Our personal growth can be capricious, transformative moments that blindside us, consciousness leaps shrouded in mystique. We land in expanded zones with a thunk, not sure how we arrived, just gratefully amazed. I’ve been calling this the mystery and it has held my fascination this past year. This is one fertile state and the words I just wrote— capricious and blindside and mystique—I’m challenging them. What is mystery exactly? And can we practice in a way that fosters it’s metamorphosing potential?
Historical credit shout out to Andrea Juhan who ingeniously adapted Gestalt empty chair technique to serve conscious dance, naming it open floor. Andrea facilitated a single dancer’s process while others in attendance watched. Observers chose one of two places to sit in the room, freely moving back and forth between them. There was a section for neutral witnessing. And there was a separate area for being in your head with your own process. I benefited from many hours with Andrea and found all three places in the room incredibly rich. Some of my deepest learning was triggered in what came to be known as the judgment box.
Fast forward many years with another shout out to all who wrote to me about your jackals…we are in good company. Last Wednesday night Juliette used a loose variation of open floor as follow up to the jackal class. It was awesome to be a student and work in an embodied way with judgment and clear witnessing and whatever was happening that wasn’t that. I felt the three available spaces in the room and the more I danced, the more I felt in choice, and the more I exercised that choice, the more I began to shift. A more explicit definition of mystery continues to emerge. What is it really? How do we reliably generate it? And when we are in it, will awareness break its spell or can it be harnessed?
Our minds are so powerful; we will always spend time in our heads. We review the past, worry the future, judge, compare, analyze, let our inner critic to take stage, obsessively loop about this that or the other. Totally normal. Whether we meditate via dance, on a yoga mat or sitting on a cushion it always comes back to this: recognize that the head thing is happening. That’s all. Then bring attention into body in some way: breath, body parts, sensation. The support of a teacher here is such a relief, gifting me with something body/breath to focus upon. Reminding me to step down from thinking.
Back and forth we go. Head body head body. On the dance floor this week I physically moved to the west side of the space when I popped into thinking. Frequently. And then enjoyed the central room when I returned to the body in some way. I have my favorites. If I tether myself into this—and some days that’s a big IF—the mystery invariably opens. But what does that mean? And what precisely opens? And is this universal to us all? And what else is there that I have no words for?
This is a mid-term report of an investigation in progress. So far I’ve experienced four distinct mystery states. The tricky part is that tracking these states, noticing I’m in one, signals the end of three out of the four states. I welcome your experience of this shamanic place we land that is somehow beyond the bounds of head and body but not separate from them. These are the four states I’ve been able to track and name:
So back to those questions. These four states of being give a bit more clarity to the question of “what is it?” I know there is more. When we are in the mystery, awareness of being in it will sometimes break its spell. And, yes, I believe that sustained and committed meditation practice in various forms will reliably generate it. Persistency with body mind body mind body mind does deliver.
I have done some deep healing in these past months. I have just moved through the final chapter of active treatment. Each of those four distinct mystery states at different times have been intrinsic to this healing. Deep respect for the western medicine that focuses treatment on all that we can see, all that is proven, all that is physical. So grateful I can complement this emphasis by reliably fostering mystery in my life…and ours.