Young. Yes, I shot her dead. Dead. I could think of some people I would like to shoot too. -What’s so funny ‘bout Peace Love and Understanding, Nick Lowe. I could never answer this plea either. -Fools Must Die, the Pretenders, Loose Screw. Between Chrissie Hynde’s voice, attitude, and the title, you can guess the rest. -Moment’s Notice, John Coltrane. Frantic, fast exhilarating, a man in control of the power within. -Company In My Back. Wilco, Live, Kicking Television. Never sure what this song meant, but it sounds pissed at the business world like I was. -Black Waves. The Shins, Wincing the Night Away. Haunting and haunted. -A Noite Sem Fim’. Suba, Sao Paulo Confessions. How can someone make Brazil seem so dark and menacing? So far from the joy of Samba or Carnival. Brooding and deeply rhythmic. -‘Those Three Days’. Lucinda Williams, World Without Tears. Does any woman sound more betrayed then she does? Strange for me to like something so country.
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-‘Where the Streets Have No Name’. U2, Joshua Tree. Total alienation punctuated by the Edge’s slashing guitar. -‘Blues Man’, BB King, Blues on the Bayou. So the session ends with a true blues Buddha, at home with himself and his music. At peace in the world, all honey and molasses in his voice picking his notes with love. When we saw him in concert he played less and talked a lot and poked fun at himself for doing so. As he said, “I’m 86. I can do what I want.” So the walk didn’t help much. By the time I reached home my anxiety levels were climbing steadily as the bile in my stomach churned and the day had just begun. A nice way to kick things off for the week. After a second cup of coffee, always a good way to calm myself and my stomach, I pulled into the mancave and sat down. My mind was racing back and forth, worried about money and where it was going to come one moment and how to find personal happiness the next. You know, keeping it simple and balanced. But this week I was sticking to the plan so I sat down and tried to begin another focused meditation. As my eyes closed my thoughts wandered like the marker on a Ouija board, pushed along by unknown forces in my subconscious until it came to rest in the usual safe and happy place. Food. It’s not like I was hungry either. Inside my brain food
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just won’t shut up. Many of the Eastern texts refer of the existence of a third eye, a point in the middle of your forehead equidistant between your two eyebrows. Holy figures are routinely depicted with this third eye. It represents the teacher inside of you, perception and imagination. It is your center. It seems that my focus is on a lesser-known but equally sacred space. I swear that I have a fourth eye, located between my chest and my waist at the center of my belly button. My fourth eye of enlightenment symbolizes the contrasting yins and yangs of hunger and satisfaction. It guides my days and is a constant source of wonder and never ending pleasure. Food is my center. As I relaxed and allowed my mind to clear, my attention eventually alighted upon one of the most unusual foods in the world. A symbol of complete transformation. Capable of changing from a bitter acrid vegetable that can bring a man to tears to a source of sweet caramel viscous pleasure with just a little attention and care. That and judiciously applied heat. Not only that, a completely indispensible ingredient in any kitchen. Think about this for a moment. How many recipes start out with these simple words: “Chop an onion”. I can’t count them.
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So I let my meditation joyously fly off into the world of these beautiful and oft misunderstood humble orbs. At first I visualized various onions. My thoughts moved through images of onions of all sizes, from brown to red and then to white. Then the round onions became deep red long torpedoes that morphed into green leeks, brown shallots and finally green scallions. I saw bins full of white cippolinis, brown Maui sweets and Walla Wallas. The meditation ended with a series of visions of raised beds of perfectly arranged chives, bright green threads poking out from the soil as beautiful to me as any rose or tulip as their bright purple flowers emerged. I felt better already. Throughout the week I reveled in the changes that onion goes through on its little journey from tear jerker to honeyed heaven. Before you can chop that onion you have to peel it. I did, slowly, peeling layer after layer back witnessing the perfect symmetry and geometry. Then I chopped and I chopped and when done I did it again. I would cut my imaginary onion in half on a large wooden cutting board. Then I quartered it. Peeled away the outer layer. Held the quarter firmly keeping fingers out of the way of a very sharp knife. Sliced across the quarters until all are done. Cut across again and again until ready. Boom. While many men may never have cried in their lives they are no match for its power and neither was I. As I came back to the room I thought I felt a tear in my eye. But it could have been my imagination.
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On the third day of meditation I gently moved the onions from the cutting board and into the frying pan. Heard the gentle popping noise as the hot oil beings it’s work. Witnessed the miraculous transformation occurs as the smelly fiery onion is slowly transformed into a golden brown sweet mass. Saw the heat breaking down the sugars in the onion and bringing them to surface, caramelizing the formerly evil bulb. Then I lost discipline and moved the cooked onions onto a bun draped over a perfectly grilled Italian sausage in a long bun. So what. I let the mind wander freely. I let the onion wherever it wants to go. For those of us love the stinky bulbs as I do the next choice was pretty obvious. I repeated this dance again with onion’s second cousin. Garlic. Peeled them and smelled my fingers. Smashed them into pulp. Baked them whole in the oven in a clay pot until they became a brown butter like no other that I squeezed from their pods. Spread them on crispy rustic toasts. The week witnessed another transformation. I finally followed my own advice and created a marketing plan to build my food consulting business. Step 1 was to find a name and step 2 was to build a website so people could see what it was that I did. I named the company and began building a simple site. It felt better than I thought it would. I felt like I was coming out of a long and powerful funk. Friday’s meditation was completely unexpected. It
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featured a guest appearance by someone who hadn’t invaded my thoughts in years. In the middle of the meditation, in which I was preparing an onion soup, I was struck by a powerful image. It was that of a middle-aged man in a white wife beater T-shirt. He was standing in the middle of an all too familiar kitchen eating a large onion raw just as you would an apple. He held a water glass filled with vodka to chase it down. He was smiling a devious grin. It was my father. And that, believe me, is another subject entirely. Onion soup (with thoughts of La Sweet’s Papa who first introduced me to the power of this dish in their basement kitchen in Northern France.) Ingredients; 4 good sized onions of your choice. 4 cups stock, chicken is fine but beef is better. 1 slice of stale bread per serving. Grated gruyere cheese. Any good melting cheese can be substituted such Lots of Olive Oil. Peel the onions and slice them into quarters. Cutting across each quarter and slice them into thin strips. In a large sauce pan add the olive oil and just before smoking stir in the onions. Cook until brown stirring only as needed until they are caramelized. As the onions brown heat the stock.
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Add the

browned onions and cook for a minimum of 5 minutes on medium heat. The longer you cook the better. If you have a bowl that will stand up under a broiler, then ladle the soup into it, place a piece of bread on top and cover with grated cheese. Broil to brown. If not, before serving toast the bread. Fill the bowl, place bread in it and cover with cheese. Melt in microwave or grate fine so the heat of the soup will melt the cheese. Not a preferable method as you lose the crispness of the broiled cheese but acceptable.

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Chapter 27. The Colors Purple
Authors note: As noted previously, MHO is a work of fiction. While some of the incidents that occur in the story and many the characters in it are based in part upon my life, the vast majority of MHO resides in my ever-active imagination. I (and those around me) are thankful for that.

(It’s all in the pour.) With the onion and burger meditations successfully behind me it was undeniable that the past few weeks had been good for my spirit. The daily structure (walk/yoga/manful meds) was something to look forward to, especially rewarding during those typically dead moments between Thanksgiving and Christmas when things slowed down even in the best of times. Creating a calendar, even though it seemed a bit artificial, turned out to be a great source of stability to build upon. Who would have thought that structure, an aspect of life that I habitually distrusted, could help me move to forward? What a surprise. Then Monday arrived. Fresh out of ideas, I decided to use the day’s meditation to choose a subject that would be fun to meditate about. As that thought crossed my mind I laughed out loud, I never thought I would use the words meditation and fun in the same sentence. Sticking to the daily prescription, I did a cursory set
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of yoga stretches, noticing a strange burning sensation in my palms during downward dogs, and headed home after cutting my walk in half. I was eager to get back to the mancave, close the door and sit down to ponder manful subjects to meditate about. Closing my eyes I opened my heart and soul to find further inspiration in the manful meditation journey. I left a paper and pad out just in case I did. Starting the search for subjects at the highest levels, I thought about those things that mean the most. I could hang with food forever but that would be too easy. Even I knew that there was more to life than food although I often lost track of that. I began to meditate about things that meant the most to me. Family came first but I didn’t really feel like dwelling on them, at least not yet. Just too complicated. Friends were a close second and then I could not forget big foot white dog faithful walking companion and the world’s most unaffectionate canine. No, too weird. Bike? Music? Literature? Sports? All had loads of promise but none were attractive that morning. I searched for something a little easier to handle or more artistic, or well, maybe I should admit that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and just wandering around an imaginary mental field aimlessly without a fucking clue. As the thoughts ebbed and flowed without reason, an image finally began to materialize in my mind’s eye. Seconds later it popped up bright and clear, the third vision of wondrous manful meditation as beautiful as the burger and onion that preceded it.
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There, in my mind’s eye, was a shining clear wine glass. Examining at the wine glass in my mind I grasped several messages. First, it was empty. I knew it would not be the case for long. Second it was large, with a grand broad bowl, long stem and wide base. Yes, this manful meditation carried a prohibition revealed in the shape of the wine glass. You cannot have a manful meditation that is focused on a glass of white wine. Now some of you may not agree but this guy can’t see it as hard as he tries to peer within. Can’t do it. Just can’t. I knew from the beginning that wine would be a very long meditation. From start to finish it could take days just to catalog red wines in California north of the bay choosing one grape. So rather than get specific on this first attempt I took time to reflect on the pleasure that red wine has given me through the years and the social bounty I have shared with so many others. Not to mention the health benefits (we can’t get that benefit from manful meditation although studies have shown that meditation does lower your blood pressure). It was a warm easy comfortable feeling as I drifted from dinner to dinner and tasting to tasting. I thought about history. Wine has been around for thousands of years discovered well before the birth of Christ. I wondered, who was the brave first man who raised a ceramic cup to his lips and figured out that this spoiled grape juice tasted good. And better yet that it gave you a buzz as well. What compelled him to go for it? Was it some ancient game of
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chicken, (“come on Essau, drink it, I dare you’) or was he trying to impress a babe? That was a manful moment to ponder. Who was the first guy who created the amphoras crafted thousands of years ago to store their liters and liters of precious juices? Who took the time to domesticate the grapes and learn to ferment in a time when stones were still tools? The facts are there, man loves wine. Then my contemplation moved to wine on the stage of our religions, whether in communion (taking on the role of blood no less) or the fourth cup at Passovers past, images of my family gathered around a table in the house where I grew up. Later, I awoke gently awakened from this mental relaxation exercise. I felt refreshed. I was also hungry and thirsty. It was a cold and clear early winter afternoon, plenty of time to throw on a sweatshirt, fire up the Weber and grill something for lunch. The decision of what to cook was easy. As the burgers sizzled (and of course the onions sautéed) it didn’t take long for me to decide they needed support, a hearty red to help them and the afternoon along. Poking at the bottles in the mock cellar at the back of the garage I came upon a 2005 Rafanelli Zin. That would do just fine. And it did. Lunch was a pleasure. During the first months at home, lunch was a challenge. As dysfunctional as my business life was, we enjoyed years of great lunches together, it was the place we could relax and get a surprising amount
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of business done. We loved the small ethnic restaurants throughout the Mission and Portrero Hill enjoying countless delicious bowls of Pho or Udon as well as plates of Pupusas rice and beans or enormous burritos on 24th street. As a result, eating home alone had been very difficult at first. Not only was I bored, I got hungry early ate quickly to get it over in under 5 minutes and moved on as fast as I could. Bad for my digestion and spirit. On that winter day I saw the difference that manful mediation made. I took my time during lunch,(why not, there was little else to do), enjoyed several glasses of red wine and read the New York Times from the Sunday before I became exhausted by the continuing decline of the planet. While I would suffer plenty of angst and setbacks in the next months, I would not wear them as a badge of courage as I had in the past. Instead of worrying about what had happened to me and why, I thought about how lucky I was, what I had to be thankful for and how I could do better. Imagine that, me on the border of becoming an optimist. Manful Mediation would teach me how to absorb the speed bumps, learn as much as I could from them and then move on. This just wouldn’t have happened in the same way in days gone by. The next few weeks were, dare I say, really good ones. I enjoyed series of self-guided daily journeys into the world of wine that put me in a great mood. These journeys gave me great pleasure and no, while I didn’t start drinking every day at lunch I certainly
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did think about it and more often than not, I did. I wanted to begin the next meditation with a vineyard but first I settled on a geographic tour. I narrowed it down to the US and then California (where else for this native son?) and then thought about wine growing regions known and loved one by one. Started up north in the morning fog shrouded rolling hills of Mendocino and the Sonoma coast, let those thoughts trail inland up the Russian River to the Dry Creek Valley west of Healdsburg, an easy point to stop for a while and enjoy the sun. My visions flowed down the curved roads of the Alexander Valley into Calistoga and then up to Napa’s Pope valley doubling back to the long stretch of Highway 29 winding north across and through the hills to Lake County. Without a hesitation I jumped to 101 heading south through Paso Robles, turned off to enjoy the lush hills of Edna Valley. I finished outside of Lodi, wine grapes stretching as far as the eyes good see surrounded by huge gleaming stainless steel storage tanks. As those weeks passed I thought about wine in so many different ways. There was an inspiring meditation on the grape vines. I saw them bare in winter and then just blooming in spring first tiny green leaves breaking through the brown leathery vine skin of last winter’s growth. Watched the fruit set and then grow full of flavor and sugar content. Just as suddenly, wham, the leaves turned orange and brown in autumn and fell. I picked up the dirt, crumbled it in my hands bringing it to my nose to smell its richness. I stepped up to a grapevine,
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picked a ripe cabernet grape and ate it. Felt the acidity of a young grape in my mouth, the crunch of the seeds between my teeth. Other days found me wandering vineyards I recalled. I was lost in the pinot noir fields in Willamette Valley on a spring morning south of Portland. Then I was cruising Chianti country in Tuscany in a rented Alfa, a manicured vineyard around every curve, the black rooster crowing and a perfect bowl of al dente tagliatelle with sugo waiting in the next town. My mind flew across borders to the Hospices De Beaune looking at barrel after barrel of perfectly aging Pinot Noirs. I remember the smell room and the strange pewter “tastevin” that they gave us to drink with. I strolled between racks of oak barrels inhaling the dank, moist and musty atmosphere of the caves. One of the final meditations was on the wines themselves. I mean who in their right mind would keep a Grange Hermitage or a first growth Bordeaux out of a perfect manful mediation moment? I could feel my mouth explode with their powerful rich flavors. I imagined them aging, how their profiles would change and the nuanced dry flavors would emerge. I thought of all of the wines that had expired in my faux cellar, waiting to long to enjoy them as they approached a vinegary brown off end. One what I knew would be the last day thinking about wine I picked an imaginary bottle from my cellar and thought about the perfect pour. What followed was a mental ballet that went like this.

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‘I get a corkscrew and open the bottle slowly, watch the cork slide out of the bottle. No dry cork here no rot; just the purple crystals at the bottom of the cork and the smell of earth and grapes. I wipe the top of the bottle clean. Now find a simple but elegant clear glass decanter then slowly and carefully pour the bottle in. Now I pause. Just like that ½ an hour has already passed and it is ready to drink! Pick a wine glass. Take time to admire its shape, the narrow shape of the stem, the clean crystal reflection. Pour the wine into the glass slowly and evenly until just over 1/3 full. I give the wine a small swirl to bring out the character and put my manly schnog deep into the glass and do what I have been practicing since I started this adventure. I breathe! At no other point in this practice until now has this point been simpler. I go back to your breathing training and refresh myself. Eyes closed? Mind calm? Yes! Now breathe in and take in the smell of this perfect glass of wine. What do I smell? Bell Peppers? Tobacco? Cinnamon? Leather? What smells attract me most in that red wine ambrosia? The list goes on and on. Each smell lingers as I breathe in and breathe out, nice and slow easy and calm. I look at the wine, from the top of the glass and then from the side. Look at its color. Is it dense or light, do the reds run to purple or even hints of dark blue?

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I raise the glass and take a deep but not overwhelming pull and fill my mouth. My mind tastes the wine from the perspective of pleasure not a contest of snobbery or predetermined results. There are no hidden labels or agendas, no score sheets, no one to impress. This is all about the grape. Now I pull a bit of the juice through the mouth by sipping a bit of air to help the imaginary flavors to explode. Let the tastes fill my mouth. I think about the full body and take the time to focus on the flavors that matter. I let the flavors linger.’ That was it. The moment was perfect I could go no further. Then the next day I realized there was a one more left. A final meditation that defied the rules I had set at the beginning of the process. There was a white wine worth meditation upon. Sauternes. This one was all about flavor and body. They roared. Apricots honey pineapples botrytis fruit smoke all in one golden sticky gooey taste thick yet not syrupy it gives the word nectar meaning. That was a mantra. As the wine meditations ended I was sad but realized it was time to move on. I thought back to wine glass and where it had come from. I thanked my spirits for that elusive character called inspiration. Where does this reserve come from? I had no easy answer, but Thank goodness that it is there, otherwise where would life be.

