Monday, April 28, 2014
In my mystics class, the speaker was talking about opening ourselves up to explore the room and each other with our senses, to allow ourselves to perceive things on a deeper, less obvious level. One of us, another student, asked if he meant 'sense' as in the 5 senses, or as in feeling emotions.
"Same thing." he replied.
He talked for a little bit about the possibility that emotions are a behavioral response to what is being sensed, that it is intimately part of the experience of logging information and drawing conclusions from what is being perceived.
That same student had given a small presentation on the life and spiritual development of C. S. Lewis, and one of the quotes she talked about from him had a lot to do with our separation from nature, and our passionate, constant longing to be folded into it, apart, whole again. I think being so heavily conscious is both the token thing that makes us unique in our own minds, and also forces us to feel different, alone. It seems that we have developed keen abilities to intellectualize things, to freeze images, aspects, objects and our emotional reactions to them, to be able to ponder things from a safe, objective distance. So we have become too afraid to be inside of an experience, looking out, to fearlessly step into mental illness, into connection, into love, into our fears, into something potentially painful. We do not nourish the brave parts of self, we quantify and qualify, moralize and demoralize, at a remove that severs us from ever being fully immersed in an experience. Maybe, just like we are taught at a certain point in childhood that we aren't allowed to touch each other, that it becomes an invasion of space, rather than a continuation of exploration, maybe we are taught then that we are separate from nature, that we are some distant, intellectual other, that, like Adam, we must spend our lives naming things rather than tasting them. How do we go past this forced perception? Education systems have developed out of a dogma that pits emotion and reason against each other, and we learn at a very young age that messy non rational emotions are expected to be considered lightly, if not all together ignored, rather than a natural part of ourselves that can be crafted, honed and wielded just as powerfully as our thoughts. We are all partially crippled creatures, and our cut off from the rest of existence is self imposed. We force it on our children. We are ashamed, filled with shame, conquered by it. Catholic, Christian or not, it consumes our existence. Especially the scientists.
We are ashamed of having feelings. Of feeling them.
A lot of the Mystics talk about emotion as how we access the spiritual, or how we tap into nature, each other. Every time that comes up, I wonder about anger, how we all learned growing up in western culture that anger and Satan are one and the same. I have always been hugely ashamed of mine, I ignore it, I walk away and allow safe, controlled bursts for no one to witness my shame and loss of control, I have almost completely eradicated my ability to perceive it. It is a thing unexpressed. When I am filled with it, it immobilizes me, and I am too afraid to be in that black space alone, or that I won't be around people I trust.
But actively ignoring it doesn't mean it goes away. It darkens my past so all I can see are the things I couldn't shout at people who were not kind, or gentle with me when they should have been. When I was tender, when I was fresh. It has left all of my memories twisted with black, with helplessness. I have not learned to wield it with maturity, I hide it like a phantom special needs child that will probably just humiliate me. I am ashamed of it, and as a part of myself, that shame spreads out and attaches itself to other things. If any emotion is a potential to experience the world more deeply, to access the divine, I imagine that cutting off any emotion becomes part of the problem, a kink in the connection, a cut wire, an artfully intellectualized self sabotage against feeling my own feelings and knowing myself.
"...winter in the course of the year, and midnight in the course of the day, are the time of concentration."
Maybe this is where we developed the concept of Ice Queens in our fairy tales, maybe this is why I always felt trapped in semi darkness, maybe this winter was much longer than I realized. Maybe this is why I am so intense, why its almost impossible to find lightness of being. That for how much I want to burn with feeling, I may be actively shunning warmth/light/fire/sun because I am to afraid of what the light would show, that it might be something embarrassing and crippled.
That there are so many different ways to burn.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
'soul connects and loses itself in connection. it falls and falls; it falls into beauty.'
As I went to get on the modeling platform in a classroom with a small number of animation students, the small, ancient, whispering professor removed his shoes and stepped up next to me. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, I've never had a teacher cross that boundary, and even though I was fully clothed, there is always a sort of invisible wall of light and space that is rarely penetrated, but for pointing out a line, a muscle, a shadow, a color transition. He wanted me to react to his gestures, and than slowly shift from pose to pose, so the students could draw the history between poses, the in-betweens of our key/dynamic poses. I know this game. After the initial surprise, and realizing his limitations of body movement, I played back, loose and silly and expressive, and when he reached a hand towards me in offering and froze in his place, I brought my hand to just hovering over his, as if accepting a request to dance. He fought for eye contact a little, straining his neck, so I looked back, held that frail, blue gaze for the full 20 seconds of the pose. As we began shifting in space and for the rest of the session, he spun me and twirled me, embraced me and prayed to me, and I countered and accepted, flourished and played coy in an elaborate slow motion dance. I could hear Sinatra singing to us in a vague, bizarre mesh of time periods and artistic allusions that we trekked with our bodies, across his student's papers.
That experience played itself in my head as I stared at a spot of shifting light near the window, as I lay frozen in a pose last night. It bubbled up suddenly cause I could feel the snuggling movement of the other model's toes against my thigh, as he valiantly fought against the cut off circulation, trying to subtly inspire blood back through his leg. I remember the first time I posed alongside another model, and had to wrestle with the sharp awareness of the naked animal smell of another person in very close proximity to me that was in a non sexual encounter. It wasn't good or bad, merely real and new. Since moving to NYC I find I seek out these deep, personal exchanges with complete strangers and it has become part of some bizarre pursuit of intimate interaction, these moments of trust, of drinking in knowledge of self through others, of not being judged always stick with me, reminding me of other moments of intimate awareness of people outside of myself. Like the scent my little sister's skin gives off, a tangy baby sweat smell, of lemony sunshine, and earnestness that I will never, ever forget. Or sitting on the train the other day, when a large, distinguished, older man sat next to me who was just a large dark shape in the corner of my view, and who emanated such a strong, delicious scent I finally leaned over to ask him what it was, but only after I sat in silence for awhile, gulping it in for as long as I could.
In the physically exerting nature of some of my work, one of my closest friends/work partners and I often ride the train home together drenched in sweat and construction materials. During some of our intense discussions its hard for me to focus on his words completely, sometimes I'm so distracted by the sharp sweetness of his sweaty-body smell, a sensual-information overload.
Somehow these after-work train rides have become really important to me.
Being able to admit deep and true things and look someone in the eyes and witness the realities of myself and my life reflected back at me in the minute twitches and guttural responses of his face and body language leaves me feeling clean as I walk home from the subway. Whole. Maybe there is something to be said about the catholic act of confession, of absolution. Maybe it's not coincidence that I found my priest/confessor in the carpentry trade. Sometimes, deep inside of a conversation I get a bizarre urge to nuzzle his 5 o clock shadow, or lay my fingers in the grooves at the corner of his sardonic sideways grin, like the ways I do to my dog, who doesn't see my successes or failures, my gender, or my insecurities... just me. I don't even think I have words to communicate that emotional response in any other way. I realize now, suddenly, fiercely, like lightning why sometimes I want to eat the kind, loving, gentle words out of his mouth. I'm desperately trying to consume pieces of myself through other people's reactions to me, like some cannibalistic attempt to regain something that has been lost. To harness the existence mirrored back at me in the tiny fragments of muscular reactions in other people's faces. I can almost see myself in the eye contact I can barely hold and it almost feels like someone can actually hear me when I speak.
And then, sometimes, I'm terrified he is half in, half out, living in the in-betweens and possesses some partially drug induced shamanic ability to dance through various states of reality. That maybe this is the only reason he can see me at all.
Nature abhors a vacuum.