Weeks 20 & 21 – Energy Shifting
Total Distance Traveled: 13,618.2 miles
In college, I studied biology, not because I wanted to be a doctor or a scientist or anything practical like that. I studied biology because I wanted to know the secret of life. Not the meaning of life; that’s silly, but the secret of life, essentially the definition of life and the difference between living and non-living. I figured it out the summer after sophomore year during a 30-hour acid trip. The decision I came to is that there is no real difference. There is a continuum of degrees of organization. Human beings are extremely complex structures, probably the most complex assemblages of atoms in the galaxy. Simpler, but still relatively sophisticated living things are single-celled organisms like bacteria. They are composed of and function by lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, water, and other molecules and atoms. Below them are viruses, which are not defined as alive, but it’s debatable. They are made of proteins and nucleic acids as some of the components that are required for life, but they cannot function on their own. They can only replicate in conjunction with living things. Life, then, is a level of organization such that the structures are self-sustaining and self-replicating. Life is movement. It is not a quality, but an experience.
However, that organization is maintained by the physical properties of the matter involved. So what’s the matter? Molecules are made of atoms, which are made of sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons, electrons), which are made of quarks, or are really just little bundles of energy with specific properties. While I’m a proponent of String Theory, and that’s beyond the scope of this blog, nobody really knows what energy actually is. But we know it exists. I believe that matter is just energy with specific properties, but it’s all the same stuff. Matter is a level of organization of energy such that the structures are self-sustaining and predictable. If you compound levels of organization of energy enough, you can build a human being. What that means is that fundamentally we are energy. We are energy in a very complicated configuration, but our bodies are just energy. And so is everything else. Energy is all that exists.
When I touch a rock, I have the experience of touching a rock, but at the subatomic, energetic level, what is happening? I believe that there is a transfer of energy. The little bundles of energy that make up the atoms that make up that rock interact with the little bundles of energy that make up the atoms that make up my fingertip. They collide and change each other’s flow. I believe that the energy is actually transferred. The energy of the rock becomes the energy in my body simultaneously with the energy of my body becoming the energy of the rock. When I take my finger away the rock appears to remain and my finger appears to remain because we are at equilibrium. But on an energetic level, there are no actual boundaries. Every instant I am becoming air at the same rate that air is becoming me. Because one of the laws of the universe is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, I believe that there is a finite amount of energy in the universe, and since there are no boundaries, I believe that all of existence is a vast pool of energy. We are all connected. We are all one.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of physical, mental, and spiritual work regarding energy. I’ve been exercising, stretching, practicing Delsarte and Feldenkrais methods, writing, reading about chakras, T’ai Chi, and Viewpoints, meditating, dancing, and dating. I’ve always been sensitive to energy, but lately I’m becoming increasingly consciously aware of it. One of my newer acts deals specifically with concentrating energy in different parts of the body to create different effects, and I have been performing this act a lot lately. While burlesque tends to be a very sexual medium on its own, I always found it strange whenever a fan told me that one of my performances was sexy. Until very recently, ‘sexy’ was not part of my artistic intentions for any of my acts. I never set out to arouse the audience, favoring instead amusement or provoking thought. Recently, through this meditation and bodywork, I have been unlocking my sexuality, which for the most part has been pretty repressed throughout my life, and bringing that experience into my creative work. So I created an act where I shift my energy from my head, down through my heart, and into my pelvis. It’s an act about unleashing one’s sexual animal. I performed this act a lot in California, and at the time, I felt very connected to it. However, in the last several weeks, I have felt very disconnected to it. I don’t know which of the myriad changes caused this disconnect, but I’m trying to work it out.
Before I realized my dream (Week 15) and that I have been driven by a desire for approval (Week 19), I met someone who really stroked, fluffed, and basically jerked off my ego. I had never felt so approved of, and so the sex we had worked very well with my state of being at the time. But I realized while in bed with her that there was something wrong. I wasn’t being fulfilled; I was kind of being made sick. I felt disgusted with myself, disgusted by her, by the unfulfilling sex, by the energetic void, where we both drew our energy inside ourselves, as if hoping to create a vacuum that would draw the other in. Of course it didn’t work. We were two vacuums, stuck together, but sucking our own life-forces deep into the dark places of our souls.
I saw her again a few weeks later. Under the new light of self-awareness, I was disgusted by the memory of my ego-fucking, of the emptiness of our sex, of our hearts like black holes needing to be filled so desperately that we’d sleep with people we didn’t want, only adding mass to the void and expanding the emptiness. I wanted nothing to do with her, so I locked up. I didn’t want to give any of the energy I had found to fill her void, and I didn’t want to open my own void to her. I walled off; I froze the flow of my energy into tensed muscles. When the opportunity presented itself, I ran away. And I think I’ve been stuck in that locked up state ever since. Not that it was her fault; I was in that locked up state to begin with, but I thought I was making progress in unlocking myself and now I feel like I’m regressing. One thing that Feldenkrais wrote in his book is that breaking an old habit requires a new habit to take its place, or else the old one will return and be reinforced. I think that’s the situation I’m in.
So I’ve been doing this particular burlesque performance lately to get the energy flowing back into my sexual self. Last weekend, I did three performances of just this act in Indianapolis. The first night, I was entirely in my head and felt really disconnected and disappointed with my performance; the second night I experimented and made some new discoveries, but was still largely in my head and still largely dissatisfied with my performance. After the show I went to dinner with a fellow scientist turned burlesque performer. I was powerfully attracted to her, not just because she was pretty, but because she was a lantern. I could see all of the energy around and between us, where she glowed brightly orange, and I like a moth, was drawn in. She told me that my act wasn’t working (the burlesque act, not the flirtation) and that she didn’t see the beast unleashed. She saw it all withheld and contained. And I agreed. I realized that I have never unleashed the beast. I have never had sex with abandon. I’m not sure that outside of a few heavy metal mosh pits or drug-assisted rave nights, that I have ever done anything with abandon. I have never let go. I can’t even really imagine what it would be like. So I spent all of the next day fantasizing, about her, about the people I passed on the street, about the other performers, about the audience, concentrating the energy in my second chakra. And it worked, to a degree. The story was sort of lost without the shift of energy from top to bottom, but at least this time it made it to the bottom.
I left Indianapolis the following day to go to Cincinnati, a place in which I only really have one friend (who was busy), no performances scheduled, and no particular interest. I went there for that exact reason: to be alone, to continue working on myself. I took a modern dance class at the Contemporary Dance Theater and the young lady working in the office was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist flirting with her. But why should I have resisted anyway? There’s no shame in being desirous and flirtatious (I can read body language well enough to know when I’m being creepy). But I felt part of me resisting because part of me is always resisting my desires, and that’s exactly the struggle. That counter-motivation manifested itself in class, too, where my body would not do what I wanted it to do. At one point the teacher put his knee in my back and pulled my shoulders back to show how I was supposed to be opening up, but my back is just not strong enough to open like that. My back is not strong enough to even stand up straight, and my posture is always slumped forward. After an hour of my body resisting itself, I found my muscles completely locked up. I couldn’t move. I felt too intimidated to try dancing across the floor. I couldn’t feel the joy that the dance was supposed to express because my body wouldn’t move in the way that expressed joy. My body only moved in the way that expressed insecurity. I felt too shy to embarrass myself in front of the gorgeous office girl who had joined the class. I felt an urge to cry, wanting to be reassured that it was okay, wanting to be reassured that I am okay, craving validation and approval. Realizing this, my inner judging voice awakened and I cursed myself for being so pathetic, pitiful, weak, an open wound that sucked all the energy out of the room and brought everyone down. My muscles were working so hard against themselves that my left thigh started into strained spasms. So while everyone else danced joyfully across the floor, I massaged my self-inflicted wound, cursing my failings.
The next day, I took another modern dance class at the same place. Carmen wasn’t working, and it was a different teacher, but it was still a room full of beautiful women, which is the fastest way to make me shy. I still felt insecure, but I was determined to relax and let go as much as possible. This class was much better for me, certainly in part because of the experience of the day before, and likely in part to the style of dancing we were doing. There was much more swinging and twisting and off-balance stuff. Some of the choreography even felt like a martial art, shifting momentum. I felt much more free, but still not totally. I still heard the self-judging voice; I still felt the resistance in my muscles, but I also felt a little bit of the joy of the dance, the joy of the freer flow of energy.
The following day, I rose early to get to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which has a lovely bike trail along a canal near Cleveland. I loaded my backpack with nutrition bars, slathered my body with sun block and set off on my bike along the trail. It was flat and paved, and sparsely occupied, so I was able to ride at a steady pace seated upright with my hands free. I could feel myself hunching forward and squeezed my back muscles to pull me upright, to try to open my chest the way that the dance teacher had shown me, but I fatigued too easily. As I rode, I thought about my slouching, about how I can’t keep my back muscles taught and trained all the time because I sleep in a fetal position, curled forward into a little round ball. I thought about other things I suffered from, insecurity, low self-esteem, anorexia, acid reflux. I thought about the void of energy in my pelvic chakra and the excess of energy in my head and my heart, and realized there must be a blockage somewhere in between. I managed to relax the muscles in my gut, and found myself suddenly sitting upright. It wasn’t that my back wasn’t strong enough to lift me up; it was that my core was too contracted to let me up. That’s why it was so exhausting to try to force myself upright, because I was fighting tension with opposite tension and working twice as hard, rather than releasing where it wasn’t necessary and doing barely any work at all. I suddenly felt myself filled with warmth and sense of security. I felt my pelvis shift to a more comfortable place in response; I felt tension drain out of my neck and face and my shoulders rolled back and dropped; my spine felt more wiggly and I started to sing without thinking. I started to smile without prompting. I felt so joyful and alive. There it was, the place where my spine stopped when I rocked my pelvis, the place where my eating disorder and digestive agony burn, the place I hide from the vulnerability of sex, the place I guard when I sleep, when I’m awake, when I feel insecure, all the time. I finally found the lock. And I opened it.
Unfortunately, while I unlocked the door to let myself into my third chakra, I also unlocked the cage to let the demon out of it. And that night, I suffered one of the worst bouts I’ve ever had of indigestion, acid reflux, gas, or whatever the hell actually happens in my stomach that causes me so much pain that I go blind and lose the capacity to form sentences. I ended up drinking an entire bottle of bismuth and checking myself into a hotel room to recover.
After a day of rest and purging and nursing myself back to a functional existence, I got to perform this burlesque act again in Cleveland. The response I got was overwhelming. People were chanting my name at the end of the night, as if for an encore. Previously, that would have gone to my head, but that’s because there nowhere else for it to go. This time, it went to my gut. Rather than inflating my ego, I felt simply secure that I had done my job. After the show, I went to hang out with some friends of mine who are involved in the Cleveland kink community. They’re a very sex-positive and sexual bunch; they’re very accepting and open with sexuality, and open with their boundaries. But in that situation, despite my revelations about security, I felt myself tensing again at my core, hearing that judging voice, locking up and beginning to shut down. My friends were all so open, and I felt so wounded. They would respect my boundaries, but the problem is that my boundaries are false. They are the limits of my ego’s security, not of my true Self. I have a tiny castle, with very little inside I need to guard, but a very wide moat to keep anyone from even approaching. And I feel very alone.
This is my present struggle. I know what the problem is, and knowing is half the battle, but the other half of the battle is not easily won. It is slow, but I am making progress. I am growing. I am healing. I am living. And life is not a quality, but an experience.