the non-sovereignty of loss, love, and yoga practice.

A yoga practice is a neat way of exploring all those sticky attachments we never even knew we had. Losing someone can do the same thing too when the instance of loss reveals the fallacy of our fostered belief in autonomous agency and control over who makes decisions in our lives. Loss, practice, and love all expose the delicate and contingent nature of our attachment to the world and to the others around us; they all present situations that force the acknowledgement of a sense of self that cannot be (and never was) sovereign.

“Trust yourself”: In the past week this statement has been uttered to me on more than one occasion. Normally this is the sort of remark that receives a bristly and unpleasant retort from myself, but this time the words emerged as a gentle guide that warmly sought to aid me over a threshold. This is the type of threshold that blurs into focus on your horizon and just won’t budge no matter how you try to skirt its glare or construct inventive past-times to while away your time. In a yoga practice we know these thresholds well, the formalized ones we designate in Ashtanga, and then those that furrow upwards into your upside down eye-line until you finally manage to utter the words that make it actual: “It’s the fear”.

It feels like fear for it is a situation which is actively encouraging you to dissolve your sense of self. And fear is such an immobilizing emotion. It keeps us static, lazy, and waiting. It’s not always wrong to tell oneself ‘Tomorrow’ (again) when the body is exhausted from the repetitive action of trying to stand up from an inverted position. (The body after all might be more rational than we give it credit for – what evolutionary purpose does ‘dropping back’ serve anyway?). We’re bending our bodies inside out for the sheer enlightenment of it, so let’s not denigrate our senses when they tell us to take some time out.

Perhaps though it is best not to dwell for too long of a time staring at your navel and contemplating explanations (am I repressing some childhood trauma of being held upside down against my will??). These are all glosses on an affective encounter: we could spend a lifetime codifying our incoherent and ambivalent desires, but we won’t get very far.

Feeling afraid (of a backbend, of the world, of men, of a vision of a life worth living) are all deferrals of a future that is not yet known. Often in yoga chat we might be encouraged to ‘surrender’ or ‘let go’ but it is not just that. To acknowledge the self as not already (and neither becoming) sovereign is not a temporary admission to becoming different; it is permanent shift in one’s identity. We lose something in this moment, that thing, whatever it was that kept us clinging onto a slow and wearing way of life sustained by fear, it goes missing. We don’t ‘let go’ then in order to return back to a sense of security and safety; we let go and we don’t come back.

“Trust yourself” then is the sort of thing said to reassure us that we still come back in some form. It is to point towards the fact that even if a yoga practice is an enduring cycle of dissolving bad attachments, we still have the capacity to produce many and other new attachments to the world. The daily yoga practice itself for one, that knowingly and unknowingly begins to chip away at our so-called ‘shameful’ habits and attachments that had kept us in a secure dwelling place for so long. To move across the threshold into the unfamiliar is to abdicate sovereignty elsewhere, to do away with it altogether. “Trust yourself” is the kind gesture that nudges us into tackling a relation that might feel dreadful and yet dredges us up and out of the stagnancy of waiting.

losing you.

When we talk about an object of desire we are really talking about a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us. To love something/someone is a wearing labour-intensive process of investment that can devour you and yet also enlivens and expands your understanding of what is possible. (In other words, it’s a yoga practice).

I still remember a time when I lived a life where my unhappiness or happiness was reliant only on how I angled myself to a situation; a result of the choices I alone made. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could empty out all this sensory debris embedded in my flesh and start over. I’ll be sensible this time.

But moments hit you before you have chance to dodge. When I was younger, but old enough, I gave something of mine away. I gave it to a person who I thought would never hurt me. That was my first mistake. Because we are all capable of hurting each other, even if we don’t love them. More so when we do. Before we have time to catch up its somehow already happening. And there’s no chance to pause now. No matter how you wait, what time you take, the everyday affects persist in their surging impulses. Encounters affect, bruise, or heal, on a level that is always somewhat imperceptible.

We stay stubbornly fixed to situations of bruising attachments because to lose you, is to lose the future self and possibilities that you represent. I tell myself again and again: “It’s who you love that makes you who you are, not who loves you.” This helps to remind me to lose my attachment to the need to be loved. And yet if who/what I love makes me who I am, not only is my happiness and my future resting in the continuing presence of my object of desire, but to lose them means to also lose part of my self; and the promise of what I imagined I could be.

Speaking of love gets tired unless you can rescue it from the sentimental banality to which it has sunk in a consumer culture. But ‘I love…’ fixes its gaze in the wrong direction. Isn’t love rather something that passes through us, residing, if anywhere, only in the spaces in-between. This is why it can never quite be possessed, or given. And we frame love with time markers, it has to be said at the right moment – not too soon or too late – it is a benchmark in a relationship (after an appropriate number of months of dating/having sex). To say ‘I love you’ is then quite detached from love as a feeling: an affective atmosphere or attraction between two. Instead it becomes a way of claiming, a stealing of another; this one is mine we say.

