Skip to content

Why Shiva Wears A Leopard Skin: a modern western materialistic translation of an ancient spiritual tale

Shiva's Leopard Skin

One day, Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were shopping in the forest at the base of Mount Kailash. Shiva was bored, as usual, being forced to spend time with his wife when he’d rather be off elsewhere in the forest, alone, meditating, watching the animals and imitating their postures and movements. He didn’t have time for this.

“Maybe you should get yourself a loincloth while we’re here,” Parvati quietly suggested. “Walking around naked in the forest like you do…”

Shiva was slightly offended: “What? What’s wrong with that? I don’t need one,” he said.

“All right, all right,” Parvati retracted. “I just thought maybe it would keep the other sages in the forest from being jealous, and it would just look nice.”

“Honey, I honestly don’t give Musaka’s ass,” referring to his son Ganesha’s pet rat. “If they’re jealous of my lingam, that’s they’re problem. And I’m in the forest alone meditating, who needs to look nice? I’m not out there to impress anyone! ”

“Perhaps you’re right dear,” Parvati admitted, as they approached a jewelry booth at the market.

They spent they remainder of the day browsing the booths, buying a few pieces of furniture, new pots and pans, and stopping at a stall for an iced chai latte and a dal scone for lunch. As they were about to leave the market, Parvati spotted a booth near the exit with a sign that read: SHRI LULULEMON’S ANIMAL SKIN emporium. “Shiva, dear, one last stop. We need a new wall hanging for the bedroom.”

Shiva rolled his eyes and followed her.

After looking at several skins, Parvati spotted a beautiful leopard skin and took it down from the wall to examine. “Do you like this this one?” she asked Shiva.

Wow, Shiva thought, that’s pretty cool. And soft, too. But to his wife, he shrugged, “Yeah, great.” Parvati handed him the animal skin and went to ask the proprietor how much it cost. While she was gone, Shiva held the leopard skin, and when he turned to his right, he caught a glimpse of himself in a full-length mirror on the far wall. He had been holding the skin at waist height, and when he saw himself he was suddenly thrilled with how manly the leopard skin appeared. He gazed towards Parvati to make sure she was still occupied with finding Shri Lululemon. He unfolded the skin and wrapped it around his waist.

Damn, that looks hot, Shiva thought. Maybe Parvati was right, I would look good if I dressed up a bit. And this would go so well with my tiger skin asana mat!

Just then, Parvati returned with the vendor, and Shiva quickly folded the skin. “That one there,” Shri Lululemon said, “that will be 9000 rupees, please.”

“WHAT?” Parvati exclaimed. “That’s absurd! That is too much!”

“That is very special skin,” the dealer said, “it invokes fearlessness in anyone who touches it. Plus, it makes super-cute accessory to meditation.”

Shiva was sold. “Honey, I’ll buy it. It’s a nice skin.” He handed Shri Lululemon 9000 rupees and the Divine couple left the market, heading back up Mount Kailash as the daylight receded. When they approached the front gate, Shiva bid to his son, who was standing by the doorway awaiting their return.

“Ganesha, boy, help your mother unload her purchases from the market. I’m heading back out to the forest for a while.” As he handed some of the packages to his son, Shiva slipped one of them behind his back before dashing back down the road towards the forest.

Shiva dancing in his leopard skin.

Shiva, stylish and radiant in his new leopard skin, dances on a demon.

That evening, Parvati and Ganesha were sorting through the packages, and Ganesha noticed his mother seemed distraught. “Ma?” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“Your father paid 9000 rupees for a leopard skin, and I can’t find it!” she lamented. “He’s going to be pissed when he finds out I lost it.”

Meanwhile, in the forest, Shiva wrapped the leopard skin around his waist, rolled out his tiger-skin mat and began imitating the postures of the various creatures that lived nearby. Several of the animals soon gathered around Shiva to watch.

Kurma, the tortoise, commented, “It’s about time he put something on.”

“Man, that’s an awesome skin he’s got there,” said Garuda, the eagle. “I’m impressed.”

“I wish I had something pretty like that to wear,” the scorpion, Vrschika, uttered.

All the while, Shiva only pretended to be deep in concentration while practicing asana. He was listening intently to the conversations among the animals of the forest, hearing them compliment his new outfit. His ego swelled a little bit with each adulation, and he was glad he had paid the exorbitant price for the leopard skin.

Thus, a new tradition was handed down to future generations of sages and yogis, and Shri Lululemon’s Animal Skin Emporium experienced a boom in business. The Path of Looking Good for Enlightenment, or Sundara-Yoga, (“beautiful” yoga), spread from the Himalayas to the world, rooting itself most solidly in the West, where the ground for such a practice was well-suited for its vigorous growth.

