For V. • 3 December 2008

Shoulda known it would come around to the master key eventually. It took almost two years, which is about right. But wow. What am I doing? Stop me now?

This’ll stop everything. Go grab a tennis ball, right now, and sit on it. Right in your perineum in the Janu-C style. Keep sitting on it.

Distracted yet?

Ok, see ya.

Hahahahahaa. It’s ok. Everything is ok. What does it take from the inside to be fully normal and ok with this? Keep sitting.

Talking about the MB is like talking about kundalini. You can answer the questions on several dimensions—physical, subtle and energetic, psyche/consciousness. And no matter what you say you feel like you might be delusional or at least inviting scary visits from the secret order of the Knights Patanjali, bound by blood and oath to guard the secrets of the lineage for eternity. Either that or you just can’t get the young Wittgenstein off your back: whereof though canst not speak thereof ye shall pass over in silence.

Note that in these hilarious conferences that yoga teachers give, answers to questions of MB and kundini are usually one-dimensional. Rarely integrated. So in the Yoga Matrix, RF says kundalini is the opening of the heart, but does not treat physical and subtle body aspects. (Maybe some people experience brilliant heart opening without light explosions, or chase monkeylike after light explosions but never learn to love: in part the non-integration of these subjects may result from the fact that our own experiences are specific and diverse. Right on.) In most ashtanga discussions MB is treated as either kind of mystical (an interpretation which either irritates you because it’s sort of BS, or has you intrigued if not obsessed), or simply as a muscle contraction, but rarely as play of mind and body. And hell, what I’ve been saying about the MB is specified to interpersonal relationships—o mejor dicho, to its effects on “transpersonal” awareness?—and that is even another aspect of the jewel. I’ll follow up V’s question about this interpersonal aspect to try to keep myself honest, but should say I’m not good at discussing the practical aspects. Many ashtangis are not good at this. Susananda is, though. Maybe a combination of personal experimentation/practice and reading clear descriptions is the best way to play with finding the MB. I don’t know though. I’ve never tried to teach it. Sorry, secret Illuminati knights; I’ll be silent after this. You don’t need to send out the assassins or anything. We're just sitting on fuzzy yellow bouncy balls. It's nothing.

For me there are two reasons the MB is in play in this specific situation. It keeps my shit together. And it makes me fearless.

First is just this aforementioned groundedness, specifically the ways this plays in relationships. Some Vipassana teachers instruct people to find a place in the body to "ground the awareness" whenever they're speaking and listening in conversation. The teaching is usually to select the place one feels MOST at home, most connected and secure. After people investigate and try different things, they often settle on the feet or chest as their home base. From that point forward, cultivating an awareness of that place amid relating with others is a practice—a practice meant to keep one from getting caught up in drama in a way that leads to abandonment of one’s moral precepts (in Vipassana, that would be right intention, right speech, and so on along the Noble Eightfold Path.). So here, being in the body shapes experience, providing space for specifically moral grounding. But that’s built on something more basic (and sort of brilliant): an always-peripherally-present technique for self-awareness and being in the moment.

I take the Vipassana teaching as suggestive in two ways. First, grounding awareness in the body may or may not be coupled with Theravada social morality. I think it’s nice if it can be, and I like the openness and personal responsibility vibe of the Eightfold path. But the yamas, also precepts for virtuous relationships, are good for that too. I dunno. You actually have to study (horrors) and be reflective and (if you’re me) get some outside advice to figure out what social virtues you need to practice. It’s all grounded in self-awareness and the MB doesn’t care what operating system you choose. Though godhelpyou if you go with Vista (i.e. clunky, narcissistic New Age “ethics”).

Something more interesting I see in this Vipassana teaching is the recognition that oscillating between interaction and specified body awareness creates a certain kind of mental state. Maybe it puts a theta wave into your otherwise excited beta state. Who knows. Experiment with it.

Meantime, what if your home base could be not merely the feet but the pelvic floor—a place in the apparently physical body that is directly responsive to your breath and awareness, that doesn’t even really exist for you without a bit of energetic contraction. The pelvic floor isn’t thoroughly physical, and this is why the purely material discussions of it are so unsatisfying and invite re-mystification. When you dwell there, all this useful distinguishing we do of mind and body or of physical/subtle/causal starts to get undermined!

It’s a physical/subtle/causal space, but only if you let it be. Some people experience it as just physical or just breath or just “transcendent.” That is interesting too. No matter what, taking the awareness to this space will probably induce a light trance. You may only notice if you already know your own mind quite well, and can detect when parts of it are slowing down. (Being a reflective person doesn’t mean you know your own mind: you have to meditate to learn to distinguish and deepen interior states). I don’t know why it works this way—why lightly engaging the MB would shift my consciousness. It actually makes no sense to me at all. But for us 21st century humans, it is nice—and useful in the 7th series, which is family relationships—to have a constant inner mala of light trance to course through the tide of our collective ADD.

So the last thing, fearlessness. Intestinal fortitude. In my case, most of the way I relate to my family would remain in shadow if I hadn’t started becoming self-possessed in the lower body. I have this difficult inheritance, a big Christian Fundamentalist family. If a belief system would lead you to turn on your own young, perhaps it’s tragically flawed, not just old-fashioned. I’ve come out pretty easily for a lot of funny and weirdly interesting reasons I’m not allowed to discuss, but in general Christian Fundamentalist culture has disfigured itself in its fight against modern society. You think I was joking about the no-masturbation contracts? Anyway, like I said before, it has turned itself into a kind of “disease” of the lower chakras, a culture organized around the control of women’s sexuality and creativity. Members, and women especially, are systematically taught to fear everything that would fall in the “chastity belt” region. You don’t feel this area, don’t speak of it except for with a vague indication to “down there,” don’t look at it, and definitely don’t ground your awareness there.

Seriously, it is so weird to live in a world in which the women cannot even swivel their hips. And no wonder all the altos in the church choir get converted (as I was) to airy Soprano II: easier to rely only on the diaphragm (not the nether guts) if you don’t have to sing the low notes. I could go on, but this is getting too anthropological even for me. Suffice it to say that being in possession of the lower chakras—whatever that may mean practically, psychologically, interpersonally, whatever—can make for a major advantage in this crowd. They’re running on five cylinders; I’m running on seven. Is that unfair? Eh. We all play dirty sometimes.

Ok, enough. I see from my loquacity that this is the tip of some iceberg. Is it time for icebergs to melt…? For my part, I’m going to shut up now before this turns in to the MB blog. Horrors. So much for all the hard spook-work that’s been done over millennia to keep this stuff esoteric. God. Maybe this is the apocalypse after all.