Ritual C - Move! - Week 1
(Much of my thinking from here is indebted to my conversation with the artist Simon Kaan (thanks, Jacob))
What will make this movement ritual/cultural practice?
Cultural practice: Meditation, Movement, Writing, Cooking, Walking?
The Hare Krishnas do us a service by being loud and moving in public.
What does it mean to do so without the institution of religion attached and attending?
That’s what this taonga is. I am not doing anything that is a revelation. But I’m creating forms that help me recalibrate the way I relate to and integrate my varied whakpapa in lived life. Through these forms of cultural practice—syncretic and personal to me—I consider my participation in place, in this place I occupy. Simply by being here, I am part of the lineage of this place now. How do I consider that, relinquish my attachments to the comforts cozied to imperium, and enter the fluid collaboration with all elements of this place? How do I open myself to be shaped by this place, and with thoughtful reverence contribute to shaping it myself?
By virtue of being here I do and will impact this place. How is up to me. Moment by moment. I write and walk because the currents descending from colonial histories, capitalist structures, hierarchies of caste/class, and ontologies of production/progress do not resonate with me. I am saddened by the consequences of those modes of perceiving and being on the world. And patriarchy—what have I lost by consenting to the muted embodiment of masculinity taught to take up space, but not consider agility within that space, quietness, softness? How stiff my shoulders from the intersections between brownness and cis-maleness? How I take up space, but in restricted ways, culled ways, comporting myself to what whiteness rewards in the South Asian man—docility, assent, invisibility, a passenger who will not threaten to rock the boat? What have I deprived of my being? What violences has this deprivation, indirectly, inflicted upon others?
My cultural practice helps me step out of pre-existing currents that feed the institutions built around life and work today, to bodily post new modes, modes of being.
Steps for ritual:
1. Read a Rumi poem with Tessa in the morning. One of the first things Tessa and I did in our relationship was to have silent dance parties at home and a few times in public. The first time in public, we went to the Diag in Ann Arbor in the evening, listened to our own music within our own headphones, and danced. Moved however our bodies wanted. Tessa and I have read a Rumi poem most morning throughout our relationship. Including this pre-existing practice into the ritual is a way to honor the influence of this relation on the gradual comfort I am learning with different modes of being in my body.
2. Choose a place to dance. Today, I am inviting Tessa to join the ritual for as long as she wants and we are doing it in a space up the hill in our backyard.
3. Recite Om Sahanauvavatu from the Taittiriya Upanishad, the verse that starts the section which is a dialogue between Rsih Bhrigu and his father. Bhrigu is said to be the paternal lineage from which I have descended.
a. The sloka, which I’ve known by heart since childhood, translates roughly to: May all be happy, may all be healthy, may all seek auspiciousness, may none suffer, Aum peace peace peace.
4. Read a poem. Today, I chose Christopher Gilbert’s “Listening to Monk’s Mysterioso I Remember Braiding My Sisters’ Hair.”
5. Recite Om Sahanauvavatu again.
6. Dance to an album or track of music that is often classified as “experimental” or “new” or “free” jazz. Many of the choices may defy these classifications, but I choose them because they move me, literally, despite conforming to standard rhythms and typical dance tunes. Today, that is the last two tracks, “Vehicle” and “Escape,” from the album Icon: A Transcontinental Gathering by bassist Jonas Hellborg, late guitarist Shawn Lane, Indian percussionist Selvaganesh and his brothers, the percussionist Umashankar, and vocalist Umamamesh. My long lost friend Paul taught me about them during my lone year in medical school. Paul was a musician before being a medical student and, having learned of my interest in Indian classical music and jazz, shared these files with me. Ever since, they have been recordings I return to often.
7. Recite Om Sahanauvavatu again.
8. Bow. Full body namaskar on the ground.
No Video this time
Chilly, but barefoot. Saturday practice. Late afternoon, grey. Going up the yard barefoot. To the clearing at the west side of the woods. Above the house. Can see the green tin roof and the harbor behind it and the hills beyond. Towering trees behind. Most of whose names I know not. Tessa joins to start. We sit cross-legged. I bought a Bluetooth speaker for this. We left our old one in the US over a year ago. I recite the mantra. I read Gilbert’s poem, Tessa beside me. We danced. Gingerly and slowly for the music called for that, and also, my feet. My fragile feet. Not used to the bramble, scattered sticks and uneven lawn. Lots of arm movement for me. Subtle bending. Quiet. Small movement. Forced larger movement. Until I fell into a groove. Tessa left midway through the dancing. The neighbors, my awareness of the ones to the left. Even though they were not there and showed no signs of looking. To play music aloud in the backyard in my usually silent neighborhood. Silent on the weekends, but for the neighbor, on the other side, using his power tools. His young daughters intermittently yelling in play or longing for him. Cannot hear that today. Only the music. And a noticing of the plants. And afterwards, the bow, full bodied, making sure my forehead touched the dirt too.
The feeling afterward is the soothing warmth of post-meditation glow.
The risen sun and its accompanying chill on winter mornings as if the air had relaxed under covers in darkness and the sun with its rude arms pulls the covers to cast day onto the freezing tiles.
I took my shirt off. Almost stripped naked in our backyard.
Vehicle, this vehicle, my body.
Vehicle, this name.
Bhrigu, supposed ancestor on my father’s side, and his father, began their lesson passed orally down to us with a verse praying that their gathering with one another could somehow aid in the joy, health, and relief from suffering of others.
This desire to know the names of trees. Which means to know the names humans give them.
I could have asked the tree with light green, small spades for leaves flowering small, white petals in young spring for its name.
And tried to listen. Allowed myself to fail.
I could have.
But I was dancing, awkwardly, aware of my fragile bare feet on the bramble, acorns, grass, and withered leaves.
And though ginger and slow-footed, I was more comfortable unclothed among the trees—the tall, thin, imported Junipers and the lotus shaped purple succulents and the many other plants whose names I do not know.
Consider my dance an overdue first step toward conscious participation in the life around me.
Participation in a place I’ll never own.
As all places—unknowable.
Physical, emotional, spiritual, and metaphorical.
Simon reminding me this week, not land, but place. Not acting upon, but participating in.
Far back enough, this grass and these trees, this dirt and I share a common ancestor.
Perhaps a particle of my father’s dust has followed the current to follow me here From Maumee River to the harbor. And the dust of his parents, too.
And maybe mom’s parents have crossed the Pacific from Cerritos to feed this tree, too.
The one with white flowers for whom I have no name.
The one who I danced so close to that under one leaf, I spotted a grey shadow and thought it might be a beetle atop chewing its way through, ony to find upon my undulation a white flower close and floating just above.
“As if he could patch the hole, the other, white and floating just above, makes with his body.”
Yes, Roger, “There are angels and then there are angels”
And between them, me, choosing how I want to participate given this vehicle I find myself in.
So inconsistent with workouts, I’m learning to love the softness of my body, so midway through the track, I tossed my shirt off and onto the computer steps away.
Felt the cold air on my navel.
Though some of the neighbors who could surely hear.
And I almost wanted them to look almost
To participate with me
The way Tessa, at my request, joined me to start.
Who I asked because it is in part thanks to her that I accept this body’s softness and its need to move and be moved.
Yes, this practice.
An escape from the binary fixities in which my action potentials have been trained to move.
Toward new potentials of action.
Potential starts with rest at the top of some hill.
In the 32 years of this life, I’ve expended enough energy for activation.
Now I’m at the threshold of this reaction, the rituals my enzyme.
To move, move!
Own into, but never own
These lineages of breath and place I bring with me and participate in.
Transnational whakapapa. Transhuman participant.