etc.

Practice is quieter, that’s for sure. I’m taking myself out of the equation. I’m getting out the way and its taking me wherever it chooses. I’m getting overwhelmed with sensation – I’m easy like that – and I’ll keep coming back for more.

The practice is silently eating ‘me’ up. ‘Me’ – the academic by day (yogi by dawnlight). Though 5am in the city doesn’t really exist. I’m not here, the bodies on the train aren’t here, we’re still in dreams and disrupted sleep. This is some secret hour we stole from the rest of the city, but we won’t ever let on – the ashtangis, night-shift workers, cleaners, baristas – how we see magic in the grimy morning sky over the river.

This ritual expends five hours of the day before I’ve even logged on. The working day shrinks as the kapo tiredness hits me and I spend the afternoons in my subconscious. Its been a little hard to admit that the mornings on my manduka turn me on more than the PhD fieldwork. I made the false assumption that I had to separate the two lives – thats why there’s two blogs: the academic brain and the yoga stuff.

Truth was I was concerned the yoga stuff would undermine my credibility as an academic. Besides it was too personal.

Anyway phew, I’m tired.

What I wanted to collect were some thoughts without a container. Disparate thoughts following a winding conversation on the weekend regarding consciousness, where lies vitality, samadhi, the soul or core self, death and so on.

I’d been unknowingly stifling words by blocking the stream of consciousness that I used to let flow here. It got ugly at times and so I kept trying to pull back. It is within this censoring maybe where my frustration with what I have been experiencing as an incompatibility between my two spaces of daily existence had been bubbling up.

This has manifested in childish bunking off and making rules lax (though this is a good medicine for the active militant in me).

What it is more about is how conflicting it is to carry around these contradictions in models of selfhood, one where the self is integrated within itself, able to present a coherent narrative of oneself, bounded and containing a core. And another self that exists on the surface, integrated with other and all living things, radically relational, and concentrated to the point of silent awareness.

Right now I’m trying to reconcile the two, whilst thinking about the violence that can be done in the name of potential, and being overwrought with sensation that has no place and my vested belief that after death lies nothingness.

Emotions have to go somewhere so the counsellor tells me, so deal with them, complete them else they’ll come back to get you, inhabit you, become you. There’s only so much space and energy that already exists that circulates in and over. So then what do we create? How can we find space? What about encounters that become relations, something is evolving there, being built, a life together. What could feel like bare space becomes so full, so so luxuriously full.

And then a little image from my memory to conclude: A whispered exchange in bed on the nature of consciousness – here is bliss is it not? – and the last thing I uttered before sinking into sleep: “I can only write about sensation, and even then not very well.”

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my moon and me.

For a while now practice has been happening on a level words can’t reach. So it’s been quiet here, and for a little time last week it got quiet inside my head too, while the body buzzed. Buzzed and hummed. Equally in my other life thought has been deadened by busyness: the hubbub of emails and scheduling and interview timetables. Admin is noisy.

I have of late wherefore I know not…

This then is an attempt. Here’s some words for you:

Laghu vajrasana: Blocked.

Kapotasana: What a breeze!

Supta vajrasana: Arms pinching.

Handstands: Because “You need some fun in your practice”, says my Teacher. (Apparently even in practice I have my melancholy face on. Here’s me thinking practice surfaces varying personas to the ones commonly performed outside. I’m melancholy through and through).

These words don’t reach too far. That’s not to look down upon the superficial. I can revel for hours in the banal yoga chat (it’s the social lubricant – nay glue – of daily life in Mysore). Something feels different though. I no longer feel the need to publicise my practice. I think this has come about from a) realising for most people in my life the ongoings of my ashtanga practice are of little consequence (read blank faces), b) I don’t need it anymore – it being affirmation, recognition. Sure sometimes I want it, a lot of it. But I can practice alone, I don’t need it.