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That afternoon I hit the kitchen inspired by the red wine visions of the past weeks, there was only one dish to make. A Simple Boeuf Bourginon with music heard in the kitchen courtesy of the Ipod. Ingredients: 3 pounds red stew meat, I like chuck. 1 pound bacon. 2 pounds mushrooms. Your choice. 1 bottle red wine. 2 cups beef stock. Flour, salt, pepper. Olive Oil. 1 head garlic 1 bunch carrots 1 large onion. Spices: Bay leaf, thyme. Technique. Brown the bacon. Pour off the fat. Add oil and brown peeled onion and garlic until translucent. Dredge the stew meat salt, pepper and flour. In a large cast iron pan add olive oil and brown. Remove from pan. Add the beef back and stir. Slice carrots to ¼ to ½ inch depending upon desired. Same for the mushrooms. Add to pot along with spices. Stir. Add the red wine, beef stock and finely
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chopped spices. low/medium heat.

Simmer for 3 to 4 hours on

Today’s Ipod shuffle top 10 to cook by Mozart Rondo in D, Vladimir Horowitz, Horowitz at Home. No comment needed smooth a cognac. Tramp, Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, The Complete Stax Sessions. Uh. Uh uh. Water, Fela Kuti. It has no enemies. Sneaking Sally through The Alley, Robert Palmer. The guy was just too handsome. Trying to get her out of sight indeed. Going Out Walking, Muddy Waters. He is the man. He knows it. Ooh La La, Ronnie Lane. The chorus says it all. I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger. On Broadway, George Benson. All that hope. Celos. Gotan Project, Lunatico. Eerie Argentine tangos meet French accordions. Yet so very listenable. Midnight Confession, the Grass Roots. South Africa’s only pop hit band of the 60’s in a state of guilt. I’ll Probably Feel A Whole Lot Better When You’re Gone, The Byrds. No message that means anything to me of relevance, just a great song.

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Chapter 28 The continuing oil shortage
(8 days a week is not enough to show I care)

As our family embraces continents, countries and religions we have always worked hard to respect each other’s faith and traditions. Perhaps because we were each raised in homes that were traditionally conservative and very dogmatic in their approach to religion, neither of us wanted to let go of the many symbols of the homes and lives that we grew up with. But with the children gone this push began to decline, both in terms of the desire and the need to celebrate these holidays (except for Christmas which exists in its very own sphere) as we used to. This change cut across the board, whether we were talking about Halloween, Passover, Easter or in this particular case Chanukah. Yes, in our house poor old Chanukah was dying and this year it felt sad and moribund. After all, when the kids aren’t home who were we doing it for? Still we dutifully dug out the glass menorah that we purchased together many years go at a synagogue in Florence and found enough candles left over from last year to approach a ceremony. I didn’t feel much like praying as we lit the candles in the empty dining room, creating one lonely light to mark the first night
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of holiday soldiering on into the evening. No songs tonight, no celebration no wondering just why we would be frying potato pancakes in a home where we fried virtually no food at all. No dreidl, no chocolate gelt coins, just us. I spent the day lost in thoughts about my Mom caused no doubt by my choice of what to make for dinner that evening. Brisket. No dish symbolized her life like the brisket that she made every Passover and periodically throughout the year. The recipe was deceptively simple and easy to make and it uniformly yielded great results, something that I could not say about the rest of her cooking (sorry Mom, it just is true). That is except for except for that year she insisted using a bottle of coca-cola as the marinade. That was not good at all, way too sweet and so tender it bordered on creepy. Cooking her brisket did not bring me happy memories that day. Instead, I felt powerful reminders of my mother’s frustration with her life. Her constant resentment of our financial status and my father’s lack of education and manners. How things could have turned out differently if that bastard Hitler just wouldn’t have shown up in Austria in 1938. As I cut the onions into smaller and smaller slices, I saw her making the same motion, standing next to the sink in the house that I grew up in, her hair in a tight bun, a cooking apron on and bright chicken fat melting in the pan behind her. I saw in her expression a life filled with sadness and
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disappointment. Of what could have been, not what was. After finishing the prep and as dinner heated in the over, I thought about Chanukah and the 2008 election of October. These were two stories that centered around miracles. But while oil burning for 8 nights instead of 1 was pretty amazing, electing a black man named Barack president of the US, now that was miraculous. Even as we celebrated Obama’s win earlier that year, letting the Democrats out of their self imposed exile of disenfranchised bitterness, we knew what a miserable country he inherited. A nation full of bitterness, misplaced and falsely manipulated rage, division and mistrust, none of which would really ‘change’ after he took office. We were so intoxicated by the event that we forgot the facts for a few months before reality set in and when it did, it did so with a vengeance that should have been expected. There was lots of money on the line, the fight would be bitter. None of that mattered in December 2008. We were just so happy not to deal with Bush 43 and his policies any more. We had no idea what was coming, both for us and the country. Poor Obama, he needed a lamp lit with the oil of hope to burn for 8 nights just as much as the Maccabees did. His light would only last for a short time while before the hatred would begin. I thought about the story of Hanukah as we ate our
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latkes and brisket without much thought or energy. I couldn’t help but love the story even with the religious terrorist overtones, you know Semitic guys in the desert rebelling against the state and all that. The miracle felt so right and couldn’t we all use a miracle these days with the state of the economy? We did the dishes quickly after dinner and fled upstairs to our reading materials, making the best out of a sad situation. We went to bed without further comment or contact. The next morning I attended an unusual graduation ceremony. The 14 students, all of them from low income and/or at risk families, had enrolled in a program that taught them how to work in kitchens and restaurants, giving them a second chance in life. As I watched them receive their diplomas dressed in their chef’s whites I listened to their stories of how much they overcame to simply step up and make it to class every day. How hard it was for them to work with others, many for the first time, and how thankful they were. These were real heroes. During one of the sessions with my coach many months ago I learned a principle that has always been on mind and now came to the forefront. It was one of the main factors that would bring me out of my funk and back into the world as a fully participating member. Dharma. Your reason to do good on during the time spent on this planet. An Eastern view of the big picture, a sort of celestial universal version of the Jewish version called Mitzvah, all wrapped in your own private destiny with
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a good dose of personal bravery for leavening and in their thinking, your eternal birth and rebirth as icing on the cake. I wasn’t at all sure about that last part but it reassured me to think that this core guiding principle ran deep in other cultures. And more than that, it resonated with what I wanted to do in my life. Throughout my corporate career in coffee I had done my best to incorporate the concept of doing “the right thing” into my work. I was proud of the work that I did advancing just causes such as organics and fair treatment of workers at farm. I had a lot to make up for. There had been plenty of damage that I had contributed to in my personal quest to make a buck during the days of working in the construction equipment industry supplying the massive machines that carved up the earth for mines and forestry. Was I just looking for a quick hit to improve my karma? I don’t think so. It is not as simple as that although there is plenty of work to do to right that ship. It was deep in me and needed to be satisfied. As I worked with charities (although they were overloaded with volunteers such as myself) I closed a hole in my soul. It felt good. The Chanukah meal: Mom’s Brisket. Ingredients. A 4-to-5 pound brisket. The bigger the better, you are going to have leftovers so get used to it. One onion per pound. One head of garlic. One bottle of white wine, can be sweet.
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Salt Paprika Brown Sugar A covered baking dish, preferably that oblong old blue metal one that your mom used to use. Preheat the oven to 400. Chop your onions and peel the garlic. If freaked out about fat trim. While the oven is heated line the baking dish with the onions. Puncture the brisket in numerous places and insert a clove of garlic in each slit. The more the better. Rub the brisket with salt, brown sugar and paprika to taste. Place the brisket in the pan, fat side up. Cook for 10 minutes at 400 or until there is some browning in the fat. Flip the brisket onto the bottom of the pan fat side now down. Cover and lower temperature to 325. Cook for two hours and check. When it shrinks to 2/3 of its original size it is done. It should slice easily and there should be lots of liquid. Thanks Mom for the meditation. The ipod shuffle top 4 (Sometimes just 4 songs are all you need.) Frank Sinatra. My Way. Barely made it through, now seems so sad when you get older. Ray Charles. I can’t stop loving you. Just living in the memories. Van Morrison, And It Stoned Me. Moondance. His voice following Ray’s is uncanny. John Hiatt. The Tip of My Tongue. Bring the family.
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One of the most underappreciated American songwriters delivers a brutal vision of a failed love. Sometimes fame never reached those who deserve it. See also, Richard Thompson, guitar and so many many others.

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Chapter 29 Christmas Grilled
Authors note: As noted previously, MHO is a work of fiction. While some of the incidents that occur in the story and many the characters in it are based in part upon my life, the vast majority of MHO resides in my ever-active imagination. I (and those around me especially the dog) are thankful for that.

Chanukah wasn’t the only thing that lasted eight days that year. During the holiday celebration, if you could call it that, in a moment of weakness I fed big foot white dog Kelly quite a bit of our brisket and onions and fatty bits at that. I won’t deny it, I wanted to see someone happy in the house that night and for the split second of pleasure that dogs do get as they inhale food from their bowls (no I didn’t break down and feed her from the table) she was very very excited. Then she went back the living room and immediately fell soundly sleep, spread out completely across her cushion in a state of complete and utter relaxation. Faithful neurotic companion white dog Kelly (an English Pointer, medium sized 45 pound white hunting dog with brown ears) was found starving and then rescued from near death by a local animal rights group and we adopted her nervous self many years ago. While we know she is a bit, well, off, it is always disconcerting to know that all of your friends agree with you. You keep hoping that maybe the dog is saner than she seems but uniform reactions

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reinforce the reality, she ain’t quite right. Now that is not to say that she has ever bit anyone and that she isn’t a saint around us. Like most rescues she knows where the meal is coming from and pays close attention to protecting those that feed her. And that is the problem, she is very territorial, making sure that anyone that comes in the door, friend or foe, is greeted with a growl that implies trouble until you notice that she is wagging her tail hoping for affection at the same time. Consistently confusing behavior. The rescue foundation spent two years bringing Kelly back to society and to life. Along the way she developed a number of strange bit endearing habits. She chases shadows, leaves and butterflies and hunts like a cat, skulking low and arching her back when she strikes. Genetically a hunting dog, she points at nothing. Most importantly, she makes us laugh. The next morning when oui cherie was heading to work and I was at the breakfast table scanning the continuing descent of the GS Warriors into injury ridden hell, I heard her utter an expletive that she normally is not known to do. “Merdre”, I heard the shout, and as it turned out she meant just that. Kelly, used to eating dry kibble and oak leaves (her constant ‘chew’ of choice in the back yard), had been overwhelmed by the fat content in the brisket and had left a trail of dumps in ever increasing liquidity across the living room carpet and Sweets had stepped square in one of them. After helping her clean her shoes and getting her out the door, I
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worked on the mess, cleaning the carpet while white dog seemed to burrow deeper and deeper into her sleeping pillow knowing that something was wrong. Her digestive issues would continue for some time. In fact, these morning surprises would last a week before her system reestablished itself and they became quite an issue until she simply got better. As the 8th day of Chanukah ended so did her upset stomach. Chanukah came very late that year and didn’t start until December 22. By the time the little holiday that can showed up the Christmas tree was up and decorated and presents were showing up en masse. All of this made me even sadder than usual as Christmas came roaring into our lives once again. It has always been hard for my family to understand my feelings about Christmas. It starts with a simple fact. I am a non-believer. As a result, for me the tree is always too big, the presents too many. They think that I hate Christmas but they are wrong. It wasn’t hatred that I was feeling; it was jealousy. These feelings began years ago when I was a child. Christmas was the most depressing day of the year. All around me kids were reaping the benefits of weeks of begging and whining as the opened their gifts with their incomprehensibly large families. And where were we? Driving through a strangely empty West Los Angeles searching for an open Chinese restaurant that my father could tolerate while the rest of the nation basked in their living rooms fires roaring children laughing and people, yes, singing.
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Not at our house. This year the coincidence in calendars brought this reality home even more. Christmas consumed Chanukah. If these two holidays were basketball teams, Chanukah would feature an assortment of DLeaguers and Israelis while Christmas started the NBA All Star Team with Kobe, LeBron, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Melo leading the way to a 200 to 2 victory. It just wasn’t right. If this confusing set of emotions and facts weren’t enough, Christmas was also my daughter’s birthday. An additional complication that made sure that if there was any lack of pressure in a given Christmas day we had the double responsibility of making sure she had a decent celebration that evening, always tough when everyone was busy. The holidays were a traditional time of major excess and I was destined to pay the price. For most of December I was too busy, or so it seemed, to remember to meditate and to do yoga on a regular basis. I lost track of my calendar. Instead, it seemed that spent most days running around gathering presents like a squirrel on crank and shopping for dinners, stuck in traffic a lot and spending more money than I felt comfortable about. My famously grumpy Christmas mornings also typically featured a hang over courtesy of the annual traditional Christmas Eve dinner the night before. The dinner, generously and graciously hosted by
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family friends in San Francisco always featured a variety of excellent champagne, vintage red wines (California Cabs or 1st growth Bordeaux) and aged ports that I would happily bury myself in. We had a wonderful time each and every year that lasted right until I woke up the next day to the sounds of Christmas songs. In earlier times when the children were small their overwhelmingly positive energy would eclipse my ambivalent feelings about the holiday. Who in their right mind could resist your kids at Christmas? But now that they were young kidults I had little to distract me from the bitterness I felt on Christmas morning. I woke up early that day, letting sweets have the present that she loved best, sleeping in, and went out to get the paper. Groggy but focused, I planned to resurrect another old tradition that morning, pancakes for breakfast. As I sleepwalked across the living room the odor hit me, white dog has dumped again damnit I thought. I was right. I knew because my right slipper was planted in the middle of it. This one was a liquid beauty spread out across the carpet from one end to the other. It created an ugly brown stain and it stank. Almost simultaneously my foot skidded across the slick wet carpet as the slipper came off and my toes touched down into the brown nasty goo. Merry Merry Merry. So what did I do? I yelled at Kelly.
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A long brutal

exclamation that was loud, angry and full of expletives. And then, obviously without thinking, I picked up the slipper that was covered with loose brown shit and threw it at the poor dog who sat there stunned for a bare moment and then took off at full speed for safety. I missed. Standing there in the empty living room, Christmas tree twinkling in the background, looking at the now shit stained wall, I couldn’t move. I just stood there. At first I was just pissed that I now had spread the shit to the wall and the dog’s bed. I also surmised that every step I took spread it further. But as the flush of adrenaline and anger passed I just felt plain sad. That and stupid. And cold. And alone. So I picked up the shitty shoe and hopped to the downstairs bathtub where I rinsed off my foot. Then I went to the kitchen where I placed the slipper into a plastic bad and filled it with water to let is soak. I called the dog. No reply. After a 10-minute bout of ½ a roll of paper towels, carpet cleaner and simple green things were more or less normal except for me. I was shaken. When I had stood in the bathroom a few minutes earlier washing my hands and then rinsing my face I looked up into the mirror. Now I know that morning light is always harsh but nothing would have prepared me for the face that I saw there. Was it the hair, a bit long this time of year and wildly uncombed, the dark circles below my eyes, the weight I had gained? Or maybe my age or the effect of the torrent of rage that had pulsed through me
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earlier or was I just imagining the man that I saw in that mirror. Because that man was my father. The vision shook me. And so another merry happy merry happy Christmas began with me cleaning dog shit off of the wall after losing my temper in the time honored fashion of my Polish father who last greeted my memory about a month ago eating a whole onion and drinking vodka straight from the bottle. He was back except this time as a part of my behavior not just an image from my youth. This was not a great start to an already difficult day and an ominous sign of what was to come later that morning. Eventually, I settled down at the dining room table with a cup of coffee and the NY Times and tried to calm down. My mind had other plans. I couldn’t help it, my outburst had taken me aback. I wandered deep and long back to my youth in Los Angeles and the pain that I knew growing up. Which malignant behavior pattern that he had left me with would bubble up today? The powerful and unpredictable temper that I had worked on eradicating for years but still showed up like sour grass growing in the spring lawn? Distrust of everyone around me springing from a lack of confidence in myself, something he did his best to beat out of me? Resentment of success in others that he carried all of his life? What a fucking panoply of mental crap he left me with that I had to work so hard to overcome. And yes, I had done so, but what years had been wasted along the way unable to enjoy life without excessive stimulation on the one hand or wild mood
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swings on the other. There was nothing normal about him. It made me wonder, how often do you hear someone described as larger than life as a compliment? This inner jousting was interrupted about half an hour later the family showed up. Of course the kidults first question were “damn, what smells” and then “where is Kelly?”. The answers were simple, dog shit and I don’t know, both of which I spat off. Kelly was upstairs on her blanket sleeping, beneficiary of a dog’s short memory span, and came downstairs on daughter’s first whistle already forgiving and looking to have her belly scratched as soon as possible. A cure for all what ails, a good belly rub. I wish it would work as well for me, if it did I would scratch so hard I would bleed. The rest of the morning seemed to straighten out nicely around a menu of pancakes, hot coffee and thoughtful gifts, books, sweaters and shirts, music and cookware. Then I opened a gift from la cherie, noticing that I was going to Yoga in sweats and an old t-shirt she had purchased a slick black pair of pants and a shiny yoga shirt from the local hip Yoga store. Instead of thanking her I got stupid and pissed. Yes, the first words out of my mouth were “How much did these things cost?”. Not a good move. My behavior slid from there
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moving rapidly downhill from price to need to slickness to how I was just fine working out in my sweats. That shut the joy down and somewhere Dad was up in the heavens giving me an attaboy. It was only the next day as we were putting away our gifts that I realized what I had done. I could see in the ice cold glare that I got from elle when I asked for the receipt that I had blown it and when I asked her what was wrong she told me. She was right. Not only was my response not gracious or thankful, it put a damper on the rest of the day that only receded as we celebrated daughter’s birthday that evening and forgot. Simply put, I acted selfish, immature and angry, none of which were called for. I told her that she was right and talked a bit about my earlier incident with the dogshit. She looked at me with a look that only your life partner can give you, the look said this: You still have a lot of work to do. Words not necessary. I kept the yoga pants but took the shirt back. Poor behavior aside, it was ugly. A Christmas song selection from a non-believer. Merry Christmas Baby, Charles Brown. You sure look GOOD this year. Jingle Bell Rock. Frankie Ford. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Definitely the Ronettes version. Anything on the BB King Christmas Collection. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. The Jackson 5.
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Run Run Rudolph. Chuck Berry. back, the man is crazy.

