Excerpts from Downward Dog, Upward Fog,

a spiritual women's novel by Meryl Davids Landau

Chapter 3

Anna has already grabbed a booth for us at the diner

near my house by the time I arrive. It’s been more than a week

since my disastrous evening with the girls, and I’ve been under a cloud 

ever since.

“Thanks for meeting me—especially on such short notice,”

I say to my sister, leaning over the Formica table to peck her

cheek before sitting across from her on the red vinyl banquette.

She beams as usual in her sequined white blouse, festive heart

earrings, and, of course, the ever-present twinkle in her eyes.

“No problem. You sounded like you needed a pick-me-up. I

consider that my specialty.”

I look around the diner. It’s one of those modern places that

strives to look old-fashioned; meanwhile truly authentic places are

closing down all over town, victims of rising rents and changing

palates. I picked this spot because I’ve always adored the vintage

1950s Coke signs adorning the walls, though when I spy them

now, they strike me as grimy.

Anna leans forward, eyeing me intently. “What’s up?”

I swivel my attention back to her. “I wish I knew,” I reply

glumly. “It’s nothing I can put my finger on. I mean, I’m bummed

Brad hardly calls me, but I know he’s busy. Work’s fine. My friends

are okay, even if we didn’t have the greatest night out last time.

There’s Mom, of course, but nothing new there: just her desire to

knock me down at every turn.”

“You know she doesn’t mean—,” Anna softy defends her.

“You know she does mean it,” I interrupt firmly. “Not with

you. Only me. But Mom hasn’t done anything worse than usual.

Nobody has. They haven’t changed; it’s me who has. Stuff that

used to be fun grates me like nails on a chalkboard. I can’t seem

to gin up a passion about anything.”

Anna looks at me for a full minute without responding. This

habit of hers, taking her sweet time to reply, always drove me

crazy. But now I appreciate that she wants to clarify her thoughts

rather than spout the first, maybe off-the-mark idea that springs

to her mind.

 “You’re having a spiritual crisis,” she replies at last. She says

this with the certainty of a doctor who, reading the X-rays, has

diagnosed a broken bone.

“Well, when you’re a minister, I suppose everything looks like

a spiritual crisis,” I say lightly. “Like when you’re a hammer . . . .”

The waitress comes by to pour me coffee and Anna, tea, and

we pause our discussion while she fills our cups. Anna turns to

fully face the woman. She looks about twenty-five, with rosy

cheeks and dark hair pulled into a wispy ponytail with fringed

bangs. Anna asks the woman how she likes her job, if she has any

kids, whom she prefers in the upcoming special election. This

desire to speak to everyone as if they were her BFF is another trait

of Anna’s that I never understood. I mean, Anna doesn’t ever eat

here, so it’s not like she’s going to see the woman again. But this

Queenie, if the perky hi, i’m Queenie name tag pinned next to her

very open neckline is to be believed, grows more animated with

every exchange. After a few minutes of this, she pumps Anna’s

hand with unbridled joy, flashes a hundred-watt smile on both of

us, and practically skips away. Anna watches her flit behind the

counter for another minute before resuming our conversation.

“I know you think I’m single-minded, Lorna. But the reason I

can recognize the symptoms of spiritual drifting is because I had

it, too. In my early twenties. I just stopped feeling like my life had

meaning. It’s what set me on my ministerial path.”

“I will not become an interfaith minister!” I jokingly protest, screwing

up my nose like I’ve just eaten something awful for added effect.

“I’m not saying you should,” Anna laughs. “But it sounds

like you’re disconnected. I think you’d benefit by developing . . .”

She pauses, reaching for the right words, and for some reason I

feel incredibly patient. “Well, I think it would help you to develop

at least a passing acquaintance with the amazing energy of the

universe that’s inside you—that’s inside everyone.”

“Have you been listening to that Serena Robbins radio host?”

I demand, smiling.

“Oh! You’ve finally heard her,” she shrieks. “I love that woman!

So what did you think?”

“Dunno. At first she seemed so airy-fairy. But I’ve listened a

few times now, and I have to admit she does always make me feel

better. Like she’s tapping into something meaningful and deep.”


