I have recently become acquainted with the most fascinating and inspiring book, Gesture of Awareness: A Radical Approach to Time, Space, and Movement. The book is authored by Charles Genoud (2006) and published by Wisdom Publications.
The dedication of the book reads “It is over.” which gives a strong hint to the reader that their experience with time is about to get shook-up and turned on its head. How can it be over when the reader has just begun?
“But how can it be over before anything has started? And can anything really start? To start something implies it will go on, will end. That is the movement of time. But is there truth in this sense of movement? To start something is to step into time, and to step into time is to step out from reality into an insubstantial world of images, of language. Therefore, to start, to go on, to be over–may all be equally illusory. (3).”
I have been finding this radical approach to time to be helpful both in waiting out this month of record snow fall and in how I am viewing my academic pursuits. It seems that there will never be an end to this snow and the challenges that it creates. And, on most days, I am not sure that I can recall how I got on this academic wheel and I certainly don’t see an end in sight. Yet, if there was never a beginning or an end to either this weather or my pursuit of a Ph.D, then I am free to just be here today—-looking out at the beautiful snowscape from my window and reading and writing and thinking.
In the Gesture of Awareness, the exploration is of the way that “physical sensations never depart from the nature of awareness. The body is the main place of inquiry…. The body knows itself not as this sensation, or as that sensation, but as pure presence.” (11) When yoga students are asked to become aware of sensation in the body, this is an incredibly challenging request and one that both instructors and students need to respect. The first challenge is that, in so many cases, we are required to become numb to our bodily sensations or we have been taught that our bodies are shells for the more important things that we do as driven by our brains and the wants and needs that these brains create. The second, and perhaps greater challenge is that it is so very hard to define precisely what “awareness” is. How exactly does someone become aware of sensations in their body? What is used to become aware—the brain, the mind? And, what exactly is the mind anyway? Where is it located and how do I use it in my sensation-seeking activities?
Genoud asks us if we are using meditation as a way to simply distract ourselves from life (27). If so, then he questions the value of a practice that takes us away from life (27): “If meditation takes us away from life, what is the use of meditation? (27).” Genoud asks if we can be open in our meditation, “Can we be open in our meditation–can we be open as we walk or touch another? What does it mean to be open?” (31).
Every page of this beautiful book is a gem and I highly recommend it to meditators, students of yoga, instructors of yoga and meditation and anyone who wishes to be inspired to see the body in a different way. The ideas are profound, but presented in simple statements and phrases so that the reader can use this text for a lifetime of growth, peace and exploration of the body, soul and time.
Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, owner and director of the Matrika Wellness Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania http://www.matrikawellnesscenter.com and the community-based yoga studio, Yoga Matrika, also in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania https://www.yogamatrika.com/.
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Another review is here: