I was statuesque, almost Adonis-like, in Mountain pose –  Tadasana.


Marsha, my yoga instructor for many years now, was sitting on her mat, giggling girlishly at the front of the group because she was struggling to remember the 12 movements needed to go through Sun Salutation. She’s a petite, reddish-blond dynamo who’s been teaching yoga for more than 20 years, so forgetting one of the very basic yoga moves is a bit embarrassing for her.

But she casually shrugs it all off and repeats the movements with us once more, forgetting the cobra move … again! We all break into hysterics with, not at, Marsha.

There is a deep, mild calm that gives Marsha – after years of bending and stretching and OOOM‘ing – her own hazy little aura of relaxed serenity, you might call it a state of ZEN.

According to Wikipedia – and love me or hate me, but I LOVE Wikipedia – zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings.

I interpret zen as finding some calm peace in our own personal piece of mayhem and clamour, turning down the anxious, disturbed, muckraking voices in our heads. Yoga is a tool that insidiously permeates its way into my sensation of zen.

If a devil truly exists, I’m pretty sure she’s (c‘mon, if, as so many claim, God is a woman, surely the devil must be one too!) occupied a small protected corner in the back of my brain, sending out nasty little missives to shoot me down.

We search out a personal state of zen in our own way and pattern of philosophic meldings. Our life doesn’t come to us in neat pre-packaged doctrines as it may have in earlier times.

Each of us forms a philosophy of life as if we’ve wandered the aisles of Walmart. We pick little packages of beliefs and credos, shiny snippets of ideas and ideologies off the shelves.

Some souls absorb a bit of Sun Tzu or religion here, peace and spirituality in nature there, or a pipe of crack cocaine, or maybe, just maybe, for the more contemporary 21st century apprentice like myself, absorb notions from within the setting of a movie. After all, Star Wars has an army of philosophical “May The Force Be With You” adherents.

But me, I’ve taken my guide to life from the philosophical approach through the:

ZEN of When Harry Met Sally


Yes, When Harry Met Sally guides our interpersonal world, thanks to the blended genius of writer Nora Ephron, director Rob Reiner, and actors Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

The 1989 rom-com movie could have been titled Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and there would be clarity to late 20th – early 21st century North American life. One viewing of the flick and we all nod our heads in understanding of what we’re not understanding.

Men and women want to reach out and get along well with each other, and it’s clear we need each other so badly. But really, down deep, penises and vaginas don’t have the foggiest notion of what makes the other tick.

If you believe that God created the body of Eve from the rib of Adam, well, I’m sure he laughed to himself (sorry, herself) and chose a totally different source of creature for the brain. Women and men love to play and tussle together, but never sit on the same end of the teeter-totter   :

Harry: You know you just get to a certain point where you get tired of the whole thing.

Sally: What “whole thing”?

Harry: The whole life-of-a-single-guy thing. You meet someone, you have the safe lunch, you decide you like each other enough to move on to dinner. You go dancing, you do the white-man’s over-bite, go back to her place, you have sex and the minute you’re finished you know what goes through your mind? How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home. Is thirty seconds enough?

Sally: That’s what you’re thinking? Is that true?

Harry: Sure! All men think that. How long do you want to be held afterwards? All night, right? See there’s your problem, somewhere between thirty seconds and all night is your problem.

Sally: I don’t have a problem!

Harry: Yeah you do.  

Stomach knots

When I feel tense or agitated, I inhale a huge relaxing belly breath and run through a scene or two from When Harry Met Sally, and natural calm is restored. Whose stomach can remain tied up in knots when contemplating the totally knotted diatribe of Billy Crystal on whether men and women can just be friends – it’s therapeutic comic relief :

No, no, no, I never said that…

Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule.

If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted…

That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it?

And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it.

Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.

See, I’m writing this out and I’m smiling inside, any knots are gone, gone, gone. Just like Marsha, I’m finding my deeper calm.

I use yoga practice to find my zen so that I’m not bent out of shape by the differences in philosophies I’m surrounded by. Learning not to judge is high on my Mazlow’s hierarchy of self-actualization. Wars are started by ignorance and misunderstanding and rushing to judgment.

Acceptance is the final mature step, isn’t it? Like Harry says at the end of the movie:

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

The Zen of When Harry Met Sally means:

Acceptance … Namaste my friend.

I'll Have What She's Having