No wonder we can get claustrophobic, no wonder we get so insecure about losing the other. Because the insecurity of losing or the fear of an inevitable break-up emerges only because we presume a permanence to the people in our lives. We might shy away from investing until the ‘right moment’. We might take up strategies (consciously or otherwise) to protect ourselves. We might try to always act appropriately, nonchalant, unaffected; we might try to fantasize that we are autonomous and seek control, and feel despair when that control is forever out of reach. We want emotions to only happen on our own terms. But affect always gives you away. We give ourselves away in the saying too much, in the spontaneous actions that change everything, in the piercing sense of insecurity that won’t subside, in moods that fluctuate between wanting to run for cover and curl closer.

Establishing a sense of permanence is a necessary mode of living in a confusing, contingent world, anchoring ourselves to something/someone helps make sense of it all. Yet when love becomes one of those anchors, we neglect to recognize how love, like all feelings and human nature, is not something that remains static. It is tempting, almost irresistible, to not begin to invest in the daydream vision of life, in the promises a person can encapsulate. The changing form of things, beings, encounters, reminds us of the very contingent nature of all things, especially love – as an affective response that emerges in-between. To invest in something that is inherently transitory is unsustainable – it means living on the edge of permanent uncertainty.

That’s not to say all relationships are doomed, but rather to point to the fact that if love is a space in between two shifting points (people) then to seek reassurance from an evolving moment is directing our energies in the wrong way. The “I love you”‘s and the marriage proposals, are all attempts to acknowledge a feeling that persisted longer than expected. But it doesn’t make it indestructible, nor should we live in fear lamenting a loss of sovereign control that was never ours. We cannot lose love because it was never ours to have.

And so until we conjure better words to express how we feel (“I enjoy occupying this space with you where love circulates around and over us” sounds pretty clumsy) the true essence of love is captured best in the subtle encounter and the unfinished moments; in the incomplete sentences and the ordinary silences.

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Solange, Lauren Berlant, Kathleen Stewart, AdaptationGilles DeleuzeBefore Sunset, Slavoj Zizek, Polica, Lia Ices, Yoga Sutras.

Nearly Everyone’s Here.

15 breaths in headstand and all is pleasantly dis-orientated once again. Either that or I’m high on Nag Champa.

Yoga happened people. It happens.

Talking of circles – ever noticed the order of things? Now and then things bubble up from some forgotten time and pierce the present. Even 27 years on, the mirror reveals a brand new face. A story is never finished. And though some stories will never be heard, with a moment of luck we can at least colour in the pictures.

Each thing to its own time. Modern discourse would have us believe that things happen only when we force them into being. Make or break, make a move, make it happen. But perhaps we are not giving events the space they deserve. We don’t allow events to unfold and take their course.  Everything always needing an endpoint, an object. (“Why don’t you teach yoga??” – This one’s going out to all of y’all).  Perfectionism leads only to dead-ends – where to move from there? You’ve colonized the landscape.

I am not advocating some form of silent rebellion. (Otherwise known as apathy). But how about this: how about we follow those objects around, how about we allow ourselves to be affected by what comes near.  An intervention always obscures, distorts, destroys; it is a violent act.

If only we were to stop in some way and see each other clearly.

And then I see you: I see you in my dream. But then I turn and run, run away from you. In your absence it always feels like I’ve forgotten something.

God, I thought I had it figured out. Belongings. As an orphan you develop this atomized sense of self-sufficiency. I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone. But there does lie an essential truth about me in that past. A stranger to myself. You are me and I am you, but who are you??

You win some, you lose some: that’s the lesson this year.

No more words. Heres to you Dad.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore

So on the precipice of leaving my current life I find I am more unprepared than ever: feeling restless, being careless, and distanced from myself.

Why India? Why Mysore? Why Ashtanga yoga? Why indeed. I cannot quite explain to myself why and how, but a time comes in ones life when we can choose to listen to the heart, or continue to be dictated by the rationalizing of the brain. If you are lucky – and I feel lucky – you will choose to finally respectfully disregard the latter. And find yourself entering the unexplored territory of (your)self.

The journey is boundless. Here I will attempt to record some of the scattered thoughts I experience and through this perhaps form my own blueprint. The attempt to document the intangible, express the transitory ever changing movements of life will never quite succeed of course.

And so to get there – here – you must burn the bridges that structure your life. My vocation (academia), my job (in a bookshop), my identity (composite of the former two), my safety net (my loved ones).

What is the saying? – to reach the island you must first lose sight of the shore. And just in case you want to know how the feeling of being adrift is, I will tell you. It is akin to a permanent nausea, a nausea that somehow numbs sensations, so that in this non-place, you as a self are also non. A malleable, shapeless, faceless form, expectant and waiting, and waiting…

Those close to me exclaim their sadness at my impending farewell and I remain unresponsive and unmoved. But I just can’t get tearful about my leaving, because I already said goodbye many months ago. And since then I have been in this nauseuated shapeless space. Something has gone from inside me and I just can’t get it back.

And in coming back to zero, coming full circle once again, after screwing up another year; I am distanced from my yoga practice, falling into bad habits, lacking vitality.

The final bridge (The Past) has to undergo its necessary erosion, and it is a messy, scary process. Wading through memories, the losses pile up; the burning sensation inside the chest won’t fade; the eyes sticky with hesitant tears.

The Past is the last battle, but victory only leaves you with an ambiguous future and the haphazard, unpredictable now.

What on earth will occur – living in the hap – and no longer just writing about it?