I guess my response was all the opening Anna needed. In any

event, that’s how I wind up in the foyer of her house, arms

teetering under the dozen spiritual books she’s insisting I read.

The names on the spines are either new to me—Thich Nhat

Hahn, Ernest Holmes, Gregg Braden—or people I had no idea

concerned themselves with spirit, like Ralph Waldo Emerson,

that essayist we were forced to read in high school.

“When you finish those, I’ve got plenty more,” Anna says,

giving me such a massive good-bye hug, I’m surprised the books

don’t tumble from my overwhelmed arms.

A few days later, I’m sprawled on my living room couch,

tearing through my ninth book. Until now, my spiritual repertoire

has pretty much been limited to the Bible (from childhood

religious classes; I haven’t cracked it since). But these very

different spiritual tracts—encouraging my personal union with

my highest essence, and offering various road maps to get there—

are opening me up to a different world. I’m starting to see that life

isn’t about what happens; it’s about how I decide to react to those

things. It’s up to me whether I choose to react by feeling angry,

sad, and aimless—or, as my higher self does, loving, appreciative,

and joyful. It’s my call whether to live from a place of connection

or separation.

Although I can tell that putting these ideas into practice won’t

be easy, I feel a bit like the baby boom generation must have felt

when it got its first taste of the Beatles. There’s a whole world out

there I never knew existed. I am awed by these teachings. And I

am on my way.



# # # #




Chapter 16


The following Thursday I leave my office

to accompany Janelle to her doctor’s appointment. She’s been

begging me to go with her for ages—not because she’s worried

that anything’s wrong, but because she’s been dying for me to

meet her practitioner. The first time she gushed, “You absolutely

must meet this doctor,” I was sure she was trying to set me up

with him. When I finally confessed this to her, she laughed. The

guy is gay. Turns out Janelle is just hot for the energy-healing

method this Dr. Fallyn swears by, and like all new converts, she’s

trying to reel me in. Twice I made up excuses why I couldn’t go.

This week I finally relented.

I’m not sure why I feel such resistance. After all, part of my

spiritual beliefs includes being open to all kinds of possibilities

about the universe. And I’m certainly clear that there’s a force

beyond that which we can see, hear, and feel. As Janelle keeps

saying, the idea that there’s invisible energy in the world is not

even that out there: we all believe in electricity. I know that the

body is made from the energy of the universe, so why couldn’t

it be harnessed to help you heal? But I grew up with my mom’s

very narrow approach to health, which I’m having trouble

shaking. Still, I know that my own family physician, an M.D.

with Harvard training and an overreliance on a prescription pad,

can’t possibly have a lock on healing.

The funny thing is Dr. Fallyn has his own Harvard training,

a Ph.D. in biochemistry, along with his naturopathic physician

degree. It’s just that he doesn’t seem to be using one bit of what

he learned at the Ivy League. On his Web site, which I scanned

last night, he claims he can treat most diseases with his machine.

The Web site featured a picture of the device; it looks like a crystal

ball. No matter your complaint, this doctor’s treatment seems to

be the same: several sessions in front of the machine as it “beams

out targeted energy waves at a frequency designed to fix what

ails you.” Naturally, these are waves a client can’t see. All I could

think as I scrolled through the site was, at $100 a pop, this guy’s

got a great business!

Janelle has seen Dr. Fallyn three times. A friend from the yoga

center told Janelle the machine cured her insomnia, and Janelle

was eager to see if it could do the same for the dust and mold

allergies that swell her eyelids. Although her symptoms haven’t

completely disappeared since she started, even my cynical brain

has to admit she seems vastly improved. I’m not entirely convinced

her recovery isn’t attributable to less contact with dust and mold,

positive thinking, or even those horse-pill megavitamins the girl

somehow swallows daily. Janelle is certain that Dr. Fallyn is the

sole reason for her turnaround, but I’m of the mind-set that it’s

equally plausible the man is a total quack.

Displaying her usual impeccable timing, Janelle swings her

Prius around the corner just as I step out from my office lobby.

