what I wish I could say.

If I can fit the pieces of this self together at all, I don’t want them to be the way they were. Not because I thought I could be better defended either: what I wanted was to be realer. – Eve Sedgwick, ‘A dialogue on love.’

I’ve found it hard to get outside the door recently.

So I’ve been spending days in bed, morning practice, then reading – intermittent – staring at the clouds, idea-having. My supervisor tells me: ‘Because what you are going to do is make a significant contribution to theory’. Curled in sheets scattered in croissant crumbs it feels unlikely. Is this how all masterpieces were born? In solitude – emotional insulation – slacking off the formal university occasions. Am I a philosopher now? Wow, thanks. Surely I wasn’t trying.

But I have been watching lots of programmes about hoarders. Now hoarders understand, that need to hide oneself away, literally with objects, a house so full there is no space to move, to breathe. Its almost a regression back to the womb, a safe place, a clear barrier between the self and the troubling world out there. What is interesting is how loss lies at the centre of many hoarding stories. ‘Well it started just after he died…’ When we lose space opens up. And what do we fill it with? The habit is chosen seemingly arbitrarily, by circumstance or chance. To hoard is perhaps the act of filling space at its most literal expression; and yet the aim is the same; to bury oneself alive, to no longer be. The over-eater, the bulimic, the addict, the alcoholic, often seen as the ailments of the greedy, but is it not rather a matter of feeling unbearably empty. It’s not greed when you never manage to fill that space.

“I was looking for something to fill that void inside”, sometimes this statement is said in regards to a yoga practice. Nothing else worked, so says Russell Brand. Oh and he tried. And don’t we all want to return to the womb, to reach that point of non-existence, to momentarily shed the tiring fact of being. This is not to ‘be in the moment’ as the adopted mantra goes. It is more an awareness without thought. After all it’s not a coincidence that it is only in the yoga practice room where I don’t feel the anxiety.

But it’s hard, hard to remember that some people don’t have death as the centre of the way they live – but nor do they have life – they just have fear of both. Fear is it own fortress. And yeah yoga helps. But you won’t find any anecdotes here. Though here’s a funny story. I represent a pretty successful recovery story. Parents dead by age 15 and an eating disorder for a good 7-8 years or so. Ask me how I recovered, and I have no idea.

Thinking in spaces makes more sense. Both in the way spaces close up and empty out depending on the people we have in our life and who we lose. When the space gets too large, feels irreplaceable, we might take up strategies to fill up that space, and those strategies might create their own problems, like burying ourselves alive, or destroying our insides. But sometimes that same space is comforting, its a cushioning, we can reclaim it as our own. And then there’s the people we allow into our spaces. I recall the comment of a customer I once served, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with”. I spent many years of my life closing off my spaces. And the people that occupied my space were critical and negative, “You need to open up more”, “Why are you wasting time going to India”. This helps no one. If I was to attempt any form of recovery story it is this; move out of the spaces that don’t serve you. This happens both through simply picking up and leaving, as well as opening up the spaces for newness to enter in. For me this resulted in meeting people who supported me for who I was. And yeah yoga, that stuff helps. Especially with opening the heart chakra.

I have a wise friend (he is younger than me but ah well) who used to tell me I hadn’t yet come to the realisation of being the odd one out. “Only then will you be free” he advised. But I have! I am free! I would cry. But I still spent so much time being disappointed, carrying expectations of the world, of people. I thought the only way out was to somehow transform, to let go of everything; and then there was the pressure to figure it out, and quick. But somewhere along the line, say a couple months into my stay in India, I started to lose my fear. It coincided no doubt with the time I fell ill. And no this sure as hell wasn’t any spiritual awakening. It was more a moment where I stared at the ceiling and the fan spinning above my head and thought “I feel like I’m going to die. No-one is coming to save me. And I don’t care”.

Sometimes the boundaries of the self, life and death blur so much you get a sense that living as the odd one out is really not a big deal because, and this is my deep realisation, we are all human and we all die, and who cares about the rest of the stuff, like the chase to ‘be’ someone, or going up the career ladder, or getting a mortgage. Running away is not running away, it’s the search for better ways to live. It’s creating a life for yourself where you can experience all you want to experience. It might mean being a little crazy. And as for the things that do matter, well they lie in the moments you encounter along the way, they are the people you love, and they are all the things I wish I could say.

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sort of inspired by Rashmi Munkempanna’s work: What I Wish I could Say. And she is based in Mysore.

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Jellyfish (Or how to be a body-without-organs).

