There are many dumb things we believe in when we are younger. For me, it was believing friendships last a lifetime. The splintering of hope is all part of the Adulthood process, I guess. And I can feel it right at the fore of my cerebrum, hot and heavy. Some weeks are just wearing.
I write so much about love that it might seem I have a lot of it to give. But I’m just a hitchhiker, I only tune into love as an affect, how it emerges in the spaces between people or how it dissipates. I learnt about the subtle layers and spaces between people first from Gilles Deleuze and then all over again when I was given the opportunity to assist in the mysore class in my shala. Its been an experience too exhilarating to really talk about in a form that makes sense. There’s such a subtle chemistry in the mysore practice room, and it shifts constantly. Sometimes it feels as loud as thunder in there, and other times so quiet it feels exposing. Sometimes I carry too much affective baggage out of that room and other times I slip up and pass on my own bad affect. What you give in an assist is the counterbalance to whatever affective mode is lacking, or not quite working that day. Stiffness meets softness; softness needs strength; you provide the frame in which the student finds the space to feel the posture. And sometimes, especially when you are assisting people twice your size, you are just resisting. I’m not pushing you into the unknown, I’m just trying to keep you on track.
There’s a lot to learn, guiding a person’s practice, and I’m hardly qualified. Though learning to assist, to give, was somehow the perfect remedy for coming out of a period that left me emotionally, mentally and physically depleted. It showed me how the spaces in between can be bridged, momentarily, through the breath. That’s the only piece of advice I could give to any student, if anyone would ever make the mistake of believing I hold any secrets to the practice, just BREATHE. Space opens up with the breath, and not just physically. It allows things to happen, flow out and over, shedding and gaining in one cycle. To allow the touch of another in an assist and to breathe into the posture creates a situation where there is an admission to wanting to become different. This is no small deal. The surrender on the mat is a dispensing with sovereignty, and no-one owes me (least of all) to reveal themselves.
There’s something about that subtle negotiation of space that has little comparison. Love maybe, in theory.
Though without that subtle space in between, love, like a bad assist, can be a colonizing force that forgets the importance of difference. I used to think that the non-sovereignty of entering into relationality was expressed by two people becoming one person. In my story, becoming the same person meant never being two individuals and so being the same person is what ultimately drew us apart. We never had any space between us, no common breathing place. It wasn’t even that we weren’t on the same page anymore, it was a realisation that we never had a page to begin with.
To love is to expect some level of endurance from your object, this is not necessarily based on any hard facts, we just want people to make promises possible for us. This is the world we create through our desires in love. Our attachment to our object and the patience we have for situations that are not working keep us in place, literally. My academic research is fascinated by what happens when we are rejected by the objects we desire. In this situation it is because the object of desire has physically died, and yet psychically still present. Holding on to dead objects is something anyone can do, bereaved or not.
When an other becomes the means of propping up your own image, a lack of or disappointing response can cause feelings of disassociation. This can be minor, they say or do something that makes you feel distant from them. Yet that moment of disassociation can feel like a gulf where once there was relational space. Disassociation is a feeling that is framed by the bad stories our culture tells about ‘the one’ and having a person that is ‘everything’ to you. Disassociating yourself can seem like a defensive strategy when you start to feel yourself begin to unravel. It is not about fear but trying to hold yourself together. Choice and autonomy don’t really exist in human relations; once we’ve realized it, it’s usually already happening. We often are only ever playing catch up with our feelings.
Who knows why it gets so confusing in the space of relationality. Relationality promises equality but attachment is always messy and sticky. The best we can hope for is an equal match in the level of surrender, someone who is game to dissolve with you, without guarantees.