Pausing in This Particular Epoch

A note from Carl:

Recently, Erin and I have been beginning our weeks with a Monday morning inner-listening practice. The practice, which has roots in Focusing and Embodied Life, in one that can be so simple it can be easy to miss the profundity.

We sit across from each other on our couches, and while Erin listens, I drop in and bring attention into the inner-space of my body, particularly the sensations within my torso, and I ask something like, “How is it in there?” We usually start with 15 or 20 minutes each, so that we can go slowly, not doing a drive-by, but sensing, how is it in there, really? We’re not trying to fix, or improve, or change, or solve, or avoid, or tidy up, but to acknowledge, “Oh, that’s there – hello.”  To feel and to welcome all that is living in me in a moment in my life… I always hear it in poet David Whyte’s voice, but I love the word “epoch,” and inner-listening gives me an opportunity to be with the many layers of experience that are happening in this particular epoch of my life. The world situations, seasonal changes, the relationship currents, the grieving, the excitements, the appreciations, the incompletes… all of it.

I think most of us don’t realize the complexity of all that we are carrying.

Have you received the memo? This is a complex world.
It is a complex fucking world.
In this moment, issues of climate change, Russians, Race, Gender, Immigration, National Monuments, Guns, An Island of plastic trash in the Pacific, all of this is being held, resonating with, and being digested in and through my body, along with countless forgotten passwords, and all of the aspects of other people’s lives and experience I witness on Facebook, as well as all the richness, beauty, and challenge of being a father, friend, husband, teacher, human. Life is complex.

A couple weeks ago, we had our friend, Diane Hamilton, over for a conversation for our upcoming Embodiment Matters Podcast. (Which will be born on the next New Moon, April 15, and we are so damn excited!) Diane is awesome. With her combination of years of practice in the Zen tradition, studies in the Integral tradition, along with her practice as a professional mediator, she can bring a warm, fearless curiosity to even the most the most sticky and challenging conversations. From our conversation, one topic that has lingered for me was her underlining the complexity of the times we live in, and how valuable and essential our intentions and practices are.

Diane also pointed out how the large mobilization behind someone like the current U.S. president is that it gives a sense of coherence, it gives a sense of security, a sense of knowing what is true, in the increasing complexity of these times. I know where I stand, America first, close the borders…and with that simplicity you don’t have to live into the complexity of questions about race and gender and diplomacy and climate. That perspective really shifted something for me in how I hold our current situation as a culture.

A day or two after that conversation with Diane, I saw the other side of the spectrum on how we deal with complexity. I was checking out at the grocery store and there were at least three magazines, TIME, Newsweek, some yoga magazine, and the cover titles were each something about mindfulness, and each featured a beautiful woman with her eyes closed, a radiant expression of healthy serenity. That’s what meditation feels like, right? Calgon, take me away.

I appreciate the view that Pema Chodron offers of spiritual practice not being a staircase going up and out of the stickiness and complexity of life, but one that goes down, right down into the thick of it all. Intimacy with everything, even that which we would rather avoid. So much of the bypassing that can happen through meditation, spiritual practice, and obsessive self-care is just the flip side of holding on to guns and the National Anthem for security in a complex world.

Francis Weller offers this image of how our modern culture suffers from amnesia and anesthesia – we forget and we endlessly distract ourselves. One of my favorite antidotes for both, is to pause frequently and check in: “Hey man, how is it in there?”

A spontaneous yin yang I found in City Creek Canyon (I added the black dot with leaves)

And speaking of pausing and welcoming:

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Wishing you well, and wishing you pauses,

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.