Have you ever wondered how you fit in with everything in your experienced world? Or course, we all have. Another, more subtle question is: how much of what we view as our world is inside us and how much is outside us?
The sense of inside (my embodiment of thoughts, feelings, and invigorating sensations) and the sense of outside (my perceptions of a “world”) usually feel rather distinct from one another. But inside and outside share some characteristics.
The sense of having an inside became more interesting recently when I was doing a TSK exercise—actually two exercises. One practice (“Embodiment of Knowledge”) was to visualize a warm stream of energy, like flowing nectar perhaps, moving down my spine and up the front of my body, while emphasizing feeling more than observation, and allowing that warmth to expand throughout the body into a disc that itself widened and extended beyond the body. The other practice was “Going without Going” in which Time is invoked by moving very slowly and paying attention to that movement.
Let me acknowledge (since I’m trying to invoke a warm kind of knowing in these practices) that I find it hard to relax and just accept what is going on. Instead, I find myself straining and telling myself how incompetent I am at visualization.
But this time I was lucky. Feeling the flow a bit, it occurred to me that over the course of my life I have touched upon some of these stations or centers in my body. I think some traditions call them “chakras”. When I practiced Tai Chi for a decade in the 1980’s, the flow was called Chi and the chakra of balance was the “dan tien”, located in the abdomen. Then, in my studies at the Nyingma Institute, the breathing method was to breath with the mouth slightly open and the tongue touching the upper palate, activating the throat center which in turn opens communication between the head and the heart. I was immediately drawn to this idea that I could open a channel between my head and my heart because I frequently get lost in thoughts at the expense of heart-centered feelings.
For a few mornings this past week, this practice allowed me to feel a flow in my body and to visit a wider span of life through remembered times and activities.
I made a connection between the inner and the other dimensions of how I view my experience. I thought of how the solar system is a disc on which I sit perched like a cat holding onto a spinning plate. And just as my body is organized around a spine in back and a column of chakras in front, my life in time and space is taking place on a spinning solar disc, cycling through our galaxy.
My sense of being an inhabitant of cosmic space is intermittent and dim. But I still draw upon a time in Peru in the late 1970’s when I developed a relationship with Sun, Moon, and Earth, while I was riding in the back of a truck racing over the narrow ribbon of a stone road with a towering cliff face rising up on the right and a chasm falling abruptly off to the left, mere inches from the truck’s wheels. The razor edge of judgement required by the driver was made vivid for me by a fellow traveler in the back of this truck who said that her brother had had his arm torn off the previous week by another truck passing in the opposite direction.
I had been introduced to the writings of George Gurdjieff in the months prior to this three month trip to Peru and I felt inspired to be aware of the consciousness through which my awareness of myself and my world was operating. Seeing the Moon overhead from the roofless truck bed–coming in and out of frame as the steep road wound its way among the towering peaks of the Andes–I visualized the Earth spinning on its axis once a day as it circumambulated the Sun once a year, with the Moon orbiting the Earth once a month. And I wondered whether there was any mutual coordination among these individual motions. Then I noticed that the daily rotation of the Earth was pushing the Moon in the direction of that rotation—as if gravitational feathers were reaching outwards and nudging the Moon along—and that, as befits being pushed along by 200,000 mile long feathers and not steel guywires, the Moon moved along at one-twenty-eighth the pace as the Earth’s rotation.
I suspect that most of us, at least since Copernicus provided the simpler heliocentric theory (that the Sun is the center of our system not Earth), comprehend this theory in principle, but each morning still think of the Sun as coming up over the eastern horizon. I certainly do. But ever since that time in Peru, I can also visualize the Earth underfoot bending toward Father Sun and Sister Moon, now that I know that my home planet has gravitational feathers reaching out and nudging the Moon along her way. Have you ever noticed that it helps when our various theories and sensitivities corroborate one another’s way of looking at things? It doesn’t make any of them true in any absolute sense, but the relative truths in which our lives are parsed out certainly feel more comfortable when they seem to reverberate together within a larger harmony.
Today I’m trying on for size ‘the twin disc’ theory of embodied life: one disc spinning inside my body and providing a path for all my centers and chakras and for my spinal river of energy; and another disc unifying this local neighborhood of cosmic space in which the chakras of Earth, Moon and Sun, are dancing their spirited Sufi foxtrot among the stars.