The moments of bliss come unexpectedly.
I almost cried doing a plank. And not because it was hard, which planks are.
This moment occurred when I lowered my body onto a putty mat in a workout room at my swim club. As The Talking Head’s sublime “City of Dreams” played, I exited myself and saw a woman placing her elbows and forearms parallel to the sides of the mat; then, laying her body out as flat as possible, the toes pressing into the floor at shoulders’ width apart. I watch-felt her engage all the muscles from her torso, assuming a balance between the left-side, right-side and I saw —
Such beauty, this effort of living!
And this rush of wonder entered:
- That a human would take her corporeal self and make this shape with her body in order to continue swimming long distances well into her fifties!
- That sweet effort we make in our lives, getting in there, growling and howling during daily acts of living, such beauty we are!
In that pre-plank moment, I felt a perspective of it All — all people, making their amazing effort at living.
That day, and earlier that week and for most of the month, I was busy getting tossed about by a symphony of negative thinking in the key of low productivity, not being farther along in life, my stagnant writing career. I knew these thoughts had no grounding in reality, that I could look in another direction but that’s what was there for me. And, ow. So I watched those thoughts, kept watching them.
When a person assumes a plank position, she doesn’t have any expectations past entering a pocket of pain. But on my way there, just as I was almost in position to look at a clock and time myself, there was this surprising burst of — can I say love? can I say a plume of appreciation? —and it wasn’t toward this body, but all bodies. It was a profound wave of love for everyone else who suffers and struggles through the effort at living. I saw myself as one of billions doing the remarkable work of human-hood. I marveled at the effort we make, and often don’t really see (so busy writing a to-do list of MORE).
Usually, I distract myself from the hard-intimacy of planking by doing something that appears difficult but is really a distraction: I lift up one leg for ten seconds or pull a knee into an elbow and repeat. This time I dug into my forearms and tightened my abs, stared at a wrinkly mat, and just held it. Thirty seconds, one minute. 75 seconds. 80 seconds.
I saw my body as a sculpture being held in place by an act of worship. At 90 minutes, enough.
The Big Love Oneness exited but I still felt calmer. I held poses longer; it was easier to focus on my form during squats. I looked out the open door at the swimmers and saw them as beautiful creatures, all of whom I wanted to write love notes.
I got ready for burpees. Goddamn burpees. I might have cried a little, but this time it was for the regular reasons.