Today I woke up when a wand dropped in to my hand. Yesterday, same thing. I flicked my wrist, heard the wand hit the floor 3 feet down, and returned to sleep. Alone and prone in the bed, insulated from the sun and cold by flannel sheets, Pendleton wool and feathers, plus a feather pillow on my head. Just arms exposed: palms up, and one shoulder for each cat to use as a pillow. Zelda goes right, Lynxx left.
If contentment can be ecstatic—santosha as samprajnata—it is in waking up naked, two cats burying noses in your neck, warming your shoulders with their feather-soft chests, and bubbling their bellies in your armpits. They migrate to my lymph nodes, which are hormone and sweat centers. But does the bliss body—the anandamaya— also leak from these recesses? Are they portals for nervous system entwinement?
Cats purr to create and express emotions, playing them out up and down nature’s most wonderful spines. Biologists can’t explain it. They debate whether purring is about safety, or happiness, or love, or joy. As if a mammal’s nervous-emotional system has only one channel. There are many different ways to experience yes.
I wonder how many cat-people wake naked amid cuddles and flash on Annie Liebowitz’s photograph of John and Yoko in bed. Seen from above, do we look something like that? Could our interspecies entwinement feed a peace movement like the bed-ins of ‘69?
Back to waking up. This morning, the wand I’d flicked to the floor came back to my hand. Zelda Pingala must have been pushing it in to my palm. I stayed still, covered in blankets, but curled fingers around the wand like a baby building out its nervous system. Zelda is training me to play her favorite game—feather-stick—at all hours.
But I needed to sleep. I’d spent the two previous nights doing foot patrol in dark, 33-degree rain, searching for her runaway sister Lynxx. Last week, Lynxx hid my eyeglasses while I was in the shower with suitcases for Canada at the back door. I had to drive to Niagara Falls with old lenses. I returned Saturday, and was re-packing the luggage on Monday. As I slipped outside to double-check the house-sitter’s keys, Lynxx made a break for freedom. I cornered her against the house and she went feral, doubling in size and flying past me, though a neighbor’s yard, and beyond. Two days and a missed flight later, a hunting dog found her under a deck. She ran out on bloody white paws, through freezing rain, into the arms of the neighborhood butcher. He’s the new hero on a street of relaxed vegetarians. I’m paying my respects in butter cookies.
Meanwhile, fabulous, softly lit, winter Los Angeles is going on without me. There were practice and tea and lunch and party plans, love-soaked anticipation, and an incoming hit of Vitamin D. Missing these, what’s the diff? Not much. Working with Shinzen shows me exactly how much equanimity I still don’t have on the micro levels of everyday mind, but some of the big cognitive structures have remade themselves since I left California kicking and screaming two years ago. I still often experience who I am as continuous with where I am. But the wheres are somewhat harder to pin down in time and space. Different places and times appear as adjacent nodes in a net of associations. LA and A2 are never not exploding in to each other. Just as Mysore is never not here; Montana is never not here.
For now, it feels I am losing my sense of time the way I once, for four months, lost my sense of the ground beneath me. Circa 2004, Intermediate Series + PhD Prelims blew the doors off my nervous system. It was painful, transcendent, lonely, delusional, inspiring, and changed everything. A total lack of context, spiritual community or support drove me to theorizing (somewhat wrongly) about yoga, but what it took to understand what had happened was a lot more practice. A whole lot more practice. Last week, Shinzen said these things—dark nights, spiritual emergencies, kundalini sickness—should be discussed. People need support. Hmm. That's true. Yet I’ve never said a word about what happened except to my teachers and two close friends.
One thing I found when I went looking to explain the CNS power surge was that it actually doesn’t happen to most ashtangis. SKPJ was a kind of mad scientist; and his method is the most genius and radical healing regime I have ever found. Read the old scriptures. Tristhana is a classical kundalini kickstart. Just as Gopi Krishna found ways to keep that process from happening too quickly, I wonder if most westerners intuitively slow down their own transformation by half-assing the concentration, relaxation, diet or drste. At first, some rajas or tamas intake (emotional, dietary, mental) may act as insulation. Well… ok. There is no virtue or romance in losing the ground under one’s feet.
Without insulation, people who get the doors blown of their nervous systems sometimes land in a psych ward (DSM diagnosis: “Chi Kung – related illness”), or in India (social diagnosis: hippie narcissist). As much as society ridicules both types, something real is going on with these people. The process may be turning them into self-absorbed jerks (as it did to me), but if they work it out they’re apt to evolve beautifully. I suppose I can agree with Shinzen that we can learn from what these people go through. In this sense, having teachers who know the energetic practice is important. But there is not a word written about the energetic practice in ashtanga books, nor here. The good stuff is nonverbal, exchanged person to person.
Anyway. To Zelda and her feather-wand. This morning, after she returned it to my hand and my fingers grasped it, the feathers on the end of the wand fluttered up. She pounced, landing on my leg, which was under three layers of bedding. The next second, Lynxx’s heavier body landed on the other leg. I could see nothing, and my sleeping body would only consent to move my wrist. So I flicked it again. The cats popped up in response, landing on my hips. Then they walked all over the lumps made by my body, flopped their little hindquarters up and down a bit, and purred vigorously. It felt so good! Zeldowlynxx was happy. Cats got attention and play; human got to be 99% passive and receive a massage. We went on that way for ten minutes.
I wonder how else we might enjoy the ways we’re intertwined.