To set the stage: for the past six years I’ve been obsessed (more like ‘possessed’, according to my long-suffering family) with the writing of a book, and am only just emerging from that incinerating passion (burning away old structures, making room for the new). One sign of my return is that I’ve been finding time, bit by bit, to work out again. There’s an hour-long, fairly intense workout I’ve been revolving through for a couple of decades, and getting back to it recently has been a bit of a shock (“I used to be able to do this without dying?”)
Last night I had another shot at it. I put on my favorite working-out music (The Last Prophet – a RealWorld CD by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: gorgeous, gorgeous), did my warm up, and a series of pikes from a chin-up bar, and got ready for the bench-presses. The last time I faced these suckers was two weeks ago and they demolished me. Couldn’t even finish three full sets. But here’s the funny thing: the day before yesterday I’d been talking to a friend about releasing the body by really paying attention to the core, and last night as I lay down on the bench, I shifted my awareness into a place of grounded subtlety, the pelvic floor sensitized; and in the relaxed calm of that state I became aware of a quiet, unassuming, clear energy within. I just let that energy be, and let its subtle stirrings move me through the reps. My focus was on feeling and following that energy. And I sailed through them, sailed through all three sets. I was closing in on the limit of my strength by the end of it – but the experience was easy and calm and pleasurable. And so was the rest of the workout: with my focus on that subtle energy, honouring its – what? wisdom? – the exercises carried me into a place of spaciousness and ease. Grounded grace.
So I wonder how to account for being able to pull off the hitherto devastating bench presses with so little effort. It was the same weight, the same bench, and had been two weeks since my last foray. Did shifting the scale of my attention to that of such previously invisible subtlety release the body from the mechanics of ‘doing’ and allow it to melt into an awakened whole? Possibly. But in the midst of the workout there was also a sense of being fed by the currents of the world, buoyed by them.
I am not unaware of a glaring irony in all of this: having just completed writing a book New Self, New World, the central theme of which is surrender, I am still discovering what that means, that surrender. I expect and even hope, though, that my learning curve in that regard will continue for the rest of my life. In the meantime, a workout that I have tended to face with a sense of resistance (am I really up to doing this now?) is suddenly something I now look forward to, seeing it as a conveyance back into that wakeful place of grounded, subtle energy.