The original novel that’s been recast into Yoga Bootcamp kept the action to a single day – albeit while recalling past events leading up to those 24 hours. The revised version retains that structure.
At the time I drafted the story, I was largely in the dark about what happened to the real ashram after the year-and-a-half I resided there. Nearly all of the teachers or organizations bringing Asian spiritual traditions to America eventually suffered sexual or financial scandals, or so it seemed. While introducing that element would have led to a juicier book, I refrained from the temptation, in large part because I wanted to retain the euphoric innocence we experienced or aspired to.
A few of the former residents I tracked down while drafting that story shared my sense that something powerful and life-changing had happened with us, but much of our teacher and the teaching remained an enigma.
A visit to the site, in fact, confirmed a sense I’d been ostracized and that our teacher had died in the interim.
In the years since the book first appeared, I’ve reconnected with some of the more central figures from the period. We’ve had intense emails and telephone conversations, and not everything was as rosy as my recollections. I hadn’t been ostracized, but the elements of self-destruction were in place.
I could have taken the revised work more in the direction of tragedy – there would be a morbid fascination, I’d assume – but chose instead for a comedy. Bootcamp was a term we accepted gleefully.
Still, there were other big changes.
In the revisions leading to Yoga Bootcamp, I changed Swami’s gender. It seemed to better fit readers’ expectations. Besides, things were maverick enough as they stood. And then? You couldn’t call a woman Big Pumpkin or Elvis and get away with it now, could you?
Other changes included a clearer understanding of his background and training.
And then the gender of his key student was changed, to become Jaya, the central character in Nearly Canaan. Doing so created a sexual tension that could remain at bay.
So, no, I wouldn’t do the other yoga novel.
I still believe there’s a need for the kind of shared learning about life itself we found in the ashram. Does anywhere offer that now? Or can youths, saddled with college debt, even take a year or two to delve into spiritual development in the face of today’s pressures? Are there ways to create alternatives or even apply these to group living to cope with the realities of low incomes and high housing expenses?
I still see the ashram model as inspiration.