Tea drinkers buried their eyes in books--An Unlikely Prophet, Sydney Omarr's Day-by-Day Astrological Guide for Libra. Seagulls squealed from a speaker perched atop a bookshelf. Jasmine was in the air.
In the cafe at Transitions Bookplace, Matt Galloway, a store clerk, introduced the evening's speaker: Dr. Jay Stone, hypnotherapist, breathing instructor, past-life-regression counselor. "In an interesting twist in the New Age community," Galloway said, "he's also a candidate for alderman of the 32nd Ward."
If Stone unseats Alderman Ted Matlak he's promised to introduce a campaign-finance-reform ordinance, end "stealth rezoning," and become a voice for the yoga and macrobiotic communities.
But tonight, February 6, the topic was Stone's book Sacred Cycles: Inner Quest for Health, Happiness and Self-Fulfillment. He struck a key on his laptop and the cover appeared on the wall. "The man who designed the cover did it after coming back from a spiritual retreat, and he did a fabulous job," said Stone, who exudes an aura of mild patience. "When you find your sacred cycle it improves everything you do."
Nature moves in cycles, Stone explained, flashing a diagram of the moon's phases. We have 100 cycles within our bodies, he said, among them the actual-potential balancing cycle, the cognitive-emotional cycle, and the alternating nasal-airflow cycle. "Not only do cycles apply to Western psychology, they also apply to Eastern philosophy," he said. "Yin is attracted to yang, yang is attracted to yin. In the Tao Te Ching Lao-tzu says the motion of the Tao is to reverse."
Stone and his father, 50th Ward alderman Berny Stone, are a little yin and yang themselves. Jay is a would-be reformer; Berny is a lifelong machine pol. Berny endorsed Matlak because, he told the Sun-Times, Jay "has absolutely no understanding of politics." Berny says he still loves his son. Jay says he still loves his father.
Because he's an environmentalist, Stone rode the el to Transitions. But he does own a car, and he told a story about its license plate, NOMIND1. "I was in the parking lot at Whole Foods on Ashland Avenue," he said, "and a woman saw my license plate and said, 'Does that mean you have no mind?' I said, 'It doesn't have anything to do with intelligence.' She said, 'What do you mean?'" He said he described to her the perfect sage: "The sage has no mind of his own. He is aware of the mind of others. Instead of focusing on himself, he focuses on the needs of others."
It sounded like Mayor Daley's ideal alderman. Yet the mayor too is endorsing Matlak.
Then Stone moved on to the alternating nasal-airflow cycle, discovered in 1895 by Dr. R. Kaysner. He explained that our nostrils take turns dominating our breathing, switching every 90 minutes or so. When we take in more air through our right nostril we engage the left hemisphere of the brain, the seat of logic, grammar, and punctuation. When our left nostril is dominant, so is the right hemisphere of our brain--the visual, spatial, creative side. "They say the eyes are the windows to the world," he said. "Your nose is the indication of your health. If you want, take a moment to breathe and see which nostril is dominant."
"My right," a young woman decided.
"Yeah, mine too!" exclaimed her white-haired companion.
"Irregular nasal-airflow cycles," Stone said, "lead to higher stress, anxiety, and lower self-actualization."
Somewhere a wind chime tinkled. Stone looked at his watch. He was ten minutes over. Quickly he mentioned an article he'd published on using DNA to prove the existence of past lives. A woman in his past-life-regression class believes she's the reincarnation of a Civil War soldier and they hope to use DNA to substantiate her claim.
A professional astrologer raised his hand.
"Are you a Pisces?" he asked.
"No," Stone said, "but I think my moon is in Pisces,"
"Oh, no wonder," said the astrologer. "With Pisces being the 12th house, it represents past lives."
Stone hadn't mentioned politics, but many of his listeners concluded the City Council could use him.
"To see a politician this conscious, it's really encouraging," said Craig Schuenemann, who wanted to know where Stone was running. When he heard the ward included Ukrainian Village, Roscoe Village, Wicker Park, and Bucktown, he looked pleased. "That'd be a good ward," he said. "There are a lot of spiritual folks in that neck of the woods." He left with a window sign.
David Patchen, the professional astrologer, hadn't heard that Stone was running for alderman. "Shouldn't be a problem," he declared. "That moon in Pisces gives him compassion, gives him a sense of what's happening. Pisces tend to be political because they're intuitive people. It's also one of the two houses of government." (The next day Patchen rescinded his endorsement. "When I took a look at it, I decided this is not somebody I care to support.")
Matt Galloway stacked chairs, a Jay Stone for Alderman button flapping on his apron. He said he found out Stone was running when he saw the candidate on the front page of the Sun-Times, arching his back in a yoga position to demonstrate that he would "bend over backward" for his constituents. Galloway persuaded his manager to schedule Stone at Transitions and joined his campaign. "We're putting up signs, going door-to-door, inviting people to a meet-the-candidate night at Global Yoga," he said. "I think he would shed light into the City Council. He's a healer. I think he could transcend politics."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Saverio Truglia.