I do yoga exercises on a regular basis. If I had my way I would follow this practice every morning, though circumstances and personal distractions tend to intrude from time to time. This is not a strict Hatha Yoga practice in the traditional manner. The intention is simply to keep myself limber; a good physical state to maintain given that my art and work require maximum flexibility. But there is a secondary, and perhaps more interesting, benefit that I have found from this daily morning habit. These exercises are slow and graceful, allowing me to focus away from my chattering thoughts and toward the actual functioning of my body, in the moment. In the last year or two a new sense has been revealed to me - the sense of how surprising the whole thing is, this body we inhabit.
For instance, there is an exercise that focuses on balance. Standing, I lift my right foot backward, grasping the ankle with my right hand as I stretch my left hand to the sky, holding that pose to the count of twenty breaths. At times I just can't seem to find the balance point, but often it is almost effortless, and as I stand poised on one foot it can seem almost... miraculous! How do I do that?? It's as if I pull away from myself and just observe in amazement (and I don't mean how amazingly special I am, just how amazing it is). This sense has started to carry over into other aspects of life. Have you ever been involved in a mundane task, say folding your laundry, and suddenly wondered how you're doing this, effortlessly? I have.
Sometimes when I'm engaged in art making the same sort of thing happens. I pull my attention away and observe my body in action, simply watching the events unfold as my shoulders sway, my arms twist and bend, my hands and fingers in a complexly coordinated dance with the thread; all as if I wasn't even there. Even now as I write, pen in hand gliding over the college-ruled page, I'm baffled how this all happens, how my hand smoothly translates my thoughts into the physical reality of visual word symbols arranged in sentences, then paragraphs, all meant to allow completely immaterial thoughts to materialize in a manner that will allow them to de-materialize and enter your awareness.
Of course, most of the time I take it all for granted, but these moments of detachment and wonder come over me regularly these days, and this is new. It's kinda humbling, and at the same time delightful, like a child watching a pinwheel spin in the breeze. When I catch myself in this state at the laundromat I can't help but smile. Perhaps this is a bit of what some call beginner's mind. And if that is so, isn't it ironic that I had to get well into my sixties to discover this beginner's mind?
I recently re-read a book by Dorothy Walters - Unmasking the Rose: A Record of Kundalini Initiation. I first stumbled upon this memoir during the early period of my own initiation, a time when I was in a determined search to understand what had happened and still was happening to me. Dorothy's recounting of her experience in the form of contemporaneous journal entries and occasional commentaries on them was a great help to my gaining at least the beginning of some clarity about my predicament. Later I discovered she was living not far from me, and so I contacted her via email to thank her for publishing the account of her experiences. She invited me to meet with her over tea, and we have since become friends.
It's been at least ten years since I initially read the book, and re-reading it brought some amusing surprises. The first was an impression that this must be a second edition, since so much was unfamiliar; I assumed she had added new material. I was wrong: this was the original. It finally dawned on me that of course it seemed new - at the time of my first reading I was simply incapable of absorbing much of what she was plainly relating because my own experiences had not developed enough to take it in. I was literally blind to it.
The second surprise was amusing in a different way. As I finally closed the book at the last page I could only chuckle at the presumptuousness of my own attempt at writing of the energies in this blog, a realization that it was all there in her book, clear and precise and deep, and how could I possibly add anything to the subject??? A humbling moment indeed.
Yet here I am, scribbling on a college-ruled notebook because... well... I have to explore this mystery on my own, have to further clarify it for myself, and just as importantly for you, my readers. Spinning webs of interlocution seems to be almost instinctual to us humans, and me being one of us humans, I apparently can't help myself.
In the book Dorothy breaks up her account into five sections, one of which is titled 'Walking in the Two Worlds'. This phrase struck home to me; I am indeed walking in two - better yet, three - worlds. In one I pay rent, I chitchat, engage in political and philosophical discussions, laugh and joke with others, commiserate over troubles. In other words, the public face of who I am among all with whom I come into contact. But there is a second world running parallel alongside this public face, the personal world I've been tentatively trying to share in this blog - the mysterious world of the energies that have become my constant companion and, apparently, my invisible evolutionary engine. Call it Kundalini, call it Orgone, call it whatever you like; this dog has grabbed me in its jaws like a stuffed toy, and it won't quit shaking.
There's a third world I'm walking in as well, but I'll come back to that later. What's interesting here is that feel of the differing yet parallel worlds Dorothy so simply and clearly enunciated. This world of Kundalini is astonishing, bewildering, incredibly intense; yet my feeble attempts at communicating the experience seem almost trivial and pointless. It took three years from its inception for me to get up the nerve to share it with anyone! There is something about it that is simultaneously deeply personal and profoundly impersonal, a dichotomy that is impossible to explain. Over time I've slowly opened up quite a bit, yet I've found there are very few who are receptive, much less understanding. Outside of Dorothy I've personally met only one person who has started down the path into this mysterious world, and she was introduced to me by Dorothy! I've often thought, if I could just share the experience with this or
that person it would rock their world, turn them around, open them to
new possibilities (in fact, in the Hindu tradition there is a method for
doing this, labeled Shaktipat, which involves a Guru or Master
transmitting the experience to a disciple, often through the laying-on
of hands. I can't do this, and even if I could I would likely defer).
Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. On the contrary, I'm grateful and excited; and to be honest I feel undeservedly blessed. But this world of Kundalini I'm inhabiting, of coursing bodily energies, of real personal transformation despite my myriad failings, does not sync well with the rest of the external world. And that's a shame. And thus, I walk in the two worlds... oh wait, I said three worlds, didn't I?
To be continued...