This feels like a little big deal for me. Still I devoured avidly all the blogs and videos I could find on kapotasana after beginning to tackle it a couple weeks ago. It’s one of those steps in the practice that comes with its own fanfare, or perhaps that should be hauntings. But on the first few attempts after a few abbreviated breaths and before my lungs got used to the contortion, not a whole lot happened. No big deal.

What’s been the most noticeable aspect of my practice these days has been the non-happening of the practice. First this felt like boredom – normally at its peak around Janushirasana C. Yawn this practice is so long! But has since started to move away from the awarenessness of the emptiness of thought to what feels like a folding into quiet. (Removing resistance we could say, or surrender). At least until around Laghu when it gets all vritti again.

I keep thinking about the incompatibility of a regular practice to modern city life. A life that speaks in rhetoric of career, and doing more and being better and getting out there and linking in. When a daily contemplative practice brings quiet, everything else becomes such a din. The world we inhabit – say academia – might demand adeptness with noise while the practice contrarily demands adeptness to quiet.

Following two different desires the point of incompatibility arises. When the practice is no longer a refuge but a foundation and background the quiet starts to cloud out the noise, and where should the noise go? Do we quit our job? Do we complete the PhD and do nothing? And the language is deliberate – but wouldn’t that be a waste of time, when you could be spending time producing (reach for the Das Kapital here).

Hell, keeping up a daily habit like ashtanga has taken me away from lots of activities, like wine drinking on a weekday and heavy foods after 6pm and staying up writing in the early dark hours and probably too, from making new friends – I’m barely clinging to the few tolerant ones left. I used to say I would never date anyone who did yoga. I had a vision of men that did yoga and for some reason it wasn’t favourable. Just as well those feelings changed.

People don’t often get that it never felt like I was leaving anything behind. I knew what I discovered was so much more exciting than those other activities – which only ever felt like modes of getting by – could ever feel. People don’t get that its about exploring and expanding desires not prohibition. Life most of the time feels like denial, except when I practice. Veganism and daily yoga = boring as fuck right?? Some of my dear loved ones even feel that way. Maybe they got past the yoga stuff to realise I had a ‘personality’ or perhaps I do enough crazy poses for it to be ‘cool’ and after all surely I’m just in a phase.

We all make choices on how we live our lives, I mean the choices that we get left with after our lives are moulded by forces beyond our control. Rejecting normative fantasies and exploring alternative ideas of what is considered the ‘good life’ does not equate to abstinence and limits. I’ve certainly met many a self-confessed loudmouth rebel that bored me silly.

At weak moments, when I feel worn and threadlike, when I feel as though I am always on the precipice of a deep well terrified of what lies beneath, I have doubts about whether I am missing out on something. It can often feel as though I’m wandering the airless face of the moon alone, unable to share its fearful beauty with anyone. That’s why the interesting question for me is not what leads someone to start a yoga practice but why and how they maintained their practice. What sustenance is the practice giving them, what changes did they have to make in their lives to make room for it, what have they gained and what have we lost.

Maybe these thoughts don’t crop up in your typical Rocket Yoga class. Perhaps its the Lululemon-clad calorie obsessed yoga as fitness crowd that are giving yogis the boring reputation, or perhaps they’re making yoga more hip (read mainstream), I really couldn’t say.

Not sure I’m selling my practice too well by talking about non-happenings. So back to the buzzing.

I used to experience what I thought was sleep apnea, where I would stop breathing in my sleep and faint before waking gasping for air. My body would start to go numb and in my dream it felt as though I was falling without end. I was never sure why this happened. It might have been the large quantities of ibuprofen or the bottle of wine I used to consume each night. I stopped both and so too the dream fainting stopped.

The experience would always terrify me but afterwards the tingling sensation of my body, that first intake of breath, felt exciting. I felt my body paralysed and then revived again. I was numbing different types of pain with sedative causing substances: painkillers, alcohol, sleep. Yoga too began for me as another of these modes of getting by. The consolation prize at the end of the day was a yoga class instead of a bottle of wine. Difference being that instead of numbing me, the practice began to open me up. What this led to was all sorts of exposure to stuff. I can’t go into any more detail about what this means because its too personal, suffice to say, I learnt what it felt for the body to buzz and hum, in a very organic way. That’s where the drug kicks in. If someone asks me why I practice (and they do often, in curiosity, though now and again in accusation) I don’t know what to say. It feels like its beyond my control now.

