Sunday, June 17, 2007

body: internal and external stimulation

In the Spring of 2006, before graduating from college, I took a modern dance class. Learning (and struggling with) dance -- something I knew I would enjoy and knew I must try -- was quite beautiful and very fun. Sketched on March 6, 2006, what follows is reflection on internal and external stimulation, the interior of the body and its relation to architecture:

In modern dance class my teacher spoke about the difference between "internal stimulation" and "external stimulation". Laying on the ground, flattening our backs to the floor, and then arching our spine up and down, she spoke of how most people, everyday, expose themselves to continuous external stimulation.

The first image of external stimulation that came to my mind was myself sitting at the computer screen: engrossed, and totally stimulated through the external image in front of me. My body, aside from my hands typing (as I am doing now), or my head geared forward and focused on an area of the screen, is not stimulated and is disconnected. I also imagined my apartment mates who spend the majority of their waking hours sitting in front of the television, or the people I would observe at parties who never seemed to be doing anything but the social ritual of heavy drinking, shouting at each other, and being driven (it seemed) entirely by lust and hormonal desire... the folks I'm thinking of always appeared distracted and not aware of themselves in their surroundings.

My teacher said people need to turn inward and focus on the internal of the body and learn to be tuned to and give internal stimulation. As she said this, I turned my head and saw her lying on her back. Her legs were beginning to arch upward in an outward curve bent at the knees. Her body was totally set within the space around it. Set within the space between the floor and the ceiling, the mirror behind her and the reflections of opposite windows, the entire scene was truly beautiful form.

Thus to consider internal stimulation, I observed, is to sense and be with the internal of the body. And as I turned away from her and looked upward, I saw the building around us in much the same light: we were inside the building, and the structure of the building, like our skin, is separation between the internal and the external. On the scale of the body, past the skin, there are muscle, organs, bone, and water, all interacting dynamically as a fluid presence yet solid mass. I believe (and I know this is true for myself prior to that moment) most people, most of the time, forget about their internal fluid mass. A very important part of one's life, it is the body of space within the body whose presence is very sacred and yet vitally invisible.

The building is then, like the skin, a membrane, a separation between internal and external realms. It is always through the building that we see the external. Yet it is always in the external that humans situate one's mind to engage life within a concept of greater context. The body is the same: we see through our eyes and live through the presence and function of our internal organs, but in our senses we peer through our bodies and situate ourselves beyond our skin and into the world, never looking and only knowing of the other half of life's lived space, that which is embedded inside of us forever.

As I write, I am now realizing that this body of space, the body's interior, is permanent and timeless. We cannot live without it. We cannot experience without it. We cannot grow or change, or be, without it. But this raises a very interesting question: is that always so? Lived life only knows a perspective whose origin is from the body. (Not to forget human beings are born from the bodies of their mothers'.) But can one transcend the body, step away from the body, exist as pure spirit, or be a ghost of sorts?

This is dipping into a heavily treaded domain, but I am not sure I can answer. I consider myself spiritual, but my spiritual moments have come from not inward focus to leave the body, but rather from moments of placeness and contextualization across time and space. Spirituality and experiences that have been critical to me, above all, engage my body within the space it is part of. Why would one want to leave the body? Leave the world and space? Essence and spirit, I suspect, does not leave the world, but embeds itself within it. If humans hold within them spirits and if they can transcend the body past the body's death, it is the spirit-mind-body-context relation but an inversion of order: spirit inhabits context of which then peers outward to look back at the body, spirit-context-body-mind.

No comments: