Collective Tune - February 12
I seemed to enjoy this high note, and maintained a strong hum that began to reverberate down my body. Though I felt guilty not staying with the others, this note felt like me in this moment, and as I meandered up and down the scale I kept returning to this note. There was a part of me that wanted to be lower more masculine in my ear, but I accepted where I was and felt its bold tone rattle the tubes within me.
After reaching the first floor, I was told there was a meditation happening today on the fourth floor, so I cautiously climbed two more old wooden flights of stairs and settled down on my yoga mat to try meditation. Through my eyelids I could feel the lights dimming, and suddenly a man in a black pony tail was calling for class to begin with the voice of a confident white male New Yorker. He spoke of his journey with Yoga to the People and always wanting to add meditation, and he added drops of his expertise with a mention of his trip to India and the established authority orchestrating the group teachers scattered throughout the room. This was not going to be a regular yoga class. His voice was alert and at a clip, just like the city, but at a strange dissonance to the candles burning and the relaxation music playing in the background. He had command of this hour, so I tossed trying to understand to the side and gave way to relaxation. However, this meditation was not about relaxation, it was about the losing the mind.
One Myers-Brigg test down, and my four letters painted a picture of personality of the mind. I soon became obsessed with my results because it explained so much about my experience in life, it was deeply cognitive. Having both introversion and thinking meant, I am in my head constantly, so meditation, the art of being in your head, is a struggle. I have found in meditation that there is not simply one mind that I must put to rest, but multiple layers. As I place one in a state of meditation watching thoughts drift by, a new layer emerges commenting at how I am doing it, which then needs to be calmed by another layer recognizing that now you are now meditating, and the spiral staircase of mind layer’s simply continues.
In the start of the first breathing exercise, he described how to take two short inhales through the nose and then an exhale. Each time we were tasked with letting the energy move through our body. As a room, we were to reach a collective breath and rhythm, which as he described is very rare in our society where we only come together in time of tragedy.
My mind flickered to the book Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, which discusses this very same paradox we have created for ourselves. As a society, we only come together in moments of disaster, and then we throw differences aside and support each other. However, we also snap ourselves out of this disaster state, and the paradise or small utopia vanishes and all goes “back to normal.” In other words, the problematic, individualistic, society comes back together again.
As the breathing began, the room steadied to a united a rhythm, but then the exhales began to become a scream. As more people added voice to their release of CO2, the room began to pulse in screams like a group placing oars in the water together. My mind fluctuated between losing itself in the body sensations to posing questions and pulling up thoughts in my mind. What does it mean to have a roomful of people in synchronization.? What could it look like if this boat of people moved together and screamed in synchrony to fend off some predatory animal, would we be safe? I began to swing my arms and do a low chair pose every time I screamed, but then I began to think about how rarely we are allowed to express ourselves with these deep and loud vibrations. Each squat I felt as though a pillar was rooting me to the floor, while a bolt was shooting from my mouth. Each time my mouth opened I felt powerful, my lone voice was muffled in the collective.
Throughout the meditation, there were times when I lost my mind to my body, and other times when my body was lost to my mind. However, afterwards, walking through the commotion of the streets, I began to sing. At first it was a song I knew, and then it took on a new form without words or rhythm. I was afraid to be loud, so I stayed under my breath drifting into silence as I got close to people. As I gained confidence or perhaps just lost concern for what other’s thought, and raised my voice. I looked around as I began to become audible, and noticed head turn. Each person I passed had in ear buds. Suddenly, I felt both free to be loud, and saddened like I was drifting amongst ghosts of some other world.