In these weeks since my last post, the world has changed in unimaginable ways. For me, the realization that this situation was serious came two weeks ago as I was talking to my mother about my upcoming trip to India for my niece’s wedding. It’s been over decade since my last trip to India, and my mother and I had planned some excursions to some of the most beautiful temples in South India where my family is originally from. One of them was a pilgrimage to our family temple in Tirupati. When I was a baby, I had a serious illness in India and I almost didn’t make it. My mom made an offering at Tirupati as my life was hanging by a thread, and she has always believed that it saved my life.
We decided it was already looking too risky to go, and so I changed my flight instead to go straight to Italy to be with my partner, who I was going to see on my way back. It wasn’t looking good in northern Italy, but Rome was still doing ok. Two days before my flight, the entire country was declared a red zone and put under lockdown. My connecting flight from London to Rome was canceled. There was no way I could go without risking quarantine in London or some other airport. Now with the shutting of borders and the crisis the world is facing, I have no idea when he and I will be able to see one another. We talk every day and he shares with me stories of the beautiful, desperate madness of Romans under lockdown, singing from their balconies, swearing from their terraces, walking through the streets with their pet pig on a leash as the hospitals swell (true story: only in Rome). Romans, more than anyone, are anathema to confinement.
One of my friends said to me that this crisis forces each of us to confront our deepest vulnerabilities and fears. For me that is separation from my beloved, who I feel I’ve waited a lifetime to be with. For other friends of mine it is loneliness, sickness, financial difficulties, irrelevance, or a confining family situation. For all of us it is a fear of our mortality and fragility. My inbox is bombarded with advice for how to navigate these times, I’m sure yours is too. How to schedule one’s day at home, how to be productive, how to write a book during coronatimes, how not to get depressed, how to create a beautiful home. How to, how to, how to… There’s something in me that chafes against this “how to.” A part of me that knows that the deeper wisdom of these times will come from a profound sensing of our bodies and our interconnection. When we give up on coping and surrender to the dissolution. Easier said than done, I know.
Just a few days before I cancelled my trip and began to shelter at home, I taught my last class at Oregon State Correctional Institution. It will forever be imprinted on my mind as a moment of grace before the storm hit. We had a closing ceremony with the whole class, made up of students from my university and students who live in prison. The evening was magical, all of us gathered together in the same sterile, overheated room that we sit in every week. But this time we sat with a sense of sadness and overwhelming gratitude for what we had become to one another, as we came together for the last time. One of the inside students sang a song he had written, called “Angels.” I can still hear his voice in my ears, tears rolling down my cheeks. His voice reached toward an imperceptible light, refracted through shadows. He had experienced years of solitary confinement while in prison. And yet all of his writing and creativity, even when he described those experiences, was about love.
Like plants, we humans grow toward light, even when it is faint and barely visible. What my students inside teach me, which is also what somatic work teaches me, is that there is always a place where we can perceive the health to orient our experience. For my inside students, it is their relationships with one another, their writing, their learning. A handshake, a smile, a feeling of resonance in the field around your body. If you can’t feel the wind on your face, you can still feel something else. And that something else can heal you, change you, teach you.
After just one week without normal social contact, the internet is exploding with advice about how to survive. But when “normal” social contact is suspended, we have the opportunity to feel into a deeper level of relationship that we have with one another. One that is ineffable, resonant, less in the body and more in the field. Something is shifting, reconfiguring. It affects each of us differently depending on our life history, our social positioning, our class, race, and gender. But it is happening.
Here is a short meditation for tuning in to the field. Please share your experiences in the comments below!
In solidarity and love, Anita