Tuesday, July 23, 2013


“The limitless darkness of the body.” This is what sculptor Antony Gormley talks about when he describes the focus of his work—not form, but space. The space our bodies occupy; the space within us. He recounts the experience as a child of being forced to take a post-lunch “rest” in a tiny, stifling room. He hated it: the heat, the restriction, the oppressive immobility. But he found over time, closing his eyes, sinking into his inner world, a sense of freedom and expansiveness. His external circumstances fell away and he plummeted into the boundless dark of the space behind his eyes.

This is a miraculous description of the power of meditation—not just calm, not just stillness, not even “awareness,” but spaciousness, expansion. Turning within, I am on new terms with my body. A truce of sorts, perhaps.

For we have been on bad terms for some time now—a year and a half of dislocation and distrust. I thought I was doing a good job at treating my body right; instead, all along it was plotting mutiny.

A year and a half of not recognizing oneself—alienating experiences of lost taste and appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, pain of needles, crushing fatigue. The racing heart of anxiety. Disturbing sensations of hot flashes, numb extremities, dulled memory.

Now I am surfacing, washed up on a new shore. For so long I had to remind myself that I was more than a body, that there was yearning and transcendence beyond the dull carapace of sensation. Now I settle back in, reacquainting myself with the new corporeal landscape. With my sit bones on the pillow, light cascading through the east-facing windows of my living room, I close my eyes and plummet down.

I follow the path of my breath as it comes into my nostrils cool, swirls into my belly, then exits warmer and moister. I relax my jaw, slide my shoulder blades downward, try to open my chest. I’m aware of my uneven hips—one starting to limber, the other still clenched.

It is not silent: I hear passing cars, a bird in the plum tree, a voice on a cell phone passing on the sidewalk. But I still sense the resonant quiet that buoys me up, holds me aloft, reminds me that within this damaged terrain there is also peace, light, spaciousness.