If I were to attempt an answer I might say it feels like a homecoming. For me, love is feeling like you’re home. There’s no need to keep looking, there’s no further to travel, you’re home, you’re in love. Recently I learnt what this felt like when captured all inside one breathing moment.

And that’s about all I can say.

missing out.

IMG_0757

I spent much of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood with the aspiration to be normal. The aspiration for normal is often wearing, at times heart-breaking and endlessly unsatisfying.

Though I kept my aspiration for normal well hidden. ‘Normal’ was a category I reacted against. I laughed at the ubiquitous zombies desiring sameness. Later I was schooled in how to use my reactionary anger and reproach as social critique, my outsider status became a political position. I built up a history of my silencing and used my oppression and suffering as a resource.

I was told – and wholeheartedly believed – this would be empowering and liberating. And yet I kept experiencing moments when life would make me come undone. It didn’t matter about the academic achievements or the fact I didn’t die. It wasn’t enough, I failed to pass as normal. And my inability to pass still happens. I might have to run home in tears, or I get a bit too drunk, or say the wrong things or more often, say nothing at all.

The thing about how normal works is that you don’t see it’s there unless its taken away from you or you fail to reach it. I felt bad about wanting to be normal because not ever being normal meant I had the opportunity to become otherwise. I had all the possibilities those in the herd never see with their blinkers on.

And yet I saw that there is a comfort in passing as normal because it means staying under the radar. And when you’ve lived a life that has been made into a spectacle, passing as normal feels like relief, a reprieve.

To be normal is to ease the insecurity of missing out. To calm the constant worry of whether your job is allowing you to flourish, whether you are dating enough or having enough sex; whether your relationship has a future, to avoid questioning about marriage and babies, when you are settling down, and your five year plan. Though of course in obtaining one normal you fail to reach all the others: whatever we have we’re never quite good enough.

When I think about the aspiration for normal as providing comfort it is not so much to describe what that normal is. It doesn’t matter because the normal changes even if it doesn’t feel like it. Rather it is our desire for normal, our attachment to and our orientation towards it that measures our proximity to norms. (my normal was a family, two parents and a cosy image of a warm fireplace and feeling loved).

Normal isn’t always an object or clear vision, it’s a feeling. Passing as normal is a sense that one’s personal and social characteristics are non-dramatic. They blend in, you can blend. Blending means you can forget about the chips on the shoulder you might usually keep – the ones that keep others at a prickly distance. Blending feels light and carefree. You can relate, people relate to you.

Thinking differently is often presented as a gift, but it’s a labour, of which some endure less well than others. It’s a labour because it becomes much more difficult to be known, to be understood. Recognition is the endgame of passing as normal – we all want to be recognised as the person we are and not the performance we give. In love we demand the other to be attuned to what’s out of tune, because relationality requires that. We exchange our sovereignty in the belief that the other will always prop us up when we need it. If we stay propped up we don’t have to bear the full weight of what we gave up by entering into a relation with another person. Love can only flourish from non-sovereignty and so it necessitates dispensing with our (illusion of) autonomy. But we can persist in that illusion so long as we don’t lose the other or feel the risk of loss. This version of what we call autonomy is simply the level of interdependence that we can bear.

Normal acts to taunt us about all the things we’re missing out on. And yet there’s an optimism to normal, however cruel it can be. To reject normal, often leads to a rejection of optimism also. The abnormal fosters pessimism; the fatigue and weariness of being the outsider makes us jaded, we’ve lost our innocence. The world of the normal in contrast is one of ever-renewing desires and cupcake cheery happiness. Not fulfilling the normative standard can cause us to wonder whether we really did want those things and whether if we had them they would make us happy. If we spend time non-normatively it might be considered ‘lost’ or ‘wasted’ time. If that time was spent more productively you may have achieved, life could have been different, we could have been different people.

I no longer desire for normal because I understand that one version of normal was taken away from me and so no matter what I do I won’t ever pass as normal. My proximity to norms changes depending on where I am situated, so sometimes I can feel light and others heavy. And if I choose wisely I can create more space for lightness and less for dark.

In the project of pessimism our stories are framed by losses which can help bind us together in struggle but it cannot build a future. I am quite invested in an optimistic theory of societal change and I will sustain the charges of utopianism if I must. There’s a way to want that isn’t measured against what we are missing out on. This is a form of wanting that is creative and inventive. It is optimistic and in its innocence it might even be childish and playful. But as in the act of loving, optimism can help us work towards building a world that is capacious enough to hold all of our multiple ways of being human that were never normal.

standing still.

lost in Hong Kong.
lost in Hong Kong.

They say that everyone moves too fast here but everywhere I look people are standing still. In the elevator, in the MTR, in the queue for dumplings. I was stood waiting to cross the street outside my hotel when I noticed a man opposite sat on a stool. His back was bowed due to the passing of time and his face wore little expression. His gaze was low and unwavering. Sat waiting for the next customer, or not waiting at all. Bodies busied around him and yet he remained unmoved sat amongst his suitcases. On the 12-hour flight I consumed the whole first season of Sex and the City (in lieu of sleep it felt like a sedative to the brain). There’s a scene where Carrie and Mr Big meet in a park late at night. ‘Don’t you want to stand still with me?’ Carrie asks.’You dragged me out to a park at three in the morning to ask me if I want to stand still with you?’, replies Mr Big, bemused. Staying attuned to your environment means the mundane can hold all sorts of revelations. Inspiration comes from US TV dramas or the Chinese man sat in front of a heap of suitcases. Either way the theme of standing still has been repeating itself in different forms. (In the same way other recent repetitions of thought have included: contamination, zombies, anxious environments and the always already). That’s how academic analysis works for me, no coding schemas or computerised software, it’s watching for the signs and seeing how things emerge. Anyway, the pedestrian crossing flashed green and like a confused herd we set our bodies in motion and bled out into the road in every which direction.

I’ve been stretching the days out too long here. Too much conferencing has led to an over-indulgence in sugar and E numbers in order to keep me level. The academic conference layers words on you, one after the other. Sometimes things sit easily and other times they get stuck and repeat uncomfortably over and over. And sometimes listening just takes a little bit too much energy. It’s a task that’s hard to quantify and it can feel light or dense in equal measure. To listen is not just allowing things to flow through or over but a mode of processing.

Whenever I go somewhere that moves me I leave a little bit of my self and place it inside a bottle and seal it tightly. I let it sail away and when I return I’m never quite what I was. And I can’t explain it. I can’t build a coherent narrative that reads this happened then that led to this happening. It is just a string of moments and encounters and feeling changed.

When I returned I buried myself in literature to remedy my flat affect. I lay outside to read but the sun bore down on my back and it burned. The cats became regular visitors that broke up my muted day.

I know that I should get on my mat and practice. But at times not practicing can feel as good as practicing but only if you practice frequently enough to understand how sometimes not practicing feels really really good for the soul.

*

With my soul feeling half-empty I had an idea: ‘I’m gonna stop practicing for a while’. The following morning I took myself to class where I was assisting for the first hour or so and just watched the room of bodies moving through their own sequence, listening to only breath and chastised myself for ever contemplating such a thing. (That’s what E numbers do to the brain).

But I started to wonder whether there is a point where an ashtanga practice becomes incompatible with living a life in the terms we define it in modern industrial societies.

I’ve always sought out the connections between the two because that’s what desire does, it’s always seeking more connections. And writing, reading, and ashtanga work in flows. But there’s a lot of academic forms of work that have no flow. They have rigid structures and timetables and formats and charts and routine and rigor.

