Thursday, 18 July 2013

Plunging in

I had the luxury of spending nearly all of yesterday with one of my favorite people, my friend Melanie. We went to Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike and swim in the waterfalls. Although the morning was clear, it started drizzling not long after we arrived and had started toward Upper Falls. We ducked under a bridge and spent the better part of an hour watching the rain and singing (told you she's awesome!). Two new songs I learned have been going through my head all day, in addition to new ideas born of our conversations.
I shared with Melanie that I've been studying a 1923 book by F.M. Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. F.M. proposes a "plan of education" that will "not only meet the needs of the human creature at the present stage of his evolution, but will also meet his future needs, as he passes from this present stage of subconscious guidance and control through the progressive evolutionary stages which lead to a higher and still higher state of civilization." A lofty proposition! But, ninety years after this book was published, his ideas are still cutting-edge.
F.M.'s main concern is with establishing a method of education that will enable us to keep learning, growing, expanding. He criticizes the division of mind and body, as well as methods (in education and physical fitness) that attempt to improve one without considering the other. He proposes that only a comprehensive approach to mind-body coordination, aiming for general rather than specific improvement, will enable us to evolve. The measure of success for any method of education or improvement is simply whether or not it continues to make us able to receive and assimilate new experiences.
F.M. describes four points to consider in measuring human advancement: 1) the degree to which we recognize that whatever errors or failings we perceive are the result of mistaken understanding on our own part; 2) our ability to thoughtfully consider a "new and expanding" idea, find it better than what we've been believing, and feel desire to step into the experiences that are associated with the new idea -- as well as the new self that can absorb these new experiences; 3) our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment in a way that benefits (and does not harm) us; and 4) being able to "hold in abeyance the fear of giving up [a] job, in whatever profession, trade, or calling this may be, and boldly to make the necessary change" if we have, in fact, realized that the old understanding does not serve us, and to adjust ourselves to accept and assimilate new knowledge while proceeding with our job.
I've been considering these points deeply. Can I hold my fear in abeyance as I examine the manifestations of my life, genuinely question the beliefs that led to those manifestations, wonder and get excited about what new experiences I might have -- and who I might be -- with other beliefs, and allow myself to adapt to new thoughts and changes in circumstance? Am I willing to give up what I think I know (about myself, about life), such that I am open to having new experiences -- and BEING the person who would have those new experiences?
As the rain diminished, Melanie and I hiked back toward the parking lot and continued on to Lower Falls. The rain had cleared everybody out, and we had the entire lovely scene to ourselves (for about 5 minutes!). Did I mention that there's been something like 15 inches of rain in the past month? Translation: lots of rain makes the water positively *i*c*y*. I'd dipped my feet in the river when we'd first arrived, and pronounced the water "shockingly cold". But something moved me... and I stood at the edge of the pool below the falls for several minutes, patiently contemplating the inevitable. (Do you know that endless moment of not-quite-yet, waiting for "now" to come upon you?)
I waited, and then it came. SPLASH!!! In I went and out I climbed, breathless and thrilled. Then in, again! Six times total. Trembling and exultant, I stretched my arms toward the falls in a wide-open Thank You.
What had me jump in? I turned my gaze to the sky and declared, I am WILLING to dive into the places I've been hesitant and afraid, the new experiences and new me that are outside my current beliefs. See me now, meet me: I surrender!

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