Is it really so sad and dangerous to be fed up with seeing your own eyes, breathing with your lungs, swallowing with your mouth, talking with your tongue, thinking with your brain, having an anus and larynx, head and legs? Why not walk on your head, sing with your sinuses, see through your skin, breathe with your belly: the simple Thing, the Entity, the full Body, the stationary Voyage, Anorexia, cutaneous Vision, Yoga, Krishna, Love, Experimentation. Where psychoanalysis says, ‘Stop, find your self again,’ we should say instead ‘Let’s go further still, we haven’t found our Body without Organs yet, we haven’t sufficiently dismantled our self.’ Substitute forgetting for anamnesis, experimentation for interpretation. Find your body without organs. Find out how to make it. It’s a question of life and death, youth and old age, sadness and joy. It’s where everything is played out. – Deleuze & Guattari, (1988) A Thousand Plateaus, p.150-1.

I learnt a few things before I got fired from my job as a sales assistant at a spiritual shop. I learnt about the importance of the energy of a room. People either take energy or they give it. There is no neutral place.

In the Mysore practice room, energy is paramount. A new body will add or take away. The desire is to fade into the shadows but none of us can disappear; we are all caught up in the game. But sometimes in the heat of practice, our self-hood gets so slippery we can perhaps dissolve into one. We reach the place of the body-without-organs, we keep pushing through that complacency and dissatisfaction with the body, we don’t rest with what we are given or what comes easy but we keep asking what else? The body-without-organs is what remains when you take everything away – the material – leaving us to discover the virtual dimension of the body where there lies a collection of possibilities: like standing on one’s head, or turning our bodies inside out.

To find our body-without-organs is a constant process of becoming; it is a horizon not a goal. We are told about the goals of yoga all the time: relaxation, happiness, self-discovery. Because these are all supposed objects we can obtain, if you’re still unhappy, confused and lonely well you’re just not doing it right. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to think about a becoming without a being. A becoming is a process without an end, it ignores the markers of age and societal norms that dictate ideas about how to be and act, in becoming a body-without-organs we don’t have to ‘be’ anything because in the constant dismantling we are becoming over and over again. It is to lose the attachment to figuring it all out, especially when you realize you might not be one of those that can play that game well.

The wall of the practice room read to me: ‘…when we are no longer upset by the play of opposites’ (Yoga sutra 2.48). The space of difference between you and I, us and them. Sometimes when we try to bridge that gulf is when we feel that otherness the most. Because its pressed up all over your space, face, body. But if we are becoming and not being, if we seek a body-without-organs and not a impermeable self, each encounter is a mode of transformation; it acknowledges we are invested in one another already, we are already one, and so the intimacy is not the bridge but an experimentation with no need to prove closeness (the closeness is already there).

Because sometimes we also listen way too much to what others think we should do with our lives/relationships/self. What then develops is a sense of underlining sadness to all our actions we make in the name of freedom and happiness. We are free to do whatever we desire so why does it feel so sad. We keep looking for that something that is missing; we feel we once had it or at least deserve to have it. We want it back, bad. And then we follow paths that tell us we can ‘be someone’; we make choices that tell us there is only one valid option at the end (doing a PhD = being an academic, practicing yoga everyday = being a weirdo). If you veer off course, you’ve just wasted time – who’s time? Or else we’re just running away – from what? It? This city life? How about we follow paths with our eyes open. We have to make choices but only if we do not forget the possibility of other choices, other ways of becoming. How about we stop the short cut means to escape and painting over the doubts and brushing away the thoughts that entice us to ‘…go further still’. If only we gave ourselves time we could stare into those walls long enough until the cracks begin to show again.

Who is this ‘We’?: I’m already speaking as a body-without-organs. Too much softness that’s my problem my teacher told me today. Too much softness, not enough strength. What happens with too much softness; too much permeability; see through skin, is you bruise easily. A body-without-organs is not attached to anything, it has lost all anchors from the world, it is crazed and irrational, it cries, runs away, it lives without boundaries. This is why the body-without-organs is always a horizon and not a goal. To live as a body-without-organs is to live only as a remainder, only in the virtual without the actual, it is a body that constantly seeks and attaches to earthy bodies to hold them down. ‘There needs to be a lot more mula bandha action happening’, was my teacher’s advice. ‘If you carry on as you are, you’ll just hurt yourself’. And so now I face months of practice focusing on the hard work of grounding my body-without-organs, containing it, being less of a ‘jellyfish’ (another teacher comment). For many the challenge of the practice is to dismantle the self but for me it is to put it back together. Everything was already taken away, now I need to find somewhere to anchor myself down.