I have been reflecting on the four enquiries I have undertaken in the last decade. My first enquiry was into the experience of fear – how it affects my body and thoughts, what fears are “habitual” and what the origins of those might be, how fear can be regulated, and also how one might work creatively to explore fear. As a direct consequence, I then began an enquiry into the experience of vulnerability. An outcome of that was the realisation that vulnerability was an essential element in any relationship of true intimacy. Without allowing my vulnerability, I would be denying myself the experience of intimacy with another. This includes a sense of intimacy with the natural world, which is important to me. The more I opened, the closer my embodied connection became. I think my increased experience of vulnerability opened me to my own desire – to exploring the question, What do I want, in the deep sense? The enquiry themes have evolved, one out of another. They are about perceiving, allowing, choosing, and creating connections of one kind or another. Fear cuts me off from connection. Learning how to understand and engage with my fear took me to a place of greater openness – greater vulnerability – and that vulnerability brought with it more connection. In my enquiry into desire, I came to a strong sense of my deep desire for connection – with nature, with people, with my own past and possibilities.
In any journey into inner depth, there are many layers to discover and move through, and all the layers seem to contain resonances, flavours, of the previous layers. “The Edge” has a frisson that goes back to fear, and to fear’s antidote: curiosity. It is also about opening to feeling a connection with the unknown. It’s possible that this enquiry into “The Edge” is about a place of potential connection. Before I entered any of these enquiries, back in May 2012, I did a Autobiographical Movement workshop with Sandra Reeve that she calls Strata. As part of this workshop, we did some movement on a clifftop near Charmouth, Dorset. In my notes taken then I wrote, “Giving way to gravity, so…lovely! Flowing downhill over all the ups and downs. Then – feeling the DESIRE to see the edge!” The capital letters were part of the notes. So, it feels like there are some strong connections driving what I am enquiring into, although I was not aware then where it would be taking me. I was on the edge of something – a transition was getting underway outside conscious awareness. Each enquiry seems to have taken me deeper.
“The Edge”, as I am conceiving of it, is one between two quite different places, things, beings, experiences, perceptions – as in between the sea and the cliff top above it, or being asleep and being awake, between life and death, between me and this tree I have my hands on, between me and my loved other. We are always on the edge of something – given the constant of change in our lives and the sense of self and other that exists as soon as there is sense contact and perception. There can be a real sense of space between in which to inhabit the experience of being on the edge. Buddhist Emptiness, Sunyata, reveals that there is no edge – but the meditation practices (the letting go of/ dissolving of clinging) that lead to this require the considerable and repeated sense of spaciousness.
Generally, I can feel myself on the edge of a strong emotion – like anger – before tipping into it. I know then that I have choice in how I deal with that emotion and that is a kind of freedom. I might let the anger come into my eyes and look at the person whose speech or action precipitated the anger. That might be enough.
Some edges are finer and more difficult to experience than others. I was on the edge of consciousness the other morning – before I fainted. A thin edge with no recollection of, and therefore no image of, going over the edge. But over I went – to consciously find myself on my back on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. No great harm was done. It was part of my reaction to the vaccine I had the day before. What I hope to be able to do, in future, is recognise better that approach to the edge of consciousness, and take care of myself in it.
Is fainting practice for dying? Is falling asleep? What edges are important to make space in and inhabit?