Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2012
IN BODYMIND PRACTICES, improving balance can come to reference literal physical balance. And so studies of health benefits of practices such as tai chi and yoga report gains in physical balance that prevents falls and offers better mobility. And yet, this sense of balance is facile, missing the heart of balance.
There are, for example, yoga practitioners who can assume amazing feats of physical balance, and yet, may be quite imbalanced in terms of relatively high anxiety levels and/or limited skills and interest in calming and quieting.
Bodymind practices that concentrate on providing an “antidote” to hectic everyday life are likely to be far more beneficial, both physiologically and psycho-spiritually, than gains in physical balance.
When you cross a threshold into a space where gentle bodymind practices are occurring, there can be a major, dramatic shift from the fast pace of the everyday that offers an important sense of balance.
And yet, such an “antidote” tends to be rare. When balance in the everyday is pursued, popular efforts tend to be a “physical workout.” “Working out” may be broadly touted as countering the stress or imbalance one experiences in everyday life. And often, “working out” stresses physical intensity to exorcise frustration and stress. And the generic report is that one feels better, but somewhat paradoxically, post-workout from an endorphin rush, and one can retreat home and rest.
There is physiological evidence that vigorous exercise produces body chemistry changes that are associated with stress reduction and mood elevation. And yet, is not “working out” somewhat akin to stress producing “working.” We become our words. One begins to presume that stress-reduction is, paradoxically, shorter bursts of stress to overcome the dastardly effect of long runs of stress. Slowing down and quieting and calming may become anxiety provoking, and endured for perhaps minutes only. Why? Because one seems to be doing nothing, and how can nothing be good.
Intensively working out—especially finishing the workout—may be somewhat akin to coming down from the highs of summating a mountain. Too fast, one is quickly back in the everyday, with no transformation to a more regular state of emotional balance. The antidote for work is a workout.
At some point, a bell sound might be heard. It might be the clack of a stone on the cobbles. It might be weariness in facing the start of another “workout.” There might be a moment where “release” comes from doing next to nothing. And this release is, somehow, balancing. And this “doing nothing” is more complex than heretofore imagined. One might begin to feel like a rat on a treadmill, chasing survival. But now, there is something qualitatively different. It is not about survival. It is about thriving and optimizing, and repeating the same behavior might be sensed to be circling on the exercise wheel.
Life is change. Open. Graced. And this is health—open, graced. Suddenly, there is a sense of permission to still, and calm. And nothing stops dead. Rather, the streaming of the universe may be touched.
One surrenders, takes refuge, and is bolstered up by everything. Not needing to be in charge, but rather, following, freeing rather than controlling.
One bobs in a vast ocean of support rather than is alone. Each breath is fresh and overfull of oxygen. In tadasana [mountain pose], Rodney Yee [Yoga: The Poetry Of The Body, p. 57] writes of offering ( likely costly piece of a yoga workshop with him) permission to lean this way and that—“falling and recovering”--as an aspect of experiencing the asana—“bobbing” as I might say, being held up by the whole ocean of existence and being. Each step and each step is, in Zen practice, a fall off a cliff, never hitting bottom, due to life being a constancy of change.
And so bobbing, not really touching bottom, is the swim of authentic balance. And it requires stilling and calming to perceive the way to fall and recover. Tomorrow, an ache on awakening, snowfall perhaps or oppressive heat, the call of bird, sun shadows painting the wall, a new sound and then another, respiration and elimination and digestion, the turn of a planet and the flight the sun, unending—all wondrous and magical and, in our sway with it, transformational balance.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth 2012
RADIANCE IS THAT WHICH we refer to in namaste as perhaps its essence—seeing light emanating from ourselves and from others and from all events that we experience. But seeing the radiance is perhaps much more rare than imagining the radiance when we offer namaste. Seeing radiance requires practiced calmness and openness.
Sometimes radiance may come spontaneously in what we call “peak experiences.” Perhaps we are in a rare landscape and come to experience a light emanating from everything, from objects or other persons or the flow of wind or water. But as a peak experience, we stand to quickly lose it.
In Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes,
Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at
all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar
where the mourning doves roots charged and transfigured, each cell
buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that
was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like
seeing than being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful
glance. The flood of fire abated but I am still spending the power.