“Hey, how was your day?” she asks as I climb in her car (we

decided to leave mine in my office parking lot, to be picked up

later), even though I gave her the complete rundown when we

chatted on the phone not one hour earlier.

“Great, as you well know.”

“I’m so glad you agreed to come. I know you have doubts, but

I think he’s on to something big. Maybe he can help you with that

chronic cough.”

“I hope that’s not why you’ve brought me. My cough’s mostly

fine. Anyway, I’ve been hacking since the first grade. I think I’d

miss it if it disappeared.”

“Don’t worry. I brought you because I want you to see this.

Opening your mind’s a good thing. If you never wanna have your

cough treated, that’s okay by me.”

“Really, my cough strikes only every couple of weeks. It’s no big

deal. You should have heard me as a kid. I used to bark every hour!”

“Sounds awful. But I bet it’s something Dr. Fallyn can fix.”

“I’m sure he’d be happy to try—at a hundred dollars per. I

can’t believe you think his Frankenstein machine is worth that

kinda money. Think of the great clothes a gal could get for that!”

“Honestly, I’m surprised you’re so dubious, considering that

I’m Exhibit A. My allergies are so much better. And I know you

believe the same as I do: Everything in the world is energy. Solid

things merely move at slower speeds. So why wouldn’t changing

the energy in your body have a huge effect on your health?”

“You underestimate the extent to which I absorbed my

mother’s faith in FDA-approved pills and potions,” I chuckle.

“But I agreed to come. So clearly I’m a wee bit open-minded.”

A few minutes later, we pull into the doctor’s parking lot and

head inside. While Janelle signs in, I notice two model-gorgeous

women, one with cropped short blond hair, the other a brunette

whose mane is long and curly, in the waiting room. I head over to

an empty chair near them to get their perspective.

 “Are you patients of Dr. Fallyn?” I jump in, surprising myself

with my assertiveness.

“Yes—,” the brunette starts to say.

But the other interrupts her. “Who wants to know?”

“I’m sorry if that was too personal,” I say sweetly. “Let me

start again. My name’s Lorna, and that’s my friend Janelle.” I

indicate the reception area, where Janelle is quietly chatting with

the nurse and filling out papers. “If you’re worried about privacy,

you don’t need to discuss your condition. Janelle’s here for an

appointment, and I’m curious—okay, I admit, skeptical—about

his treatment methods.”

“I’m sorry if I was rude,” the blond woman says, extending

her hand with a complete attitude reversal. “I’m Tabitha. This

is Ashanti. Yes, we’re patients. I thought you might be with the

medical board.”

“I don’t understand,” I say. Janelle finishes with her forms

and slips into the chair beside me.

“Well, Dr. Fallyn practices in a way that threatens traditional

physicians, so he comes under a lot of fire. Several doctors have

filed complaints to get his license taken away. I thought maybe you

were part of their investigation. My girlfriends Soli and Jacqueen,

who are patients, told me someone was snooping around the last

time they came here.”

“Soli and Jacqueen—the ones who know Mandy Adams?” I’m

sure they must be the same women I met in Mandy’s spirituality

group, not only because the names are unusual but also because

they seem likely to travel in these alternative medicine circles.

“Yes—and we know Mandy, too! What a small world,”

Tabitha says.

“God forbid you ruffle the feathers of some physicians,”

Ashanti continues, ignoring our game of people geography and

getting back to the topic at hand. “So many of them have tried

to run midwives, chiropractors, homeopaths, and, in this case,

naturopaths, off the map. They want to keep every healer from

doing anything creative.”

“I see we’re of like minds,” Janelle says, leaning forward to

introduce herself and officially join the conversation.

“Do you think this treatment really has helped you?” I ask

the women pointedly.

They look at each other and laugh.

“Oh, you could say that,” Ashanti says. “Tabitha’s one of Dr.

Fallyn’s big success stories.”

“My regular doctors practically left me for dead,” Tabitha says

dramatically, pausing for further effect before continuing. “Two

years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The oncologist

told me outright I’d be lucky to last the summer. Nothing like

nipping all hope in the bud.”

