Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I accidentally joined a cult

Life is full of "whoops" moments.

"I left the cookies in the oven too long and they burned. Whoops."
"I forgot to do laundry yesterday and now I have no clean socks. Whoops"
"I watched an episode of Laguna Beach. Whoops".

All acceptable, daily whoopses that could happen to anyone. But "I joined a cult by accident. Whoops" does not have the same day to day acceptability factor. And so therefore I feel the need to explain myself. It truly was an accident. I would NEVER join a cult on purpose; I barely tolerate widely accepted and practiced organized religions (and Jesus fish bumper stickers) as it is. I'm way to cynical to be brainwashed. So here's how it happened.

It was during my bi-weekly trip to Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins to get a pint of chocolate Oreo ice cream and an iced coffee, that I came across a stack of pamphlets by the straws that said


And I thought, hmm, Yoga... what a novel Idea! And yoga that teaches you to breathe with your brain? How interesting... I don't think my brain is breathing nearly as much as it should be. And it keeps promising to quit smoking... but it never really does. "Brain" (I say to my brain) "Just because you're smoking ultra lights does not mean you're any closer to quitting." and with that, I convinced my brain to grab a pamphlet and stick it in my ice cream bag. On the way home, between sips of iced coffee, my brain and I decided that maybe yoga would help me get a little more inspired to step up my much needed health kick. I mean, as much as I love Donut holes and Ice cream, it's not exactly a well rounded meal plan. Aside from the fact that Donut holes are round, of course.

So the next day I called the number on the back of the pamphlet and was greeted by an elderly sounding Chinese man, which I was quite pleased with because I desperately wanted to learn yoga from that dude from the karate kid and as far as I was concerned I was just one step closer to realizing that dream. He told me to come in on Sunday for an "assessment" which I thought was a little strange but hey, if little Chinese man needed to asses my unflexible ice cream filled ass before admitting me into his brain breathing program, who was I to argue.

So here's the part of the story where I run into a whole bunch of red flags, and choose to ignore them for whatever reason. Let's count the red flags in this paragraph. I arrive at noon on Sunday which was exactly when Mr. Miyagi told me to be there and no one was there. In fact, the shop was closed and the sign on the door said "Closed on Sundays". Red flag number one. So I was a little confused, but decided to pop into the neighboring Panera Bread for my 3rd cup of coffee of the day and wait it out. Sure enough, 10 minutes after noon I see Mr Miyagi saunter through the parking lot and shuffle with some keys in the door. Was he opening the store on his day off for my assessment? I guess so. Red flag number 2. So I chug the rest of my caramel latte and head over to the Dahn Yoga center for brain respiration, where I was greeted by Mr. Miyagi and handed a large stack of text books. Red flag number 3. These text books, which seemed to be all about opening my mind up to healing powers (red flag number 4) were my reading materials. Right off the bat I had homework??? Not only was my brain not breathing, it was trying to grow hands and smother itself to death. Then Mr Miyagi had me sit down and put my hands on a big square thing that looked like a broken flat screen TV so he could use his computer to "read the color of my aura". Red flag number 5. As far as I'm concerned, computers can barely read the color of their own printer cartridges, let alone my freaking aura. So after the magic computer read that my aura was defiantly orange (and the witty quips about the fact that my living room is painted orange and thus leading to my inner orangeness fell upon def ears), we moved on to the next activity. I was moved to a big room with padded walls (red flag number 6) and told to remove my shoes. Then Mr. Miyagi commanded me to do a series of imposable balancing exercises which would have only been feasible if I had powers of levitation and a 3rd fricking arm, and I became acutely aware of a sneaking suspicion that the exercises were being made up for the little Chinese mans personal amusement. Red flag number 7. After it was confirmed that I was as flexible and balanced as a one eyed hippopotamus with downs syndrome, we moved on to the next section of my assessment. A full body massage. Where it was required by Mr. Miyagi that I be completely naked. Red flag number 8, and maybe the reddest of all flags. What does a naked full body massage have to do with yoga? Nothing. Was I willing to receive one from weird little Chinese man? Ironically yes.

