If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know I’m a huge nerd who references her classes in her posts. If you’ve just started reading this blog, hello! I’m a huge nerd and I reference my classes in my posts. Recently, I read Her 37th Year, An Index by Suzanne Scanlon for a class. The book is formatted as an index, and part of our class discussion involved selecting an entry and sharing it with a series of classmates. The entry I decided to share and discuss was “Musician”:
Musician (see also: Body, and Healing), You observe a friend, a musician, who is completely and utterly in his body. When he speaks, he chest rises and falls, his eyes focus, his laugh is a thing separate from himself. The dream: to be in the world, to be in your body (Scanlon).
The dream in the entry is the same one I’ve been pursuing all semester. As I was reading the section out loud over and over to each classmate, I was extremely conscious of my body: my breathing, my posture, the rhythm of my voice (or, as is typical with my style of reading, the lack thereof). Even with this awareness, I still failed to be in my body. I was thinking about it too much; my mind was too far outside it.
This didn’t surprise me much. I find I’m too busy either thinking about my body to allow myself to occupy it or thinking about things so far removed from my body that it disappears. But I couldn’t help but believe that the dream Scanlon describes, the one I’ve imagined (in less elegant terms), is attainable. There has to be occasion when one is actively using their body and concentrating on using their body, not thinking about it or thinking outside it. I figured it must happen when people are doing things like hiking (like really hiking, don’t-step-on-the-wrong-rock hiking) or yoga, with its emphasis on mindfulness and a connection with the body.
Now, I’ve been practicing yoga intermittently for a little over a year now, and nothing. I’ve never been good at clearing my mind (shocking, I know) and the distraction of finding the poses is not enough to overcome it. If a move is particularly difficult, I’m stuck thinking about how difficult it is, and if we’re lying still in shavasana, my mind takes the chance to wander onto other things. While it seems like the perfect activity for it, I’d pretty much given up on the idea that yoga would help me achieve the kind of embodiment I’ve been seeking.
But today I did it. I was in my body. During class, we were shifting from plank to standing in forward fold, but not in the typical way. Instead of hopping our feet to meet our hands, we were walking our hands back toward our feet. About halfway there, I could feel my body weight was suspended between my hands and my feet, and thought of nothing but placing my hands correctly to balance and pushing off with my fingertips to shift my weight back onto my legs.
As soon as I became aware of it, the feeling dissolved. My attention returned to my mind, resumed churning through all of the preoccupations it had briefly left behind, but I added that feeling to it. Though it was fleeting, it was delightful. The dream Scanlon describes exists and is worth striving for. Of course, it’s not something anyone can purposefully do—inherent in the idea of being in your body is an immersion so complete that you’re not actively acknowledging it—but I hope I have the chance to occupy my body again.