From the SUNDARA SUTRA, a newly discovered text found deep within a cave in Northern Indiana.


Running (Out of Excuses)


Just….oh….ten minutes ago, I read a post on Facebook from the local late spring race (Sunburst Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, 5K). It was titled “Top Ten Reasons for Not Running.” Somehow, I was unable to relate to this list. And I say “somehow” because I’m endlessly find a way to convince myself not to run each day. I want to run. I know how good I feel after running. But you see, just knowing the feeling isn’t enough motivation for me. Not now, anyway. So, without further ado, here’s my own top ten reasons (excuses) for not running, in no particular order:

  1. Dude, it’s damn cold outside.
  2. It’s dark already. And it’s damn cold outside.
  3. I gained 20 pounds since I stopped running 4 months ago. (Ordinarily you’d think this would be motivating, but to me it’s hexing, knowing that slamming that extra weight into the pavement will not be pleasant.)
  4. I can’t run in my Vibram Five Fingers. Becauses it’s damn cold outside.
  5. I need more sleep. Sleep is preferable to running. Sleep, for that matter, is preferable to anything.
  6. Is that a sheet of ice on the street?!? Damn, it’s cold outside!
  7. My books on homebrewing arrived in the mail today. I need to start studying.
  8. I can’t find my hat. I need it to run or my ears will freeze because it’s damn cold outside.
  9. FEAR: I once choked on a snowflake while running and had to self-Heimlich myself in the middle of a busy intersection.
  10. The sun in not shining.

It’s quite evident that the major obstacle to my running is the weather, the damn cold winter weather. So far this year, I have been running twice, about a mile each time, in the frozen air. I was exhilarated by the movement after such a long break, but my toes were not happy, and neither was my plantar fascia, for I wore traditional super-cushioned, big-heeled running shoes hoping to simply insulate my foot better against the cold.

Spring will be here soon. That’s what I keep telling myself. But until then, I might get a run in here or there, a mile or two, but I’m not going to fool myself by trying to establish a routine or schedule when this winter slough, and sloth, is working against me. March will be a better time to re-evaluate, when my chilly excuses hopefully run out.

Let God Be the DJ


Currently 5060 songs in my iTunes library, working on more. Set random play, and…

BRIGHT LIGHTS by Matchbox 20…makes me think of the open outdoor concert on Slayter Hill Matchbox 20 played at Purdue University. Two bands played before them – this was early in their success, shortly after “Push” was getting tons of airplay – and I didn’t stay to see Matchbox 20. I left after the reggae band from Chicago, Gizzae, was finished playing. I said to my friends, “I’m walking home. This band only has one good song, I won’t miss much.” I was stupid. I hadn’t heard any other songs aside from “Push.” After that show, Matchbox 20 continued to grow in popularity. I remember walking behind the stage on the way home and saw Rob Thomas out back standing around with someone else, though I didn’t know his name then, only “the lead singer.” I kept walking.

Some songs in the library I can’t make excuses for. Others have valid reasons for being here. But the next song…

PARANOID by the Jonas Brothers…OK. My first inclination is to blame my daughters for this one. They watched the Disney Channel too much for my liking. This video would come on between shows, and I think it’s catchy. So I downloaded it. Yes. Without being begged by the girls to get it. In fact, they didn’t know I had the song until they heard it playing in the car from my iPod. My oldest asked “Dad, why do you have this song?” I told her I got it for her. Score points with the girl and cover up a guilty pleasure at the same time. Nothing wrong with that. And the Jo Bros play their own instruments.

Some songs may have been written with some deep meaning about them, and some songs you just make up deeper meaning in your head…

WHEEL by John Mayer…this song makes me think of teaching yoga and the Buddhist Wheel of Dharma. The Wheel of Dharma because, specifically the lyric “That’s the way the this wheel keeps working now.” Dharma is endless, continuosly in motion, unstoppable. I think John was thinking of the laws of Dharma and Karma and of Channa Masala when he wrote this song. Truly. Just listen to it. Hear the chickpeas? And I think of teaching yoga because this song always popped up on the playlists I used for classes I taught way back in that past life as a yoga teacher. (I have since been reincarnated as a half-assed blogger – the similarities are as dumbfounding as Shiva Rea’s voice).

Oh Em Gee. I have to list this one because it was the next random song, selected by a Higher Power for me to write about. (sigh)


Barefoot and homeless in Haiti before the reunion tour.

