Friday, June 4, 2010

Lost Bodies

"Undesirable" human behavior springs from that longing for freedom, because most humans can't figure out how to access "out-of-my-head" without intoxication, immersion in distraction, getting off (not just sexually), etc. It simply is not provided; it needs to be provided because not everyone can just find it and not everyone possesses the will to seek it out alone. The matter/spirit split does not help at all.

To be difficult, "undesirable" behavior actually is not undesirable or wrong or whatever you want to call it. True wise men and women long understood the validity of drugs, alcohol, sex, food, dance - really any sensory, "base" pleasure - as gates to pass through into ecstasy, our natural state. Any gate is a perfectly valid gate. Recognizing that a gate is just a gate - that's where wisdom comes in. Understanding the gate for what it is and retaining your common sense awareness even as you fully dive in.

The challenge in our hyper-modern, hyper-dual, neck-up society is finding a way to set ordinary people on the path to this understanding. As a teacher, you can't just start waxing philosophical about heaven not being a tangible location or encouraging drunken orgies. The heaven talk just offends most people and as for the orgy...that would be like asking someone to write a thesis in another language when they aren't even familiar with its alphabet. Even something fairly simple (or not) like living the paradox of materialism and mysticism just does not make sense to the multitude of nice-house-nice-car-twoandahalf kid-nine-to-fivers. You must begin from some kind of common ground, someplace fully accessible - though for many, this home turf is mistaken as alien.

I refer to the body. We all live in a body. Our bodies are alive, though they may not always feel that way. The body is a vehicle, a mount, a stage, paints and inks. And while it is absolutely possible to access ecstasy through riding or performing or creating art, the easiest place to access ecstasy may be through the moving body. Because movement is life. Movement remains the most natural, archaic, straightforward way back to the truth: that we ARE natural, old as time, uncomplicated - dare I suggest divine. Divine in that we are greater than we think and that we are as part of, as enmeshed in, the universe as electrons and water.

By healing the schism between matter and spirit in the body, through the template of the body, this healing naturally carries over into the "rest" of our life - all our more macrocosmic schisms can be healed by first doing it through the microcosm of the body. Doing this through yoga asana is natural, because yoga by its very nature transcends splits. Yoga functions as both a science of the body and bodily art. Yoga understood through Patanjali's asthanga - eight limbed - system also naturally embraces the concept of wholeness. If the eight limbs are practiced in parallel development, the entire human is being worked on, from the gross physical to the loftiest spiritual and all that lies in between.

The definition or translation of asana that most people are told is "seat". Most teachers will then tell the student that this of course refers to padmasana or full lotus, the archetypal seated meditation position. Following that explanation usually comes the diatribe about all the other physical yoga postures being useful only to the extent that they prepare the body and mind to sit comfortably for long periods of time in padmasana. This isn't false but at the same time it feels like only a slice of the whole truth, especially regarding the usefulness of yoga in our present time.

A definition of asana that feels more natural and whole expands upon the meaning of "seat" as not just referring to a seated meditation posture, but to rootedness and the human connection with the rest of nature. Asana could then be a method of developing and expressing our connection to the world. Connection to the world is not just how we relate to the world, but also how the world moves us, our story of being part of this world, what the world does to us and what we do to the world. This is a deeply moving concept. And isn't it interesting how we sum up strong emotion, reaction, or feeling as being MOVED? We never say, "That song really seated me", we are always moved, stirred, driven, inspired. And one could argue that often accompanying a deep connection to a piece of music or a work of art or simply watching the play of light and color at dusk comes a profound stillness. But if you really pay attention, you will notice that stillness rests at the core of the sweeping, powerful, moving energy of our heart's response.

Inspiration. Respiration. At the core of our embodied existence is the movement of respiration, the spiral contraction and expansion of our heart to power that respiration. Motion, flux, fluidity, and energetic phenomena are the root of everything we are as humans, all the way through to the cellular and subatomic. It seems almost ridiculously ignorant to push our moving reality to the side, making it subpar with the static supposed holiness of viewing the body as mere annoyance, trash that we are trapped in until the grand day when our super-consciousness blows out the back of our skulls.

Certain individuals come out with witty comments like, "If sensory and worldly pleasure were the path to the Self, everyone would be a mystic. Why aren't they?" Allow me to retort that if sitting still as a corpse for hours on end and staring into space while barely breathing were the only answer, then you could find a mystic in almost every home or office in America.

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