There’s a real problem for people sparking up romance in their 30s. Had I followed John’s schedule, we’d have dated for five years, then gotten engaged for a year, then after a year or so, we would have had kids. Um, hello, I’d be 40 before I put a stretchy waist panel into my Sevens.
He’s 37. I’m 32. And while John—a nice guy from the Long Island suburbs that I’d met on a blind date—did acknowledge that time was against us, the fact that he’d just divorced a total psycho and that I’d been engaged three times before made him reluctant to rush into anything with me, a runaway bride and/or a flake.
That’s when it hit him: love tests. Instead of dating for years, we’d go away on some month-long oversea adventures and see if our young love could stand up to the pressures of extreme traveling. It’s simple—up the pressure to yield in a few months what would otherwise take the standard few years to uncover.
I loved it. We started tossing around ideas like paddling up the Amazon, trekking through the Congo. But then I got it. "Let’s go to an ashram in India." I’d recently begun a rather serious yoga quest and latched onto the mother of all disciplines, Jivamukti—flow yoga with bookends of chanting, meditation, and spiritual sermons. During my Jivamukti indoctrination, I developed Madonna arms, but also a surprisingly unquenchable thirst for the spiritual byproduct. The mystery of bending my body into various arcs that, honestly, made me want to be a better, nicer human being was something I wanted to explore. And on our first love test, I could drench myself in spirituality in the birthplace of yoga, and see if John, a non-believer, could support me in my journey (read "Downward Facing Boyfriend," March 2008).
But just a few weeks later, as we hiked up the narrow steps and across the threshold of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari ashram, I knew I had made a grave error. The manicured campus had a creepy church camp vibe with young, mostly white, English speaking comrades crisscrossing the grassy fields and stone pathways in matching uniforms of loose cotton pants and XL t-shirts purchased from the ashram boutique. I could hear sanskrit chanting echoing in the Great Hall at the center of the compound. We were there 30 seconds before I started to cry. "Let’s get out of here."
We had traveled half way around the world, and as much as this was a test for how well John could support me in my quest to tap into the cosmos without calling bullshit and making me feel like a quack, I knew it was also a test to see if I would reveal that I am actually an irrational woman who would make his life hell if/when my expectations hit the skids. I tampered a rising impulse to freak out and we dove into the rhythms of ashram life.
Everything I was there to explore—chanting, meditation, existing in a bubble of plugged-in spiritualism—turned me off. Even the ancient Ayurvedic massage to balance my doshas that I had been looking forward to for months was nothing more than a torturous oil rub down bordering on sexual impropriety (ring around the nipples and finger tucks in forbidden creases, no lie).
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Unexpectedly the most interesting part of the experience was to see how John handled both his life as a fish out of water and my troubled state of mind. He participated in every class, lecture, meal, and chant, and encouraged me with great sympathy to roll along with it, too. He was a great partner. Another guy would’ve unleashed a litany of "I told you so’s" and made me feel like a failure.
I realized in the weeks at the ashram that I am more religious studies major than church goer. I enjoyed the yoga, the lectures, the introduction to Indian culture (eating with our right hands and taking cold showers), and that was enough. I got the feeling that to go any further would require a lifestyle overhaul that didn’t fit me. I don’t need to be anything more than happy and balanced through yoga.
John and I agreed that we both passed the first test. We were one quick-step closer to our future. Next stop, an ultimate fighting camp in Southern Brazil. It was my turn to be the support (read "Brazil: When It Hurts" in the May issue of ADVENTURE, on newsstands now).