Wait! Hold on, pause, stop!
So often we react to stuff, whether it is whatever is in our mind stuff, the internal dialogue or thoughts or stuff “out there” that could be anything our senses latch onto and indulge themselves on. Phenomena in the world. People, places, objects, stuff. We are moved to react and usually do so instantly or quickly. Someone says something, we react. Something happens we react. A car careers off the road towards the pavement we are walking on with a child, we grab the child and dive out of the way. The bull in the field we are walking across charges, we run. The wind blows our hat off, we chase after it. You call me an idiot, I blurt out angrily, verbally lashing back.
I’m a yogi, not a psychologist. And although some may argue that yogis delve the psyche as artists, they also often do as scientists, and as the original bio hackers. I tread carefully in this field as I know there are many more knowledgeable folk, like psychologists or neurologists etc, etc. I guess I am a practitioner. gaining first-hand experience through praxis. Ah yes – praxis – a wonderful word that suggests practice or process where expertise is enacted, insight embodied, wisdom realized. Sounds familiar ? Yoga is praxis and praxis is yoga – but this observation is for another time.
Through the good grace of psychology we know now that fight, flight, and freeze are aspects of our deeply wired and reactive operating system toolkit. We are wired for these responses. Our autonomic nervous system is that wiring. Being a yogi I know that this is malleable, workable and plastic in a neuroplasticity kind of way. Yogis have been exploring and working with this wiring for since a few thousand years ago to good effect.
But what if our reactive operating system toolkit offers us something else that enables us to deepen not only our reactions into meaningful and considered, mindful responses but that also offers us a sense of grace, potential and opportunity? That opens things up, rather than closes things down ? You see for a long time I thought that in my instant reactions I might just be adopting that survival instinct response to situations that perhaps don’t warrant such a response. I might not be needing to survive, but rather it might be more helpful to deepen my connections, or my sense of the moment. In the usual course of reacting I realised that perhaps I was missing out on what was actually going on. Eliot nailed it : “we had the experience, but missed the meaning”.
And then in asana and vinyasa – I found a point where I was between one posture and another and where I begun to feel myself opening. And with one movement after another, I felt that each time there was this extraordinary point. In other moments, I reached for my book shelves and returned to Roland Barthes, and Camera Lucida. I recalled how he wrote about the punctuum.
Talking about photography, Barthes suggested that what was unique about the photograph was its “punctum”: ‘The punctum of a photograph is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me). He defines this as an intense, subjective effect created by the photograph on the viewer
I am appropriating the word punctum, as it seems to me to be what I experience in yoga asana and vinyasa. A point or perhaps an interstice that created in me a sense of openness and offering me a sense of grace, and in this, a very real sense of potential and possibility. I experience this in pranayama and meditational practices too. In pranayama one can explore this most fruitfully in breath retention, but also in the interstices between exhale and inhale too. In meditation we find that space between thoughts and can work with the technique to deepen and broaden it.
Its a long winded way of saying that can we pause, stop and hold our moments, and in doing so, we can enlarge, deepen, and broaden them. In these moments we can find that which pricks us, and which enables us to further discover the potential of the moment, and through this, discover just how ripe each and every moment is, and can be.
Occasionally, I hear folk say “stop and smell the flowers” or “wake up and smell the coffee”. I would rather prefer to say – stop, pause or hold the moment, and step with your body, breath and mind into this moment and see where you find yourself, and where it takes you.