A friend guides us for a second time through a sunny afternoon gathering, a weekly Saturday afternoon event we call BODY SQUAD. We sit on blankets or mats in the yard for yoga, bodywork, and guided meditation. R. “scripts” or choreographs the gathering. She guides us through exercises. We sit and stand and stretch with friends and partners. During the guided meditation, we concentrate on our chakras: aspects of a body-model involving centers of energy. It involves a practice of “visualizing” or “imagining in the mind’s eye” a ladder of colors, points of light along an inner totem pole of the body. At each point, one is asked to visualize a flower that blossoms to reveal a jewel of a similar color. One becomes a student again, learning experientially by trying and doing. One explores and develops one’s awareness of one’s body, as Esalen Institute Gestalt psychotherapist George Downing recommended in his contribution to Anne Kent Rush’s Getting Clear: Body Work for Women. “At the deepest level if we are bound to roles,” Downing writes, “it is because our bodies bind us. […]. Any real transformation must ultimately include transformation of the body” (227).
A multi-talented translator / Reiki instructor / musician friend of ours guides a group of us through a sequence of physical exercises: stretches, poses, celebrations of embodiment. We stand and sit in a circle in the driveway. (If we do it again, we might consider the grass. Or does it not matter? When we sit, we sit on yoga mats.) The exercises are body meditations aligned with particular limbs, joints, and muscles. At the end we lie on our backs together enjoying a lovely, sunny afternoon. Frankie played and sat among us on her blanket / happy, pleased to be with us in companionship with others. More of that, please! It feels wonderful to be present, nerves stimulated by “Chi” again in our legs and feet and arms and fingers and toes, in our hips, our backs, our butts and pelvises. The group concentrates together, bodies held through lengths of breath through guided exercise. The trees stand in their tallness and majesty beside us, their autumn leaves lit by the sun.
A crouched cat, rustling leaves, the blinking lights of a distant plane: these I encounter on a chill night as I walk about the earth beneath a large moon. The planet’s surface bathed in its light. I stare up at it in wonder (oh mysterious thing, so lovely!) before returning to the house, baby feeding hungrily at Sarah’s breast. The three of us go on a date: ice cream for mom and dad, while baby sleeps beside us in her car seat. F. wears a hat her aunt knit for her. As she and Sarah quiet and settle down for the evening, I enter the basement and listen to a recording of a guided meditation led by Chuck Pereda & Natalie Szendro, featuring music by Pulse Emitter. Time to practice Yoga Nidra.
Days blaze like a road in morning sunlight out in front of me. Car culture limits our ability to merge into larger communist groupings. Yet we’re forced to participate, both because we need to commute to work, and because we need experiences with which to refurnish our supply of concepts. To satisfy this latter need, Sarah and I attend “You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences,” an exhibition currently up at the NC Museum of Art. The show features a number of works of a psychedelic bent, including Yayoi Kusama’s wonderful infinity room, “Light of Life.” Heads peer through portholes into a shadowy antechamber as galaxies of lightbulbs flash in kaleidoscopic profusion across the room’s mirror-box multiverse. Afterwards I attempt to meditate using a mindfulness app on my phone. My “Best Possible Future Self,” to use the name of the thing the app asks me to visualize, is itchy minimal. No, scratch that. Har har, some “uncle” humor. Crash landing. #kneetoface “Come on, Subject — liberate yourself!” coaxes the voice of the revolution. “Come one, come all,” it says. Space Invaders. Critters. Mind at play. During my first pass through the exercise, the antinomian in me imagines the worst. I’m hiding somewhere. It’s chaos. Will they allow me to work (flow, thrive, persist, whatever they call it) if I challenge reason? If, in other words, I question the enterprise of our knowing? How about if I show up to work in a trashcan? My “Best Possible Future Self,” I think to myself as I begin again. What a sad, peculiar exercise! Would live intentionally, in a self-designed home, with nods to Dwell and Nowness and the Whole Earth Catalog. Sarah and I would read, write, cook delicious healthy meals together, raise a brilliant happy child. All of the above, certainly. But what, pray tell, does this Self wish of the world beyond its household? After all, it must wish something, no? Just as it takes a village to raise a child, so too it takes the oikos of an entire planet, a whole integrated system of economy and ecology, to reproduce the oikos of the family. Let us, then, in dreaming our “Best Possible Future Selves,” also imagine our Utopia.
Slow, given to loops and routines, I lay down on a couch, as in a therapist’s office, and allow Jesse Fleming and Electric Sound Bath’s Ataraxia Series #1: Heart and Insight Meditations, a tape released last year on Crash Symbols, guide me to a place of self-questioning.
“When did I start behaving like a jerk?” I wonder quietly, as if for the first time. “Ages 5-10?” Cousins, neighbors, video games. “Why was I sometimes cruel to others?” I was bullied. Just in minor, ordinary ways: small attacks, acts of aggression. But certainly with enough frequency to embitter me. To this day, for instance, I find it hard to forgive some kid who, before gym class one day, pegged me in the face with a basketball, unprovoked, without forewarning, breaking my glasses, blackening my eye. But forgive I must, I suppose, if I’m ever to forgive myself. Ages 10-15. Fears about measuring up, fitting what was expected of me because of body type, gender. Ages 15-20. “I was a nice person at times,” I blubber. Fleming’s words unearth points of pain, but he advises well. Under his direction, I allow myself to ask for forgiveness for the harms that I’ve caused, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and deeds. Thus we advance toward the extinction of suffering.
This place is a kind of test, present only inasmuch as the “rat,” the possessor of consciousness, is aware of it. Occupants of the test say, “Please don’t forget us.” Consciousness knits itself over its time gaps and appears to itself as an unbroken continuity, a single being. I reassemble into a self, calling together into formation as Multitude my pharmacologically-enhanced body politic. We collect ourselves before a past life guided meditation tape: Curious Margie Meets Sunbirthed at the House.
Plastic cups dance before my eyes. I cross a bridge; I enter a house. But when coaxed to enter a doorway and recall a past life, my awareness dips and takes leave and I merely fall asleep.