Black Abyss

In the movie version of my life, a close up of the blood-shot eyes of Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp will open the scene and the camera will pull back to show a limping and cowering wretch pull himself up to the front desk at Yoga on High. My tear stained face contrasting with the effervescent YOHI goddesses. My closed fist slowly opens to reveal crumpled paper that only hours earlier was a pristine gift certificate to Yoga on High.

The front desk goddess smiles and cheerfully intones, “You must be here for the Urban Zen class. Please take off your shoes and you may go into that room now.” Ominous music plays as I work my crumpled body and mind through the passage. Once through this mysterious portal, powerful beams of light and dancing fairies transform me to the box office star everyone lined up for days to see.

Some artistic license must be taken to make the movie fit the right demographics, but my introduction to Urban Zen was more dramatic and life changing than the Johnny Depp version.

My journey back from the dark abyss of my mind started with a Valentine’s Day gift certificate to YOHI from my wife because she had read that combat veterans with post traumatic stress were finding relief with yoga. At this point in our marriage Becky had nothing to lose because nothing was working for me and this yoga stuff, no matter how strange it seems, was probably going to be her last desperate intervention to save me.

It had been 10 years since I last emptied the sand out of my boots and I’d be the first one to say that, yeah, I was exposed to combat, but nothing like the infantry dealt with everyday. Same thing with my civilian job. Sure, as a cop I had seen things that I couldn’t bring up at a cocktail party, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Of course, I wasn’t handling it, and the way I tried to handle it was to become contender for jerk of the year.

My brain would never shut down, and physically my body was always in a heightened state of alertness, ready to meet any threat head-on. The only problem was, there were no threats, at least the ones I was ready for. The only threat that I faced was the threat that if I didn’t change now, I would be dead.

I stumbled into this Urban Zen class not knowing exactly what it was, but being told that it might be helpful. At first I thought that I must have slipped into some hippy sect meeting. Everyone I came across was friendly. I mean, not polite and then the moment you turn your back the knife will be inserted. I mean friendly and supportive. Sounding like drug dealers, these two ladies start passing out essential oils that were distilled to such a high degree that the oils would help me feel uplifted. The only distilled liquid I wanted was clear and had a high alcohol content.

Then one of these women told me to sense the bottoms of my feet. What the … was she talking about? I’ve been wearing boots as a cop or soldier for more than 30 years. I wouldn’t recognize my feet if they were in a line up, and she wanted me to sense the soles of my feet. I play along. I mean the yoga was easy, I mean nothing like the physical fitness exercises that I’m used to, and the melodic tone of her voice was calming and encouraging.

An hour and a half flew by and this angelic woman gently nudged me awake. You see, I don’t fall asleep very easily. Never on duty, and being in this yoga studio was like being in enemy territory, or at least unsecured perimeter. But here I was, waking up and feeling…. Oh my, what is this that I am feeling? I’m feeling calm? I’m returning a smile? My, my brain is focusing on what’s going on around me now, and not game playing 1001 potential responses to unknown threats. What was that the woman was saying, inviting me back? Naw, she wouldn’t do that. No, I mean, I didn’t have real yoga clothes on, and my Army t-shirt said something about collateral damage. She couldn’t have been talking to me. But she was.

I go home and my wife immediately sees a change in me. I’m not cured, I’m not even close to human, but for some bazaar reason where my only view of life was darkness, I now could see a glimmer of light.

Urban Zen, the calm in the chaos, was developed to help bring peace and comfort to patients, loved ones and the doctors and nurses who drain themselves to keep us alive. This simple yet interwoven restorative practice supports the body and the mind so we can better heal. I went from being an angry combat vet bent on self destruction to an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist in a little more than a year. Urban Zen did save my life; my life now has a new option—being able to use the Urban Zen techniques I practice daily for myself and in the therapeutic sessions I do with others. I will share more of my journey from the blackness of “no hope” to the light that Urban Zen projects on anyone who is open to experience calm in the chaos.


Mike joined the yoga community in 2013 after his wife Becky presented him with a Yoga on High gift certificate for Valentine’s Day.  Sampling many different classes, Mike has found Hatha, restoratives, & especially Urban Zen impactful in his life and he is currently wrapping up his certification at Yoga on High for Urban Zen Integrative Therapy.

Celebrating his 30th anniversary this year, Mike is a farther of three daughters & one son.  Recently retired as a police sergeant, and a combat veteran with 32 years of service in the Army Reserve, Mike hopes to bring help spread the amazing restorative powers of yoga to his brother & sister veterans.

Now taking registrations for Urban Zen training! If you are a yoga teacher or medical professional, and you are interested in becoming an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist, click here for more information.