Saturday, August 19, 2006

Moment of clarity

A couple of weeks ago:

I’m trembling, both hands flat on the mat beneath me, my left thigh resting on my right elbow, that leg extended forward and to the right, the right leg extended into the air behind me. My face is four inches from the floor. I look forward and see the right foot of the person next to me, eight inches away from me. The toes are spread wide, toe nails painted red and a little chipped. Stretching back from the toes, the leg is perfectly straight all the way to the hip. She, too, is balanced on her palms, looking forward and away from me. My vision is crystal clear. The moment is imbued with energies extending in all directions. We are practicing revolved, scissored side Crow, balanced on hands, arms bent at the elbow, with right thigh on left elbow, left leg extended back. Sweat drips from my brow.

In the midst of intense physical exertion, balance and breath, there is absolute stillness.

In a recent practice, the teacher called us from samasthiti to twine our legs into garudasana, Eagle pose, while keeping our arms untwined, palms pressed together at the heart. The pose embodies two different kinds of opposition, two different ways to experience the union of duality. The classic Eagle pose ( twines both legs and arms. The twining creating helicies of energy, right thigh pressing down on left, left pressing up on right, right knee pressing the left knee to the right, left knee pressing right to the left, left calf pressing back into the right that is wrapped behind it, right calf pressing forward into left, right ankle pressing the left ankle to the right, the left pressing the right leftward, the energy of the legs grounded firmly and completely in the sole of the left foot. In the variation last night, arms unwrapped, with palms drawn into prayer position at the heart, I felt the heat of each palm pressed against the other as a single heat; each fingerprint pressing its opposite, a single pressure.

One way to engage opposing forces is directly, maintaining poise between equal and opposing pressures. This is the classic model of my profession. We train and practice to oppose, argue evidence, principles of law, construe and assemble disparate facts into conflicting stories. Palm pressed to opposing palm, finger to opposing finger, the pressure and heat of the opposition experienced at the plane of interaction. But the legs of the modified garudasana – that was the part of the pose that opened my mind. The legs were engaged in even greater exertion, twining, roping themselves. But rather than creating equipoise through exact balance of equal and opposing forces, the legs twine, each leg presses left and right and left and right as it wraps around and into its counterpart – an entirely different way of engaging with opposing forces, one that creates one – One – from two.