philosophy & ethics
I lay in my bath, at the end of a long-road day, feeling sore and tired, glad to be held by the water. I came to an understanding that what feels restful is often not about feeling ‘in retreat’.
I feel the support of water across all my limbs, my lower back, my upper back, my neck, my legs…In the bath, my rest-ful-ness is a sign of being engaged, not of retreat. It allows my brain to stop solving, worrying about things. It is a proportional adjustment. How deeply am I present, and in what ways?
I am floating in an element so great a part of me [at least 70%] yet also external to me, and in this day and age being held more and more accountable for…
A client talked about how embarrassed he had been about his recent behaviour. A trained facilitator, he was about to embark on a great Odyssee and he feared his ego had got the better of him in the last few months.
“There I was, acting out…” he complained [about himself].
I promised him I would create a whole workshop around the theme.
The archetypes: Hamlet; Hamlet with Yorick’s skull, pondering death [and childhood attachments]; Antony fearing loss of libido and following Cleopatra’s ships turning tail against his own army, the Romans…
I shall borrow a skull, a sail, and a manuscript, and put this workshop in motion. Who would like to join me?
So, what did I observe, as I sat in the ‘spectator space’ as an outsider to a long, slow process of education into tradition…
I watched my friend pause (cautiously, nervously, in her act of pouring tea, sweat forming on her upper lip, her eyes sliding towards her teacher, asking all at once for approval, instruction and independence), and I suddenly burst into tears.
Nothing in this room, amongst the objects, bodies, and space between objects in this room, was meant to mean more or less than anything else. The cup was not subservient to the brazier, the brazier to the tea itself, and neither tea celebrant, nor recipient, was any lesser than the other.
That’s what it took 10 years of training to begin to feel; another 10 years to inhabit and maybe another 10 or more to fulfil.
My flatmate had been studying Tea Ceremony for 10 years. I went with her to one of her lessons. On the way, we visited a tea ceremony shop, where she needed to purchase something essential to her learning.
I was put well in my place by the shop owner. I observed the beauty of a drinking bowl and commented on it. He rolled his eyes and made it very plain I could not possibly know what I was talking about, as here, in his right hand, was a supreme example–smooth, delicate, pristine. The earthy irregularities of the heavier bowl I had found attractive. I saw and appreciated the qualities of both, but it was quite clear I was not even allowed to know. It was quite good, with my very limited capacity to speak Japanese, to be forced to not argue, but just observe.
The tea ceremony itself, however, was a very particular experience.
I visited Japan in 1996.
I experienced a country of delicacy and madness, an intersection of ‘old’ and ‘new’ time, Crowds swarmed through crowded train stations; suited commuters seemed shamed by the ‘floating world’ of tramps and kicked them as they passed. Chain-smoking was popular but so too were small packages of pickles bought from vast displays in huge department stores. Amongst the neon, the overcrowding, the densities of Tokyo, regional delicacies reminded people of their simpler, ancestral ‘homes’. Tokyo McDonalds’ charged 20c a burger, whilst a simple nori roll cost $3: the young IT geek helping me on the internet suddenly asked me which should be his lunch.
Minor earthquakes lifted and shook buildings overnight, most nights. I was being ‘vibrated alive.’ In amongst all this intense-city, the subject of my rumination unfolds….
[More in next blog]
I perceive the body as a microcosm of all this. I believe the body’s polyrhythm [complex of rhythms] is a key to health, to flow. I hear the rhythms of the internal body as a kind of orchestra. It doesn’t all play in the same time or tone. I tune into this orchestra and try give a kick-start to sluggish bits, parts which have forgotten their distinctive charge.
Trauma and authoritarianism block these tunes, force unity and stagnation. Normally, if given its sense of rightness and strength in itself, the body knows how to function well. The organs like to hear their differences next to each other, take delight in their complexities. When all parts know themselves, it really comprises an extraordinary, self-generating, sustaining tune.
We stop breathing under trauma, in the face of death, or under fear. And like a Great Chain of Whispers, our children carry the burden of our Not Breathing. Full Breath is a great key to full healing, not just for our generation, but also the next. This is why River Junction Curly‘s phrase is so very beautiful–his insistence that everything has life, breath, power, speech: he is speaking from an understanding that everything is equal, everything needs the respect to fully be. When this is the situation, true cooperation is a possibility. When it is not, there is a reduction, a wearing-down, a bitterness, a compromise. Do we want to live with bitterness, or with full-throated expressions of joy?
