Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Life is not a Rehearsal: Each Moment is the Performance
Practicing, whether a musical instrument, painting, asana or other activity of mind and body, is a process of building stamina, skill, pattern, awareness, and technique. Yoga is not different in many ways from any of these other pursuits. A spiritual practice or a modality of scientific inquiry both benefit from repeating the walk along the pathways of the mind, in some ways codifying these movements into a chosen range of adaptations. We shape the way we think, our thoughts shape the way we react, act, feel. It is in this inquiry that we discover our selves and the world again and again.
Even in the practicing, though there are imperfections and sometimes struggles, it is not a rehearsal in order to get it right. The practicing is in itself the performance, but with a different audience or outcome. It is the self that performs, and the self who is transformed by the performance.
There is no moment when you are not your self. Even in moments when you might say, "I am not myself today," you are present only in that moment as the self you actually are, feeling off kilter. Our idea can shift about who we think we are, and we construct the ways in which we imagine we are seen by others. As with playing music, it sounds beautiful to one person, boring to another, intriguing to someone and intolerable to someone else. It exists only in the moment that you create it, and though you might record it, it lives then as a recording, played in a moment, reacted to in that moment. It is no longer your life, but a product of your life.
So with this in mind, it doesn't take much to see that what you say, the face you make, the food you put in your mouth, the way you touch another, the place you rest your eyes, all make up the life you actually live. There is no moment out-of-mind, even in the flow of ecstatic creativity that might bring out the music or the art, the breath or the dance, this is your moment. It is in this context that I contemplate the principles of right action and right speech.
Once I was in my dad's painting studio looking at some new work and he said, "Oil painting is like a rehearsal where you can keep going back and redo, or undo, or rethink, and remake; where watercolor is a performance with every stroke of the brush, this is it."
Being present in each moment is like living a watercolor, where each movement of the breath is the performance of life. Is there pressure in this? I don't feel it that way. I see this spreads out any pressure into a general sense of upholding personal responsibility in all things, including sharing responsibilities with everyone else for the world we are making together, and accepting responsibility for the range of feelings that arise. This is not about perfection, or blocking out the "bad," but rather giving up the idea of "good" and "bad" and being here, in it right now as it is.