The Adventures that Lead Us Home, a Book Review.
I confess that reading “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi ,” which is also subtitled, “My humble quest to heal my colitis, calm my ADD, and find the key to happiness,” by Brian Leaf, was something of a guilty pleasure.
This book is a romp from New Jersey to California and back, as the author takes a Toyota Previa minivan across the country to find enlightenment. He fell in love with yoga in college, and upon graduating and being jobless as a twenty-something, he follows his heart and disastrous bowels to seek out truth, justice and possibly a cure for God knows how much gas and sick poop he’s endured in his young but anxious life.
The cure, as always, comes from within.
My path to yoga, as told in the “other” yoga memoir published this year, followed a very different journey. I had a mortgage, a job, and a family when I realized I was unhappy in life. I find it more than a little ironic when at the end of Brian’s journey; he comes exactly to the place where I began. Part of me wants to say, “Good luck with that,” but I am more yogic now and I know he will be perfectly happy.
His story is a comic romp from ashram to ashram, studio to studio, hippies hanging out at a Grateful Dead concert to hippies hanging out in Sedona and despite the obvious Jack Kerouac/Tom Robbins format, I laughed out loud. Brian, who I feel I know, is adorable. When he ends up in a brothel with a naked masseuse in North Carolina, because of course he’s looking for deep tissue reflexology, you want to die along with him.
From a yoga perspective, he offers quite a bit of solid information regarding Ayurvedic practices and his information on asana is from training at Kripalu. To my reading, I enjoyed his journey as a man on the mat more than the practical stuff, but the practical stuff is there for those who want it.
Although there were many lovely passages of understanding and awakening, this is the one that touched me the most, and it was a quote from his friend, Stephen Cope:
“Well, I guess when you pray to Shiva, your temple is pretty much guaranteed to burn down to the ground so that it can be rebuilt anew.”
So lucky for Brian that he wrote his memoir well after he was able to process the loss of innocence from when his spiritual leader, Amrit Desai, left Kripalu from bad yogi behavior. My own memoir was published on the exact same day it was revealed that the leader of my favorite kind of yoga was not who we thought. As Brian might say, Oy Vey. But his coming to terms with the human-ness of the guru was beautiful to see as well.
I hope this book will encourage men to practice yoga as it is truly the path to more in our lives. Although it is marketed as the “Eat, Pray Love” of male yoga, I wouldn’t be scared off by that (Most men tell me that you couldn’t pay them to read it or sit through the movie.). I would say, it’s more like “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” but this cowboy is a Jewish and from New Jersey, and the blues are chronic digestive problems.
Not to be a spoiler, but at the end he gets the girl, the kids, the house and I assume even his bowels in order. If that’s enlightenment, then he’ll take it, and he will probably laugh that he ended up exactly at what he was running from in the first place. That’s yoga. It brings us where we are meant to be, and that’s usually to the place where we started.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s the author of the memoir “Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga,” and a Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine. She is an E-500 RYT with Yoga Alliance and teaches Aligned Vinyasa in Denver, Co. You can take her with you on your computer or I-thing by downloading her classes from www.yogadownload.com.