Posture is hard work.
These are the words of my teacher, Monica Caspari. They represent her concise expression of a spectre that’s haunting the Modern West. So poignant is her statement that I would gladly decorate it with some superfluous qualifiers & then expound on it till I’ve pounded out a veritable manifesto.
Good posture is hard work; poor posture is even harder—oh the slings & arrows! Every one of us has 84 troubles, & we adopt an eighty-fifth when insist on waging war with gravity. Obviously we do not deliberately march into battle against such a nebulous & indefatigable enemy. Nevertheless, time & time again we experience the casualties of this contest as back-pain, shoulder-aches, & plantar fasciitis, etc…. What then compels us into this ultimately unwinnable contest?
In fact, by the time we reach this eighty-fifth problem, we find ourselves already so overwrought by the antecedent eighty-four that we hardly even notice gravity effecting our inevitable demise. So what of these four score & four troubles?
If we trace these sundry struggles germinations back to their rootstock, we find the original genesis in our compulsive instinct to fragment ourselves. We unconsciously pit our various aspects against one another, & divided against ourselves, we suffer therefore. Indeed, every time we wish our immediate experience were otherwise, we have established such a rift—we have cleft our psyche from our physical selves. Having what we don’t want & wanting what we don’t have, wanting to keep what we have, having to keep what we want, etc…such conditions impel this partition.
Buddhist teachers designate this fragmentation as the preeminent cause of human suffering—dukkha, they call it. As I painted it in an earlier post: at any given moment, we are having an experience. Consider that our relationship to this experience is the plenary determinant of our existential well-being. Often we ascribe this power to conditions in the world, thereby mistakenly divesting ourselves of our own sovereignty.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
Some attribute these words to Nelson Mandela, others to Marianne Williamson from The Course in Miracles. Roses smell as sweet whether they grow in rose-gardens or drainpipes, & gurus come in sundry guises. When we believe our well-being to be contingent on perfect external circumstances, then this becomes the case; our prophecy fulfills itself & we forfeit our own autonomy withal.
Only by recognising the mechanics of this process do we free ourselves from it; when we see the fetters to be diaphanous & self-imposed, no longer can they bind. Through deeper inquiry, we find first that our usual understanding appears reversed—that our relationship to experience becomes primary & objective conditions arise almost accidental (naturally we maintain preferences, but the latter simply arise within the field of all experience that we encounter & to which we sustain relationship withal.)
The fruits of insight ripen under the rays of our continued attention. Soon we no longer find it necessary to fit experience into a conventionally deterministic framework altogether. Cause & effect commingle & beget curly-headed glories. With understanding, we know everything to be arising concurrently in one perpetual bloom of the present instant.
When was it ever not now?
And tomorrow never comes.
To frame chronic physical tension in this way is to see it as another expression—another facet—of a particular rift in our relationship to experience. The converse holds as well: out of kinder conditions, kinetic ease. Gravity is actually disinterested: it is our own orientation to it that determines whether it pulls us down or holds us up. This is the integration of structure, soul, & psyche. In this state we find the capacity to meet all experience with our whole selves.
Existential fragments of all aspects unite!