It’s Better Than Sleeping Alone

Tuesday. 9:30 pm. My yoga teacher reminds us of the next morning’s celebration of Yogi Bhajan‘s 80th birthday. It begins at 2:40 with Japji.

I’m not the kind of guy who likes to miss Japji.

I am so excited by this prospect of an invigorating start to my day — and by the after-fumes of my brilliant Dennis Prager post late Tuesday night — that I can not sleep.

At 2 am, I hear sounds on the roof and grad my gun and wait for the man to come through my door.

It never happens.

I finally rise at 2:22 am and take a cold shower. Then I trim my bangs (it’s important not to go to sadhana with long bangs and I want to save the $16 of a new haircut).

Then I put on my sweats and a t-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt and grab my blue pillow and my yellow yoga mat and walk into the night.

An Asian girl driver stops for me to pass. It’s going to be a good day.

I arrive at 2:45 am. My normal spot is taken. Trauma!

I find another by the wall. As I set up, a bearded Sikh hands me a white handkerchief to cover my head. I look around. Everyone’s head is covered.

I am just wearing a yarmulke and a confused grin.

I put the handkerchief aside. I don’t roll that way. I am not a married Jewish woman. I am not a Sikh. I don’t have to cover my hair. I’m Luke Ford!

I lie down on my yoga mat and watch the man return. He’s insistent that I cover my head.

Oy, these Sikhs! I wonder if he’s wearing his little sword? Better obey.

This is a different rap than the evening yoga classes. This is a religiously serious gathering. It’s not dilettante yoga. It’s fierce.

I agree to put on the cloth but make him him tie it for me. After all, the Jews are the Chosen People.

I love the Japji. Men lead and women respond. It’s the way things should be. It makes everything easier for everyone in the long run. I chase you around the hovel until you submit reluctantly to my iron will.

I lie there and wonder if I was listening to Hebrew davening for the first time, would I find it equally beautiful? I suspect not. Most davening does murder to the Hebrew language.

At 3 am, I tune in with everyone else — ong namo guru dev namo.

The place is full — about 70 people, evenly distributed between male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile.

We begin eleven minutes of chanting for world peace — guru guru wahe guru guru ram dass guru.

A guy with a guitar and a microphone leads us.

It’s a good tune. I dig it. I want world peace. I want to heal the shattered vessels.

I feel sad when the song ends.

It’s time for two and a half hours of long Ek Ong Kars. That’s a bit much for me. I don’t think I could chant it right once.

I lie down. I wish I had a blanket. Most of the yoga center is locked up. There is no access to the blankets. I wish I had brought a blanket. Half of the room is lying down and all of them are smart enough to bring their own blankets.

The chanting is amazing. Everyone is on the same pitch, making the same pauses, hitting the same notes.

I arrange my man purse and fold my pillow in half and put it on top. I lie on my side.

"Only two and a half more hours to go," I think. "This is hell. I’m cold. Would it be OK to leave? No. I’m going to experience the whole rotten thing. Oy, I wonder if one of these chicks would mind if I lay down beside her and shared her blanket? In exchange for my spiritual warmth, she could give me some physical warmth. I could really use some physical warmth right now, just some token expression of affection, it wouldn’t have to be much, nothing against the Torah. It would be for strictly medicinal purposes."

I long for Orthodox Judaism and its reasonable 45-minute morning prayers. This is ridiculous. I am cold. I am miserable.  I am stuck.

No woman, no cry.

Oy, why do I have to be such a spiritual master?

Lord, take this cup from me, but not my will, but Thine be done.

Potty break. Mustn’t drink too much water. Didn’t want to have to thread myself again through the chanters and sleepers.

I drift off to sleep. I dream that Guru Singh has given me an assignment to stir three big pots of soup. I accept the job. As I stir, I notice a Balance bar in the soup. I stir it round and round. Chocolate-nut. Round and round. Round and round. Round and round.

The room spins. I am at the ashram in my dream. The prayers are done. A group of young men walk up to me. They appear to be Muslim. "Hey Jew!" one says. They start beating me up. None of the peace-loving Sikhs intervene. They just stand around and watch. I’m beaten to a pulp and left in a bloody mess outside.

Oy, oy, oy!

6 a.m. I awake to the announcement that everyone’s going to the ashram across the street. Everyone is welcome for breakfast. Please cover your head.

I walk outside and see my teacher. He’s glowing.

"How did you like it?" he asks.

If I answer truthfully, I’ll say, "Sadhana sucks."

Instead I say, "I’m going to bed."

Pithy but eloquent.

I get up at 9:25 am. I have a crick in my neck. I am sleep-deprived and miserable. I am ready to blog. World watch me roar!

Helen posts on my Facebook: "Good old Yogi Bhajan. I often find myself wondering, "What would Yogi Bhajan do?" Always the right thing, always the right thing…"

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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