So I paid the 50 bucks entry fee and with that, I was a student of Dahn Yoga. And believe it or not, here is where it starts to get really weird... and outlandishly hilarious.

I went in the following week for what Mr. Miyagi told me was "Orientation", and walked smack into a room full of middle aged women (and one extremely crabby looking old guy) in white robes. I was all of a sudden acutely aware of my gym shorts and black Myspace T-shirt that says "Myspace... Add+ me to your Friends list" on the front. I felt very put out. How come no one told me there was a bathrobe-esk wardrobe requirement? I wanted to do Yoga in a bathrobe too! Of course, I stuck out like a sore thumb and everyone stared at me as I pulled up a blue kindergarten nap time mat and joined the oldie farts in the padded room. I realized right away that no one was going to Add+ me to their friends list when they got home.

A young looking Asian woman walked in and immediately everyone stood and bowed. This is when I realized that I was the only one being "orientated", everyone else was well into the bathrobe program and light years ahead of me in stretchiness and messed up mind washing protocol. I jumped to my feet. Everyone wordlessly gathered in a giant circle and began humming with their eyes closed. "HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM" and a few seconds into this, everyone started rubbing their tummies with both hands. This is the moment in my story where I stifled a giant giggle, and tried not to pee in my gym shorts.

After about 5 minutes of this, with small breaks in the tummy rubbing (and occasional patting) to go around the circle and allow each participant to count to ten out loud for no reason, I was half expecting to hear each person shout out the planet they flew in from, and how many gargolightyears of Torobulons they have in their galaxies. The amount of crazy I was witnessing was way, way beyond matching bathrobes.

After the tummy love, humming, and repetitive counts of ten, we all went back to our mats. It's hard to effectively sum up the following 45 minutes, but I'm fairly sure there was no yoga in it. There was a lot of rolling around on the floor, some kicking at the air, and repeating of words in a language that sounded like what would happen if a Chinese made zombie movie was badly dubbed in Spanglish. Then, for a finale, the lights were dimmed and a basket of little plastic brains were handed out, and once everyone received said brains, they lay down on their backs and placed the brains right above their crotches. Then Mr. Miyagi walked around and soundlessly flipped little switches on the brains, causing them to buzz softly. Then it occurred to me all at once. They were vibrating. They were baseball sized vibrating brains that everyone had perched on top of their crotches during what seemed to be yoga meditation nap time masturbation. At this point, my brain was not only respirating, it was hyperventilating.

I have never put sneakers on and run out of a place so fast since my morning after blackout drinking days in college... which is pretty fast but apparently not fast enough for the old crabby robe dude to catch me on my way out. He scowled at me like I had failed initiation and said "MYSPACE? EH? WHATS THAT?" to which I replied "it's a website, you share pictures and writing and stuff on it." as I was backing out the door, he quipped "Isn't that a little arrogant, having a website all about you and your pictures? What makes you interesting enough to make people want to look at your pictures?" and at this point, It was clearly on. I pushed the door open, chucked my textbooks into the corner and said "What makes you arrogant enough to think anyone wants to watch you masturbate in a bathrobe using a vibrating plastic brain on your balls?"

It took me 5 phone calls and 1 threat of calling the police to get the Dahn Yoga Center to stop charging my credit card. There was a point where the weird shriveled up old receptionist lady who I never met was leaving voicemails on my cell phone 4 and 5 times a day in a language that I don't speak. About a month later I was leafing through a Jane magazine and came across an article about a girl who had escaped from a cult and on the last page there was a section of "up and coming cults to look out for" and guess what was third down on the list. You got it. Dahn Yoga. It even said that someone DIED of DEHYDRATION at one of the centers retreat camps. DEHYDRATION??? I thought we were supposed to be respirating here! I guess I got off easy I suppose. After all, I did get a naked full body massage AND got to witness the sheer brilliance in comedy motion that is a room full of oldie farts masturbating with brain shaped sex toys. The only thing I almost died of is laughter.

So there you have it folks. How I accidentally joined a cult once when I was trying to take yoga classes. Could've happened to anyone. Or... maybe just me.

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