It’s Sunday morning on the last day of June and it’s time for me to participate in a Southern California ritual that still makes me uncomfortable.
The pool party, or more specifically, a gay pool party.
This one is at an impressive home literally under the HOLLYWOOD sign. I know the host and have been to this location before. Guests will be able to see the HOLLYWOOD sign above, a view of Hollywood Lake below, and the skyline of the City of Los Angeles in the distance. It’s stunning.
Since I’ve been trying to identify my emotions lately, let’s unpack what happens during the arch of the event, starting with the instant I become aware of the party’s existence.
Immediately I feel contempt.
That’s right, my out of the gate feeling is not gratitude, excitement, or anticipation, it’s contempt.
I feel the contempt as tension in my upper chest, the back of my neck, and the top of my skull. I tell myself the contempt is because I’m above the need for beautiful houses, beautiful views, and beautiful bodies.
That’s right. I lie to myself.
Under that feeling of contempt are the feelings of fear and jealously born out of my fragile-male-ego-Facebook-comparison-capitalistic-consumer, need to compete. My ego tells me I need to come out on top as the prettiest, most entertaining, guy with the most toys and prettiest friends.
You know, a “winner”.
To feel comfortable, I feel like I need to be dominate in the socially elevated arenas of money, property, and prestige that come from possessing two superficial things: 1) resources and 2) beauty.
Ugg! Rather than being above it, I’m a poster child for conspicuous consumption.
The pool party is a perfect time to exercise the kind of conspicuous consumption Thorstein Veblen discussed in his nearly 100 year old essay The Theory of the Leisure Class. The party is an arena to enjoy publicly displaying our resources and beauty, or maybe acquiring said treasures so that we might move up the social ladder and be accepted by the ruling class – whoever that is.
But, what is really going on here?
Well, feeling contempt is my way of protecting myself from confronting my vulnerable truth. What’s really going on is that I’m afraid, afraid of not being enough. I feel the fear in my gut and in the shallowness of my breathing. I have fear that my now waning beauty or moderate income don’t possess enough social prestige. I fear that I won’t measure up.
And yet, I persist on going. Why?
Well, under that wave of fear is a desire to connect heart-to-heart with true friends – to share love – to be able to see people I know and love them and feel their love in return.That’s the good stuff. That’s the true Holy Grail I seek. Until now, I have found it hard to admit, even to myself, that I want it so bad.
I want to belong. I want love.
That’s why I write this blog and teach yoga the way I do. I want to give and receive unqualified love to and from my gay brothers.
But that’s too scary to confront. So, let’s talk about what’s not scary, you know, profile pictures. With the Facebook invite open, it’s time to dive into what really matters – assessing who is invited.
Who is “Going”?
There are usually one of three reactions to the list:
1) Being appalled at the unattractive crowd,
2) Being overwhelmed by the crowd’s beauty, or
3) Seeing that although you won’t be the hottest guy there, at least you’re within striking distance of the top tier hotties.
The real reason I’m looking forward to this party is that I’ve been working on my body and know that it will present adequately AND the more important reason, the reason that makes this in an investment in my current happiness and my future contentment, is that a few of my gay family will be there.
I have taken clear unambiguous steps towards identifying my gay “family”. Through a ritualized process, we have committed to each other our trust, honor, and respect.
With that comfortably sorted in my mind (who is most important in my life) I am able to shift my focus from conspicuous consumption to sharing love with my family.
It’s not a light switch I change from off to on, from superficiality to love, it’s more like setting down to meditate in an attempt to still the monkey chatter of my mind. The intension is clear, but sometimes the thousand thoughts remain.
It’s the intension that matters and it’s a constant effort.
In yoga the effort is called Dharana, the practice of focusing the mind on a single point. In Darren Main’s book Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic, he illustrates the utility of the 6th limb of yoga. He shows the pragmatism of Dharana. It’s not just a practice of focusing the mind. It’s not a practice of set it and forget it. It’s a practice of focusing the mind, acknowledging it’s drifted away, and returning back to the intention of focusing the mind. That’s Dharana, focus, drift, focus, drift… That gets us to the 7th limb, but that’s not what this post is about.
Even the ancient yogi’s acknowledged that the human mind’s condition of drifting away from single pointed thought is normal and should be expected, even accepted. The key is NOT to judge ourselves for having monkey brain in the first place. Our practice is to NOT judge ourselves for being afraid, or anxious, or full of contempt.
So they developed a tool for getting us back to where we want to be.
When I’m overwhelmed with up scaling my social prestige through conspicuous consumption, I give myself a break, acknowledge that my ego is doing its job of trying to protect me, and then bring back into focus what really matters; the smiles on my true friends faces when I’ll see them, the comfortable hugs we will exchange, and the beauty of the heart to heart connected love we will share in that moment.