Similarly, from a poetic perspective, in the international anthology of poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, A Book Of Luminous Things [Harcourt Brace, 1996], Milosz selects poems that are realist and accessible, and that ‘illuminate’ the “secret of a thing.”
When we get it and however we get it and for however long we have it, one of the qualities that this ‘light’ produces is a sense of the disappearance of otherness—separation. At first, this holistic view can appear to be a dream, because the world that awe have come to know seems to be a landscape of differences. And yet, the obvious differences may come to be understood to be facets of the whole. And emotionally, there be the experience of expansion, thus reducing anxiety that may be associated with a sense of constriction and isolation/separation, and a newfound landscape of support.
The mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, and forests, are
always emanating a subtle, precious light, day and night, always
emanating a subtle, precious sound, demonstrating and expounding
to all people the unsurpassed ultimate truth.
It is just because you miss it right where you are, or avoid it
even as you face it, that you are unable to attain actual use of it.
[76, Zen maser Yuansou, in Thomas Cleary, Zen Essence]
Such luculent, luminous radiance will most likely remain invisible in the fast pace of the everyday. In the return of daylight that marks the coming of the New Year in the Northern Hemisphere, this light may be symbolically expressed in the electrified Yule tree and lights that decorate houses and lawn ornaments that metaphorically illuminate the everyday.
But in any season, by stilling and quieting and calming, Dillard’s “lights/fire” and Milosz’s “secret of a thing” and Yuansou’s “subtle, precious light”—may be opened and lived.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Living Computer, 2012
THERE IS, OF COURSE, the “cybernetic/electronic Internet” that weaves us into the world in remarkable ways. Within each of us, there is also an inTRA-net with memory that goes deeply back into time, even well before time itself. And were we to understand this intranet, we might find that it is, perhaps, something not exclusively within.
The body is this intra-net’s “electronic computer” of sorts. It has been contrived across the millennia. Seemingly thick tissue is porous—with a variety of intricate systems of channels—nerves, and circulatory [blood and lymph] and respiratory and digestive, and some sort of more elusive energy process at work [chakras and “meridians,” and quantum processes and chaos patterning and dark matter and suspect particles jumping into other dimensions].
In the simplest reflex, perhaps a near ancestor’s gesture is there—that gesture which appears at times in your gesture. Your index finger—an uncle’s—taps the table. The tone of your voice is perhaps that of another relative embedded in you carrying forward, alive in you. Your aging aunt may have pointed such things out to you.
All of the ancestors are there (were you to calm and deeply attend). And all of the most tested knowledge that reaches far beyond the emergence of genus Homo and species sapiens on the nature of life is also present. The Earth itself is a billions-years old computer of sorts, outspread into and interconnected with innumerable computers that we name “flora” and “fauna” and “mountain” and “water,” aspiring to answer (as is suggested in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Universe), the “meaning of life.”
This intra (“within”) net is “on” in each moment, but it is typically only “reading” (at least, consciously to you and I) the very selective “email” of everyday chatter that is both essential to accessing needs and intrusive to the point of inducing stress. Because of the overload of just this small range of process, we rarely, if ever, intentionally/consciously go much further, and “search” the files and their connections to the external, infinite “cloud.”
The stillness and calmness of some body-mind practices are the essential “search engine” of this intra-net. And their most simple objective can be just to induce a little rest and, perhaps, bring a greater sense of harmony between the “little universe” of self and the larger universe that expresses and designs it for a goal of improved health.
When we very intentionally still and calm and quiet, we stand a chance of accessing this Oceanus of information, both stored internally and in the infinite cloud. Often, however, we get caught up in the rituals of the practices, and may do little more that reflect or mirror our beliefs. Or we simply aspire to find some moments of respite, and so we lean back into the rituals of a particular body-mind practice.
The ultimate promise of the stillness and calmness of body-mind practices is the possibility of reaching deeply into a landscape that is imaginal rather than imaginary, which is really to say, a deeper reality that is intuitively read. “Google” “Quiet/Stillness/Calmness,” and be sure to combine your search with a strong sense of self-criticism to gradually bypass our cultural/social/psychological filters enough to begin to access this intra-net, and see what might present itself.
Aspire to offer an invitation rather than set an intention [often culturally driven and therefore limiting. Quiet, still, and calm, not making anything, not believing, not defining, just opening a gate where there had appeared to be a wall.