Whilst pondering the nature of acting, I also pondered the theory of relativity, and came to the realisation that if e=mc2, then the relation of matter to energy, of inside the body to outside of it, is one of relative densities. Logically, then, one should be able to access all molecular activity as information, whether it has consolidated into matter or not. Music is a good analogy to use here, as music, although “abstract,” is an event with a physical correlate (finger in contact with string), with an instrument’s vibration effecting a result in the realm of “non-matter” to produce a result that is audible, if not visible. This idea of the inherent substantiality of movement and sound is critical to any discussions of why we look to remember ‘the invisible’.
The role of the shaman has always been to cross the border into the realm of the not-yet-know and bring it back into cognition. Along the way, the shaman may encounter cultural or emotional taboos. It is one reason why the healer exists—to cross the border, retrieve missing information, find links, act as guide. In an era where many systems are threatening collapse, it is more important than ever to re-discover how to search the invisible—what we sense is around us but can’t quite see.
(This is the kind of condition carers of young children exist in for quite a long time.)
The whole universe is trying to communicate, to live in exchange. The philosopher-biologist Charles Birch, observing the behaviour of organisms, insisted that seeking relationship is the core impulse of all of our cells. From microorganisms, to birds’ patterns of emigration and the habits of waterfalls, we have so much we can learn. It is useful to reflect on how much or little we have developed our perceptions.
One day, in clinic, someone came to see me whose tract of land was poisoned, and by reading the “map” of her land from the energy in her body, I was able to help her plan strategies to cleanse the water and soil. To a scientist, this might sound spurious, but I tell you: our body is interconnected with all we live with, and can become a map which shares and distributes this information in different modalities. Just as musical instruments capture the adjustment of a player’s fingers or mouth, the human body can be a conduit for all sorts of information. The trick is learning how to receive and interpret what information it gives.
People come to clinic with questions arising from their senses, their intuitions, but which they can’t answer themselves. There is a blockage to understanding. Why can’t these things be seen?
Like a hologram, our bodies carry the seeds of most of the information we need to achieve change, to re-enter a place of flow. I see myself as someone who has trained her vision to see as much of the hologram as possible, and render it accessible.
APPROACHING THE CONDITION OF JOY
Spinoza, whose philosophy of being-in-the-world includes concepts of joy and sorrow which contribute to or detract from our quality of engagement in the world– outlines two types of joy which are useful to consider. One type is partial, and the other is more of an overarching condition which has the potential to lead to creative fulfilment, purpose, and an ability to act in the world. Titillatio (pleasurable excitement) is only in partial relationship to the organism as a whole. Affecting only a “sub-group of parts of the body,” its interaction is incomplete, and thus deserves cautious attention, because it listens to partial signals, not fully-encompassing ones. It is inattentive to broader details, to other factors in the contexts of its own fulfilment, and can indeed lead to exhaustion (both of an individual, and of the larger cohort to which that individual belongs). Spinoza mentions love of money, sexual fulfilment, and ambition in this category.
The condition of hilaritas, or cheerfulness, however, reflects on the idea of a body as an ecology, both unto itself, and in relation to others. This “joy” is one which calls on the body or self as a whole, affecting “not only a subgroup of functions of the organism, but each and every one,” and therefore its totality. (Arne Naess, Deep Ecology for the 21th Century, 1973; p.252.) This has the potential to be complete in its integration of our knowledge-of-the-world. It is a condition to which one can aspire (approaching what he calls “perfection”) which makes for the circumstances of fulfilment of action, of complex thought, and of making decisions which can be in fuller relationship with more of the world, and with the possibility of a better-functioning world as a result.
Hilaritas is thus a condition which includes a kind of expansion and progression of sensibility and relationship, because it can accommodate more. There is always something more to know, incorporate or acknowledge. This, for Spinoza, brings forth improvement. But one might ask, where does this “more,” this improvement, open out from?
from “Hungry Ghosts.” Full text available at www.bodyecology.com.au/articles.html c.2004, Zsuzsanna Soboslay, BodyEcology.