Wednesday, March 25, 2015

an archaeology of the present



Walking to class in the East Village, a suave looking individual shuffled towards me. You could barely notice his beautiful ponytail with shaved sides, his youth, his clean shaven face and handsome clothes due to his obvious physical handicap. Knees bent, legs swinging wildly, he managed to move fairly efficiently with just a cane. We passed each other, then came the sound of something hitting concrete - I spun, ready to run and assist. Two cans of cat food had fallen from his grocery bag, and he calmly stopped one rolling away with his cane. Another pedestrian got to him before I could even shift the weight in my feet, but I couldn't walk away. Frozen in place, heart bursting, tears threatening all I could think was how brave he must be, to not only take care of himself in the face of a severe physical limitation, but also find the space in his life to care for another being in the process.

Seeing the Mom with two babies in a double-wide stroller pause by the stairs at the base of the subway platform, going up, I approached and grabbed the bar under the kid's feet and told her to start walking. Lifting the handles and backing up the stairs, she breathed hard over her shoulder while I smiled and made faces for the two beautiful babies staring back at me as I lifted from the base. Mom was little and soft, a sweet, round being filled with smiles when we got to the top.
'You're so much stronger than me!' she told me.
'You'll get stronger as they get bigger.' I replied, squeezing her shoulder gently and continuing on towards my destination.

Stepping on to the A train, I chose an empty seat next to a sleepy ironworker, his union marked on the left breast of his weathered jacket. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, I used the strength of my shoulder to brace him from falling forward, and resisted an urge to press my hand into the middle of his back in a semi-embrace. He never glanced at me, not even when he got off at his stop. Just two ships passing, for a moment.

Glancing up from my seat on the 1 train, I looked Keanu Reeves in the face, as he stepped into the train car doorway across from me. He paused, waiting for my reaction, so I shifted my eyes past him nonchalantly. He stood in space directly in front of me, and I watched him subtly, trying to figure out if it actually was him, or just a really handsome man - and he glanced down at me a few times when I was looking elsewhere, catching only the edge of contact and curiosity between us. A Spanish speaking older man stared openly, and finally addressed him. "Actor?" he grunted. Keanu nodded, a jerky motion that somehow involved his whole body. A group of girls close to the doors tried to artfully take photos and finally gave up, since there were so many unaware bodies between them and him. When he got off, looking like anyone getting off the train, there was a collective exhale, as the few of us who noticed him started to check and double check that had actually happened. What a gift, this moment, shared with strangers.

I recognized the yoga instructor as I walked into a noon class, we had encountered each other during an intense day of moving meditation that involved holding hands and using our eyes to communicate various deep and scary emotions. As she called us into our practice with child's pose, I was shocked to hear her accent, and realized we had never exchanged words. Bursting up into Warrior 1, I looked into her face with the biggest beaming grin I could afford to give her. She spent some time on my body, deepening my poses as I listened, distracted by the sound of her voice. We spoke briefly afterwards, both of us a little raw from the connection that lingered between us. I mentioned the shock of hearing her Michigan accent.
'We shared a lot of things, but not with words', she replied.

These moments only exist in a constant state of unfolding, they are not of the future or the past, but in the forever present, just like our breath. It comes and it goes all on its own, and most of the time we don't even notice it, until it goes away. I think it takes such a huge amount of courage and fearlessness to be present, rather than rushing through history to feel like we have a firm past to stand on. But now is the only thing that truly EXISTS, the past existed, the future will exist someday.

Power is a byproduct of having Presence, Presence is a byproduct of being Present. We just have to trust ourselves enough to be Here and Now. The breath keeps coming. It has always been there. It is there still, should you choose to notice it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

They are prisms, not pinholes


Staring at a poster on the A train, I suddenly realized the concepts of 'Heaven' and 'The Past' might sometimes be completely synonymous.

My mom calls it 'Euphoric Recall', that thing that made it so hard for her to ever completely let go of my stepfather, the Boogeyman - remembering only the good stuff, the past as a warm, sweet thing, sans pain. I do the opposite, where I only remember the negative, and the past is a dark twisted corridor I refuse to glance over my shoulder at, lest it turn me to salt or stone. Maybe the night terrors, the words we couldn't say and things we witnessed and cannot un-see are the shadow side of the past, maybe that is the true/literal definition of 'Hell'.

When I was in the 5th grade, I made a collage in my Art class composed of star-scapes/astral planes, bodies seen through heat sensors in the infrared light spectrum. At the center of that piece I had cut out and pasted the words 'Hell is a State of Mind'. Apparently part of me understood something once, that took me two decades to remember, or fully understand.

It feels like my Child and Adult selves, previously unaware of each other's existence, just collided on that dingy, poorly lit subway car.