A Rejuvenated Life
January 20, 2011
Stonehill Alumnus Transforms Life through Yoga and Meditation
Seven years ago, Dave "Over the Top Mace" Macek '04 was a football captain and mathematics major at Stonehill College.
He loved bologna-bacon-and-cheese sandwiches, partying and tackling people- not necessarily in that order.
Today, you're likely to find the now organic-food-lover teaching a Vinyasa yoga class at The Red Lotus Society in sunny San Diego, California.
He hasn't played a serious game of football, eaten bacon, or tasted beer in almost four years.
The story of how Macek went from a football field in Massachusetts to a bamboo floor in California involves 18 countries, seven Stonehill alumni, and one man's search for more.
In 2003, Macek, along with his housemate and football co-captain Steve Sheeler were playing video games when Sheeler casually asked Macek: "Hey, when we graduate, wanna go to California?"
"I said ‘Yeah, sure,' without really thinking, and then the day arrived and we went," recalled Macek, in a phone interview from his home in San Diego.
That May, seven members of the Class of 2004 - Lauren Clifford, Leanna Trombino, Jeff McCormack, Matt Carpenter, Ryan Glidden, Sheeler and Macek - piled into a motor home and drove cross-country.
Thirty days and 10,000 miles later, they found themselves pulling into a beach parking lot in San Diego.
"The first couple of weeks, we still had the motor home, none of us had jobs, we were living in a parking lot on the beach, which is classic West Coast," said Macek, a Webster, Massachusetts native.
"We found a lot of Stonehill alumni out here. There are so many Stonehill people living in San Diego that they have a ‘West Coast Alumni Meetup' every year. There are alumni of all ages," said Macek.
A Stonehill alum and former football player, Chad Dwyer '01, helped Macek's crew find two homes to live in.
The 9-5 Life
Soon, Macek landed a job at a local insurance agency. The job paid well, but the nine-to-five existence left him yearning for more.
"I did well at the job. I got two promotions in one year and all of my peers were in their 50s. I was the young kid on the job, excelling at the profession, traveling from L.A. to San Francisco, managing $4 million business accounts," said Macek, now 28.
"There was one particular day I was out for lunch with a client, and he said, ‘Hey if it doesn't work out at the agency, you could come work for us,' and my boss replied, ‘Oh no, we have big plans for David.'"
"And as soon as he said it, I thought, ‘Are these my plans?' And I knew these were not my plans. I made a commitment that within a year I would find out what I wanted to do."
Then, fate intervened: Macek's old football injury flared up.
A Fit Mind & Body
A friend recommended he try a Bikram yoga class to help with his back injury. Bikram is an intense yoga which takes place in a heated room.
"Having a football background, the intensity got me hooked. I couldn't believe it, it was tougher than any football training camp I'd ever been in," he said.
"I was looking at my health, I started to change my diet, exercise, and I really transformed my whole body. Now I'm 80 pounds lighter. I tell people I was an offensive lineman, and they can't believe it.
Soon after, Macek began reading philosophy and history books on how to live a mindful life.
I said to myself, ‘How can I use my energy to maximum positivity? How can I make the world the better place?' That got me to look at my job and say, ‘Is this what I want to do for a career?'
"I felt there was something else I was meant to do, and I knew it was about health. I knew I wanted to positively impact other people's health," Macek said.
So, in February 2008, Macek quit his job and enrolled in a Master of Public Health program at San Diego State.
On The Farm
And, with a few months to kill before classes started, he took off for a four-month, 18-country backpacking trek through Africa and Europe. He volunteered with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), where he worked on organic farms in exchange for food and lodging.
"One farm in France was very rural and secluded. The family that was running the farm had to leave for a family reunion, so for 11 days, it was just me in the woods with 11 chickens, three dogs and four cats," Macek recalled.
"I never had that solitude in my life. That was a very important time for me. Then I worked on a farm in Greece that had a yoga retreat, so that was another major influence for me," he said.
Finding His Calling
When Macek returned to California, he became certified as a yoga instructor, and began hitting the library to research the benefits of yoga and meditation in public health.
In 2009, a fellow graduate student recommended Macek check out a yoga studio downtown - The Red Lotus Society.
"I took one step in the studio, and I knew right away, it was my calling."
He became a resident of Red Lotus Society, an educational non-profit that's focused on peace and sustainable, mindful living.
Red Lotus Society operates a multicultural peace practice center in downtown San Diego historically known as the Ideal Hotel. Macek and other instructors teach classes in yoga, meditation, and other conscious movements. There is also a Community Tea Room were art, culture, and music events are held.
"This is the perfect environment for me," Macek said. "I quickly got involved with things. When the executive director needed to transition, the board asked me to do it. So that's where I am now," he said.
"From where I am now, it's tough to even connect with the person I was five or ten years ago. I was masculine, intense... Now I'm more in touch with my thoughts and feelings."
"What I'm doing now is effortless. Every day I'm living," Macek said. "I'm doing what a human being can do in their life - contribute back to the world they live in."
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