And don’t look

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Chapter 30 New Year’s and New Resolve There is nothing like a good old-fashioned setback to get me motivated and the Christmas incidents were just the wake up call that I needed. They reminded me that there were loads of adjustments to be made to my mental calibrations before a life in balance could be considered much less achieved. With the classic resolve that the day after New Year’s brings, I was ready to start manful meditations once again. One change I noticed immediately, I looked forward to doing it. For the first time that I could remember I was happy when the femme who works so hard left the house running late the day as always leaving a trail of toothpaste remnants, makeup and a ½ full coffee cup behind her. I was ready to hit the computer and reload my mental health calendar. To get back into exploring the manful meditations that had helped me to progress towards, towards,,,,,well towards something that felt a lot better than where I had been. Now if only I could define just what that something was….but no dwelling on that today. Fighting down the usual curse of the wandering mind, oh so ready to get back into the Russo novel that I was enjoying or just hang with that article on DeNiro in Vanity Fair, or maybe catch an early movie that I could just stream in on the computer…or... I found the inner discipline and opened up my mental
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health calendar to review my progress to date in the manful meditation journey. The answer I came to was quick and fairly obvious, I hadn’t made much progress at all. Some good weeks and then adrift again. So I sat there and waited for inspiration to help me populate the calendar with some new manful subject. None came. I waited some more. Same result. The next realization came quick, inspiration doesn’t always live in front of a computer screen. It was time to head downstairs to the mancave where I could turn my mind loose in the primordial subconscious male ooze and see what might bubble up. I hit the mancave with serious enthusiasm, white dog running down the stairs in front of me hoping for something maybe a walk. I shut the door and set the cushion down and then to my pleasant surprise, fell right into a meditative mood without the usual mental detours. It felt good to focus on my breathing and I dived in. This turned out to be a breakthrough day. Not only did my mind pick a subject easily and quickly, once there I went happily down its path without resistance or distraction. It wasn’t a burger or an onion this time, or another glass of wine that appeared hovering in the room. This time my mind’s eye zoomed right through the patio doors to my dear old buddy, the ultimate male tool (and not in the negative sense) and trusty brother in arms and keeper of the eternal male flame, my Bar-B-Que.

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The manful mediation that followed was swift, steady and frankly a blast. My thoughts ran easy and free as I reflected on BBQ’s, their role in mandom, my life, and how much I loved them. Yes, BBQ is a meditation that is built for the carnivore that lives on within me despite years of Berkeley life. It is also the subject of one of the greatest historical divisions in the world of manful thought. For many years men, including myself, worshipped at the ancient temple of charcoal and then, the more advanced study devoted to the powerful and focused heat of mesquite. But as times changed a new force emerged, devoted to the clean reliable power of propane. The gas grill. A modern challenger that called many historical truths into question. My Manful Meditation is always about personal choice and grill enlightenment is no different. The first path, walked by holy men for hundreds if not thousands of remains is my boyhood favorite, fire. My vision turned to a large bag of charcoal, no mesquite and I got ready to stoke up the grill. I dug deep and found that old pyro feeling and just for the sake of history, I inhaled the guilty smell of petroleum distillates but I didn’t worry, there are no chemical residues in the manful meditation kingdom. I gave it an extra spray and watched the flair. Nice. Then, I thought about the pleasures of the gas path. Less traditional maybe but so simple and so reliable. Turn a knob hit a switch and heat her up. Clean, efficient and controllable. And that stuff about
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carcinogens….you had to wonder. Then I thought about grills in all shapes and forms. A massive brick installation with a pizza oven that I never built. The Texas smoker that I could never get to work right. A favorite grill that is long gone. I can cook on all of them now. In my minds eye I focused on the fire for a moment, glowing perfectly, hot enough to sear but not to hot that it can’t be controlled. And in my manful meditation practice, the grill is always clean. After 20 minutes I gradually came out the clouds, it was cold and miserable out but I didn’t care if I couldn’t use the grill in reality that day. I was satisfied. On the second day of the BBQ meditations I moved beyond the grill itself and into its true meaning. I stated by traveling to an exceptional summer day. The temperature outside is warm and not too humid. Blue skies abound. I invite my friends. It is a Buddha’s BBQ in my mind. A feast for the manful heart. I go the fridge and pull out the steaks I bought just for this occasion. What was the cut? New York? Rib Eye? Filet? Maybe skirt or sliced thin for Carne Asada. I have a back to the land moment and for a second I take it back to the cow and the butcher. Then I leave it behind. I settle on rib eye, bone in. The meat is red, no off colorations. It is firm to the touch with just enough fat to give it flavor. There is no need to marinate
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these bad boys, they stand on their own. I will salt and pepper them later as they rest. The grill is hot. It is glowing. I want it that way. It is waiting. The fire is practically anticipatory. Moving carefully I place the steaks close to each other but not touching. Hear the sizzle as they hit the hot metal. No need to close the hood today, I am cooking at my pace in the open air. The fire is perfect, the outside will brown but not burn. The meat will caramelize. And then it is the zen moment. Each steak gets a perfect ¼ turn. I wait and enjoy the scene, in the middle of winter I am lost again in a summer day. Then I quickly and easily flip each steak over and when the meat is just firm to the touch of a finger I remove them. We wait while the flavors settle and the juices return to the center of the meat. I bring the steaks to the table. The grill marks are perfectly crossed, of course. I feel the holy state that has settled over my body. Over the rest of the week I continue on this path to manful grill enlightenment. Sky is the limit on this one. My mind sambas from Italian Sausages to pounded paper thin chicken breasts marinated in Olive Oil, lemons and rosemary, tiny lamb chops, pencil size asparagus, move quickly now with portobello mushrooms and finish with whole squid marinated in lemon juice and hot pepper flakes. On Friday I end the BBQ meditations with thoughts of
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dry rubs and sauces. La Sweets wonders why I am so happy this week even though it is the dead of winter and the dead of job search. I smile inwards, all is well, the inner fire glows brightly but does not burn. A quick dry rub. 1/8 oz ground coffee 1/4 oz paprika 1/2 oz brown sugar 1/2 oz salt pinch of spices you think feel right at the moment. Now get in there and rub.

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Chapter 31 Worshiping At The Supreme Temple. It’s bye bye baby. I would never have expected the cold beginning of January to be a time of work activity, but somehow that is what it turned out to be. Just as rigor mortis had set in to what remained of the traditional job market, my consulting practice started showing sudden and strange gurgling signs of life. The Dow hadn’t yet begun the kamikaze descent that it would take a few months later in March 2009 and in the post holiday haze several, yes that is right, several potential clients called wanting to either start projects up again or create new ones. One company was thinking of selling their business and wanted help valuing and positioning it. Another was starting a new line of dine at home ethnic foods and a third had a group of pickled organic vegetables that he wanted to develop into retail. The website I built in the fall that had been dormant so long generated several inquiries for the first time. I even considered doing some marketing for once. Bottom line; there was more action that week than in the past six months. Go figure. And that is the strange life of the consultant. Consultants are the second cousins at a family reunion. They are invited, you know who they are, they a part of the party but never the focus of the
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evening. A consultant can drink from the cup but rarely finishes it, he can date forever but never marries. I was never comfortable with this sort of work and my instincts turned out to be right. The manner in which my consultancy practice played out over the next few months would not be good. Even it’s shortterm effects did little to replace my longing for the structure that was missing in my life where work used to be. Consulting actually wound up contributing to my state of anxiety because I didn’t know how to handle the ups and downs. But none of that mattered that week; I was flush with the excitement of new leads. If I had been a hunting dog I would have been in point. The flip side of leads is that they are just that. Leads are like the glimpse of a beautiful woman walking up the street ahead of you, a passing glance is just what you get. You have to wait to get a good look at her and more than often than not, you are surprised by what you see. Any man who won’t admit that someone that he were looking at from a distance turned out to be, well, a man, is lying to you and himself. The same theory applies to business, sometimes what look like a gorgeous lead in a short skirt happens to have a two-day growth when you look closer. These new work opportunities left me with optimism for my future but an empty calendar as I waited for meetings that were scheduled but scattered throughout the coming month. That was
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the other aspect of consultancy that drove me nuts. I never realized just how much energy I had until I started working on other people’s projects. They lacked the urgency that I did and toning down my natural desire to push forward now to respect their slow pace was challenging to say the least. Didn’t they get it? Where was their desire? Where was the fire in their bellies, shit, it was their business and I was more excited about it then they were! As a result life left me with too much time on my hands again. Here I was again in this now familiar yet never comfortable dilemma. Just how do I fill this time? It was too cold to get on my bike, something I was regretting and missing and I was sick of the gym and my yoga classes, I mean how many downward dogs can a man do before he hurts himself? Sadly I found out that there is a limit to that too. This was the time when I came to appreciate how happy I was that there was had left the emptiness that had vice gripped my life for the past 9 months. Instead of emptiness I had the happy confines of the mancave and the manful meditation studies that now intrigued and excited me there whenever I needed them. They had quickly become my reliable back up, then my go to move and now a real game changer in life. That bleak winter afternoon after I finished an hour long walk up through the Berkeley Hills with the tow-dog, I heated up a massive bowl of Chicken Soup with basil and orzo, slipped some parmesan and croutons on top and got the heat up to 68, a move
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totally out of character on that count. I tore the NY times and threw the dishes in the sink. I was eager to be into a meditation. And when I did, without much effort or direction thank you very much, I opened my mind and heart to the things that I loved. I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude as I thought about what I had to be thankful for. Yes, there was always family first including a sense of peace that seemed to be increasing daily with she who must be considered and god I knew how much I loved food, I could meditate about that forever. But there was something else that I wanted to meditate about that day. It came to me fast. It was something I missed deeply that day, buried in the winter emptiness before the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. The only one subject I could meditate about that mattered as much to me as family, women, wine and food. The answer was obvious. Easy. Plain as the nose on my face. Sports. A question: Has a research group every conducted a study of male brain waves when we watch a sporting event? Just what does it do to us? Why will I watch losing teams play meaningless games (who in their right mind believes that they are gaining something from watching the Warrior play the Clippers?). I rail against bad books, bad movies and bad music and then I watch bad sports without
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complaint. Do we just shut down? Why is this bad entertainment acceptable? I can’t explain it either. I don’t know why I love sports so passionately. I do know that I have loved it from the earliest memories of boyhood. As my meditation deepens, I move inside the mind and enter the church of sports. As I do I am immediately transported to a holy moment that lives within me at all times. A bright shining example of my continuing study of manful ways. A moment for me to share and one that I will always remember. It is late September 1997. The Giants are playing the Dodgers at Candlestick Park, one of the holiest rivalries in this church of sports. It’s a warm day and these two historical enemies are fighting for the title of the Western Division as the summer sun shines down. The Dodgers are in first but the Giants are breathing down their blue necks. I have snuck my 11-year old son out of school to enjoy a game with his dad without the blessings of she who does not go to sporting events after two tickets blissfully appeared in my life the day before, a gift from a habitual sinner, a down payment on debts that will never be repaid (but that too is another story). The day is very very hot. The game is very competitive. The crowed is highly excited. The game goes into extra innings. In the top of the 10th inning, relief pitcher Rod “Shooter” Beck takes the mound, a
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massive bear like man with a fu-Manchu moustache and a larger than life presence. Beck, the first relief pitcher to perfect the intimidating combination of death glare and dead arm swing (may his soul rest in peace). Beck’s year has gone to shit. He has lost his closer’s job. He isn’t pitching well. The game is tied 5 to 5. He quickly gives up three consecutive singles but somehow the Dodgers don’t score. They have loaded the bases with no one out. The crowed is silent. Beck’s coach, the revered teacher Dusty Baker comes to the altar of the pitching mound. The crowd is murmurs. Then they are stunned because he doesn’t pull Beck from the game. Instead, it has been told that he looks in his eyes and says these holy words: “Dig as deep as you can with whatever you have learned. You are the guy.” I believe that these are words that define manfullness without the need for further explanation. Words that a man can mediate on and I often do. The game continues. Beck somehow does dig within and finds his center. He strikes out the next batter. The fans go nuts. One out. Beck throws a brutally nasty splitter to the next batter, but the Dodger hitter rips it. He hits a blistering shot right up the middle heading straight for center field. Then, in a flash Beck reaches out stabs it with his glove and
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throws to first. He starts the perfect double play. People around me are crying holy tears of joy. Two innings catcher Brian Johnson leads off the 12th with a home run and the Giants win. The entire stadium is out of its collective mind. We are beside ourselves almost out of our bodies. I hug my son. I hug strangers. They hug us. All is perfect wonder. In perfect harmony the Giants go on to win the division.*
(*it is important that if you are a Giants fan that your meditation stop here before the pain of the ghostly spirit of Solomon Torres appears poisons your now pure thoughts as your recall just how this year ends…)

When I have trouble meditating, I repeat this story in my head over and over. I focus on the holy words of bodhisattva Baker; “You are the man.” And his teachings: “Dig as deep as you can into what you have learned over the years.” That is wisdom. There is nothing more to say when words are clear as light itself. At the end of this meditation my mind is silent and at peace, my heart is as pure as the rotation in the spin of a tight spiral on a Koufax curve dipping before it reaches home plate in a motion that defies physics. A game day celebration:

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12 buns 12 sausages 24 beers 6 friends Onions Bell peppers Garlic Sauerkraut. Dill pickle relish. Get a frying pan and heat to medium. Peel the onion and chop, clean the bell pepper removing seeds and inner vein, clean the garlic. Sauté until all golden, keep warm. Grill sausages and buns to heart’s content and don’t forget them. Set table. Watch Giants win.