COVER GIRL by New Kids on the Block…this song makes me think of Donnie Wahlberg’s ass. There I said it, whether I’m lying or not, you’ll never know (I am). Summer of 2009, I accompanied the Woman Currently Known As My Wife to a New Kids show. It was her 3rd or 4th within a year. My first ever (I swear). Now, I’m not going to lie. It was a good show. I did tire of Donnie yelling “Let’s Get This!” however, because I just could not figure out what it was that we were supposed to get. My compromised manhood feels a need to explain why this is in my iTunes library: I share the library with other members of the household. I don’t particularly like NKOTB’s early tunes; I’m partial to their most recent release.

And lastly…

OMAHA by Counting Crows…this song makes me think of walking the streets of my hometown in the rain as I contemplate my lot in life, where I’m going, where I’ve been. What I want to be. Who people think I am. How can I change? Do I want to change? And who would even notice? Do I even want anyone to notice me? Why should I care about anything? Why don’t I just get in the car and drive in any direction until I run out of gas or get stuck in the mud, whichever happens first? Somewhat inexplicably, this song also makes me think of the TV show “Friends.”

That was fun. For me. I like music. Who doesn’t? Spurs memories and erratic thoughts and behaviors. Incites riots. Provides ambiance for weddings and funerals. Makes you laugh, cry, fuck, run, spin, think, relax, fight, sleep.

Out of all 9 senses, I would not want to lose my hearing. I’d rather lose my ESP and telekinetic abilities first before I lost my hearing. True dat.

On Grandfathers

with Hap 1976

Hap with his second grandchild (me), 1976.

If I could only be so lucky.

That’s the thought that comes to mind when I consider that both my grandfathers lived beyond 90 years, passing rather quietly and peacefully of old age instead of some disease, cancer, heart attack or accident.

To live a long life.

To watch the grandchildren grow to into adulthood. To experience the joy of great-grandchildren.

In the last 8 months, both of my grandfathers have passed on. First, in February, my paternal grandfather, Albert, died in hospice. He was 93. Then, two weeks ago, Lloyd – “Hap” as he was known by family and friends – my maternal grandfather, died at 91 years old. I can’t say that I’m “sad” or that I’m “mourning” their deaths as one would expect to define those words concerning the loss of a loved family member. As I said, they had both lived long lives and they were not sudden, shocking deaths. I do, however, tend to be a terribly sentimental person.

with Al

With Al on my wedding day, 2001.

When Al died, I had the urge to go to Bonnie Doon Ice Cream downtown on 4th Street for a bowl of mint chip. A prominent memory from childhood, and of Al, was that when my brother and I would spend a day with him and my grandma, he would walk with us there from his house on 10th Street and treat us to ice cream. For all I know, this may have only happened once or twice, but in my memory, we did this every time we stayed at their house.

Two Sundays ago, after Hap died, I was driving home from my grandma’s house, and I was tempted to stop at a store to buy a bag of fun-size Milky Way candy bars to put in the freezer at home, for Hap, as I remember, always had them in his freezer, especially at the lake cottage during the summer. I always looked forward to gnawing on one of those frozen candy bars when I visited, and, admittedly, sneaking one now and then. This must explain why, to this day, Milky Ways are my favorite.

I say I had the urge to relive these memories of my grandfathers after they passed, yet I didn’t follow through. I’m not sure why I didn’t actually sit down at Bonnie Doon or get a bag of candy bars. Somehow, maybe, I felt ridiculous being so sentimental, trying to relive a childhood moment. What would I achieve in doing so, aside from consuming additional calories in both cases? Honoring the memories of my grandfathers, I now realize, would have been a valid enough reason to act on those sentimental urges.

But since I didn’t do that, here I am, blogging it out, honoring the memories of my grandfathers through this social medium for anyone to read, but especially, now, the memories of Hap, whose ashes we will be interred at the cemetery tomorrow.

with Hap, 1978

Getting a lift from Hap, 1978.

I don’t think anyone who knew Hap could think of him without thinking also of golf. Though I don’t play golf myself, the entire sport, for me, is defined by Hap. He played his entire life, from high school well into his eighties. He had a couple proud hole-in-ones, shot his age at 74, and gave golfers half his age a run for their money. During the summers at the cottage on Pretty Lake when I was growing up, if Hap wasn’t at the cottage, it could almost always be assumed he was on the golf course, which was just down the road and partially bordered the lake. I went golfing a few times with Hap as a kid, but I never picked up the sport on my own. Still, to me, Hap=Golf.

Thinking of Hap makes me think of Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen, and driving into town from the lake to buy a bag of them to take back to the cottage.

