By Mahipal Lunia • January 6th, 2009 •
I sat down at The Palace of Fine Arts, wondering what the evening would be like. This demure and understated man appears, in a pair of jeans and an old white shirt. Shy, somewhat clumsy when you first see him, he bows to the crowd three times and sits down on his piano. Out of nowhere, this once seemingly shy man is transformed, into sheer poetry. The music flows, and enthralls one and all. His piece ends and there is silence, before the crowd erupts in a crescendo of applause. I sat there, mesmerized. I was lost in his music, lost in the sound and melody—especially of his classical pieces. His presence, and more importantly, his passion with his piano had transported me from the chains of time, into the boundlessness of that space which is free of time. The music served as a gateway into the timeless. Two hours at the Palace of Fine Arts passed as though in a jiffy.
As I was driving back home, my mind kept going back into that feeling of timelessness and the passion George Winston shared through his piano at the Palace of Fine Arts. The music and how it evoked the feeling of total immersion. And it dawned on me that this is pure being, pure presence, pure. This is not the only time I have experienced it.
I remembered watching my sensei (who you can listen to on the way of the warrior podcasts) perform cross blocks followed by kokyu nage (a way of deflecting an oncoming attack followed up by a throw by disbalancing the opponent). It was sheer poetry in motion, all of us were in awe, and entrained into seeing beauty unfold right before our eyes.
The other incident which came to mind was watching Kathy Altman dance with us for three days, from 11 AM through 6 PM. Watching her merge and move with the music and the 5 rhythms. Flowing smoothly, to expressing her will in staccato, to the rumble of chaos, into the smooth merger with the lyrical, and arriving at peace into stillness. As she moved in her own way, there was that sense of beauty and sense of pure being flowing through that captivated all of us who watched.
I have always been fascinated by watching mastery in any form, and always wanted to learn how people do things they do with exquisite finesse (this is the heart of modeling, in my opinion). Upon approaching both my Sensei and Kathy (many years apart) they had interestingly told me the exact same thing when I told them, ‘Wow, I want to move like that” They said, “NO!! You want to move how you move.” My sensei was a little more colorful when he said, “Don’t be my vomit.” Meaning, don’t do things or say things exactly as he does. I needed to find my own way, my own art of expressing myself and my body in this world.
No matter what discipline one chooses to practice, with enough dedication (usually about ten years of constant practice) you start to bring out that expression which is truly you. This is beyond all rationality, rationalization, intellectuality, and goes deep into the realm of CREATIVITY. Somehow from here, from this place, YOU HAPPEN NATURALLY and FULLY.
The person you are, no matter how perhaps clumsy in the ordinary walk of life, is transformed into an object of sheer beauty. Not only do you arrive into the timeless realm of pure being, in the process of you arriving there, you also take those who are with you or watching you along for the ride as well. In my opinion, this is the highest purpose of any art or discipline—one of transcending time and definitions into the realm of timelessness and awe. This is where Aesthetic Arrest happens naturally—not only to you, but also through you.
The trick is finding those devices and activities that take you more and more into the realm of your own being. It may be dancing, it may be martial arts, or it may be sewing. Hell, it may even be in the service of something or someone other than you. It reminds me of this story about Ramana Maharishi, who was a very revered sage in India. One day a woman, who did not believe in God came to him. Upon further discussion on God and nature of love, Maharishi asked her “Is there someone or something you love more than anything else?” To which she replied, “Yes, of course—my nephew.” Maharishi then tells her, “Well, then go and attend to him, serve him, and love him—there is God.”
This process of finding something to serve and dedicate oneself to also brings out the very best in us. It also, in my opinion, brings us closer to our element—closest to that which we are. Staying with and true to this element transforms the wobbly creature into a majestic swan.
Irony of ironies, you find yourself only when you are willing to lose yourself to something/someone greater than yourself. In serving, in this expression you come more and more into yourself. In the process of this “alchemy,” this transformation, you entrain those around you as well to be “captured and transformed by beauty”—be it the piano, the samurai sword, the sway of a dancer, or the play of a child.
The trick in this is to “model yourself at your very best, when you are serving something other than you.” Get the syntax, magnify it. May you lose yourself fully into something you truly love, and in the process find yourself and entrain the world.