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Take a deep breath

I am going to paint a picture for you. Imagine a small windowless room down a flight of stairs in a nondescript strip mall in the outskirts of Rome. Next door, to the right, is a pizza joint. To the left, a nail salon. In between these is an empty room that holds the flight of steps. Down this flight of stairs, in the windowless room, there are about 50 people all dressed in white getting ready to breathe. A shaman steps to the front of the room and tells everyone that the deep breathing they will all be doing for the next hour will perhaps bring out tremors, tears, joy or darkness, but to not be scared, as there are “helpers” there in case of trouble. The lights are turned off as deep drumming music begins. Everyone lies down on the floor. The helpers take their place along the walls, also swathed entirely in white. The “breathing” begins.

A have a friend in town from Los Angeles who follows this Shaman. He thought I might like to check it out.

Unfortunately, I don’t have white clothes (not something you buy a lot of when you have a toddler), but I do have lungs, so I thought why not. I’m always up for a new adventure.

Here’s why I should have said why not:

I was the only one in black.

My back pressed to the wall, I watched the bodies around me convulse as each and every one of them began to not breathe, but hyperventilate themselves.

I thought, okay. I learned this as a kid in a friend’s backyard in Florida. Only then you were supposed to hold each other tight till you passed out. Yes, stupid, but not a lot to do in rural settings. And it’s all I could think of sitting in that room. I wanted to shout out, “Of course you are going to “feel” something! You are changing the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. It’s not magic.” But, of course, I had nothing but respect, so stayed silent and tried my hardest. I squeezed my eyes tight and puffed away, but I’ve never been one for really working out. Always preferred a glass of scotch or wine in front of a nice fire while everyone else skied down the mountain.

Apparently there are drugs involved sometimes. I think I could have used some.

This Shaman and his followers are all here for the Shaman’s wedding. He’s marrying a young California girl whom my friend introduced me to. She told me she loved me.

We were supposed to stay and “share” at the end but I sneaked out early. I grabbed a slice of pizza, jumped on the subway and the whole time, with cheese running all over my hand, was breathing just fine on my own.

And truly no offense, each to his own and yes, I do believe in magic.


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