The giant slide at the Centennial Park playground in Plymouth. I anchor conquering that enormous metal beast with Hap because he took me there when I was young, stood by while I climbed the seemingly endless steps to the top, and shared in my joy as I flew down the long, bumpy chute.

Speaking of flying down inclines on my ass, depending on which route I take home from work, I sometimes drive by Elm Road Elementary School, behind which is a hill where Hap used to take us sledding in the winter. He always brought along the old wooden toboggan, on which he would ride down the hill with us. And as winter activities go, one of the few times-probably the first time-I ever tried ice skating was with Hap, who was quite deft on the ice.

During the summers, when my brother and I stayed overnight at the lake without our parents, Hap would tuck us into bed and tell us stories of when he was a kid, of playing at the lake, at that same cottage, or of games of hide-and-seek in the nearby cornfields. The details of those stories escape me now, and I wish I remembered them, but the just the memory of him sitting upstairs with us as we went to sleep, and of singing us to sleep with “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad.”

Hap 2004

Hap with my daughter, his first great-grandchild, 2004.

As is true will all people, everyone who knew Hap-family, friends, coworkers, neighbors-have their own unique memories of him, their own experiences which define Hap for them, their own impressions of who he was and what they gained from knowing him. But it was the grandkids who got the best of Hap. We were fortunate enough to experience the limitless joy it was to be with him. We had the pure, unconditional love that only a grandfather could give. One day, in the distant future, I hope to have my own grandchildren so that I can experience the other side of that relationship.

When I reflect on all of this, I now realize that what made having Hap as a grandfather one of the greatest things in the world was that he always gave me impression that having grandchildren was the single greatest thing in the world.

Hefty Dad Saves Kids From Halloween!


Another Halloween is over and bags of candy collected from Trick-or-Treating sit on a high shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets. This is actually not a hidden, kid-safe place, as I have caught my 6-year-old climbing on top of the counter and reaching into the same cabinet to get a juice box, but it is nonetheless out of sight, and for the most part, out of mind.

And now

I have begun my foolproof plan once again to save my kids from ingesting too much sugar (who am I kidding? – corn syrup) by eating most of the candy myself. After dinner, they get to choose one or two pieces of candy out of their bags as dessert. They perceive that their candy cache is dwindling, and since they are they only ones they know of eating candy out of those bags, there is no question that it is they who have been burning through the Reese’s Cups and Tootsie Rolls. I don’t know how many years I’ll be able to keep up this deception before they bust me.

Or, rather, I just bust myself.


The tempations of Halloween candy. The CANDY, I said!

I never lost last year’s Halloween weight, and now, here I am packing in more wasted calories. Not that I’ve ever cared about that sort of thing. But now I’m getting older, and it’s packing it all in my gut. It used to be, when I would gain weight, my body would evenly distribute the poundage just about everywhere: a few in the gut, a couple on my ass, a noticeable pound in my face. Whatever. I didn’t care.

But when “growing out of clothes” no longer only applies to your young children but to Daddy’s jeans…I think I may have a problem. Seriously, if I had kept trying to wear my old pair of jeans, I would not be impressing anyone with my muffintop.

In only 5 months, I have gained nearly 20 pounds. I contend that three factors have contributed to this sudden weight gain:

  1. I stopped running regularly 4 months ago. OK, in reality, I pretty much stopped running completely. I was supposed to run my 2nd half-marathon two weeks ago. Skipped it. It would have killed me.
  2. I began a regular habit of sampling micobrews. And I say “sampling” because, at most, I’ll drink one bottle every other night, but usually consumed after the kids are in bed, which means bad things as far as metabolizing the stuff effectively.
  3. My diet has been total shit. I can’t even tell you what I eat or don’t eat. Even though I still avoid meat on most occassions, it’s not like I’m eating healthy fruits and veggies at every meal. I eat what the kids leave on their plates, or I throw a burrito in the microwave or some nachos. Quick and easy, with the goal of trying to not be hungry. And again, always eating something after 9pm.

This scale MUST be in kilograms. Otherwise, what's it good for?

The World Health Organization currently labels me “obese” with a body mass index of 32.1. My goal is to drop 38 pounds (my pre-college drinking weight) by January 1st. Even then, the WHO would still call me “overweight.”

Bullshit. The Woman Currently Know As My Wife agrees with me that the WHO statistics are skewed. But she still looks at my tummy, and with her eyes says to me Da-a-a-a-a-mn, boy…

Either way, I need to lose it. And to be honest, I don’t care how I look compared to how I feel every day. I feel like complete shit. Sluggish. Unmotivated. Tired, even after a quad pumpkin spice latte. So. Back to running then? I hope. And starting today…OK, tomorrow…I’m laying off the Halloween crap. Maybe I’ll stand outside a dentist’s office and hand it out to kids as they leave, just not my own kids, right?