I grew up with delusions that I wanted to be everything because I had nothing and so I always take on more than I can handle; that’s why I’m doing a PhD and a daily ashtanga practice. It’s not about gaining achievement, it’s just that if I stand still, I’m not quite sure who I am. It might be one of the many contradictions in my stars that I want to dissolve as much as I want to be tangible.

A yoga practice is one of the many things people see as a strategy for getting by in the world we deem ‘real’. Amongst my PhD colleagues we discuss what we do to de-stress ourselves from the slog of doctoral research. Perhaps my ashtanga practice began as such a strategy. Concentrated non-thought is like water to a dehydrated over-thinking mind.

Sure I could propose some of the benefits of a yoga practice to an academic career but that’s not how it works. Its not a supplement to my work, it might not even keep me particularly calm most of the time. And waking up at dawn means I always space out in conferences in the afternoon and fall asleep on the train home.

So this is the point of incompatibility: where the escapist strategy becomes something not that helps you adjust to the ‘real world’ but something to which the rest of your life must now adjust.

*

It’s curious how you can be bound to something but still feel free. It’s not a proposal that is very popular anymore: monogamy. ‘Why should I when I don’t have to?’ That’s the sentiment. I am often asked how/why I wake up early if I don’t have to, or how do I keep motivated working independently. I didn’t realise I had to have someone else telling me what to do (or do things only for the purpose of monetary reward) in order to actually do and create something, or make a choice. But there’s many ways to live a life, most of which will contain some portion of ‘having to do’ and ‘shoulds’ and that portion will be lesser or greater depending on your good fortune, how acclimatised you are to the environment in which you live, and whether or not you keep your eyes wide open.

I’ve always retained what I considered a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to monogamous relationships. If you have spent long periods alone – and by alone I mean a solitude that includes extended periods of not talking to other people, where to talk is to feel alienated from a voice you have not heard for so long, where space and time feel so slow and yet so light from no plans, dates, meetings, phone calls, when you have dwelled within the shadowy spaces inside yourself that you know their shape and form – you find that sort of dependence irrational and even a display of weak character. Commitment feels like a curse word, and ‘settling down’ describes itself: evening out, ordering, fixing, resolving, sorting out, agreeing for less.

But being bound to something, whether an ashtanga practice or a person, might not necessarily be about limiting your options in some way (as though we are born with an always already limitless amount of potential) nor does it stifle flows of desire. The mind can travel far in one place. Being bound is just about standing still for a moment. And that moment can last five breaths or a lifetime.

exhausted sovereignty.

I occasionally have to travel to different places to say something and come back to say something else. Fortunately I’ve always enjoyed staying nights alone in cheap hotel rooms. Last week I checked into a room with a decor so revolting, windows that wouldn’t open, and a view of an industrial rooftop framed by dulled grey skies. I was effectively nowhere, a non-space. Television with 5 channels, hair and body wash in one stuck to the wall, towels too white and too stiff. I check in, empty my belongings, shower, roam naked, eat, space out.

Non-spaces are good company when you feel like being non, when the work of gathering oneself for one more round of being who you are just feels too much. Exhausted sovereignty: it’s something I can’t stop thinking about.

Adjusting other bodies I’ve become hyper-aware of others’ practice, bodies, how people feel one day to the next. It’s hard sometimes to switch that off and immerse myself back into my practice. There’s a lag – I’m still in other people not yet centred back into my own skin.

I’m still unsure if I would ever make a good teacher (whatever good is used as a measure). I know assisting in class makes my day. Which seems a good enough measure to me. Giving is tiring though. And my practice is less selfish than it was. Which is exhausting. I liked my selfish practice.

Regular practice might come across as militant or self-denying, as if I’m trying to cultivate an ascetic lifestyle rather than thinking about my selfish desires. But it’s only ever been about desire. When I use the term desire I’m not talking about love or sex or any of those modern conventions we tend to attach to desire but more about desire as flow between things that may be a person or an object, or something more abstract, an ideal or a philosophy, or for us ashtangis, samadhi.

