Tuesday, April 21, 2015
IN A PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK, Annie Dillard writes,
The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes
and latitudes so dazzling spare and clean that the spirit can discover
itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound.
In body-mind practices, one crosses a threshold from the everyday into a different order. There is a combination of an asceticism of a discipline as well as affection for the practice that can transport the participant out of the ordinary. The world is the same one, but the view is deeper, inseparable.
In studios, dojos and dojangs, in kivas and temples, and in small rooms and wild, unbuilt spaces, there is the possibility for something transcendent and enduring and timeless.
Body-mind practices have likely endured because they can offer an accessible “gap” in the world, so that the gap doesn’t have to be far off. We tend to make “far off” and “special,” and tend to miss the richness that is present without taking one step. Stepping through the doorway, it can be as if one has slipped inside a gap in the everyday. The space can be sacral rather than mundane.
There might be a deeper sense of one’s authenticity—inclusive, even inseparable, and a letting go—dis-identification, and observation more than control, where ego might be set aside and inside/outside soften. Sameness and difference fade. Thought and action aspire to coming into harmony or balance.
There is calmness inherent not only in moments of physically slowing and stilling but also in a return to the reliability of repetitive actions. By returns, actions might be followed, perhaps becoming graced even if not athletically graceful, and implicitly meaningful without needing to offer explicit meaning.
AT THE SAME time, this quality that Annie Dillard writes of may be largely absent in body-mind practices. Across time, body-mind practices vacillate between the practical and the spiritual, and reformation efforts arise to take them by varying degrees one way or the other. Contemporary practices termed “yoga” are resplendent with a broad continuum of approaches.
We tend to become our words. The core language of approaches may be quite different. Effort might be directed toward strengthening ego rather than softening ego—“knowing oneself” by pushing physical limits and overcoming weakness to go “deeper inside.” There may be no sense of gap in the everyday to be found. Rather than stepping out fo the everyday, the real task might be identified as intensifying the everyday to extract the very best from it. Everyday “work” might carry forward into a “workout.”