“Naturally, we found a different oncologist right away,”

Ashanti says. “Someone who wasn’t ready to call the funeral home

yet. I’m Tabitha’s best friend––we’ve modeled together since high

school. I got online and started doing research.”

“As you can imagine, I was in shock about the whole thing.

Kind of paralyzed,” Tabitha adds. I lean forward, eager to hear


“I found her a doctor who agreed to shrink the tumor with

radiation. He thought there was a chance that if it got smaller, it

could maybe be surgically removed, although he wasn’t making

any promises. Something about it being complex, and close to her

speech center.”

“I had eight weeks of radiation,” Tabitha jumps in again, and

my head flips from one woman to the other. “X-rays showed the

tumor getting smaller. But radiation is so freaky. They’re pointing

this machine right at your head! I was nervous about the harm

the radiation might be doing to the rest of me. I kept recalling

the joke about the doctor who says he knew the treatment helped

his patient because the autopsy showed the tumor had gotten


“Tabitha and I got to talking,” Ashanti says, and my gaze

swings again to her. “I mean, what is radiation if not energy? Why

couldn’t her tumor shrink with energy that wasn’t so toxic? Soli,

who’s my neighbor, told me about Dr. Fallyn. It sounded weird,

I admit, but Soli swore the treatments had shrunk her uterine

fibroids, like down to nothing.”

“Dr. Fallyn encouraged me to stay with the radiation, and

even do the surgery if my oncologist thought it was safe,” Tabitha

continues. “He wanted his treatment to be complementary. But

I decided to stop the radiation cold for a month to see what

happened. My oncologist was pissed, but I figured that was

his problem. I came here every day for four weeks. At first my

eyebrows were raised as high as yours are.” She points to mine,

and I realize they’re practically in my hairline, so astounded am I

by this information. “But I had to give it a try.” I try to consciously

relax my face, but my eyebrows quickly pop up again. “By the

second week, I could sense that something was working. Hard to

explain exactly what I was feeling. After a month, I went to my

oncologist for another X-ray. He stood there stunned. Couldn’t

find but a tiny trace of the tumor! I tried to tell him about Dr.

Fallyn, but he just laughed. Swore that the radiation he’d given

me before must have worked wonders.”

“No operation. Nothing. Tabitha’s been in perfect health for

a year and a half! Comes here now for weekly tune-ups. I come

myself when I’ve a cold or headache. My story isn’t so dramatic,

but I’m a satisfied customer, too.”

Janelle is smiling wider than a beauty pageant contestant. She

knows this tale will go far toward convincing me that Dr. Fallyn is

not selling the energy version of snake oil. Plus, there’s the added

bonus that they know the women we’ve recently met; it makes it

seem more like karma.

“That’s incredible,” I say, trying to put the wow I’m feeling

into words. “But are you sure his machine treatments are what

cured you? Maybe it was the radiation? Or . . . something else?”

“Truthfully, I do think the machine is only part of the story,” 

Tabitha says. "Dr. Fallyn believed in my body’s ability to heal

itself. That’s not something I got from any of the dozens of other

doctors I saw during my care. When you think about how you

get over the flu or a cut in your skin, or how a woman grows

and births a baby . . . the body’s such a wondrous machine. Why

shouldn’t it have that same ability to dismantle runaway cells

clumped up in my brain? With Dr. Fallyn, I started having faith

that my immune system could cart that icky stuff away. I think the

energy treatments just sped up the process.”

“You guys should go on a talk show, or something! The world

needs to hear this,” Janelle says.

“I think that would only make more trouble for Dr. Fallyn,”

Ashanti sighs. “Jacqueen said it was an MS patient’s neurologist

who complained the loudest, even though the woman is

supposedly walking for the first time in years!”

“I hate to break up this little kaffeeklatsch,” a voice says, and

the four of us turn in unison to see a thin, middle-aged man in

black pants and a bright red shirt, his straight black hair down to

his shoulders, standing by the door.

“Dr. Fallyn! Hello!” Tabitha, Ashanti, and Janelle reply


“Hello to all of you! Janelle, whenever you’re ready, come on

in. And of course, your friend is welcome to join you.” 


Copyright ©2011 by Meryl Davids Landau

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