The best I can describe my desire to practice is (to paraphrase Sara Ahmed) as a desire to escape the daily exhaustion of insisting in normalcy in order to exist. There’s a labour to remaining within the bounds of normal, of which some feel more acutely than others. And yet there’s also a comfort to passing as normal because it means staying under the radar. The tale of romantic love for example tells a story where love is a placeholder for the normal good life. Love, we are told, brings stability, happiness, absolves us and makes us complete. Yet the tale of romantic love like any normative structure constrains possibilities that desire may lead us to; it constrains imagining the yet to be imagined. Desire is often contradictory, it might even feel unbearable and rarely takes you to your predestined location. Desire is never reducible to one thing.

The ashtanga sequence is a created order which makes it an extraordinary tool for enabling a sense of security from which we can deal with the world and its precarity. The daily repetition, ritual, the sameness of motion acts like a holding ground. Sometimes that’s what feels necessary to keep your head above water; its the bare minimum; a coping strategy. It can help make things feel bearable even when you remain at a distance from what society describes as normality. I haven’t yet figured out how this works. So I keep going back curious, trying to figure it out.

I tend to believe it works by undoing privilege, attachments, and a sense of sovereignty. We might not realise how we inhabit these structures until we start trying to wear them down. In a yoga practice this is felt physically first – visceral signs are useful in pointing out bodily fragility. Illness, dying slowly, grief and loss are all ways of finding possibilities in deterioration – sometimes the only conceivable way to become something other than what you already are.

That’s if you want things to change though, because it doesn’t have to. Not everyone works with a conception of the self as incoherent and ambivalent, nor do they feel comfortable with that. Nor do I expect anyone to accept the desire to experience the edge of what is bearable as a form of reasoning for undertaking a yoga practice. But maybe through the structure of the practice it is possible to discover a form elastic enough to manage what living throws at us. And undertaking the risk of believing in utopian ideals like samadhi or love provides some traction for us in the somewhat lacklustre present.

In thinking about exhausted sovereignty I have been thinking about what it might mean to construct a world where the means of reproduction does not depend on the wearing out of bodies. Or where our objects (like love) do not destabilize the world they are disciplined to organize. The bodily wearing out we feel in practice is a radically new experience of the bodies we inhabit all too often decayed and desensitised by substances and stimulants the world offers to us as modes of getting by. In my academic life I often ponder the idea of building space for flourishing. This is easily dismissed as naive or trivial, it’s what happens when you spend too much time staring at clouds and doing yoga-stuff.

Yet when I speak of allowing space for flourishing I am suggesting allowing space to be incoherent, inconsistent, and ambivalent; to desire without a clear object (or to desire for bad objects, or dead objects); to think about the self as one who fluctuates and normativity as a man-made rhythm and not an obligation; to think about capaciousness; for optimism not to be devalued; to have freedom to feel things for no reason and to give room for the inassimilable.

*

Last night I read this story about solitude. In it the author describes how when travelling on a commuter rail line he sits in a rear-facing seat. “I like the illusion of being drawn from the present into the future. To sit there is to withdraw.”

It’s an ongoing project, to retrieve the residue.

Under the Skin.

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. – Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus.

Sometimes yoga talk throws around bad science. I’m not a scientist so I find this amusing. People might start a practice wanting to transcend these fleshy casings we call bodies: lose weight, get fit, heal injuries, ease the pain. But the daily practice soon gets wearing when it confronts you with your too fat, too stiff, too old body over and over again. It hurts. Focussing too much on alignment, talking about anatomy, and god forbid, using props, this is all just distractions, laziness. We’re turning our bodies inside out to uncover the subtle body – to become a body-without-organs. How can we become enlightened when that block is cushioning our fall, or if we can’t mentally overcome our back pain.

