Zen for reporters

Sometimes reporting is a daily grind. Recently I’ve found myself grinding to a halt. The culprit? Mononucleosis.

This nasty little disease has turned my eyeballs a tasty shade of yellow (it brings the sources flocking, let me tell you), swollen my liver to twice its normal size and bullied my body into needing about 12 hours of sleep per day. Fat chance.

As rough as the past few weeks have been, I’ve managed to find solace in an unlikely place: a reporting assignment.

It’s still very much in the works, but the assignment is part of a Vox multimedia project tentatively called “Having Faith.” For the project, each reporter will highlight a member of Columbia’s community who’s experienced a spiritual journey. We’re really branching out here, writing about everything from Judaism and Christianity to Islam and Baha’i. Some stories don’t involve faith at all but cover broad topics like “forgiveness.”

I’m learning everything I can about Ken McRae, a local yoga teacher with an interesting background. Ken graduated in Canada and was living in Toronto, a successful computer consultant with a wife, two kids, a dog, a half-million dollar house and opera tickets. But he felt that something was missing.

He attended his first yoga class shortly before Christmas of 1988 and found the fulfillment he’d been searching for. Eventually Ken and his wife sold everything they owned and moved to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Mass. Ken trained there as a monk for 5 years, traveled the world for several more (India, Bali and Italy) and somehow ended up in Columbia teaching at alleyCat Yoga.

Ken’s story fascinated me. I couldn’t help but wonder what, what would compel someone to throw in the towel, to ditch all signs of material success and devote himself to yoga as a spiritual practice? Let the reporting begin.

I’m learning more about Ken every time we meet, but I’m also learning more about yoga. The studio at alleyCat is one of the most calming places I’ve ever been. So is Ken’s house, which I visited last Wednesday. Yoga’s energy permeates both spaces. You can feel it.

A key principle of yoga, says Ken, is letting go of stress by accepting life as it comes. You can’t change how things show up, but you can change your attitude about them.

Ken’s words hit home. The stress of reporting is sometimes more than I’d like to admit, but Mono on top of everything… it’s been rough. Here’s the takeaway: I can’t change the fact that I’m sick, but I can accept what life has handed me and try to work around it as best I can.

That, ladies and gents, is as zen as it’s going to get.

Bonus if you got the reference in the title of this post! It’s “Zen for Head” by Nam June Paik, an artist active with the Fluxus movement of the 1960s. Three cheers for Art History class!

Ken McRae lights a votive on the altar in his alleyCat studio Thursday, March 21. Photo by me.
Ken McRae lights a votive on the altar in his alleyCat studio Thursday, March 21.
The studio at alleyCat just before Ken's 5:30 class on Thursday evening. A more peaceful place I cannot imagine.
The studio at alleyCat just before Ken’s 5:30 p.m. class on Thursday, March 21. A more peaceful place I cannot imagine. Photo by me.
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Zen for reporters

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