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Chapter 32. I hear you Vin Scully. I quickly realize that this is the beginning of a more advanced manful mediations, starting to looking inside of the self and not out. I have a dark secret. It is dark blue. Seven. Perfect number of touchdown. Throwing the tight spiral. The journey through sports starts with an easy meditation. Then we will work our way up to complex groups of manful moments. Think of this as mental stretching before you are ready to air it out. And remember to sit and to breathe when you are ready to start. Mind clear? If not let the flotsam and jetsam of everyday worries settle down until it is. When you are breathing and your head is empty before you get bored you are ready go. Since so few of you have actually quarterbacked a team have fun with an imaginary meditation this time and let it guide you. Start with a mental image yourself on a football field. Where it is doesn’t matter. You many have never thrown a perfect spiral, I know that I sure the hell can’t no matter how I try. And I love this meditation because now we all can. You are standing on the field, which is what matters. It could be a stadium full of cheering spectators. It may be you alone on a crisp autumn day. You smell the air, you feel the sun in front of you. You might
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imagine yourself behind the stacked bodies of your 0-line as the ball is hiked. Set your own stage. You can be a 12-year old realizing his talent for the first time or Brett Favre at any point in his career (except last season with the Jets, don’t go there it will only lead to pain). Have you set the stage? See your football in front of you. Hold it up and bring it to your chest as you bend your elbows. Look at the laces, place your fingers across the laces. Grip the ball comfortably, go one, grip it. Look downfield, imagine the scene. Look at your target. Your eyes are clear and focused. Your hips and shoulders face the sideline. You are ready to begin your throw. Imagine your elbow as it begins to rise as you step forward; transferring the weight from your back foot to your front, feeling the energy rising through the motion of your arm now moving rapidly yet gracefully forward. At the peak of the arc of your arm motion you let go and release the ball, the nose of the dimpled brown pigskin pointing up and forward as it sails away in a perfect spinning spiral. You step back and admire the sight, brown football against blue sky. There is no pain in your arm, the motion is fluid the release perfect as your wrist falls gently to your side. You can add to your meditation in many ways at this point or just end here and repeat. A suggested addition to this meditation includes watching your target receive the throw and sprinting away. If you
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fear being tackled, block this out of your mind at all costs. Finish your meditation in any way you wish. A receiver catches the ball to score to the cheers of the crowd or is it the smile of your son or daughter instead or the cheerleader that you lusted for but never had. You finish it off it off anyway you like. That is the freedom of manful meditation. Done? Now repeat it over and over until you are ready to move on to something else. You will be surprised how quickly the time passes and how much better you feel when it this manful meditation is done. But remember, meditative exercise is never a substitute for the real thing. And no one really wants to meditate on the size of their growing gut for more than a passing moment. Exercise 2: Enjoying the game Just because you didn’t play sports doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy sports just as passionately. Is there a greater manful joy than opening up the sports section, watching a game on TV or listening to it on the radio? This group of exercises is divided into 3 sub groups; so you can pick you favorite medium of information or do all 3, the recommended path to sports broadcasting salvation. Exercise 2a
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Being there (Walking in the presence of the gods). Watching the game on TV These are a particularly difficult set of meditations because if you take yourself back to a crucial moment of manliness that involved watching a major sporting event such as say the 1983 super bowl between the 49ers and the Bengals especially that final drive in the 4th quarter when Montana hits Taylor the room exploded as did our collective heads, you very likely in a highly altered state of consciousness which you may not remember. This exercise will allow you to re-create that moment as you wish it had been or if you were sober as your remember it to be or most likely, a little bit of both. Think of a moment that you loved in sports when you were watching television. Pick a sport. Remember the setting. The television itself, the size of the screen and the quality of the signal. It could even be in black and white. Hold it there for a moment and remember the players on the field, the time of year and imagine a particular moment in the game. Are you there? Now play back the video in your mind. As you do don’t’ forget to breathe and let the moment unfold. Take time to notice the room that you were in the people who were around you and the mood. It might be a celebratory moment, it could be the moment when you knew your team wasn’t going to be going to the holy land that year. Let the playback repeat itself as you breathe and drift.

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Exercise 2b Inside your mind: Listening to the game on the radio This is a variation on television for those who enjoy the pleasure of an audio signal and have the power to imagine a scene. But mostly this is a chance for you to recreate a moment, likely in your childhood, where you were listening to sports on the radio. And even more than that the voice of the announcer. Who was it that took you out of your room and onto the court without leaving? Was it Vin Scully or Chick Hearn for those from Southern California? Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck or Harry Carry? Or someone that no one in their right mind but you would remember, but you take yourself back to that moment, in a car or in your bed with an earphone on so no one would hear and you are back at the game again. Hear that voice and take yourself back into that time. Exercise 2c Sitting still Reading the sports section This exercise is for those who enjoy their sports section every day. The rest many not get it. You know who you are. Pulling the sports section out first, you read every word about your local teams and then every word about any team that might be competitive with them. You can’t miss the gossip about the major players and find yourself scanning the statistics. You even wander into the standings
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every day. You love your sports section and when you are traveling you read every word of any sports section you can get your hands on. So visualize a newspaper that you love to read. It doesn’t matter which just take yourself to a happy place put your feet up get a cup of coffee and whatever stimulants you use to get the day started. Maybe you like sitting on the can when reading, find that righteous spot and go there imaginary paper in hand. If you want to imagine a story do so. Make one up or recall something that you read recently. Think about the story and what it means. Read cover to cover or hit the spots you like best, even those of us who actually look at the standings. Don’t move on to exercise 3 until you have repeated this meditation at least five times. The point of the exercise is to focus upon it and understand it, not to read it like you would a novel or short story. Exercise 3 The luck of the draw. This is a short meditation and easy to do. It can be imaginary or based on personal experience. Begin the exercise and see which direction your mind pulls you, fantasy or reality? See yourself in a casino, it can be anywhere
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from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo to Biloxi. You pick the spot. If you don’t like the casino atmosphere, you can imagine a game of blackjack with your fellow manfulness students. See the face of the dealer. He holds the cards out for all to see. Watch the intensity of his eyes as he shuffles the deck. Now he places the cards down and begins to deal. He gives everyone at the table a card and takes one himself. Now the second round of cards is dealt. You already peaked at the first card. It is an ace. You feel great, something good is about to happen. You have placed a large bet on this round and it looks good. This is not a moment to think about doubling down, splitting or insurance. You are going to win. Your card is now in front of you. You turn it over. Your heart leaps but you show nothing to the table. Quietly and firmly you turn them over. Blackjack. Repeat as needed. For those who prefer other card games run this meditation with them, from Poker to Hearts, the key is to pick a moment in the game and focus on it while you breathe and enjoy. Hearts fans, throw the black bitch over and over and tell me you didn’t smile every time. If none of these work for you then take the path back to a gambling moment that sticks out in the mind. It could be the weekly poker game or that number you called right on the roulette wheel. As with every meditation exercise that we do, appreciate the setting, look at the moment and the
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people around you, see yourself and go there. Exercise 4 Riding the perfect wave You may have enjoyed the pleasure of surfing a perfect wave at a great moment in your life, but more the likely you haven’t. This meditation will guide you through what if feels like to ride a wave. If you are an experienced surfer, feel free to substitute your own experience. It is likely to be more exciting. And to the reader that could give a shit about surfing, even from an imaginary perspective try substituting mountains, snow and skis as you read through. First pick a beach. Look out at the day. A beginner? Make the sky blue and the waves consistent and perfectly shaped. Advanced? Take yourself to Mavericks on the San Mateo cost on a grey turbulent day with massive swells that seem to swallow those who dare. Look at that beautiful surfboard for a moment and place it in the water, flat with its nose, the front poking out slightly. Lie down right in the center of board from both right to left and in the middle. Now begin to paddle, taking the surfboard right through the wave close to shore as you move out into the ocean. Are you there? Great. Now gently turn the board around so that the nose faces the beach. It may seem elementary but it
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is part of the exercise. Look behind and watch the waves as they approach. Wait for a nicely formed wave to come near you and hold the board flat. Start to paddle and as the wave approaches you begin to move. Relaxed and confident you stand. The power of the wave lifts you and carries you forward, gliding. You lean right and begin to move across it. As the wave looses steam and you approach the beach you dismount. Get ready to ride again. End the exercise on the shore, salt water on your lips, hair, even if the subject of hair is in the past, matted, mind calm after riding the waves. Look out at the ocean and watch the waves. Let that image linger like the aftertaste of a great cognac. Then let is linger some more. Exercise 5 Build You Own Sports are a smorgasbord of possibilities for manful meditation. The first four exercises were just strong images designed to get this process started and familiarize you with the basis of manful meditation, guided tours through moments of a manful life. But they are not by any means more than a small fraction of this world. So let’s take a small risk here in the early study of the ways of manful meditation. Trust yourself and try to make this work. It will give you a gauge on how you are progressing.
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Pick a sport that you excelled at or that you love. Take yourself back to a sports moment that was not provoked in the previous 4 exercises. It could be little league or Pop Warner football, it could be shooting hoops in 7th grade behind the garage. Take yourself on a long run that you loved or a bike ride that you know so well. Find a moment of power and breakthrough, then one of speed and grace. Let the spirit of athletic release flow into your memories and breathe. Got a moment like that? Time to remember it. Now see where this goes. Repeat until done. Now there are those amongst you who just need to hear the word restaurant and your mind takes off like a dog waiting for a walk. Before you finished reading the title of this exercise, your newly trained meditative mind started assembling a list of greatest eating hits more numerous that hit songs by the Beatles. For you, restaurants are temples of the soul, theaters upon which the great plays of food and wine are acted out by a cast of characters that stretches back to early childhood memories right through to adulthood. Your problem is filtering that flood of information. For you just go. Run. Nothing can hold you back. The restaurant is already racing ahead of your meditation, the maitre d’ has seated you and the meal awaits. Don’t feel obligated to study the rest of the chapter now. Just pick the book back up after your meditation finishes dessert (and
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by the way you should read on later because these exercises will help you choosing meals in the future). Anyway, now git. As to the rest of us or those that want to read on anyway, there is a bit of guided work to do. This meditation begins with a question that will bring the subject into focus, what makes a great restaurant experience for you? Is it the 4 star atmosphere? The reputation or the discovery? The innovation of the cooking, the freshness of the ingredient? Maybe it is a particular setting or is the knowledge that you have been going there for years and that a particular dish will always taste the same. It could be a memory that triggers back a person or time in your life. So take some time zone out and let your mind drift across the restaurants that you have loved (and have loved you) the times that you spent there and the meals that you had. Once you have zeroed in on a meal take some time and let it linger a while. Try to reply the entire experience, from the moment that you stepped into the room until the instant that you walked the same steps but this time the other way. Focus on small things, the table or the way the menu looked. And stay there for the course of this mediation.

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Exercise 3 Ultimate Sandwich Why is the sandwich such as pleasurable experience? Is it the variety of infinite possibilities that are presented when you think of one? The fact that so many different combinations exist with only one thing in common, a set of ingredients that are surrounded by bread. It is surprising that the sandwich, as opposed to the steak, is a more advance manful meditation. While it allows you more freedom to choose it is also more difficult to manage during your practice. Rather than provide you with specific instructions for this meditation, we will set the sandwich guidelines and you will fill them in before beginning your visualization. Start with your choice of bread. This is a wide ranging question, from Pita to wonder bread, whole wheat to Kaiser roll to ciabatta. And the bread choice will guide the ingredients that follow. Got your bread out of the package? Now get a good sharp knife, something with some serration please and carefully cut the bread in half. Put the bread down on a cutting board and get the condiments of choice. Toaster is optional, your call. Don’t be shy here, let your manful meditation
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flow into a variety of condiments, even ones that you might not normally use, the mental grocery store is open for business after all. Or if you are just not that imaginative get the mayo and French’s yellow. If you are, think salsas, pestos, And everyone have the salt pepper vinegar (red or white) and olive oil ready. Now let your mind slowly engage in the meats and cheeses that await your imagination. Heading steady? Fresh roast turkey or ham. Feeling aggressive? Procsuitto, salami, Or Roast beef. Think back over the sandwiches that you have loved over the years and let them come back to you. BLT. Corned Beef or Pastrami with cole slaw and Russian dressing. Even the self-effacing choice of PB&J on white. Not a meat eater? Roast portabella mushrooms, eggplants, red bell peppers…but be manful about your approach. Get the balsamic into your mind, make the vegetables rich garlicky and forward. OK, has something come to you? Now assemble. You might go thin, You might go thick. You have the piles of ingredients ready to add. Thin slices of cheese. Lettuce, tomatoes, avocados. Cut them up and slap them on. There must be a balance between ingredients and bread, the bread must envelop the inner ingredients but not overwhelm them, they must dominate. If needed cut the sandwich in half again and put
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the beauty on a plate. Get some chips if you want or some cole slaw and sit down someplace comfortable. Take the first bite. Savor the juxtaposition of the core flavors, the bread and the seasonings. See how they blend and compliment. Take your time and enjoy each bite and then work the second half. As always, repeat five times. For those who needs some variety, try some additional meditation exercises, just substitute the ingredients and go to sandwich heaven. Close your eyes and taste. Panini. The sum of the whole so much greater than its parts, the flat crisp bread, the cheese that melts and Lox and Bagel. Cold smoked salmon, wild caught please. Slice thin red onion. Rich Cream cheese no non fat needed in a manful meditation unless of course you actually prefer the texture! Fresh chewy bagels (sorry to the bagel wimps, it must have density and it must not be steamed to be manful). Chives, capers, lemon, dress to your hearts content. BBQ Pork Bao. Now hold on, there are the traditionalists among you that say that a donut like ball of steamed white flour stuffed with bbq pork is not a sandwich because it isn’t assembled. To you I say, skip the exercise. To those that love a good bao, go on and meditate on it.

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Hummus in Pita. Anyone who has traveled in the mid east knows the love of fresh pita stuffed with creamy olive oil tinged hummus, pickled vegetables, salad maybe some chopped tomatoes. Peanut butter and jelly. Grilled cheese and its cousin, tuna melt. And if this isn’t enough your mind has already found one to settle on. Stay there and enjoy. Exercise 3 Ice Cream Sundae For every spicy, sour or salty flavor there is a sweet filling out the yin and yang of the fourth eye of oral pleasure. The first sweet meditation is the Ice Cream Sundae, an all American treat has been with us since the 1800’s. Let us move right into this sweet oral erogenous zone and how it has played a role in your life. This meditation, like so many, plays in different directions. As always, if you have a regular ice cream ritual; that you enjoy go off and focus on it. If you want to be guided then continue on. It begins with the ice cream of course. You have gone to the freezer and it is full of choice. Can’t make up your mind? There really is only one, a rich true vanilla slightly yellow from the rich egg yolks and lightly flecked with vanilla beans throughout.
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The choice is yours, coffee, chocolate, let your mind wander. Get the ice cream sundae dish, tall ribbed and elegant from the closet and the scoop from the kitchen. The ice cream is as always as you want it, firm yet easy to scoop. You start with two healthy scoops that fill the bottom of the dish. Now you add the chocolate syrup, whichever you want, hot or not. Another scoop of ice cream follows. More chocolate syrup. Not a chocolate fan? Caramel is just as good. Or strawberry. Or blend them. Take the whipped cream out of the fridge. Want the scoop? Prefer the can? Load it up. No calories in your mind. Secret passion for that bright red chemically enhanced maraschino cherry? Won’t cause cancer in manful meditation and it still looks just as bright red a stop sign and somehow even more beautiful. Get your favorite nuts and even if you are allergic, sprinkle them on (unless you are weird enough to meditate on the reaction, in which case you really should consider stopping now and thinking about why). Now get a tall spoon and take the first bite. Go on have another. A really big one. Work it all the way down the glass. And go for another one. You won’t gain a pound. Not even an ounce. Not much more to imagine is there? Some alternative ice cream meditations for additional self guided work:
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The banana split. The dame blanche (if you have had one you know). Black and Tan. Ice cream sandwich and the variety of meditations within this mandala of pleasure as the mind floats from flavor of cookie to type of ice cream and infinite possibilities that are created. Root Beer Float. Apple pie a la mode. Time to add some of your own.

Exercise 5 Perfectly Formed Mandala Pizza! Why is pizza one of the holiest symbols of the spirit of Manful Meditation? Is it because it is a staple of the traditional manful diet? The yin and yang of the simple hand tossed bread dough, rolled flat and a combination of toppings that will keep a man enraptured for a long long time. Pizza is the mandala of the fourth eye circle inside of circles forming a cosmic mix of cheeses, spices, sauces and meats, coming together in a cosmic oneness to delicious strength. But I digress in a Pizzaholic’s blissful worship. To begin this exercise start by focusing on a type of pizza and work backwards. Some followers
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may wish the deep dish Chicago style others yearn for the crisp thin dough of Italy or maybe the flavor of a pizza they knew in New York. Got a pizza in mind? Good. Cooking seem boring? Then skip the next paragraphs. Think of the dough that made the pizza. The humble ingredients, flour, warm water, yeast, olive oil and salt. Imagine the warm water in a clear bowl, the mixing of the ingredients by hand until they form a ball. No need for wait an hour for the dough to rise, just let if double in size right in the imaginary kitchen of choice. Done? Now here is a different meditative moment. Take a deeper then usual breath, wind up your fist and hit it. Hit it again until it deflates. No need to wait that extra hour, time to roll it out. Pick a surface, wood marble or stainless steel and roll it flat. How thin depends on the pizza that is dominating this meditation. Time to build. Let the imagination roll and build out a pizza to love. For the few that may need some inspiration or just love the process take the mind to tomatoes, olive oil, cheese from Mozzarella to Provolone to Goat, peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, basil, oregano and on and on and on. The Mandala of pizza forms the perfect circle and is ready to bake. No need for further instruction. The rest of the meditation should be obvious. Get the paddle and take it out of the oven. Not a cook, take the
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thoughts to the best pizza parlor in the neighborhood and get ready to slice it up. Now eat. Exercise 6 First ripe peach of the summer. A parable to meditate on summer fruit first. I live in a region known for fog and cold summers not fruit and certainly not the sort of fruit that is found at the stands that dominate side roads throughout our country. Yet doggedly and as the philosopher gardener pointed out, stupidly, I planted them anyway. A pink lady apple, straight from a farm in Philo to the north, a peach and a nectarine, the latter two from a hardware store. No pedigree. Five years later the apple tree has never produced more than 4 or 5 apples, and this year 2 of the 4 are covered in brown dots dying. The rest fell to the ground earlier this sort of summer. The peach which did OK last year didn’t produce a thing, got hit with a blight that turned its leaves to crinkled black whispers. The nectarine is producing, this three year old that suffered through a few transplants is suddenly happy. We think so often of the peach, but there is the nectarine in the background, never mushy and never with that horrible skin/flesh contrast. The steady eddy underdog fruit. So step away from the whipped cream and in this meditation, why not think about a perfect piece
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of fruit of your choice. Where does the fruit of your dreams lie? Something simple like a crisp apple or maybe a slice of cantaloupe, right out of the fridge, cold and crisp never mushy an perfectly sweet. Pick the fruit, how you would like to eat it and where and go. Exercise 7 Optional Guides It is just not fair to end group 2 with an optional guide for the billions of foods that weren’t covered in this short chapter. As you begin this exercise breathing and sitting quietly let your mind wander freely in and among the foods you love. Let your mind wander through a series of virtual recipes and kitchen shelves, from farmer’s markets to grocery stores. Touch the foods that you love lightly and quickly and when one grabs your attention, let it. Then linger on it, enjoy it in the detail that it deserves. To now we have explored external pleasures, food and drink. Now we move inside the body and into that temple we ALL worship at: Sports. As the third exercise of this group it is also the most challenging for it begins the exploration of more advanced manful mediations, beginning to looking inside of the self and not out.

