March 29, 2015 - Meghan LeBorious
In Tammy’s class last night, she led us through two long, gentle periods of Chaos. I noticed that I was already feeling the pull of Chaos, even when the room was still in the rhythm of Staccato. I was happy when Tammy announced that our first period of Chaos—the rhythm I feel most at home in—would last ten minutes. I imagined that I was hanging my skin onto a hook on one of the room’s center columns so I could dance around in my bones. My body felt released and kinetic, though without the exuberant brand of release that often leads to catharsis. I greeted three friends I hadn’t seen in a long time with exhaling gratitude and long embraces.
During the interim in the middle of the class when we gathered around Tammy for verbal teaching, she asked, “During that period of Chaos, did anyone wonder-When is Chaos is actually going to begin?” No one raised their hand. Then she asked, “Did anyone feel like-God, when is this going to end?” Again no one raised their hand. Someone offered, “Well, we are a pretty chaotic group!”
One thing I admire about the way Tammy teaches is that she seems to be finding her way into the themes and content on her feet. I have no doubt that she prepares extensively, but she seems to cast around in the beginning of her talk until she finds a groove. In her groove, her words can be arrows that directly pierce my heart, refrains that remind me of the deep themes of practice, or phrases that connect with uncanny similarity to exactly what I have been personally contemplating.
At the beginning of the second wave, Tammy proposed a Flowing exercise that had all of us walking throughout the room. One person would stop, then everyone would stop as we noticed the activity around us. Then, one person would start moving and everyone would follow and start moving, as well. It seemed like the stop kept coming very quickly. Before long, I figured out who was responsible; and I silently willed her to please give a little more time to move before engaging another stop. I very much wanted fluid motion. As the stops kept coming so quickly, I started to feel disengaged. It reminded me of the feeling of being interrupted again and again just as I start to get immersed in a project.
In school on Friday, I assisted students I teach to hold a reception for their close friend who is going away for cancer treatment. In 11th grade now, this is his third bout with lung cancer. They say he will be going away for a year.
When I asked if it would be ok with him if we had a small reception in his honor, he smiled and gave me a hug, putting his very thin arms right around my neck and bending down to me. I said, “There are so many people here who hold you in very high esteem.” He responded, smiling, “It really does pay to be a good person.” Later, when some students became distraught, the guidance counselor pulled the afflicted student from his own class, and asked him to cheer them up. Remarkably, he did.
Partway through Tammy’s class, I noticed a rush of chemicals in my legs. It was a little like being on a drug. I can only imagine that something my muscles were holding was released, though I am not sure exactly what.
As spring arrives, I find that I am thinking about death. And too, about life in the face of death. Today, I heard a radio story about a video game designed to represent the experience of losing a five-year-old boy to cancer, and of his last stretch of life. As the designers went through the process of helping the little boy to fight cancer in their lives, they started to design the game. Users move through the game by interacting with the little boy, such as swinging him on the swings of a virtual playground. They came to believe that he would beat impossible odds and survive, but he did not. For users, it becomes clear early on that the child will not survive and the objective—if you could call it that—becomes about loving the little boy as well as possible in the short time that he has. About cultivating grace.
Shortly after, I attended a wake for my boss’s mother. I never met her, but felt waves of grief nonetheless, taking in the emotions of the bereaved family members, and, no doubt, re-visiting my own sadnesses for all of the people I have lost over the years. It was a Catholic wake and the traditional prayers were familiar to me. The priest also offered, “We can take comfort in the fact that she no longer has to deal with the problems and troubles of life. ” This lanced me. I thought, my Gods, please bring on the problems and troubles, please. Bring on every messy bit of it. It is a miracle to be alive. Truly. As the NASA research astronomer Natalie Batalha said, “I am aware of the billions of years it took for the atoms to come together and make the physical portal to the universe that is my physical self.”
How do I grieve the millions of moments I have lost to anger or distraction! It occurs to me that it is a choice in every moment—whether we turn toward love or away from it. The smiling young man with cancer shone in his humanity. I came to Tammy’s class wishing for the catharsis of Chaos after an emotionally intense week, and found myself instead luxuriating in the quiet expression of Chaos—life force as it winds its way through a life in tiny increments—dynamic, ever-shifting and miraculous even in the face of pain, loss and grief.