shikan tanza

Meditation does not make the mind dull.  Rather, in meditation the mind is still but razor sharp, silent but vibrant with energy.

B.K.S. Iyengar

Today I begin a period of deep study.  I find myself wandering through tasks, delaying completion for many tomorrows.  Projects competing for my attention so consume me that I end up doing very little, or nothing at all.  I have the continuous urge to rid of most of my things.  Last night, owing to initiatives like Project 333, I boxed up half my clothes and stored them out of sight, though the act of removing them was such a relief that I could just as well have given them away in that moment without a second thought. 

This is what happens when we lose touch with the present.  I do not feel apart from myself; on the contrary, I feel exceptionally self-aware and confident.  But when time overwhelms us, when our existence becomes dependent on deadlines, we forget what we are trying to do, and why.  Concerns for the future and past falsely convince us that there is something other than now

The last week has found me completely enthralled by Marina Abramović.  As a musician, I have learned and formulated many different (often competing) theories of performance -- why and how we do it, its role in other art forms, &c.  But for performance artists like Marina, whose purpose is not necessarily to serve a composer, musical idea, or tradition, performance is an expression that comes from deep within the Self: an act of giving one's heart and mind to an audience.  This is why she says that unconditional love is the most important skill to cultivate. 

For her 2010 long-durational MoMA performance, The Artist is Present, Marina spent a year training with the help of NASA.  She altered her diet, focused her mind, and oriented her life toward the piece. 

As she has explained, a performance is not something you can really rehearse in a meaningful way.  You can rehearse the music, dance, or theater piece that you will perform, but the performance itself is a one-off, time-specific event.  Even in years-long Broadway productions, each show varies slightly from the preceding one.  We can practice the material we will present, but the act of presentation itself is a unique occurrence in time and space.  We should not seek simply to recreate what we have rehearsed in the past; we should seek authenticity in that moment. 

Thus the purposes of rehearsal are manifold: yes, one may be to edit and refine our material, but another equally important one is to prepare our bodies and minds for the act of performing.  Giving.  Unconditional love. 

These days, as my life is crowded with the demands of time, quiet and stillness more precious than ever.  I am striving toward a more meditative type of presence: one that is still but razor sharp.  An oceanic vastness with a reserve of vibrancy beneath. 

It all seems very Whitman-esque when I think of it: the aggrandizement of the Self (not the individual, but one's very being), enveloping and loving everything, making declarations of affection and identity to any and all who coexist.  I have always loved "Uncle Walt" for this.  I have loved his radicalism and grand self-characterization: at once anonymous and so intimately interwoven with our own beings.  "You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, / But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, / And filter and fibre your blood." (from Song of Myself, No. 52)

These are the qualities I am trying to cultivate over the next many months, as I prepare music, dance, painting, and all the thousands of things that arise each day.  Electric silence, still and razor sharp.

[...] I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,

I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.
— Walt Whitman: from Song of Myself, No. 20