Every life and every death begins the same way, with an exhale. We come into the world with a cry and go out with a sigh, each of these expressions floating on the out-breath.
Buddha’s disciple, Maudgalyayana, taught his own student an important lesson by showing him a huge pile of bones. When the student asked, “What is that?” Maudgalyayana replied, “These are all the bones from the bodies you had in previous lives.”
The bones are always the first to go; it is how the earth element in our body dissolves. Water goes next, followed by the element of fire. Then our wind blows out. After the air element leaves us, the only thing that is left is our consciousness and finally that exits the body, too.
Abiding is an in-between experience. Because of that, it gets less attention. It’s not a peak event such as arriving or departing or even an intentional action such as accumulating or releasing. Lacking an obvious drama to pull you in, it is easy to miss or ignore or avoid.
But if you do place your attention on the liminal, allowing yourself to feel the threshold-space of richness of neither here nor there, you discover that this is where the magic happens. It’s when things start to cook.
A good yoga brew is made of the universal elements of heat and exertion, breath, sweaty muscles, and strong bones. In life, these same ingredients show up as tears and love, anger and fear, hope and confusion, sometimes nausea, sometimes heartbreak, sometimes joy.
“You already have everything you need to be happy.”
Bingo! All of us experience moments of insight that pop up out of nowhere. Maybe it was a matter of time and practice…drip, drip, drip, the bucket fills. Or maybe something more ordinary like boredom or exhaustion or jet lag slows us down long enough to notice.
What I wanted had been there all along, but I was too busy creating my own dukha to notice it. I see that tendency in my students too. They might be sitting nicely in a pose but the space between their eyebrows has a deep crease that tells me they are in pain. When I ask them about it, it’s almost like I woke them up out of a nap. A typical reply might be, “Oh yeah, this position always kills me. It’s been like that for years. I just don’t have good shoulders.”
The wind is blowing so hard it feels like I can’t hold on much longer. Even if I do, I can’t be convinced that the tree won’t get blown away itself. My little claws are grasping onto a thin branch as I look down to the depths of where I could fall. In this moment I wonder if it’s worth holding on or if I should just let go…
I’m supposed to be able to fly anyway. But somehow that doesn’t give me the confidence time after time to take the plunge. I remember on one of my trips out East, a Taoist person was spreading virtues of “not doing.” I have to wonder how I can possibly “not do.” If I don’t let go, am I not holding onto things I should let go of? If I let go into a situation that feels dangerous, am I doing what I always do—plunging into risk? The fundamental nature of “not doing” is, in itself, doing something!
I am writing this letter because it felt strange to leave without saying goodbye. I want you to know that it is not because of anything you did or did not do, but simply because it is time to move on.
I will always carry a part of you with me wherever I go. I have only the greatest respect for you and I have been forever changed by knowing you.
I hope that you will not be angry with me, although I accept that you will need to deal with this in your own way. You may not even notice that I am gone. I still can’t help but hope that you are sending me off with a happy heart and wishes for safe travels.
“It is hard to be brave,” said Piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”
Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said:
“It is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us.”
~ Benjamin Hoff, The Te of Piglet ~
today’s Event of a Thread was Epic. i was there from 9am-5pm. i showed up for a full “work day,” but it was perceived as an eternity. it amazes me how vast time is and how quickly things can change; it is very easily possible to lose track of one’s self and of the little things in life when we succumb to the chaos that surrounds us.
as artists, and as human beings, what kind of space do we create?
“It’s an empty city block…And wanting to make the place that everyone can be in and join the work in some way. And thinking about: What are those experiences that allow us to fall open to something? What allows us to become receptive? To pay attention? And all of the modes of attention that we can form…The responsibility of thinking about the nature of public gatherings and what are the opportunities to gather in public? How do we retain a sense of our individual presence and yet join to something larger?”
i am running not quite as early as i want again today. but at least i did a pretty thorough vocal warm-up beforehand. maybe it is something about the Robot Immigrants coming to the Armory today and meeting with them after, but my warm-up was similar to the ones we do in our process. usually i do yoga because my body tweaks out a little sitting on that stool in one position for so long, but yoga hasn’t quite been solving that in its entirety. although i am building my core back up so that i can sustain the position (and minimize the pain and damage to my body), i realized from the last Event that i needed to work out my articulators a little more to maintain the extended verbal space that i am filling. so my warm-up today actually became a combination of both physical stretching and releasing, and voice warming and exercising.
today was my very first shift at the Armory. amidst the chaos of my final week of the Fall semester in grad school, the holiday hubbub, subway delays, and too little time for the important things, i trekked my way up to the Upper East Side to read to the pigeons.
i could not be more grateful. upon arrival, i am filled with a sense of calm and expansiveness. there aren’t too many people in the Drill Hall. i see the familiar little heads of J.Ed and Deborah Black emerging from their intricate sheep’s wool cloaks. it is quiet and mellow. some people are laying on the floor beneath the curtain. others are slowly swinging in what seems like quiet contemplation. i want to join them, but i head back to the green room instead. it’s nice back there too. because we are instructed to show up 20 – 30 minutes before our shifts, i have time to stretch to make up for the yoga that i didn’t have time for in the morning. prior to this, i had a Kanji quiz and a taped in-class Japanese presentation. learning a new and complex language is difficult; communication in any language takes a great deal of energy in order to articulate oneself well.