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What you are thankful for Some kind of role for the son Home too long. Much too long. Meditation for the weeks leading up? Trying to navigate the calm confusing waters of Eastern thought while what I really wanted to do was clean the garage. Never understanding that you can do both.

By learning these basic concepts and bringing them into daily life, they will become an invaluable and integral part of your very being. They will provide focus and the freedom to move quickly and easily through problems that have sent you scurrying for mental cover crying incoming in the past. The problem with meditation for so many of us is that it is passive. Manful meditation replaces the emphasis of traditional meditation on nothing with a focused and controlled active set of thoughts. Instead of emptying the mind manful meditation trains it. Now that you have begun to study the core values of manfulness that define our practice together, let us meditate together on what manfulness really is. Let us share the golden cup of male virility and drink heartily from it. Manfulness is grounded in the belief that the
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world that we know as a man is a holy place. Every waking moment that is spent in a manful state is a blessed one. Manfulness is a perfectly balanced state of mind and body, something to be revered and celebrated.* * As women have established there roles as equals in his world the
concept of manfulness has taken quite a beating in the past 20 years. Do not fall into the trap of blaming women for this. Your job is honor being a man and that honor extends to those around you. And to those self righteous women who condemn the mass of men for the sins of those who come before us remember the ancient words: do not throw stones in the bedroom when you live, you are likely to injure that guy sleeping next to you.

Now that you have begun to study the core values of manfulness that define our practice together, let us meditate together on what manfulness really is. Let us share the golden cup of male virility and drink heartily from it. Manfulness is grounded in the belief that the world that we know as a man is a holy place. Every waking moment that is spent in a manful state is a blessed one. Manfulness is a perfectly balanced state of mind and body, something to be revered and celebrated.* *
As women have established there roles as equals in his world the concept of manfulness has taken quite a beating in the past 20 years. Do not fall into the trap of blaming women for this. Your job is honor being a man and that honor extends to those around you. And to those self righteous women who condemn the mass of men for the sins of those who come before us remember the ancient words: do not throw stones in the bedroom when you live, you are likely to injure that

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guy sleeping next to you.

Manful Meditation created an additional benefit that I quickly grasped as central to the pleasures of the practice. A sweet treat, a mental biscuit waiting for me at the end this road. So what is that benefit? This is one of the most important and blessed lessons of the practice of manful meditation: No woman will ever challenge the time spent in a manful meditation practice if you repeat the blessed chant of the manful man to her: “Honey, I need a few more minutes alone, I am in here meditating.” The first time that this thought came into my mind I laughed out loud. The first time that I used it on the fem-power while watching a brutal 49er loss and not wanting to see a soul in the mancave, I stopped laughing because it worked. She walked away from that door and later that afternoon could not have been more sympathetic when I explained that I had a bad session. Do you really think she would have cared about how pitiful the secondary handled itself that afternoon? I imagined how this could help my brothers in arms out there. Think about it. Repeat that line about needing time to meditate to yourself a few times and imagine how that would play with your partner. Go on, imagine the scene. She has walked into your room. You are sitting up on the couch. You might be thinking about how your favorite ball club
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gave it up last night in the 9th inning and worse yet, how much money you lost. What do you tell her? You tell her that you are meditating. You are bettering yourself. The result? You are golden. She loves you. She walks away feeling whole. The entire scene has changed. Done a 180. But the truth? You could have been asleep. You probably were asleep. You might have been thinking about a cold one or a slice of pizza. Your mind could be anywhere. Period. You could be thinking about anything, anything at all. You can.

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Learn them well and they will guide you during moments of personal difficulty. They will bring you joy where there was pain, slack where there was tension. They are the coder pins of the manfull experience, the silicon lube that frees the rusty mental hinges. Without them, your journey into manfullness will resemble that of Richard Simmons instead of Sean Connery Don’t skip over these essential concepts and try to fake it. Don’t skimp on the understanding. Take them deep until they are as clear as the power of a strike at the bowling alley. For they are the reasons that manfulness works. And for those of you are still thinking that the title of the chapter refers to an old Chicago song and have been waiting to understand the relevance of the reference, friends, you will need to study extra extra hard. And double that if you remembered the band was once named C.T.A. Tripe that if you know what it stands for. But this path can be your journey as well. I can serve as a vessel, a guide as you seek your own path to manful enlightenment. Indeed, what you hold in your hands today is a roadmap, a manual, a guidebook to living life fully and completely in the moment as a man. Free from boundaries yet loved by those around you.** All of this will flow to you from the practice of manfullness that I learned to love over the past year.

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Now there are those amongst you who really don’t care about your own journey. Go ahead and skip the next four chapters. I don’t recommend it. Those of you who study the road to manfullness will understand the journey that I took and get much more meaning out of it. Yes, it is time to move on to the glue that binds us all, that male html code that is called manfulness. As my studies intensified and fall blended into early winter my wife loved me more than ever. I thought about hundreds of manful subjects that I could understand and love and meditate upon with an open heart and lots of joy. Now I would spend hours lost in manly bliss and equally powerful marital harmony. Right? Well yes eventually I did and so did she. But not just yet.

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Manful Meditations are designed to make meditation fun. Betcha’ didn’t expect to see those two words in a row. How? By following these lessons you will learn to meditate the best experiences of a man’s life, i.e. your life, (and yes you can embellish to your heart’s content if you want to). We focus on them instead of the abstract traditional forms of meditation. We honor our memories and the things we love most. Like sports, alcohol, food, sex, and cars just to start. Later there will be a host of more complex subjects to work on but let’s not get the cart ahead of the horse. Manful meditation is a practice of choice. Once you get through these exercises you are ready to go off on your own path to manful freedom where your mind is lost somewhere in an AC/DC chord progression and looking like a star all the way. How is this even possible? Just relax, release and practice grasshopper (don’t think too much about how Carradine died wow that was weird), all will become clear in due time. Patience will be rewarded. BUILDING THE PRACTICE UP

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So what will happen? In the next chapters you will find a group of beginning meditation exercises divided by subject. Read and practice these groups of meditation exercises in order, don’t deviate from the groups. They become progressively more difficult to focus on and don’t skip ahead. In each group there will be five or more manful meditation exercises. Choose the exercises that you want to do in a particular group, but remember to work through the groups in order to build up a manfulness core. There are no points for finishing them all. The best way to work though an exercise is to start by reading it once thoroughly. Then close your eyes, enter a holy space and start slow and rhythmic breathing. As you mind starts to focus clearly and breathing slows down, work through the exercise at your own pace letting thoughts expand on the subject matter but not wander too far. When your mind starts to wander, and this is to be expected, just steer yourself back to the subject and if needed, feel free to come back to the written text for a reminder. Again, the point of each exercise is to free your mind as you relax with it. Do not expect to follow a meditation exercise verbatim and don’t treat is like an exam question. One part of an exercise may stick in your mind and if so, follow it. But if the road gets dark or confusing don’t get upset, it is normal for the mind to wander and don’t force it back. Just guide it back like a soft
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Tiger Woods put, right in the hole easy as pie. Time your thoughts to match the rhythm of your breathing. Don’t get steamrolled by the freight train of the flood that may open as you begin a meditation. Slow it down and take it at a pace that allows for concentration and deeper thought. Again, try to match the pace of your thoughts with that of your breathing and keep them slow regular and relaxed, even during the advanced meditations on sex that will follow later. This is a mental training ground. At the point of redundancy, recall that the path to progress is deceptively simple; you don’t have to do every exercise. And you don’t have to follow every step in the exercise. In fact, most or all of you won’t be able to follow each step. Your mind will wander and you will lose focus. It may go empty. That would be called progress. Don’t try to force the mental path in any one direction or another. Pick the meditation that you were working back up as it feels good again. And don’t get angry at yourself if you have to start over. Look at each exercise as a road map. You are doing the driving. You don’t even have to read to the end of an exercise if the feeling overtakes you or your thoughts differ from the path described. You can start and stop, although in the beginning it will be a better bet to complete reading a guided meditation exercise and then begin the process. As you get more comfortable it will be easier to pick any point to get started.
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After an exercise is completed it is crucial to remember to do it again until it has been digested you are ready to head to another. The more times the better. Remember friends, this is a practice, not a novel. Put this guide down and pick it up as you need. If this book doesn’t look beaten when you finish it we haven’t done our job. Along the way the manner in which you approach life will change in two significant ways. First, you will achieve better control over your mind. That’s right, better control over your thoughts and more energy to finish the tasks that you begin. Second, you will focus better on the tasks at hand. You will hold the screwdriver with more confidence as you tighten that window hinge because your mind is clear and in the moment. Even when hungover. Finally, you will focus on your goals and what you want out of your life. Once that happens a funny thing will follow, you will get there. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. No gain without the work. So, are you in a personal holy space? Sitting or in one of the manful mediation poses? Breathing calm? Is she gone? If not, ask her to leave and get the personal satisfaction that she will be happy to. Everything is in place. Let’s turn that engine over, get her started and see how she rolls.**
** The author did not intend that this book be a substitute for the brilliance of thousands of years of Eastern thought. Quite the contrary. This text celebrates meditation in a new and non-traditional way that is focused upon the lives of contemporary men. Those seeking more traditional texts to supplement their studies

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should refer to those books in the recommended reading section at any time.

Chapter 13. My journey within Finding the path Beer week had been such a pleasure for me and the length and power of my meditations had increased dramaticfally day by day.

Chapter 14 Some Early Manful Meditations Drinking the holy fluids (ah, demon alcohol) I had made the decision to really focus on manful subjects to assist me as I probed deeper into this new world that I loved. I did a long and throrough scanned my experiences and came back a more comfortable subject to begin my inner journey into manful meditation then drinking? The drinking of the holy fluids is a perfect set of easy and joyful manful meditations to begin your practice. A combination of perfect moments in life that you vaguely recall heightened by well above average attention to detail in preparation provides a perfect subject for a series of manful meditations, thoughts to repeat over and over again ever so blissfully and then to expand upon. Even better, this inner practice leads one to the heightened realm of
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consciousness of the inner bartender, as the quality of the meditation improves so will the quality of the drinks at the house. Spending the next week meditating on that which you cannot and likely should not have may be too much for any holy soul. Then again, should one who pursues a life of sobriety feel strong and desire to meditate on these concepts, this is a path that should be carefully monitored with the help of a mentor or friend or maybe her. Exercise 1 Oh blessed cold one Oh my brothers, I don’t start a game without stretching. So here I gave myself a mental soft toss. A warm up, working on something that is deeply known and loved: Enjoying a cold one. Ah yes for starts I decided to meditate on having a beer. Beer is deeply hardwired to the male consciousness to the tune of billions of dollars a year of sales and countless television ads that seek to shamefully capitalize upon manful moments to sell a particular brand or lifestyle. Manful meditation gives you the freedom to choose a manful moment you want and the beer you want any time any place. Close your eyes and begin. Breathing regularly? Time to get starte.. First select your glass. Want it chilled? Yes Pull it out of the freezer. Belgian fan? Get the matching glass with that cool Stella logo. Take it out and put it
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on the table, alone naked empty. Now choose your beer. Take an extra manful moment and relax with the variety of choice, the abundance of beer pleasure that we enjoy. Survey the variety of options that are available to you. And as always, feel free to skip anyone type that doesn’t float the boat. Start with the lightest pale lager, blonde clear and so pure. Move slowly into the wheat beers cloudy and sharp with lemon. Turn to the medium body and more boldly flavored pilsners. Let the hops and barley come into play as tastes become more forward. Want something comfortable? Think of the old beloved warriors, from Budweiser to Hamm’s to Lucky Lager. Remember their labels, the shape of their bottles, their tastes. Now the passage moves to the darker colors. You enter the world of ales. How about an India pale ale? Nothing pale about this one, or maybe something fuller, and keep it local. You have chosen your beer, it is at the right temperature and you are ready for a moment of heightened intensity. The pour. Hold the beer glass at a slight angle. Pour the beer from the bottle into the glass slowly. Feel like a bartender, then go ahead an imagine a pull on the handle to the same effect. Let the beer fill the glass slowly watching the head begin to form. End the pour so that the head covers the top of the glass. Now wait and let the beer settle.
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If the pour makes you happy then end here and start again for your 10 and 20 breath cycles. On the other hand if you are conscious you should be ready for the taste by now. Want to chug it? Go for it. The meditation is yours. Do you need an instruction to repeat this exercise or did you already? Exercise 2 The perfect glass of red wine

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Exercise 3 The Margarita. You can’t start the margarita meditation without setting the stage, and what goes better with a beach on the Pacific Coast Mexico. If you have been there, you know what is coming. If you haven’t, here is a setting for you to focus on. Begin here with these thoughts. Warm sand warm sun. Repeat five times. Continue. Now feel them. Warm sand, warm sun, blue sky warm clear water. Repeat ten times or more until you are ready for the margarita. Now pause and start to visualize the setting of your choice. You can stay a beach or you can be at home, hey you can have a freezer at the beach. You
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are in control. Go to your freezer. Watch the condensation slowly pour out of the freezer as you pull out the ice tray. Crack the tray and put 4 ice cubes per drink in a big ceramic bowl. Now go to the bar and pull out your favorite tequila. Don’t have one? That’s OK, just think tequila. Got one? You know what the bottle looks like. Need a suggestion? How about Porfidio out of Vera Cruz. The greatest looking tequila bottle, tall and slender with a glass cactus coming out of the bottom. It can be silver it can be gold, you make the call, reposado, anejo, all up to you. Bring out a silver cocktail shaker from the bar. Get several limes. Cut them in ½. Take a moment and look at each ½, put your nose up to them and draw in the tart but sweet smell of the tropics. Squeeze them by hand or with a squeezer. Watch the juice run into the cocktail shaker. Smell the fresh citrus. Now take the tequila bottle and pour in twice as much of the lime juice that you have set aside. Get out the Cointreau or the Grand Marinier. And if you have something against the French, go with triple sec or the new Patron orange liqueur. Pour in one part. Feeling aggressive? Make your drink a double. Why not? Who is counting? Add the ice cubes.
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Cover with the strainer. Shake and swirl. Find your favorite glass and imagine it. Now hold the strainer over the shaker and begin to pour. Watch the margarita as it pours into your glass, cloudy and cold. Sit down some place comfortable. Take your glass. Look at the view. Now bring the glass to your nose and smell this sacred blend of the fruits of this earth. It should not be too hard to top everything else in your too active mind at this point. Now take the first sip, not too long, but enough to fill your mouth. Sip and sip again. Repeat five times. You will be happy just thinking about it. Repeat again as needed. You won’t get drunk either. Exercise 4 Cool calm collected, the Martini. Why does the martini that appeal to that sub group of manful mediators known as the button downs? Is it the exquisite detail in preparation the austere yet complex flavors or is the damn shape of the holy vessel, the martini glass? And no other meditation offers quite the same manful extra exercise, a focus on the ultimate martini drinker, James Bond. As this exercise begins and the mind starts to clear repeat the mantra, shaken, not stirred. Shaken, not stirred. As the words repeat move your focus to the
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beloved receptacle, the vessel of this meditation, the martini glass. Now meditate upon the freezer where it waits, cold yet clear. Waiting. Choose your alcohol and the accompaniment of your choice. Onion, lemon peel, vodka or gin, this hallowed menu is of your own volition. Imagine the cold metal cocktail shaker in your hand as you shake it back and forth. Now strain the drink into the glass. Look at it. Hold the glass by the stem, raise it to your lips and sip. This is where the self-guided portion of the meditation should engage easily. Let the botanical cloud of flavors descend over your lips and tongue and down your throat. The spices and herbs of the gin, forward yet understated, the beautiful luminous quality of the cold liquid. An elegant and manful meditation as cool as the drink itself. Exercise 5 Exploring the wide world of drinks This series of self-guided meditations is designed to encourage you to explore the world of drinks as part of your manful meditation practice. By now a pattern has emerged from these exercises that should be clear to the reader. After controlling your thoughts focus on your breath. Once under control, take your mind to a place that you want to be, a setting that you love where the featured drink would be served. Make sure to take the time to focus upon the small steps along the way that make the drink
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special. Some suggestions include: A Cuba libre on a very hot day. Scotch. Some of you want to meditate in this peat bog. I never understood it but each to their own! A warm brandy snifter, a spectacular French cognac, hold the bowl in your hands, swish gently smell and breathe. The Modern Cocktail. For all of those younger mixologists go wild here. Let your free cocktail flag flow in the breeze in visions of pomegranate extract, absinthe and vanilla beans. Exercise 6 The state of being drunk (and then alas hungover) THIS NEEDS WORK OR TO BE MOVED. This two exercise group is a preview of what will come in your practice; advanced meditation exercises that become more difficult as your internal skills and discipline emerge. While it is fun and always easy to meditate about a cocktail and the pleasure it might bring at any given moment, focusing on being drunk and then hungover is quite a different paradigm altogether. The first part of this meditation will take you
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back to a moment when you were drunk. The setting and what it was that you drank that day or evening. But when finishing the meditation take a moment to look at the choice you made and just how it came to pass that you wound up having that extra one too many. Begin as always with your breathing. As your mind calms take it back to that moment where you crossed that internal frontier just ahead of the word coherent. Where were you? Bar? Home? Or? Now ask yourself this question: Why did you get drunk?WEAK On to the next morning. When considering a hangover an obvious choice emerges to the reader and practitioner. Why? Why would anyone want to focus on such an unpleasant subject as a hangover? Bringing mental focus and acuity to more personal and unpleasant subjects is a preview of the more advanced techniques that we are building towards as your practice becomes more focused. Overcoming what seem to be negative thoughts and finding joy in them teaches us to minimize their damages and look forward when things are bleak. This is always a skill. NOW PAUSE. Time to take a break and review the first 6 exercises. How did they go? Which ones went easily and which did not? Which ones did you repeat with pleasure?
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And the others that you skipped, can you figure out why? When you are done good news is coming. It is time to eat.

