Maybe this rightly goes under the fiction heading, but so often now, when I read the Bible, my eyes stop on “…the word of the Lord came to me in a dream…” so I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know. I’m happy to live in that crack between what is real and what’s not and what might be. We live with question marks. Enjoy!
Floating with Jesus
The sun bragged on the peaks below, lifting high through the clouds like bent knees in bed. We floated on clouds, Jesus and I, hands clasped behind our heads, drowning in the sheer beauty of it. The ocean beneath was clear and blue. We didn’t talk but shared a silent satisfaction.
Jesus, looking every bit a long-haired Scandinavian god like the one pinned above my grandmother’s bed, looked at me, arching His eyebrows. Reaching into the cloud, He pulled out a leg. A human leg, apparently unused. It was new and shiny, and muscular and clean of any hint of blood or tissue. Unused, I thought, created on the spot by the Creator.
“Here,” He said, holding it like a drumstick. “Feel it.” I took it and stroked it like a cat’s back. Now, awake and writing, I’m surprised at how I gushed. “My gosh,” I said, “this thing is beautiful. I mean…it’s gorgeous.” I was in a bicycle racing accident a year earlier, spending three months in the hospital with a brain injury. For the first two weeks, machines kept me alive, and I was comatose for a month. I learned to walk again, but doctors said no more bikes. No racing and no circling around the block. But, in the clouds now, I wondered: what about with a new leg?
“You can have it,” He said, waving His arm, nonplussed. “I have arms and more legs for you, too, if you want them.” He smiled again, knowingly. “You can be better than new with these. Faster.” He was speaking my language, appeasing my base desires.
I looked straight at Him. “Are you kidding me? I can have this? I can have new arms and legs? Man,” I said, “I am all in.”
He slowed me down. “There’s something I need to tell you, something you should know.”
He lifted His hand to his chin, and dropped His voice, “You have to die first.”
Maybe it was my grimace, but he went on, a little too giddy. “Really, it’s no big deal. For you, it’s a drop of water. I mean, it’s eternity, but you’ll see your family again, and it will be like you blinked.” He paused. “Of course, they’ll have to die, too. And for ten or forty years, they’ll have to live with their dad and husband dying, but in eternity they’ll see that it was nothing.”
I didn’t think my dying would be ‘nothing’ to my family and looked at the leg and then at Jesus. “Man,” I said, and shook my head. “Did you see them when I was in the hospital? They literally gave up their lives for me. The girls were fantastic. They made everyone feel better. And Mal? I mean, she was the husband and the wife, she paid the bills, she took care of me…” I looked up at Jesus. “I’m sorry, but I can’t trade their misery for my wholeness. It doesn’t matter for how long. A nurse at the hospital told me one night that when she sees my wife, she thinks she ‘ain’t never seen love like that before,’ and I didn’t argue. Love like that should be loved back.”
I don’t know what I expected. This was the God of Thunder, after all, who whipped the money changers and cleaned out the Temple of anyone taking advantage of others, but he just smiled, laying back in His cloud.
“It’s no problem, Dennis. Really. It’s your decision.”
Somewhere between awake and dream, I sat up that morning, in bed, with Jesus still smiling at me. I shot a look to where my wife would lay, and she was there. “I’m still alive,” I thought. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I lay there with my hand on my wife’s back if I would have died if I said Yes to Jesus. Awake, I wondered, too, if it was a test, a dream, or the result of food gone bad. I still wonder.
Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the story? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment!
Yes. I am a man, and I do yoga. And to make sure it’s clear, I was born this way with testes and the whole shebang.
There are few things a man cares about more than having the appearance of manliness. Why else grow a beard? I mean, a foot long wire brush hanging from your chin? I think I would look manly with a beard even if it is as multicolored as our calico cat, but I don’t: my wife won’t let me. So much for my appearance of manliness.
No doubt you’ve pondered the conundrum that yoga isn’t perceived a manly exercise. When a man hears the word yoga, he thinks one of three things: barely clad women in unnatural poses, small and mustachioed Indian men in unnatural poses, and No. Just No.
Here’s a real-life example: I work with a guy who sometimes suffers from debilitating back pain. Like he can barely walk from his car to his desk at work. He’s around fifty, wears football-themed polos, and appears to be in generally good health. But about twice a year, he shows up to work hunched over, shuffling like my Slovak grandmother, and leaning heavily on a cane. He complains for a couple days, then goes home to dope up for half a week until he can walk again. I feel for him. The last time this happened, I went to his office and pulled a chair up close. Leaning toward him, I put on my most empathetic and sagacious face.
“Dude. You’re dying here. Have you ever thought of doing yoga? I guarantee that you’ll feel better.”
He shuffled his feet sideways in little bunny steps until he faced me straight on. He grimaced and put on the same serious face. “No.”
Not even the slightest consideration. I don’t get it. Why live with pain knowing that the next trip to the pharmacy or the surgeon is just around the corner when there is real help available? It’s odd to me, but that is the male animal. Like I warn my girls, we’re all stupid.
I’m not accomplished at yoga. In fact, I’m hardly a beginner. I eschew any putative spiritual aspect, and focus on strength and stretching and breathing. I’ve come to see it as maybe the most important tool for lifelong health. Stretching and groaning, I see several positive results that I sort out for you here. Some benefits are tangible and measurable. Some, not so much.
