So I’m hanging with my homeboy JayTrav shooting the breeze (excuse me whilst I slip effortlessly into my new home town’s vernacular) and he’s new to Los Angeles too. He has just moved from Atlanta on the East Coast of the U.S. to live with his honey – who is a colleague of my wife. He threw into our conversation that a friend had advised him that in order to succeed in LaLa land he must ‘exaggerate his skills / abilities / qualities / C.V. by 30 % ‘.That made me laugh out loud. So basically in order for me to get along here I’m gonna have to BS people (by 30%) . Ok, Houston we have a problem! As many of you know I’m a born and bred Mancunian, and one of the things we ( us Mancunians) don’t do is BS people – can’t stand it when other people try it on me either , I can smell it at a 100 yards. If any of you read my last blog about the reasons exactly why I do Ashtanga , you’ll know I have suffered with this crazy bat shit anxiety disorder called depersonalisation and without going into too much detail (read the blog if you want the too much detail) it makes you feel as mad as a box of frogs- no joke. To BS someone is to be dishonest in my book – to say something that basically isn’t true or real – my problem with the DP stuff was all about not feeling real. So not only am I unable to BS people as a matter of principle ( and of course being a Mancunian) I can’t do it as my default setting now is a need for the real & the honest – the BS’ing is neither. Looks like ‘am a gonna need a plan B to get jiggy wit it in Los Angeles.
For similar reasons I became a Zen Buddhist a good few years back. Ashtanga Yoga in its entirety as an eight limbed practice can be construed as a scientific endeavour rather than a spiritual one , but it will always be inextricably linked to Hinduism and it’s many forms. Now if you’ve ever dipped your toe into the Hindu religion then you’ll know it has various denominations each with an interwoven diversity of beliefs and practices. And there’s a million and one fantastical stories about the million and one different Gods and deities. After a while of just practicing Asana (physical yoga postures) the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga I came to realise – as some people do , that the physical practice alone is not fulfilling enough – I needed something more than throwing myself around a rectangular shaped sticky blue mat. I needed something beyond the physical, I felt in my bones the need for the spiritual too. So I immersed myself in the Hindu and Yogic texts – you name it , I’ve read it – I probably didn’t understand it , but I’ve read it. And to be honest it just didn’t do it for me – it felt too ‘out there’ ie nothing tangible for me to hang my ‘need to be real raincoat’ on. I mean I loved all the stories like the one about Lord Shiva cutting his son’s head off and replacing it with an elephant’s head and hey presto Ganesha was born but that’s all they meant to me – just stories. And these stories were not real – I needed real. I’ve had enough of unreality in my life and I didn’t need any more. I also love to chant – I can chant OM with the best of them and even though I’m enjoying it I’m not exactly channeling the spirits of the Ganges!
It was around this time that I chanced upon a book called Hardcore Zen by author and Zen teacher called Brad Warner. I’d bought a book on Amazon and Hardcore Zen was in that section ‘if you bought that book then you might like this one’. I liked the front cover and the title of the book so I bought it. It changed my life – no shit. It gave me the spiritual practice I’d been looking for and then some. And the best thing about the Zen Buddhist path was it was all about the real – the here and now – no bizarre beheading stories and nothing that I had to suspend all my ideas about reality in. The Zen path is all about the practice of Zazen – the seated meditation practice – which consists mainly of sitting in lotus position an hour a day eyes open staring at a wall – sounds like a right barrel of laughs doesn’t it? Well I can tell you nothing can be more real than a wall and the experience of watching the fluctuations of the mind – or the witnessing of the zillions of insane things that the mind can conjure up without any encouragement. Slowly learning through it’s practice to creatively respond to oneself and the world as opposed to habitually reacting to it. So when someone tells me I’ve got to exaggerate by 30% I can laugh rather than telling them to sling their hook.
So I now feel I have some REAL balance to my internal (Zazen meditation) and external (Ashtanga Yoga) worlds. I am definitely not enlightened, I am flexible though (but I can’t do Tuesdays).