Now, excuse me while I finish this Butterfinger.

Water Like Glass


Water Like GlassAfter paddling hard for ten minutes with the current helping push me along, I paused, rested the double-bladed paddle in front of me, and slid through the water making only the slightest sound, the quiet burble of the kayak’s wake behind me. It was only a half hour after sunrise. The world was still drowsy. I was alone. I could hear the whisper of leaves falling from the trees, each quick contact with a branch or fellow leaf on the way down to the water’s surface a subtle remark on the nature of Nature: It’s always changing.

This early in the morning, the river’s surface was flat and reflective like glass. I could see into it, the rocks and clams and weeds as I glided over the shallows. Looking ahead toward the next bend, the world above the surface was mirrored below.

No wind. No ripples.

Peace. Perfection. Solitude.

And I was moving along, going with the flow.

Moving with the current, in life, is easier said than done. We always want to struggle against it, and we push ourselves into exhaustion – mentally, physically, emotionally – trying to fight our way upstream. Why? Upstream is the place we started, why do we risk our sanity and health trying to get back there? Why are we resistant to change, to move on?

To evolve.

To find out what lies around the next bend.

Keeping Up With The Jones Kids


By canceling cable television and relying on Netflix via the Wii for children’s programming, I thought that would get my kids away from the marketing influence of flashy TV ads for crappy toys. It was getting to the point that for every commercial that appeared, even if it was for Chevy trucks during a primetime network show I was watching, my oldest daughter would say, “DAD! I WANT THAT! CAN YOU GET ME A 1-TON PICKUP SO I CAN PULL MY SPEEDBOAT AND HAUL BOULDERS AT THE SAME TIME?”

Sweetie, we drive Hondas in this family, not Chevys. The answer is NO.


The real reason I ditched cable was the insanity of paying over $100 just to watch 5 channels – three of which were for the kids. The lack of ad influence on those young minds was an awesome side effect. I no longer felt the pressure to spend money on a bunch of shit they’d end up breaking in a week’s time. TV ads were one thing. Friends were another.

Rubber bands made fashionable. And I didn't think of it.

School started a few weeks ago, and my 6-year-old daughter comes home asking me to buy her Silly Bandz. Never heard of them. “They’re really cool!” she said. “You can buy them at the checkout at the grocery store! Can we go get some?” Her friends at school, she told me, had them and trade them with each other. I didn’t want her to be the only Silly Bandless girl in school, so I promised that the next time I went shopping, I’d pick some up. However, my mother beat me to it because, apparently, Gran’s arm was easier to twist than Dad’s. Of course. And when I saw these things, I was astounded by their simpilicity: colored rubber bands cut into a variety of shapes-a heart, a crown, a car, a magic wand, a margarita glass. Simple and cheap. Cool with me.

Then, last week, I noticed the kids across the street were riding down the sidewalk on new Razor scooters. That looks fun, I thought to myself. But then: Shit. The girls are going to want scooters if they see the neighbor kids with them. For a week I kept my daughters busy by taking them to the park, the library, anything to avoid playing outside, and most likely, with the neighbor kids. The rain helped out a couple days, too. I feel the slightest bit guilty about this maneuvering. But not too much.

What 3-year-old girls lose sleep over.

Over the weekend, it happened. The kids played together, and the neighbors brought out their scooters and began zipping around, even let my girls try them out. My 3-year-old had to be reprimanded for not giving up the pink scooter when her turn was over. When it was time to go back inside, both daughters asked if I would go buy them scooters. Miss Soon-To-Be-Four said she wanted one for her birthday. Fair enough, but not according to her older sister who wanted want, too. Whining ensued. I mentioned Santa’s expertise in making scooters and suggested they wait until Christmas. That worked. For a while.

That night, the 3-year-old woke up calling for me. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “Dad, I totally want a screwdriver.”

A what?

“A screwdriver!”

A screwdriver? Honey, are you OK? What needs fixing?

“A screwdriver like my friends.”

Oh! A scooter?

“Yeah, a scooter. Can I have one for Christmas? Can I tell Santa tomorrow?”

Sure, you can text him at the North Pole tomorrow, OK? Go to sleep.

If there had been both vodka and orange juice in the house, I would have gone to the kitchen right then for my own screwdriver. The pressure of trying to please your kids because of what the neighbor kids have can be a little stressful. I rue the day that 7-year-old boy across the street comes home in his very own Escalade.