Gone • 15 December 2009

Sitting in my old autoshop on Santa Monica Boulevard, while the Honda gets its spine adjusted and lymph cleansed. On the fiberglass chair beside me a pile of exams – final grades signed, sealed and delivered.

Yesterday my least woo-woo friend, Greta, hugged me on the Palisades and said Your drive across the country is going to be so cleansing.

This had not occurred to me. The cleansing quality of driving hundreds of miles through the should-be-Mexico desert, hundreds more through Texas hill country, then even more hundreds up the Mississippi silt corridor and in to the gorgeous, tragic hills of Tennessee, then another couple hundred along the jagged knife edge of Illinois, cutting right in to Michigan as the solstice turns over. All that territory passing through the windshield, from the front to the back of my mind, while I do Shinzenian “sight-flow” and see how the body works as it becomes ever more a sub-mechanism of the Honda.

It is cleansing, though not like a juice fast. It occurs to me to distinguish between gross body and subtle body layers, and suggest that it is easier and easier to contact the subtle if you just practice practice practice. And eventually, for long time practitioners, major body changes might be as likely to originate in the subtle as in the gross layer.

If you meditate long enough, just sitting there, the body goes to pieces. Excruciating disformations. But then(!), the old monk’s frame reorganizes from the inside. Shinzen’s students call it opening the central channel. Nonsensically tantric for a bunch of empiricists, but maybe all that quiet puts them in contact with an inner force.

The new openings in my body the past couple of years did not result from physical interventions. I don’t take much interest in muscle relaxants or stimulants (though Excedrin is excellent for a migraine), have stopped doing organ cleanses (though the gall bladder thing would be great if I had the time), and (though I could use major restructuring in the traps, scalenes and atlas/axis) don’t get bodywork. I don’t take breaks from practice or change up the programme. So… the patterns in the physical layer are routine: a seven-day cycle, within a moon cycle, within an annual cycle.

If my body opens, it’s because I let go of a stagnant emotion or stupid story, or dismantle a wall against some person or type of people.

The way I figured this out was doing Five Rhythms dance every week. Go in to some kind of theta state in that setting, and good things happen. One nervous system becomes integrated with all kinds of others. Negative emotions get really fluid and want to disintegrate.

Other ways the subtle body seems to get moved: gratitude/listening; allowing certain conflicts to erupt and settle, even if this is mortifying; being good to my parents without a fucking agenda; spending time with the Santa Barbara ashtangis, especially their teacher; sitting Vipassana retreat; meditating on the body for a long damn time, until it drops away; using sociology to see the ways humans war against each other with the use of mental categories and identites.

The hard sell is that doing this shit improves my backbends. On the level of vanity, it works as “subtle body massage” (though who knows if it would still work if I were doing it with the intention of getting better backbends). In any case, the kundalini gulag in LA has figured out the effectiveness of subtle body intervention. (And I’m surprised this is not of interest in the blogosphere—there’s no reason that the internet should confine us to gross body awareness of practice). In certain parts of Cali, it’s just as likely that you’ll go to an aura reader or a chakra healer, rather than taking a salt bath or getting a massage, in order to open the body. Recognizing that the subtle body is real and totally changeable doesn’t mean you’re all spiritual and shit, but it is fascinating and rewarding.

Anyway. This morning I woke up late after an intense bedtime phone talk and realized/decided that the sad is done processed. The way my grandma, who came of age in the Iowa dust bowl and moved west after her husband survived the war, would say done finished.

Went to practice late, very tired from whatever processing I’d done in my sleep, but so much lighter in spirit. Realized/decided that fear of kicking my feet up off the earth in Viparita Chakrasana was the exact same stuff as this fear of picking up and leaving home that I carried for more than a year. And, today, by way of this noticing and deciding, it was true that the block was no longer there. (This was also true because day by day I have built the muscles and opened the spine, and gone right to this edge and looked at it day by day as well—all of this is in the context of rote practice.)

Well holy shit. Sealed the deal by going through the motions of Viparita Chakrasana, for the first time. And then, immediately, did it again a second time, and a third. OMG !  !  !  Ok then.

Bridges of sinew, waters of grief: this fear has gone.