Lymph doesn’t get the nod it deserves. Gushing through the body, it flows lazily in and around cells and organs, bringing immune agents with it and taking cell waste when it leaves. It’s like blood without the vessels. Unlike blood, though, it has no pump except movement. Any movement helps. It’s one reason that sitting all day is so insidious for your health, and something as easy as walking has serious benefits. Twisting and bending during yoga is especially suited to pushing this fluid.
The difference between yoga and stretching is that yoga builds strength. It’s not like doing bench presses, but really, who needs to lift 300 pounds? But when you bend down to move a flower pot and pull your back when the pot won’t budge, that’s a strength and flexibility issue. Doctors often give an odd answer to your pulled back, based, I think, on Americans’ general dislike of exercise: quit doing stuff. My advice is more useful: how about getting stronger? Larger and more flexible muscles help you enjoy activities, burn more calories, and allow you to do things yourself instead of calling your son-in-law. Don’t expect to look like Arnold: using your own weight in static poses isn’t going to add bulk, but it will tone you and make your body more usable and less frail.
Not many questions here, but I’m convinced that flexibility is the single most important physical quality we lose as we age. Imagine a robot with metal pipes for legs, walking down a set of stairs: that’s you when you lose flexibility. There is no give, no sway, no allowance for error. As long as life moves steadily in a straight line, you’re probably fine, but when you veer off the slightest bit – step on the edge of a sidewalk, say – you’ll be happy for your improved flexibility.
I eat less
For some reason, and I’m not sure why, when I do yoga, I eat differently. I’m not trying to, and it isn’t an effort, but I just want different foods. You might have a different experience.
I’ve been working on this one for about fourteen years and still can’t get my feet off the ground.
Less tangible benefits
I learn about my body
I’ve learned that my left side is tighter than my right and that when I run, my hamstrings tighten up like a rope. I have a heightened sense of how my body feels. I went to the hospital recently for a quick check-up. I sat down with a nurse to collect my vitals, and, after testing me, she said that I need to start watching my blood pressure.
“Yeah. It’s over 180. 180 over 120.”
I laughed and told her she was wrong, and we argued about it. These are the times my wife is glad I do these things alone. I know that my resting heart rate is about 45 bpm and that my blood pressure is 115 over 75. I told the nurse that her instrument wasn’t working. Her response – I’m not making this up – was to say “Oh? So you’re a doctor, too?”
“No,” I said, “And I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn, either, but your instrument is either broken or out of calibration.”
I convinced her to try another machine, and I was right. She apologized and worried about the patients she had seen that morning who had wrong numbers on their charts. It’s a good thing to know your own body. It’s the only one you’ve got.
This is odd and something I haven’t quite got hold of. I do a particular pose where I kneel and sit down on my calves and outstretched feet. I know it will hurt for half a minute as the tops of my feet and ankles relax. I let my full weight come onto my heels, and it pushes open the top of my foot. I don’t know why – because I run? – but this just hurts like heck for about half a minute. I’m learning that if I slow down and wait and let the pain happen, it will pass. Not only does it pass, but it starts to feel good. Maybe it’s a good rule for life: sometimes we need a little pain to feel better.
I feel more at ease
I don’t know if this comes from yoga or from stopping to focus for thirty minutes, but I feel more at ease when I’m consistent with yoga. I’m not talking about a life-changing epiphany, or bluebirds flying around me, chipping with glee, but I just feel more comfortable. More settled and grounded. This is really weird, but my center of gravity shifts lower…I can sense it. Weird. I might need to talk to Deepak about that one. Things around me bother me less, too, and that’s a good thing.
I feel lighter
This is the goofiest one of all, and I’m probably making it up. When I am consistent at yoga, I feel lighter. I stand taller, and my spine straightens. I have a sense that my vision expands, and my head rests more lightly on my shoulders. I don’t for a single minute think I look different, but I feel different. Instead of a kind of Clydesdale’s clop when I walk, I feel like I’m walking on an air table. It’s odd and weird, and I can’t explain it. I won’t even try.
The takeaway is to give yoga a try. Do in front of the television watching Mixed Martial Arts if you need to feel manly about it. It’s my bet that those guys on TV beating each other up spent an hour of their day doing stretches and yoga. And they don’t look too wimpy.
You can do yoga with almost any app. I use Peloton mostly because I used to be a manly bicycle racer in Lycra tights. If you don’t have an app, take a look at You Tube. I do Yoga with Adriene and enjoy it lots. And if you’re game and not prone to sweaty see-though yoga pants, almost every gym or workout center has group yoga classes. I haven’t tried hot yoga yet but it’s on my list for 2022.
One caveat: there is a whole culture around yoga that lots of people love. I don’t. I’m just a Christian, bike-racin’, football watchin’, writer kind of guy who makes wooden stuff for fun. To me, yoga is a tool and not the explanation for all of life. You’ll have to choose what yoga path you want to take.
What if yoga’s not for you? Go chop a hundred cords of firewood.
This is a stretch, but if you are a Christian and wonder much about manliness and womanliness, I can’t recommend Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s book Jesus and John Wayne enough. Like it or not, I guarantee you’ll learn something and earn a few new neurons. Buy it here, though her website.
This one’s not a stretch: I guarantee this will help with your Traumatic Brain Injury, too. Man or woman. Naturally made that way or not. I still have balance issues and have to compensate for that, but the stretching and mind/body connection is one of the best things you can do for recovery.
Finally? Ignore that guy in the top image. He’s just showing off.
Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the post? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment!