The Pole, the Process and the Periphery
It’s still Thursday - I can still keep my promise and write to you.
This moment feels dark and dreamy… I can hear the frogs and the rain and wind outside as it mingles with the percussion of the fire and candles inside. The cold and the heat both bear their gifts and I feel a deep, quiet gratitude as I receive them. Wind chimes decorate the space in-between and my vision is lifted and taken by the symphony of low-lit colour that is dancing before me; my mother’s quilt. That’s another story.
For now, a story of grounding, of reality and of disappointment.
Life is real and unforgiving sometimes.
I needed to wait until now to make sense of what I want to share with you this week.
I’m learning as I go, and this weekly writing is an act of inviting you into witnessing and seeing my process. You will see things from your perspective that I can’t yet see or know, or maybe never will…
I think this is one of the most beautiful things about really witnessing someone. You know, when you really see them. The beauty of what they simply are without trying to do anything, before they even make a move or do an action, is indescribable. Even if you could describe it to the person, they wouldn’t believe it because they can’t see it for themselves.
Have you ever had an experience like that; of really seeing someone? Maybe it was a stranger in the street, a lover as they dance for you, or an old friend you looked upon with new eyes. There is great power in the act of seeing, and great transformation possible when we allow ourselves to be seen.
To be seen having a feeling or experience can be a very intimate thing. This is what makes for a moving performance, when we are invited into the dancer or musician’s experience as they experience it, not as a pre-prepared routine. The ultimate art of the performer is to create a pre-prepared routine out of the material of time and space as if it was the very first time, as if they too are witness and audience to this thing that has sprung forth from somewhere deeply mysterious within them.
I have recently taken on a new mentor. She is the only person in the world that I have found that does specifically what I do, with this unique combination of elements and teachings, and has been doing it for many more years than I have! I feel an elation of excitement in my belly when I think about all the material we have laid out to cover in the coming months, I could almost levitate!
But it is grounding. It is kind. It is refreshing. It is helping me come even more into the real matter of what is before me, what the material I am working with is, what colours are on my palette. What stroke will I make next? What meaning will I give this moment?
I ran my friend’s car into a pole today.
I was borrowing her car while mine was at the mechanic getting serviced. She had generously lent me her manual, and I had accepted with slight hesitancy about my lack of experience, despite my capability, of driving a manual car…
I needed to back the car out of the driveway, and I was so focused on calibrating the clutch and accelerator to get used to this manual, that I didn’t and couldn’t see that I was calibrating the car right towards a pole!
This is a pole that I am usually highly aware of, but in this situation, I was so focussed on the process of driving the car, that I completely forgot to check where I was driving it to! This all happened in the space of about 4 metres and 2 seconds. Bang.
I got out and had a look. Not too bad, just a broken light shield and a dint in the back…
I said I would be happy to pay for it, thinking it would be maximum $500. A few hours and a quote later, plus the fact she has no car insurance, and I’m looking at a $2000 repair!
I called a friend.
I cancelled my plans so that I could be alone tonight.
And here I am, writing to you.
My friend on the phone helped me transform this whole situation from something that I was about to use to justify why I shouldn’t even try at life because I’m doomed to fail, to a negatively motivating force to get better organised financially so that when I come up against inevitable problems like this in the future, I’ll be ready for them with a safety net!
Boom. I let myself be seen in all my embarrassment and shame and emotional expression and we came to a very constructive place. A place where I could get interested in what I can do about it and how I can make some meaning out of my suffering.
Survival is real when life throws you curve-balls. We never know what is around the corner, and whilst living up to your dreams and desires and manifesting the best version of yourself is a beautiful direction to move towards, it’s just as important to know what you want to move away from as well!
Every ‘yes’ has an implied ‘no’.
The thing I’m interested in, and the point I want to make with all of this, is the blatant metaphor of this little 4 metre car trip.
How easy it is to get ‘caught up’ in the process, when you are doing process-driven work. And by that, I mean trying too hard to ‘get’ or ‘do’ the process right. Trying so hard to get it right, that you forget and lose sight of what is around you, and why you’re even doing it in the first place!
I couldn’t see the pole for the process.
If the musician on stage is too caught up in getting the notes right, they will no longer be allowing themselves to be touched and moved by the music, and you will no longer be witnessing them having a moving experience. Therefore, you likely will not be moved yourself.
If the dancer gives more importance to the choreography, to the way the piece is being delivered, over what it is actually saying, or what it really means to them, it will not move us. If the storyteller is overly focused on the words and is not ‘with’ the story, you likely won’t be either.
I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down here, if you’ve gotten this far.
What if we replaced criticism with curiosity, and used our good friend ‘interest’ as a tool to do this?
Let’s use the example of vision again. If you are too focused on reading these words correctly, you might be over-focusing your eyes and not including the all-important peripheral vision.
When we allow a more balanced mix of focused vision and peripheral vision, our sense of proprioception is improved, and we can more easily cooperate with the action we are doing from a place of wholeness, balance and effectiveness. There is generally more movement, more aliveness, more experience.
When you include your peripheral vision as you read these words, what happens to your breathing? Your perception? Your state of mind?
Some people can get so focused on their ‘process’ that they forget why they are even processing in the first place… There are countless examples of this in all kinds of situations. It seems to be a very human thing to do. So instead of criticising it, let’s play with it, curiously…
If you’re still with me, I’d like you to experiment with something.
Look at your surroundings, with the awareness of what and how you are currently feeling. Let the vision come to you, allowing as much peripheral vision in as you can.
Do this again with your eyes closed.
Now, open your eyes again, see the world, and this time when you close your eyelids, don’t turn off your seeing. Keep an awareness of the room as you look around with your eyelids closed. What do you feel?
It is possible to feel things, to have an experience, to be in process, AND be in the world at the same time, responding to every moment.
What that requires, is readiness and attention.
And that can be practiced!
More on this next week.
Yours in Art,
P.S. My apologies to those who genuinely thought I was pregnant last week! My work is the only thing in gestation at the moment :)
Sent 10th June, 2021