Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday, May 26: Chapter 26: Food and awareness

When I come home from a morning out, and enter the house, the first impulse is: Eat. Now, I’ve been on my bike for a twenty minute ride and it’s after one thirty, and still: this is habit. What’s the easiest way to still discomfort: food. What’s our earliest habit? Food.

What is life about when we are young? Exploration, learning and comfort. Being feed, being kept to a minimal comfort. We get fed by squawking, and we eat with our mouths. The tongue can taste and we are regaled over and over by sounds coming from the mouths and tongues of those around us. We learn, somehow, our Mother Tongue. We learn to talk.

We learn lots more than that. We learn what will get us in trouble, we learn what will get us goodies, we learn what tones of voices mean what, we learn that these giants around us not only care about our welfare, they care about controlling us, keeping us from bothering them, keeping us from doing this, from touching that, from going there, and later, from saying this or that.

Control and the tongue. We learn to control our tongue and we can talk. Their tongues tell us all sorts of ways to behave. Their tongues try to tell us who we are. Their tongues tell us that this and that and how we are supposed to cramp ourselves down. This is why it is such a treat to live in a foreign land where everyone is speaking in words and sounds different than those that were used to shape and mold and limit and warp us.

The tongue and eating. We all most of us know of the homunculus in the brain, the representation of which areas of our body are most important ( tongue, mouth, thumb) and which have less mental real estate ( our upper arms, say, our ribs). This is where we were and are most conditioned. This is where it is hardest to wake up to the present, while shoving food in our mouths and while shoving words out.

Have you been to meditation retreats, or “spiritual” dance classes, or “spiritual”: yoga classes, or even Feldenkrais classes where the emphasis is on detailed and exact attention to the present. And then the class is over and what do people do? Rush to put food in their mouth and rush to yammer. The talk, chat, yammer is out of the present, gone, as asleep as it can get. “My wonderful experience…” “I was so clear….” “My wonderful breakthrough….” And so on.

Enthusiasm is wonderful. Without it, life is a drag. But the enthusiasm for our yammering, for our presentation of our wonderful accomplishments, at the expense of being awake, this is a high price to pay. Better this, of course, than your everyday zombies, complaining if they open their mouth, and always in a rush or a jam, but still: this is the hard area. To speak and be present. To eat and be present.

And what is the easiest route? Moving ourselves in new or almost new ways, with interest and attention. This is what we did most of in our lives when we were young and being left alone to learn on our own. No one thought rolling over or finding our face with our fingers (and toes!) was something we needed to be taught, so we spent hours and days and months exploring and using our brains to create a more clear and complex understanding of ourselves and our abilities to move in the world. This is where we have the most freedom from outer regimentation, especially if we get back down on the ground or floor and start doing the little “meaningless” movements that make up our tennis game and our golf game and our yoga and all the “grown up” activities we have barely a chance of improving if we keep going at them in the same old ways.

So, the goal of life is to improve tennis via small and aware movements? No, one goal of life might be to be tricked by our wish to improve tennis or yoga or a sore back or a depressed spirit, tricked into Feldenkrais work, where, paying attention to small and new moving, and connecting to learning as it’s own reward, we find ourselves free to be not only present, but excited about learning. This is a fine state in which to spend our days: awake and excited to be learning. The tricky part is that in learning, you have to be willing to go into some place that you don’t know yet, you have to make “mistakes,” you have to live in the “don’t know yet” territory so frightening to most.

Oh, well. It’s that or the ongoing trace. And if things get uncomfortable: eat some food, take a drink, call someone up on the cell.


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