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ne over 20 different exercises and if you have meditated an average of times on each that is 100 guided meditation exercises. And it wasn’t bad at all was it. So take a moment and pause again. Look back at the these three subjects and meditate on each of them on an abstract basis. Before moving on group number 4. What did each of these powerful concepts mean to you in your life then and what about now. Spend a few moments letting the mind wander over them, core values that a central to the identity a manful man. Righteous parts of manful living that you have enjoyed over the years, linger for a minute longer in this holy trinity of sports, food and drink. And when you are full of their spirit enjoy the calm that it brings you. Then and only then are you ready for a new and much more complex subject that awaits you in this journey together. Women.

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Chapter 11 The shape of the body of the Buddha’s girlfriend The holy spirit James Brown sang a hallowed chant of manfulness in a voice that was not of this life and time. He sang: “This is man’s world. But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.” Then he grunted and screamed as only a celestial visitor could and did a soul clap. And he continued his blessed chant. “Man needs a woman. He got to have a woman. Man, man can make everything he can. But a woman makes a better man.” Take a moment and meditate on that chant but at the same time try not to think too much about his hair. That mental image can distract even the most thoughtful and dedicated meditation. When ready, begin this complex set of meditations with an open and clear mind. You are going to need it for this is hallowed but often very dangerous ground to walk upon. At the same time it offers one the opportunity to gaze upon the most revered visions that we have as men without the fear that so often walks hand in hand with this experience. Because thank god they can’t read our minds, as much as they want to or think that the can. And a last reminder from the Holy soul brother number#1. A man that doesn’t have a woman is
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lost. Amen to that. Exercise 1 The holy of holies A woman’s butt** Asking a righteous man to meditate upon a woman’s butt is like asking an art student to dwell upon a sculpture such as say Michelangelo’s David. A perfect woman’s ass is art, plain and simple. Match. Set. Point. Game over. Throughout life many manful moments have bee spent gazing longingly at this particularly glorious part of the female anatomy and the subject of this meditation exercise without the need for instruction. How many of those moments were spent as your eyes followed a beautiful woman’s body as she walked by you on the street? Thank the spirits that they do not turn around to see that look in our eyes. Indeed, if they really had eyes in the back of their heads the world would be a different place. But let us focus together now. What sort of butt is the one you wish to meditate upon? It might be that of someone you love, it might be one that you have admired from afar and will never touch. Well, at least not with your hands, but you have in the heart. Over and over one word comes back to your mind as this butt hovers in the mind’s eye. That word is perfect. Start your meditation by thinking of that
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perfect butt. And as with all of the meditations in this group 5, beauty is truly in the mind of the beholder. Is it large? Can you get your hands around it? Small? Round? Oblong? How does it move? Does it appear soft? Hard? Muscular? Flabby? Does it shift from side to side or just stay there moving up and down up and down and side to side. Now come back to your breathing, slow it down. What emotion does this particular butt carry? Is it a happy butt? Or is it sad? Is it angry? Loving? Is it a butt that hates or loves? What is that butt clothed in? And if women didn’t want men looking at their behinds why would they wear what the wear. G-string bikini underwear peaking out from a tight pair of jeans? Who can blame even a chaste and pious soul for gazing? Found the butt of your dreams? Is it in a righteous space and outfit? Good. Now focus on it for a really really long time. That’s right, let your third eye drink mightily from these waters and your id shall be refreshed. You can take it all in without fear that someone will be ‘offended’ by this love. Take your time, it’s your manful meditation and a butt that you love. So stare at it. And where you want to go with this mediation is your business. Just remember to keep breathing and stay out of the physical realm.

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**This exercise is dedicated with deepest respect to the high priest of
holy butt mediation, the “general” of Panama City and David who first shared this ancient manful mantra with me.

Exercise 2 When is a pear not a pear? A melon not a melon? The perfect breast Following up the first exercise of this group by asking you holy warriors to focus on the second temple of the woman’s body is a test of even an advanced practioner’s concentration skill and focus. It is time to test yourself and see what has been learned. So clear the mind and begin anew. Let the images of breasts come into your mind like a flock of a thousand different kinds of birds. For there as many kind of breasts as there are eyes or noses. You see them everywhere. You see them every day. What images come into this part of our journey? As the revered Firesign sages once said, does she have a balcony that you would do Shakespeare from”? Are they large pendulous heavy and ripe as cantaloupes? Or tight and tiny nipples poking through a tank top? What color are they? Red as bing cherries or brown as fine leather? Let the mind wander freely here don’t hold it back. What images have come into this mediation? Is she clothed or not. Not that it is likely, but if you need some inspiration for this meditation try this:
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Think of the moment that a perfect pair emerges from underneath a tight white shirt, or that moment when you reach behind her back and unhook her bra and it falls free. They are there in all of their beauty for you to look at. Now in your mind’s eye reach out and touch them. Remember how a particular pair that stand out in memory felt. And remember the first pair that you were lucky enough to get your hands on. The rest should be easy. The discipline in this exercise is keeping your manful monkey mind of the focus of this exercise, her breasts. Hold your thoughts on that subject only. If your mental hands start to move down her waist towards her stomach stop immediately. You are losing focus and wandering badly. Are you focused clearly on this incredible pleasure zone? Good, now repeat repeat repeat, this shouldn’t be a tough one, and we will see you later when you have calmed back down and are thinking clearly. And remember to breathe. Exercise 3 First kiss. Feel better now? Good. Let’s go explore a different path where woman worship is at its most innocent and sweet. Your first kiss. For many the first kiss is long forgotten, buried
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under layer upon layer of memories and time. So for this meditation you can focus on your first kiss or should you wish, the first kiss that meant something. Your choice, the instructions for this manful mediation are the same. Before beginning remember who she was? How old were you? How old was she? What was the setting? Were you home, in a car, at a friends house? The back of a van or a truck. Focus on the setting, the air, the temperature, how she looked. Was it sudden and surprising? Had you been planning this or what it spontaneous? Were you holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes or did you just grab her? Was anything said or what do you wish you had said? Can you remember the taste of her lips? Did she keep her mouth closed? Was she chaste and shocked, or did she grab you and hold you tight? Did she part her lips or did you force your way in? You should be well started on this exercise and not need much more help from here. Focus on the moment, how it passed, and how it ended. If this is a good one you will be back many times, don’t dwell on it to much and try to limit yourself to 10. repetitions You can’t stay here much longer and if you keep repeating the same exercises there won’t be any progress. Darn.

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Exercise 4 Mountains rising in the distance: The first girl who really got you hot. This meditation builds upon the sentiment that started in exercise 4. Because sometime after the first kiss a very different moment occurred. A different feeling. One that got you excited. Something else entirely, a bit rough stormy and turbulent. Maybe even violent and perhaps wild. You might have been the leader in the moment that is confronting you now. But perhaps not. That time it got out of hand and the boundaries began to crumble. And the walls came tumbling down and the trumpets blared. Some woman got you really hot. There is no need to guide further on this meditation. This is a memory that most manful men have etched into their minds, there might be some internal excavating to do, but once the scene is set, it should be like watching a Jamaican 100 yard dash champion let loose from the blocks. Enjoy. Exercise 5 Climbing the peaks of joy The Best lover of your life. Exercise 5 is a warm up for what is coming later, more advanced exercises that force you to think while you meditate. While they guide you, they bring up as many questions as they answer. You should only begin the advanced instruction once you have
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learned to easily guide yourself through the basic group. Climbing this peak will show you why. The reason why this meditation is advanced is a simple but complex one. There is a good to great chance that the woman who is about to grace your mental bed is not that currently shares the real one. This can often cause a sense of unease and bring back memories that have long been banished. Jus because she was the best lover doesn’t make here a keeper for the long term. For most of you this will be fun, but keep those woulda coulda shoulda thoughts at bay. Those are issues well beyond control and not positive for meditation at any time. Especially when you are thinking about how fine she was and how she moved. Uh huh. Already gone. Good, take off. Need some guidance? Take the journey back now and let the rogues gallery of women that have allowed you into their inner world and let the mind drift across them one by one until the image of one in a particular moment of ecstatic movement stops on this roulette wheel of love. When you get there follow the well known route of manful meditation, recall the scene in detail, then shift to her and finally ready, set, action. Feel free to repeat as needed. Like you need the encouragement. Exercise 6 Making a woman come For many readers this issue is highly personal
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and maybe something they don’t like to focus on. The question for that reader is this: Why not? This meditation begins with a frank chat with yourself about your partner and how you feel when you make her come. It should be one of the most fulfilling moments in a man’s life. Sadly it has been presented to manful men as the rubic’s cube of sexuality, affording it the accessibility of the gates of Mordor. If this is a tough subject then move the subject of the meditation in that direction but gently. If the meditation begins moving quickly into thoughts about why she isn’t and why you can’t then slow down and move gently away. This meditation will come up later as you explore the love of your partner. For now, you can move on to those spinning wheels of pleasure and a familiar lawn to lie on. For those of you who enjoy getting your partner off stay and meditate on those fireworks. And count your blessings. Exercise 7 Masturbation What is this exercise doing here in a chapter about women? Well that is the challenge that your guide faced when writing it. It really didn’t fit anywhere else. This is the only chapter about sex in the guide so even though there are no women involved in masturbation cut your author some slack
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and read on. Masturbation is a complex subject, so much so that it lends itself perfectly to a series of mediation exercises grouped around this subject. First time. First time you got caught. What you masturbated about. Exercise 8. Isn’t something missing? Yes something is. Can you guess what it is? How can we take time meditating about women without spending lots of time focused on the glory of sex. That’s right. Fucking. Well there is a reason. Some subjects are so vast so complex and so tempting that they will detour even the most holy of holy men from the path to enlightenment. So tempting would it be to meditate about fucking that a manful man might never reach the advanced stages of manful meditation and all that it brings. In other words most of you would stop here for a long long time. Now there will be those amongst you that think you have the strength to dabble. You made it through the chapter on the first girl who got you hot, right? Well that was focused for a reason. Some of you won’t be able to stop. Well like the sign said in front of Davey Jones Locker: Enter at your
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own risk. For those who haven’t left us for glories of the old in out another manful treat awaits. Another kind of motion entirely. Speed.

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Chapter 11 Manful Meditations Beginning Exercises Group 6 To drive on this earth is divine Motion. So attractive so seductive, the combination of motion and speed. This spinning wheel is hypnotic, round and always in our minds. So many ways to move so many ways to fall. Another set of yins and yangs to ponder. We will begin this chapter with a teaching. The lion’s roar of the downshift beats deep in the heart of even the youngest manful man. A few weeks ago I was waiting for a red light in my neighborhood. That summer afternoon was a perfect day to drive our bright red 1980’s Alfa Romeo Spyder convertible. For those that don’t know it, the car may be underpowered, but it has the classic pinafarina studio sports car nose, chrome grill and recessed headlights that say simply sports car. It is also red (what else?). A very young manful man (probably no more than 8 years old) was crossing with his mother and his younger brother. I waited for them to go by. As he passed in front of the long red nose of the Alfa he looked at it a manner that is usually reserved for the subject of a previous group of meditations, women.
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When he was about to pass by the front of the car, he looked right at me and said “Wow Mister, that is a really cool car”. I smiled back at him and replied, “Thanks, when you get older, I hope you get the one that you want.” And he walked away still smiling with his towel draped over his shoulder. Where did this deep car worship come from already profoundly present already in the mind of an 8 year old boy? We don’t know and there is no need to care. After women and sports, and sometimes before and always during lean times, men love their cars. Now there very few of my brothers do not worship at the feet of the Zeus of motion, the automobile. For them, move on to Exercise 4, cycling or 5, or just skip this group altogether. But before you do, why not rev it up and give it a chance? Exercise 1 Lion’s roar of the downshift. This is a mediation that combines two o the greatest joys that a man can experience in his life, a tight car and a challenging road. As usual, if you are a NASCAR driver go ahead, turn the key and go. For the rest of us, let the day begin driving on a road that you know. You may have driven it once or a thousand times, but your muscle memory still feels it. What are you driving? Remember how the car
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felt, the seats, the key and the sound that it made when you started it. Take a moment to let your gaze move around the car, remember its colors, its beauty and perhaps its damage or faults. Remember the sound that it made when idling. On to the scene. Where are you? On the coast? In the mountains? On an empty stretch of 4 lane freeway late at night? A deserted stretch of 2 lane road in the early morning desert with the horizon stretching endlessly. Where are you? Find that place. Now get back into the driver’s seat. Feel the engine as the RPM’s start to climb. Let you comfort zone get left in the rear view mirror. There are no speed traps here, no cops and you take the turn as tight as you want. Now as the turn intensifies you downshift, the tach enters that zone between yellow and red and the engine sings as the grip gets even tighter and you come out of the curve like a slingshot. The road lies ahead. You are not in a hurry. You drive. Exercise 2 Your first ride So what was the first car that you bought anyway? Not the one that your dad handed down to you (although if that is a car that you loved by all means go for it and hang out with that old memory for a while.) No, this meditation is designed to take you back
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to the first car the you purchased. That’s right, probably the biggest amount of money that you had ever spent to that moment and maybe the first time you went seriously into debt. Now think about the purchase of that car? Who did you buy it from? What did it cost and how did you scrape together those funds? Why did you buy it? Vanity? Looks? Necessity? What kind of car was it? How much did you pay? Did you have trouble getting it home? Let your mind get behind that wheel again and remember what it meant to you to have your first set of wheels. Exercise 3 Waxing your car Does not your chariot deserve the greatest of love and care? Is there a greater pleasure than seeing color and shine emerge from the dirt and grime of the street? This is a simple and short exercise focused on a very simple guy pleasure, cleaning your car.

Exercise 4 Bikes (powered and not) Exercise 5 DYI

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Many men experience some of their first manful meditations without knowing while engaged in this manful moment, fixing their car. At the same time, these moments are knows for the quixotic ability to move from deep concentration to outbursts of extreme anger in the blink of any eye. Repairing a car is a universal manful meditation. Most of us wouldn’t know how to begin to rebuild a transmission or change out a clutch. At the same time we have known the pleasure of simply replacing a burnt out headlight of fixing a squeak. Begin this meditation by choosing a repair that you enjoy and a car that you would like to work on. Put together a list of the tools that you will need, don’t worry about whether they are metric or not. In this meditation, the tools are correct, the bolts turn easy and best of all, the repair is going to work.

