Sleepaway camp for adults: Growing old without growing up

In my Ancient Singing Bowls class, intended to “clean the dust bunnies out of your chakras,” instructor Kathy Hamer places bowls made out of “seven sacred metals” by Tibetan monks, the size of Mini Cooper tires, on our solar plexuses. She fills them with warm water, then gongs away with either a mallet or a singing wand until the bowl makes thoracic-rattling vibrations jiggling all of your innards. Kathy warns: “If you snore, if you pass gas, if you laugh or cry, those are carriers of energy. So allow that.”

I quickly set my intention — not to pass gas — as Kathy makes the bowl thrum, awakening the plate of turkey bacon I put away at breakfast. No energy is carried. (I’m the Jeb Bush of singing bowls.) But the woman lying on the yoga mat next to me starts sobbing uncontrollably. Kathy applies a calming touch to her forehead. When I later ask the woman why the crying jag, she says she’s not quite sure. I’m tempted to give her Cal’s number so they can go out for chai teas and a nice weep.

In my Past Life Regression workshop, instructor Mira Kelley has us lie on the floor. She uses her hypnotic voice and a muted celestial soundtrack that sounds like Vangelis playing a funeral parlor to encourage us to reach out to our spirit guides and walks us back through our past lives and deaths. I make it all the way back to 1970 (the year of my birth) before I conk out. Listening to tape later, I can hear myself snoring. Others had better luck.

A large hirsute man — I’ll call Jim — made it back through seven lives during my refreshing nap (“most of them were pretty terrible,” he says). During share-time afterwards, I nearly cry tears of laughter as Jim matter-of-factly, though hilariously, relates all his grisly deaths. In one, he had both hands cut off for stealing, was tied to a post, and was made an example to his village. In another, a storm shipwrecked him on a desert island, where he had to drink saltwater. In others, he had his heart cut out on the top of a pyramid, drowned in an airplane crash, and was tortured to death on a spinning wheel of fire. “All I know is that I felt hot, and I got dizzy,” Jim says. “Neither was very good: You’re on a wheel! You’re on fire! Enjoy!”