Monday, March 06, 2006

Unravelling the Kesa

I spent the week-end in the embrace of the kesa. To put it more plainly, I went to stay with Pierre.

Was it unravelling the kesa?
Or being unravelled by the kesa?
No.
Just endless entanglement.

In the past Pierre has always come to stay with us in Aylesbury, so it was enlightening to watch him on his home turf in East Grinstead. On Saturday night he took me for a meal in his local pub, where he is well known.

As soon as I enter a pub, my conditioning is called into action, mobilized like an army. Warily I scan around to see if there is anybody who might wish to pick a fight with me. My voice drops and I revert to a strong Birmingham accent(presumably lest anyone should think, despite my battle-scarred appearance,that I am a posh effeminate sissy). The result of this posturing on my part is that Pierre, with his French accent, is readily understood by the barmaid, but she has to ask me twice to repeat what kind of Guiness I would like to drink -- extra cold or normal. And so we proceed to our table, like shaven-headed versions of Laurel and Hardy. The shorter and stouter one sprays gasshos around freely, quite at ease and totally unconcerned how eccentric he might appear to be. How the lankier one appears, I do not know. Judging from the inside,I would guess he appears stiff, self-conscious, worried.

On the Sunday morning, after Zazen, we skip breakfast and get straight into the task of packing Pierre’s books into plastic crates and moving them into the back of my trusty old Toyota Starlet. Soon I have a throbbing headache and have to lie down. Pierre comes to the rescue with several slices of salmon on toast. With these and two cups of coffee inside me I feel OK again almost immediately. As I fondly cradle my second cup, Pierre asks me: ”Mike, this is an intimate question, but do you think your Alexander directions while you are having sex?”

My answer is that, in one sense, no I don’t. In general in my daily life, I don’t verbalize the directions -- “I wish to allow my neck to be free, to allow my head to come unlocked from deep within me, so that it releases in a forward direction and leads the whole spine to release into length, so that the back is also released to widen,while the legs and arms are released out of the torso...” et cetera, et cetera.

But in another sense, after a number of years in the Alexander work,in which verbal directions such as the above have been overheard, repeated, and re-formulated over and over again, that which is expressed by these words becomes part of what one wants, all the time. What one wants, all the time, is to be free, to come undone, to be unlocked, to be liberated from the chains of habit, to be more awake, not to be such a slave to unconsciousness.

Later on Sunday morning I gave Pierre an Alexander lesson in lying down, and as I exhorted him to come undone (in other words to “wish to allow the neck to be free, to allow the head forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, etc.”), I found myself re-translating for Pierre the first line of the traditional verse (gatha) recited in praise of the Buddha’s robe.

DAI-SAI-GEDATSU-FUKU
How great is the clothing of coming undone!

I would like to discuss, for what it is worth, my understanding of the meaning of GEDATSU, or coming undone, but since I am having trouble inputting Chinese characters on my Mac, I will leave that for another post.

Saying goodbye to Pierre, I asked him, "Who are you?" I was expecting him to say, "I don't know," but his actual reply was "Nobody." "No," I said, "You are not nobody. But who you are I do not know."

5 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

I'm really envious of Pierre's upcoming adventure!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Michael. But it struck me last night that nobody needs to go to Japan, or to France, or to a Buddhist temple, in order to take part in the great adventure of learning the backward step.

At around 5pm, I was sitting in lotus, drinking a cup of coffee, and looking out into the back garden, while waiting for my friend and Alexander student, Mark, to arrive for his lesson at 6pm. A blackbird arrived in the apple tree and, as I sipped my coffee, he flew down and took a drink from the barrel pond under the tree. Then, for the next hour, he perched on the apple tree and alternately listened and sang to another blackbird in the distance. I opened the window to listen better, and my wife Chie came in and sat in lotus beside me, augmenting and heightening the silence.

I had been hoping to go to our bolthole in France this week to submerge myself in nature, but the blackbird reminded me that I have got everything I need in abundance right here.

When Mark arrived, the bird was still there singing away in the gathering gloom. Mark commented that those kind of miracles are always taking place all around us but in our noisy clattering about, we fail to notice them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Sometimes I am profoundly struck with the knowledge that I know nothing at all, that all my words are inadequate. Knowing this to be inherent, I cannot allow it. Finding my valuable opinions to have no value at all, finding a body of work that amounts to a hill of beans I put my foot through it. Trying to be right in my behaviour, I commit wrong.

The Robin in the rain outside my window does not have these doubts. She writes her life without a first thought let alone a second. 'Thy will be done' indeed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed, very much.

Almost 12 months ago, a Robin in the rain outside my window came to my rescue too. I wonder if it could have been the same one? The context was what I considered to be totally unreasonable behaviour by my Shobogenzo co-translator Gudo Nishijima. At the time I thought I couldn't go any lower (but this supposition in fact turned out to be an error). Anyway, here was my ode the robin that delivered me, albeit temporarily.

It's raining red robin,
We don't mind a bit.
While outside we're bobbing,
Inside we sit.

Hitting rock bottom,
Down on the ground,
We squash a black cushion,
And listen for sound.


Forver yours, FW, in the Robin-Dharma.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Dear Floating weed,

Indeed. The robin has no doubts.

The geatest lesson of kesa sewing is the following one: What is wrong cannot be undone. One doesn't correct mistakes on a kesa. If a stitch disappear... so be it.

I doubt that your posts disappear by themeselves.


So my question is: have you ever heard of a single bird erasing his/her lovesong for things as they are?

Indeed, forever with you, Floating weed, in the Robin-dharma.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  

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