Chapter 12 Beginning Meditations Group 7 Working for the almighty dollar (Career & Business) The biggest prick that you ever worked for or with The deaSinging the contract, closing the sale Real Estate

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Chapter 13 Beginning Group 8 Re-energizing the creative chakras Music, Film, Books and more. Before we happily descend into the pleasure pit of media, a parable on the yin and yang of man’s life and technology. We live in a time of the greatest access to media in history, an explosion which has democratized our access to these creative chakras while at the same time flooding us with so much information that we simply turn off. These meditations are designed to take you back to the media that you have loved. When you finish them there will be a concluding exercise that will guide you toward media choice in the future. The parable? Once upon a time there was media domination. CONCLUDE Exercise 1 The first song you ever loved. Each man-bhudda has a memory of a song deep in his mind. This exercise requires a particularly clear starting point as the moment we are seeking is often clouded by the power of external forces that were occurring at the same time. So empty all thoughts from your head and when you are breathing slowly and evenly begin. What is the first song that you really really loved. Go
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back to the moment when it overwhelmed you. Where were you? In a child hood bedroom, at a concert, in a car? This was the moment when a song went from music to the inside your head and stayed there. Dug in and touched the core of your mind and soul. Focus on the moment that it happened. What sound made the connection? A vocal? A guitar chord? A piano? Let that one sound hang in this meditation, a personal Tibetan bell for you to ring. Then take the song through your mind, try to remember the entire thing. If you can’t just focus on the parts that you do. This is not a contest. Repeat. First concert. If you haven’t been to one well it is time to go see some live music! First song you made out to A footnote. Sam Cooke singing a change is gonna come books, music, film… Finishing exercise. What do your choices have in common? How can they guide you in your media choices as the flood of options descends upon you. Was it emotion? Action? And what elements do you
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miss

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Chapter 14 Guy Stuff The little things that make manfullness what it is. A perfect shave.

Building a fire outdorrs Mowing the lawn. If you don’t have a lawn, well imagine one or substitue planting a tree. Cleaning the dog shit (you think I am serious, you are going to far, but the master is laughing at you). And the kitty litter box, no matter how hard you try, just won’t do. Working the remote control, finding the right button. Finishing an IKEA dresser.

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Chapter 15 Oil stains in your driveway Is this working? This is a good time to check in on this process before you move on to the advanced excercises that follow. Remember the cars that you owned when you were younger and we meditate on earlier? Ever owned an Italian car such as say a Fiat? A $500 sports car? How about an old Ford with over 100,000 miles on it, or maybe worse yet a Chevy Vega. No, you won’t be meditating on that and if you are the sort of man that wants to meditate about the glory of an aluminum engine block, this bhudda is out of magic bullets for you. And after that old car finally started when you would pull it out of the driveway you couldn’t help seeing them there, the oil stains in your driveway. There they were; dark brown stains on the concrete with an oily sheen that said…that said what? That you didn’t maintain your car? That you couldn’t afford something better? That your car was a disaster? That you were a disaster? How did you react? Did you get angry? And what did you do about it? We all get oil stains in our driveways. The question is what do you do with them? Worry? You can’t change them once they are there. Try to scrub them out? Your mother might be proud of your
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efforts, but the odds are long that no matter how long you scrub the driveway with whatever chemical crap the salesman at the car parts store sold you they aren’t going away. You can’t control those spots once they have dripped out of the leak and onto the concrete. They are there. You have to accept them and over time, you know, they fade away. And no one is going to talk about them at your funeral or write about them on your gravestone. Life is full of I cant’s and I won’t. Most of these moments relate to with things that are out of your control anyway. But you beat yourself senseless worrying about them. To the extent that your fears and phobias take away from your every day enjoyment of every moment that we have on this short strange journey they destroy your senses. As you read this book a bunch of I can’t and it won’t came into your head. For example: 1. It won’t matter. It does matter. It has already changed your home life for the better. If you have read this book and you are spending more than 10 minutes a day in manful meditation your attention span has already improved. This is a medical fact. (FN here) 2. I can’t believe that my partner will care about the stuff I am interested in, she never did before. Well, in this case it is true, she still doesn’t. But that is OK, she thinks you are meditating. Remember? At
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least you can spend all the time you want focused on what interests you the most. That is a step in the right direction and you are more relaxed. That is progress! 3. I can’t do this. Have you tried? Really tried? Still can’t? Are you telling me that you don’t enough concentration to sit down and spend five minutes thinking about an amazing baseball game or the most beautiful tits you have ever seen or touched? You many not want to, you may not think you can do this, but believe me you can and you already have. Let’s put those daydreaming skills to use! 4. How often do I do this? A question often arises, how often should I practice? There are numerous answers to this question, each of which should be considered by the practionner before a decision is made. There is only one person who can make the decision about how much to practice. That is you. However, that decision is often a difficult one. It is very to become overwhelmed by the day to day responsibilities of life and give up on your manful meditation practice. This is a mistake. One way to ensure a meaningful practice is to dedicate a specific time to it every day. It could be anytime, upon waking, before dinner or after. Setting that time to meditate will make sure that you do so at least some of the time.

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There is no way that you can do this too much or too often. You will find that as the benefits of your practice grow the amount of time that you spend meditating will as well. So pick your ass up off of your couch, wherever it is and commit to ten minutes a day of quiet manful thought. Watch what happens after a week and then after a month. It will matter.

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Chapter 15 Advanced Practice The basics In the advanced practice we celebrate lives spent as men, reflecting upon them during manful meditation in respect and often horror. These groups of exercises are the final chapter and represent the most difficult level of the manful mediation practice. The meditations that you have been guided through have looked at many aspect of your life. Now you will examine your present. What is going on now and meditate upon those moments that make up your life as it lives now. These exercises guides will seem to be the shortest because they are the most dependent upon you. But they may be the longest in practice as you think them through and meditate upon them. If you want to take notes get out your computer or a pen and paper and do so. And when you finish meditating on one exercise five times move on to the next. Here are some advanced concepts that you may wish to consider as you move along in your manful mediation practice. Time to turn up the inner heat.

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Chapter 16. Life and death moments. We are entering, We are leaving the building. As we journey together through life it is good to reflect upon those people and events that meant most to us. But some into clearer focus and intensity by the shear weight of their impact upon our lives. This chapter looks at those moments and people. Exercise 1 The birth of your first son. This is a meditation that many of you may wish to skip (maybe you weren’t there, maybe you closed your eyes) but for those of you who have witnessed the birth of your first son we will move forward together into a moment of pure and clear manfulness as bright as desert sunrise. Remember the date first. Then try to think of the time. If you can’t remember the time try to recall whether it was morning afternoon or evening. Now go back a few hours and put yourself in the moment when you and your wife first realized that this really was the moment (and yes for those who had a c-section that won’t matter so much) that you had been reading about or thinking about or worrying about. Think of the drive to the hospital, admission and the room or rooms you were in that
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day. This isn’t a test; imagination can take a role here. At some point if you were in a hospital they moved you to a birthing room. How are you feeling at this point? What are you doing, are you in the room with her and the nurses and doctors? Watching through a window? Put yourself back at that moment when birth occurs. If you weren’t there imagine it. The head poking through, the wet tousled here, the sudden shocking moment when the shoulders clear her body, the rush of the body into the world, the first time you see your first child. And if you are at peace and fully zoomed in our manful moment, the first time you saw that little penis. There is that small body and the first action he takes, a cry, a breath or a pee. A gentle arcing stream of water, free for the first time and all over a nurse. Welcome to the world. Repeat over and over again, you should never get tired of this meditation and when you are done do the same exercise for the birth of your daughter and if prolific, kid by kid by kid. Exercise 2. Putting the ring on your wife’s finger for the first time (getting married). Before beginning this meditation many students may experience anxiety, the subject of its own mediation and the basis for so many others. This is normal. There is such anxiety when this moment happens
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and equal amounts of anxiety if it hasn’t. And it doesn’t get better the second time, just different. Now, back to the moment. This should be easy. Where were you standing? Inside or out, get there now. Take a moment in the meditation to remember how she looked, her hair, what she was wearing. And if that memory is locked away, go and get a photo, this is worth some extra effort. What were you doing at that moment? One thing and one thing only. Who handed you the ring? How did he look? Who was on stage? Remember the look in her eyes and the commitment in your heart (or maybe the burning sensation in the pit of your stomach). Take some time and breath. Bring her hand back into yours and feel its warmth. Get the ring out where everyone can see it and slide it calmly and gently back over her finger once again. Repeat the image, breathe and dwell. Been married twice or more? Choose the marriage that made you the happiest or for that rare manful meditator, do them all. For those amongst us who need a bit of a boost in their relationship (and who doesn’t?) don’t hesitate to mention your meditation tonight at that appropriate moment, embellish a bit about how it felt and maybe offer to reenact it. This is a can’t lose moment unless things are really horrible. In that case at least the reality will become clear and
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regretfully another meditation that follows; break up. Exercise 3 Your father’s eulogy. This manful meditation is focused on the man who influenced you most in your life, whether by his presence or his absence, your father. If he is alive still you can think about his eulogy now. If he is gone you will try to remember what you said. If you can’t remember what you said or you didn’t speak you can make give the eulogy in this mediation that you should have. And if dad just wasn’t there and this exercise just brings up a lot of sour bile; transfer the instructions to the person who meant the most to you growing up. It could be mom, an uncle, aunt teacher or grandparent. It is mom, consider skipping to the next exercise. Just substitute the person who took up the slack for the dad who wasn’t there. Clear your mind and open your heart, this is an advanced meditation that requires discipline and strength. It may not be pretty. But a tale of manful sharing presents itself here. My father Harry’s eulogy was given by a Rabbi that had known our family for over 40 years. Paul Dubin was a great thinker, a bit of a radical who came out against the Vietnam War way before it was cool and almost was fired for his beliefs. All those years later we somehow located Paul and he agreed to speak at my father’s burial. After
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mom finally sat down and stopped working the crowd he looked over the assembly milking the moment. He paused for a what seemed like a long time and began in a calm deep voice. “Harry Kragen was a difficult man.” This was the nicest thing that he could say. That is where he started my father’s eulogy for me. Where will your father’s begin? Let’s get started. First picture his face. Focus on it for a moment, especially if he is gone. Try to imagine his face at different times in your life as you aged together. Think of him when you were small, doing the things that fathers do and if he was not there, think of the things he should have done. And how you feel about him. Let it stay there. Now think about his life. Look at his strengths. His weaknesses. Accomplishments. Failures. The things he wanted to do but couldn’t. His emotions, did they come easily to him or painful slow like a drip from a leaking faucet. Could he express his love to you or was it hidden. Stop here and take a moment to meditate on this. Get through the surface, be a man, dig into it. To finish the meditation open your mind to the behaviors of your father that you see inside of yourself. Let the old man’s ghost walk the room for a few minutes and see how it familiar it looks. Don’t kid yourself, those behaviors are there. Think about them. Now read the instructions to this mediation and
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do it again. Repeat it several times. Did the eulogy change? Did you discover something that you might have left out the first time through? And then repeat it again as needed. For this exercise five times may be too much or hopefully too little. Only you know. Exercise 4. Mom A man’s relationship with his mother is the subject of a book, not an exercise. Make that a lot of books. For as many books as there are, there are just as many mother son emotions. And right now my mother, looking spiritually over my shoulder is wondering one thing, what am I doing at Chapter 15 exercise 4? Is that how important I am to you? Is that the best you can do? I can see her finger pointing at me right now. Don’t write mom’s eulogy, like we just did for dad. Instead, this meditation will focus on a perfect mother/son moment.** Start with her looks that day. Focus on her mood, her demeanor and her spirit. What is it about this moment that made your mom special, or if she wasn’t, what made her not. This may not be a joyous meditation, it does not have to be. It looks at the essence of your mother. Are you there now? Take yourself deep into that moment and let it linger. Hold it for a minimum of 10 breaths and repeat that feeling of that moment at
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least 10 times. She is or was worth it, wasn’t she? Keep this meditation handy, it is a reminder of how important mom is to manful meditation practice.
** There may be many men that are out there struggling to deal with a lot of anger over the lack of those moments in their lives. Dig deep. You will find one where she was there for you in a way that no one else could ever be. Don’t let the bitterness of what she was not take that moment of meditation away. A manful mediation forgives his mother no matter what she did.

Scratching your pubic hair or somewhere else that itch Build you own, later, start a website, send bob your manful meditations. Self guided meditations? Your career Children Really advanced emotions: Anger Fear Sadness Apology Random Pet Relative
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Friend Future. The ladder of time and what rung will you be on? Seeing yourself at 5 years, then 10 then 20. The first article of clothing that meant something to you. Material goods Chapter 17 Advance Practice NOW. Exercise 1 What means most to you in your life? Reflect upon the people around you, family friends, workers and social contacts. Let there faces run through your mind and meditate upon what they mean to you. Spend the most time on those that mean the most. Exercise 2 What would you change if given the absolute right to change one thing? Your call. Exercise 3. Where do you want to be in 1 year, 3 years and 5.

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There are several aspects to this mediation, put the 1 3 and 5 year goals on each. First, where do you want to be physically? This could refer to where you live. It could refer to your body. You decide. Mentally? And finally, spiritually? And if you are happy where you are meditate on that. Exercise 4. Chapter 17 Places Urban Nature Foreign Where you were born Advanced manful meditation focuses upon your relationship with self as opposed to your relationship with the world. The first set of manful meditations introduced you to the practice of sitting breathing and being aware. Now that you are you can move into these advanced subject and keep your focus. By exploring these advanced meditations you will become more comfortable with you past, your
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present and your future. While not as much ‘fun’ as the first group they allow you to harness the power of manful meditation to effect change in your life. Add: Embarrassing moment in your life. Understanding why you were embarrassed will allow you to forgive yourself. Now this is going to take some work. Allowing yourself to bury the pride and go back to an incredibly embarrassing moment is a sign of manful maturity, an outgrowth of your manfulness. Where were you? How old were you? Can you remember the people who were around you? Now take yourself right back to that moment. Set the scene. Take yourself up to the cliff of your confidence and jump. Let yourself go. Feel the pain that you felt, the flush that rose up in your cheeks, the desire to hide. Remember the moment. Remember who and were you were. And focus on just why it was that it was so damn difficult for you to handle. Maybe you would just laugh at it now. Maybe not. Now let that feeling overwhelm you and remember, it is in the past and it is not going to happen again. Ever. The usual five repetitions or more are optional here. Not many of us want to stay here for too long. Add:
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The first time you met your wife (or current “other”). The worst break up. Something that you did that you are proud of. Something you did that you want to forget. Something that you are ashamed of This is a particularly tough meditation, one left for those that have become comfortable not only with the manful mediation process, but with themselves. Shame is a deep emotion for a man, one that he does not often feels yet one that comes profoundly deeply and painfully, a deep nasty emotional zit that rises slowly and stays for days. By meditating on this shameful event of your life first focus upon what happened. As you live these moments again remember who was involved, what happened, how old were you and where you were. Now as the moments become clearer in your head allow the emotions that led to a feeling of shame to distill and to become clear. Stay with those feelings for a while and linger on them. Swirl them in your mind as you would a good cognac until they are completely and thoroughly understood, chewed four times like cow and her cud. Ask this question as you breathe. Why did this moment cause me to feel ashamed? And when you answer it, stay there for at least 10 breaths. Now here comes the best part. Spend the rest of the mediation forgiving yourself. That’s right, forgive
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yourself. Stay there until you are ready to end the exercise. After you end the exercise stop for a moment before reentering the day. Are the people who thought of alive? Would it be right to contact them and ask for their forgiveness to? Or would it just make an already bad situation worse. Only you can decide. Add: bodily functions: Scratching your balls. Taking a major dump A good belch after a good meal Really blowing your nose Add: Pets A good walk with you dog Also possible: Fixing shit Mechanical functions Solving a puzzle A great book Some additional thoughts and meditations: Expectations Acceptance of limits Relationships with others Friendship Death Anger Violence Failure.
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Your dead tomato plants why does a garden fail? The environment Great public Places inside Great public Places outside San Marcos Square Time Square The Statue of Liberty Machu Piccu Your get the picture Fear Obsession How do you make choices? Career Friendship Eight headed twisting snakes that dance. Your Siblings. Before beginning this work your humble servant is compelled to make a comment. I believe that I am particularly well suited to comment upon this subject having had the exact kind of experience that brings me real clarity when I meditate on sibling relationships. I am only child. Though the years I have watched siblings put each other through torture that only the great dictators of the world and the truncheon wielding rat henchmen could even dream of, so bitter and caustic is the attack, and usually over one subject. Money.
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This won’t be a meditation about sibling and money. That is too much work for a single mediation exercise and carries the potential to destroy all progress made by the reader to date. Always toxic and rarely a happy ending. With that restriction begin by picking a moment in your with a brother or a sister. Take yourself back to the family home or car or vacation. Where are you? What is happening? What is being said? Are you fighting? Laughing or in a secret place that only you knew as children. Or are the thoughts contemporary, recent and complex? Multiple brothers and or sisters? Same instructions except now broaden the focus to the expanded grand family moments, wheter happy or sad. Now let it unfold. Family Inside the almond seed. Bitterness Happiness Love Forgiveness Masturbation A dream
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Scraping the belly of the serpent. Shame.

Uh oh, love comes to town. What if she wants to join the party, what do you do if your wife wants to meditate with you? Invite her in. Enjoy the moment to its fullest. Because for once, she is going to be quiet, and you won’t have to tell her to. 2. Yes, were going to a party. Going fishing with the guys next weekend? Tell the girls you will be meditating together on the river at sunrise. MM is not a novel. MM is manual, an almanac for the mind that you should pick and put down as needed. Seeking out the better yet accepting of the worse.

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Chapter 15 Into Infinity (and beyond). As even the most advanced practioners will tell you, it is not easy to clear your mind and keep it there. That difficulty is what led the author to write this book in the first place. But if you have meditated actively and worked your way through the exercises a funny thing might have started, after an exercise you might have kept your eyes closed, your breathing regular and just relaxed. And partner at that point the focus of the mediation changed. You thought about nothing. It may have lasted a moment, or maybe several, but the first steps on another path have been taken. Nothing the most difficult subject to mediate on. The one that has been scrupulously avoided in the exercises that have guided your practice. The subject we all fear. Nothing is the unknown. The joker in the deck. The emptiness and infinity of our lives and thus our deaths. Every star has a trajectory and certainly most of us are not stars. For example, where is Johnny Rotten today? A long way from the stage of Winterland at their last show in 1976 where I watched him picking his nose and spitting on his audience while his band played some of the worst and scariest music I have ever heard. Probably in a senior center plucking away on an out of tune piano singing Anarchy in the UK at the social hour before Sunday dinner of pre chewed bangers and mash. Every star rises. Every star falls. Ours must too and
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we must be comfortable with this all penguins marching on. Begin this meditation as you have every other. Find your holy space once again. Control your breathing and begin. Except this time there are no instructions. No story to tell. No memory to search. There is no smell no taste no motion no emotion. There is your breath and yourself. Do you hear something around you? Good. Let it go. Is your mind going to wander? When it does, gently push it back into nothing. Embrace the emptiness, feel how relaxing it is. There is no stress here, no anger, no pain, and no hangover. So maybe this paragraph would have made sense to you if you had read it before starting this book but most likely it would not have. And after you finish your 20th or 30th meditation about nothing and the relaxation flows through your body calm and refreshing you can take pleasure in a job well done. Enjoying the pleasure of being, just hanging out in this righteous zone; free from twitter and e-mail; no blackberry no iphone. A world you can call on anytime with built in boundaries that are enforced and respected because they feel so good. Remember that but for the journeys that you took through your life in the beginning exercises; gradually and more easily getting used to sitting still and thinking you would not have been able to sit still and not think. But as one journey ends another begins. As time passes do not hesitate to mix in
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thinking and non-thinking meditations in the future. It’s one big mental tool box for you to use, choose the one that fits your life needs today and it doesn’t work go back to the box and get another. It’s funny, isn’t it, as we conclude this final part of the practice the work we are doing sounds a lot like good old fashioned meditation the way it has been throughout time. And it is. Just a bit better. Thank yous. Family Flo Olivia and Mark. Brothers in arms Mark, Fred, Mitchell, Michael and Ron. And thanks to Marc Lesser, for teaching me how to bring mindfulness and acceptance in to my world. Real reading list Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness Future books for the bubba bhudda: Coming soon, the real man’s guide to Tantra and Yoga Key phrases: Bodhisattva Liberation Wisdom
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Beauty Fear Compassion Concentration Constant Team Feelings Perceptions Mental state For those of you that need scientific validation of what you are dong, here are some notes from an article on the New York Times about meditation and what it brings to people’s lives:
“Imagine that you have ditched your laptop and turned off your smartphone. You are beyond the reach of YouTube, Facebook, email, text messages. You are in a Twitter-free zone, sitting in a taxicab with a copy of “Rapt,” a guide by Winifred Gallagher to the science of paying attention. The book’s theme, which Ms. Gallagher chose after she learned she had an especially nasty form of cancer, is borrowed from the psychologist William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” You can lead a miserable life by obsessing on problems. You can drive yourself crazy trying to multitask and answer every e-mail message instantly. Or you can recognize your brain’s finite capacity for processing information, accentuate the positive and achieve the satisfactions of what Ms. Gallagher calls the focused life. It can sound wonderfully appealing, except that as you sit in the cab reading about the science of paying attention, you realize that ... you’re not paying attention to a word on the page. The taxi’s television, which can’t be turned off, is showing a commercial of a guy in a taxi working on a laptop — and as long as he’s jabbering about how his new wireless card has made him so
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productive during his cab ride, you can’t do anything productive during yours. Why can’t you concentrate on anything except your desire to shut him up? And even if you flee the cab, is there any realistic refuge anymore from the Age of Distraction? I put these questions to Ms. Gallagher and to one of the experts in her book, Robert Desimone, a neuroscientist at M.I.T. who has been doing experiments somewhat similar to my taxicab TV experience. He has been tracking the brain waves of macaque monkeys and humans as they stare at video screens looking for certain flashing patterns. When something bright or novel flashes, it tends to automatically win the competition for the brain’s attention, but that involuntary bottom-up impulse can be voluntarily overridden through a topdown process that Dr. Desimone calls “biased competition.” He and colleagues have found that neurons in the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s planning center — start oscillating in unison and send signals directing the visual cortex to heed something else. These oscillations, called gamma waves, are created by neurons’ firing on and off at the same time — a feat of neural coordination a bit like getting strangers in one section of a stadium to start clapping in unison, thereby sending a signal that induces people on the other side of the stadium to clap along. But these signals can have trouble getting through in a noisy environment. “It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial,” said Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. “If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.” Now that neuroscientists have identified the brain’s synchronizing mechanism, they’ve started work on therapies to strengthen attention. In the current issue of Nature, researchers from M.I.T., Penn and Stanford report that they directly induced gamma waves in mice by shining pulses of laser light through tiny optical fibers onto genetically engineered neurons. In the current issue of Neuron,
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Dr. Desimone and colleagues report progress in using this “optogenetic” technique in monkeys. Ultimately, Dr. Desimone said, it may be possible to improve your attention by using pulses of light to directly synchronize your neurons, a form of direct therapy that could help people with schizophrenia and attention-deficit problems (and might have fewer side effects than drugs). If it could be done with low-wavelength light that penetrates the skull, you could simply put on (or take off) a tiny wirelessly controlled device that would be a bit like a hearing aid. In the nearer future, neuroscientists might also help you focus by observing your brain activity and providing biofeedback as you practice strengthening your concentration. Researchers have already observed higher levels of synchrony in the brains of people who regularly meditate. Ms. Gallagher advocates meditation to increase your focus, but she says there are also simpler ways to put the lessons of attention researchers to use. Once she learned how hard it was for the brain to avoid paying attention to sounds, particularly other people’s voices, she began carrying ear plugs with her. When you’re trapped in a noisy subway car or a taxi with a TV that won’t turn off, she says you have to build your own “stimulus shelter.” She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption. (For more advice, go to nytimes.com/tierneylab.) “Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.” She points to calculations that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime.

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“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.” During her cancer treatment several years ago, Ms. Gallagher said, she managed to remain relatively cheerful by keeping in mind James’s mantra as well as a line from Milton: “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.” “When I woke up in the morning,” Ms. Gallagher said, “I’d ask myself: Do you want to lie here paying attention to the very good chance you’ll die and leave your children motherless, or do you want to get up and wash your face and pay attention to your work and your family and your friends? Hell or heaven — it’s your choice.”

An ordinary person may consider meditation as a worship or prayer. But it is not so. Meditation means awareness. Whatever you do with awareness is meditation. "Watching your breath" is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation. Meditation is not a technique but a way of life. Meditation means 'a cessation of the thought process' . It describes a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and various patterns . The observer (one who is doing meditation) realizes that all the activity of the mind is reduced to one. A Tibetan Lama was being monitored on a brain scan
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machine by a scientist wishing to test physiological functions during deep meditation. The scientist said "Very good Sir. The machine shows that you are able to go very deep in brain relaxation, and that validates your meditation". "No", said the Lama, "This (pointing to his brain) validates the machine!". These days it is commonly understood to mean some form of spiritual practice where one sits down with eyes closed and empties the mind to attain inner peace, relaxation or even an experience of God. Some people use the term as "my gardening is my meditation" or for jogging or art or music, hence creating confusion or misunderstanding. The word meditation, is derived from two Latin words : meditari(to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind) and mederi (to heal). Its Sanskrit derivation 'medha' means wisdom. Many years ago meditation was considered something just not meant for modern people, but now it has become very popular with all types of people. Published scientific and medical evidence has proved its benefits, but it still needs to be much understood. Traditionally, the classical yoga texts, describe that to attain true states of meditation one must go through several stages. After the necessary preparation of personal and social code, physical position, breath control, and relaxation come the more advanced stages of concentration, contemplation, and then ultimately absorption. But that does not mean that one must perfect any one stage before moving onto the next. The Integral yoga
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approach is simultaneous application of a little of all stages together. Commonly today, people can mean any one of these stages when they refer to the term meditation. Some schools only teach concentration techniques, some relaxation, and others teach free form contemplative activities like just sitting and awaiting absorption. Some call it meditation without giving credence to yoga for fear of being branded 'eastern'. But yoga is not something eastern or western as it is universal in its approach and application. With regular practice of a balanced series of techniques, the energy of the body and mind can be liberated and the quality of consciousness can be expanded. This is not a subjective claim but is now being investigated by the scientists and being shown by an empirical fact How can you focus on what's important? Join the discussion, and send in your questions about concentration and liv Further Reading "Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life." Winifred Gallagher. Penguin Press, 2009. "Driving fast-spiking cells induces gamma rhythm and controls sensory responses." J. A. Cardin, M. Carlén, K. Meletis, U. Knoblich, F. Zhang, K. Deisseroth, L.H. Tsai, C.Moore. Nature, 2009. "Millisecond-Timescale Optical Control of Neural Dynamics in the Nonhuman Primate Brain." X. Han,X. Qian,J.G. Bernstein,H. Zhou, G.T. Franzesi,P. Stern,R.T. Bronson,A.M. Graybiel,R. Desimone, E.S. Boyden. Neuron, 2009.

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Thesaurus Holy angelic believing, blessed, chaste, clean, consecrated, dedicated, devoted, devot devoted, devotional, devout, divine, faithful, faultless, glorified, god-fearing, godlike, godly, good, hallowed, humble, immaculate, innocent, just, messianic, moral, perfect, pietistic, pious, prayerful, pure, revered, reverent, righteous, sacrosanct, sainted, saintlike, saintly, sanctified, seraphic, spiritual, spotless, sublime, uncorrupt, undefiled, untainted, unworldly, upright, venerable, venerated, virtuous adorable, archangelic, beatific, beneficent, celestial, cherubic, devout, divine, entrancing, ethereal, godly, good, heavenly, holy, humble, innocent, lovely, otherworldly, pure, radiant, rapturous, righteous, saintly, self-sacrificing, seraphic, virtuous Olympian, angelic, astral, beatific, blessed, divine, elysian, empyral, empyrean, eternal, ethereal, godlike, hallowed, holy, immortal, otherworldly, seraphic, spiritual, sublime, supernal, supernatural, transcendental, transmundane depraved, evil, immoral, irreligious, irreverent, sacrilegious, sinful, unholy, unsacred, vile, wicked

Journey
adventure,

airing, beat, campaign, caravan, circuit, constitutional, course, crossing, drive, expedition, exploration, hike, itinerary, jaunt, junket, march, migration, odyssey, outing, passage, patrol, peregrination, pilgrimage, progress, promenade, quest, ramble, range, roaming, round, route, run, safari, sally, saunter, sojourn, stroll, survey, tour, tramp, transit, transmigration, travel, traveling, traverse, trek, trip, vagabondage, vagrancy, venture, visit, voyage, wandering, wayfaring travel, journey, course; take a journey, go a journey; take a walk, go out for walk; have a run; take the air; racewalk., flit,
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take wing; migrate, emigrate; trek; rove, prowl, roam, range, patrol, pace up and down, traverse; scour the country, traverse the country; peragrate; circumambulate, perambulate; nomadize, wander, ramble, stroll, saunter, hover, go one's rounds, straggle; gad, gad about; expatiate., walk, march, step, tread, pace, plod, wend, go by shank's mare; promenade; trudge, tramp; stalk, stride, straddle, strut, foot it, stump, bundle, bowl along, toddle; paddle; tread a path., take horse, ride, drive, trot, amble, canter, prance, fisk, frisk, caracoler, caracole; gallop (move quickly) [more]., peg on, jog on, wag on, shuffle on; stir one's stumps; bend one's steps, bend one's course; make one's way, find one's way, wend one's way, pick one's way, pick one's way, thread one's way, plow one's way; slide, glide, coast, skim, skate; march in procession, file on, defile., go to, repair to, resort to, hie to, betake oneself to

Thesaurus: Holy Religious sacred blessed dedicated devoted divine faithful saint sanctified spiritual sublime venerable upright pious fearful Calm Peace cool composed pleased satisfied How to approach your meditation moments. Or at least as much as possible without overwhelming yourself trying to change things that
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are out of your control. But before getting down to the hard work, first let us study a story of manful devotion together and seek its meaning. By doing so we examine how bring the concepts of manful mediation into our daily lives. . Finally the fictional Mike Endres. Short intense and funny. The real zen and dirt bike combination, actualized and in the moment already with all of his agendas in mind. to the cramped unworkable kitchen that I had cooked thousands of meals A loser In our studies together, I am reminded of the tale of our brother Timothy and his recent visit to my sacred space. As Timothy spoke to me from the floor of my garage in the advanced holy lying down position, his spine completely straight against the cold concrete floor, his eyes focused on the spider webs on the ceiling, he began to tell me the story that I will share with you. “Oh brother”, he began. “brother, I am reminded daily that the ways of manfulness are powerful.” “You are blessed brother Tim”, I replied, keeping my gaze focused on the widening crack in the floor’s foundation and wondering just weather I could use caulk or mortar to fill it, “tell me what new lessons have you learned in the quest for inner manful peace?”
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“A powerful one. Last night I came home from a restful spiritual retreat. A glorious night shooting pool over smooth green felt, drinking holy liquid perfection itself, perfectly poured glasses of 12ounce lager beers with white foam heads as beautiful as the ocean itself. “A blessed moment of manfulness,” I replied. “Indeed. Our group meditation was long and deep. So much so that I came home at 1 in the morning. My wife was asleep and she awoke as I crawled into bed. She asked how my meditation group had been. I told her that we had spent the evening studying and meditating intensely. We had lost track of time and I apologized to her for coming home so late.” “And what did she say Tim?” “She told me not to get too carried away with my inner work and to try to be home earlier next time. Then went back to sleep with a smile.” “And what did you learn from the practice of manful meditation Tim?” “I learned that the power of manfullness is healing and forgiving.” “And it is so Tim.” And we laughed together loudly finding the deep inner breath of our bellies and exhaling it through our grinning mouths.
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Tim had found the joy of the peaceful inner space of manfullness. Yes he and his brothers had been meditating that evening. They were immersed in the inner beauty of the pool hall, the deep green of the felt, the strange spine tingling sense of chalking the pool cue, the curl of the back spin as they struck the smooth circular pool ball precisely below its center. Together they breathed in the sweet smell of sawdust and beer and they were pious men as they drank the long sweet spirit of the holy bar. But there are unbelievers amongst who may well object to his behavior. You say to yourself this is wrong, our friend Tim was not telling the truth to his wife. What do the teachings of the practice of manfulness say? They say that he was truthful. We examine first this question: What was the purpose of Tim’s evening? Did he not meditate? Did he and his brothers not meditate upon the quiet moments inherent in the game of pool? Did they not reflect upon the beauty of the perfect foam head on the glass of beer, one of the holiest moments of manfulness which we shall study together? Did he not get carried away in his practice so much that he lost track of time? Did he not utter the chant of the pious brothers, “hey, how about another round for me and my friends?” Then, when he came home Tim had shared the truth about his evening of deep and profound
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meditations with his wife and she was happy. And the slept together at peace! This is the second essence of manfullness. He was happy and she was too and no one got hurt. We looked at each other in silence, enjoying the shared knowledge. My friend Tim smiled the peaceful smile of the knowing man. It is so he said. And it was so. So let us begin our journey together on this path.

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