But it makes sense: get the body out the way and you can concentrate on ‘things that matter’. I was laughing with a friend the other day over our relative poverty. “I can’t keep my concentration”, he said, “I’m concerned about money all the time. I can’t pay attention.”

Yoga talk also gets it confused when it starts talking about sacrifice. The practice should be a matter of desire, not cultivating indifference. We can loosen those attachments and still desire. There’s no good and bad morals here. This is about being vigilant: it’s about developing an ethical practice.

The practice is wearing because there’s no remedy for all the stuff that gets under the skin. We just get hyper aware of how the outside gets in. Sometimes this starts as a fixation on food, or keeping a strict sleep cycle; distancing the self from ‘bad’ toxins: late nights out, casual sex, pollution, noise.

Mastery over the body can be a helpful illusion, but denial is just as toxic. I can’t help but bristle at talk of human nature, instinct, biological urges (this is what Foucault did to me). And yet I find myself invested in agreeing upon some type of biological consistency that makes us identifiably human. But this has little to do with things we often attribute to human nature: power, greed, selfishness. These are just relics from too many Sunday school lessons. This is the type of stuff we should be aiming to relinquish in all our backbending: the learnt ideas of the people we think we should be.

I’m captivated by the process of losing, though it took me some time to figure out why. It’s a question of rupture, what it means to experience disruption. But more so it is about what is in the nature of being that it is possible to rupture. In the daily Ashtanga practice the body can feel so very translucent, so very precariously thin. It can feel like a slow dissipating, dissolving.

I’m captivated too by the process of loving, though it took me some time to figure out I was speaking about the same thing. It’s a question of wanting to become different; about violating your attachment to intentionality without being anti-intentional. That’s why yoga is such a good model for love and vice versa. (I can see the book cover now: ‘Why Yoga Can Make Us Better Lovers’).

Desires always have an object as a stand-in, whether a person, pair of shoes, or a political ideal. That doesn’t make them bad or wrong, it’s just that the object can never return on the intention. That’s how desire works. Some theorists talk about desire as an affect that exists independently (prior to and outside) of consciousness and the mind’s control. It’s an intensity between bodies in which we get caught up. This is an exchange of energy, not words. You only have to enter the atmosphere of a full mysore self-practice Ashtanga room to feel this for yourself. That’s what feeds all the bodies in Mysore, and why people return with a serious consciousness lag.

Affect doesn’t owe you anything and desire has misguided intentions. This is the price of entering into relationality, the space of unknowingness. Unknowingness is necessary if we want to utilise our capacity to affect and be affected. This is where loss and love come in. It’s an opportunity to be affected, to come undone. If this is a sketching of a theory, it’s a theory that states: I don’t know.

Somewhere too far down this line though we start to lose the body. The opening up that happens through practice or a external rupture makes the body suggestible. The self performs, imitates, repeats itself. This might manifest in myriad ways: self-destructive behaviours, hoarding, militant monitoring. Injecting incoherence, ambivalence, resistance into the subject, welcomes liminality. And yet it’s only by unravelling you might catch a glimpse at what it is that holds you together. Or to take a Deleuzian line: how do we hang together when we are multiple?

I don’t see the point in dispensing with the body, with the flesh. Nor attachments. They are both messy and inconsistent. I rather like that. Even if the not knowing, the insecurity of the attachment can feel unbearable. Its only by situating ourselves in a space of unknowingness can we experience desire in a way that escapes the banal, commercial, crass or conventional. These common objects make viable our desiring that somehow circumvents our desires by emptying them out of substance and returning them to us in a safer form. This is not about being against the superficial, but perhaps it is about making better choices.

Its not about getting to the truth either. Or uncovering ‘real’ desires. Its just to point out that the root of that something, that something that whether you want to call it human nature, or affect, or love, or enlightened consciousness, might not be found somewhere deep and obscure. You might not have to wander distant lands, or practice six series of Ashtanga, or live like a nun, or read all the texts on neurobiology you can find in the University library to find it. It might just be lying softly there, right under the skin.

I’m with you but I’m lonely.

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.