So I’m in this temple in Nepal, walking through a maze of crumbing shrines, throngs of worshippers, monkeys underfoot like kids at a church picnic and clusters of holy men. Many are ascetics who have renounced society to seek enlightenment through self-deprivation, such as wandering the world nearly naked, smeared with ashes and refraining from cutting their hair and/or fingernails for years at a time. (As a spiritual lightweight, I have already determined this is not my path.)
Just when I’m thinking this place can’t get any nuttier, a guy dressed in nothing but a loincloth comes up to me and says, “I can lift an 80-kilo stone with my penis.”
It is definitely one of the more original pick-up lines I’ve ever heard.
“If you pay me ten dollars,” he adds, “I’ll show you.”
Now, I have a firm policy against paying to see penises under any circumstances, so I just keep on walking. But my new friend sticks to my side, repeating his offer over and over.
“Ten dollars. I can lift an 80-kilo stone with my–”
Finally I turn to him and say, “That’s nothing. My husband can do the same thing. And I don’t have to pay him for it.”
My new friend gives up and walks away. I feel kind of bad for lying to him so early in our acquaintance, but I really don’t think our relationship is going anywhere. Best to end it now.
A year later, at a cocktail party at a swanky spiritual retreat center, a group of us are swapping travel stories, and it turns out one of my companions had encountered the same spiritual weightlifter – and not only forked over the ten dollars but had captured the moment in a photo.
I am naturally agog to know the details, but my cocktail companion is strangely reluctant to give a full demonstration in a room full of people neither of us knows well. But I did manage to get a copy of the photo, and you can see for yourself how it was managed. I’ve since read that it’s an advanced form of self-punishment.
I’ve also read that this particular religious practice hasn’t caught on in a big way. I can’t imagine why.
I'm an American writer living in Seville, Spain and traveling the world with my husband, Rich. We've recently completed a five-month Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour, exploring the world's favorite cuisine to discover more about European culture — and our own.
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