We placed one hand on our forehead, and one on the back of our head. We then placed our hands over our ears, moving them in and out. Sound. Vibration. Touch. We did other experiments, working with support. The day before we worked with magnets, with attraction and repulsion. We worked with rocks, with weight, with gravity. How is breath affected? It all came together for me in such a way that I experienced connection. Of course that was after I experienced disconnection. We move back and forth. Connection. No words, analysis, thought. Connection. Ah, awe, awe. And disconnection. That, too, has its place.
I've been reading a wonderful book, The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is the true story of Eustace Conway, who wants to change the world, who wants to introduce us all to a more natural way of life. He learns that perhaps he can influence a few, and perhaps that is enough. I think of Thoreau. His ideas still influence us. Perhaps Eustace is a modern-day Thoreau. I offer a few words from the book because they seem to be about sensing, aliveness, and connection, themes with which we worked this weekend, and with which we work each moment of our lives when we are awake, which I imagine we all choose to be.
An aside now. Seymour Carter, a leader of Sensory Awareness, was honored, as he died this year, and is missed. Some saw him as a saint, and others as "crazy". I realized today that perhaps we all are saints and we all are crazy. Seymour's son came to Esalen when Seymour died. He came to gather Seymour's possessions, though he had very few. He mainly lived in his car, but he had a bag of rocks which we all treasured. His son did not know the value of the rocks and dumped them into the ocean, perhaps the proper place after, all, and yet, those of us who had worked with those rocks, were shocked. We all value different things, and yet perhaps, just for today, we can value all we see, all we come in contact with, or perhaps we open bags of things, and dump them into this ocean we share. Perhaps.
From The Last American Man:
These are the words of a young man who came to Eustace to learn survival skills and was given sustenance, love, and care. Dave says Eustace wanted him to understand his philosophy which centered on mindfulness.
"There is no way, Eustace said to Dave, that you can have a decent life as a man if you aren't awake and aware every moment. Show up for your own life, he said. Don't pass your days in a stupor, content to swallow whatever watery ideas modern society may bottle-feed you through the media, satisfied to slumber through life in an instant-gratification sugar coma. The most extraordinary gift you've been given is your own humanity, which is about consciousness, so honor that consciousness."
"Revere your senses; don't degrade them with drugs, with depression, with willful oblivion. Try to notice something new every day, Eustace said. Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you're not in the woods, be awake at all times. Notice what food tastes like; notice what the detergent aisle in the supermarket smells like and recognize what those hard chemical smells do to your senses; notice what bare feet feel like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is - your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbors, and this planet. Don't pollute your soul with apathy or spoil your health with junk food any more than you would deliberately contaminate a river with industrial sludge. You can never become a real man if you have a careless and destructive attitude, Eustace said, but maturity will follow mindfulness even as day follows night."
Dave speaks of Eustace building a fence. "I studied him as he worked. How could he do this? He's not as big or muscular as I am. I'm a triathlete and I'm big, and I couldn't do it. His arms are lean. How can it work? But as I watched him, I realized he had an intimate physical relationship with his tools. When he swung that sledgehammer, he didn't use just his arms; he swung it in one economical motion, using his whole body. His hips helped him hoist the sledgehammer up, and then he arched back and put all his momentum against the blow. It was beautiful. It was complete physical attention to one task. It was like watching a dance. The dance of manual labor. And I knew that was why Eustace could do everyone faster and better than everyone else, because of that intensity and grace and perfection of focus."
Eustace - saint to some, crazy to some, and human and divine, like each of us, each moment, each movement of breath, and honoring of fluidity: legs, arms, neck, head, spine. Connection. Grace. Life. I give thanks.