Let the Gunk Times Roll

There are times in life when the planets align so perfectly, when the energy fields stack up, when the top turns so unwavering on its point it seems it could spin forever and you have to ask, “was it a dream…a dream…a dream?”

I spent the last day and a half in bed with a fever.  I woke up early in the morning because I was teaching my first class and I needed some time to prepare.  Having stayed up “late”, aka 10:45, to study for an anatomy test, I attributed the aches and pains I was experiencing to fatigue.

By 11:30, I was in so much pain during lecture that I silently made my exit during the break.  Sinking into my bed, my knees propped up on pillows, my arms stretched out wide, a towel over my eyes to shut out the painful light, I fell into a deep slumber, waking later bathed in sweat, clammy, feverish and ready for more sleep.

Emotional Gunk we keep calling it.  The sludge that absolutely has to rise to the surface before the water runs clear.  And there’s not a day that goes by when at least one person here is excreting Gunk in some form or another.  Tears, muscle aches, back spasms, night terrors…Gunk takes on many forms.    So I think I had Fever Gunk.

I finally rejoined my sangha after almost twenty hours of sleep.  After lunch, when most everyone had headed to the beach for a quick swim, I chilled out in a hammock on the shore.  From my seaside sling, I noticed, standing on the hill, a woman in her fifties, Trish.  Now Trish’s vibe throughout the training has been more on the serious side, a little removed from the group and somewhat melancholy.  Standing up there alone, looking at me or out towards the sea, I couldn’t tell which, she looked lost.  So I waved.  Sometimes all it takes is the smallest gesture, a flick of a wrist, or a blink of an eye.  That wave was all it took to give her momentum to come down the hill to my hammock.  She stood next to it for a moment, silent and unsure.

“Climb on in”, I said.

And Trish’s Gunk started to flow.

Crying beneath dark sunglasses and a baseball cap, she confided in me that she discovered recently or re-remembered that she had been sexually abused as a young girl by her grandfather and her cousin.  This repressed memory having surfaced just before the training, she debated if she should’ve come and if she could or should talk about it during her group presentation.  I held her hand as she cried and told her that I believe that things are presented in our lives when we are ready to deal with them.  I encouraged her that she has all the strength she needs within her and abounding support all around.

Facing our Gunk is sometimes the hardest step, but being brave enough to clean it out, wash it away and let it go is pure courage.

In a less brave display of courage, I tried a slack-line today.  It’s basically a tight rope with a whole lot more give, which makes it extremely wobbly.  Just standing on my leg without it swinging wildly like a pendulum beneath me was hard enough, let alone attempting forward locomotion on the damn thing.  But it got me thinking about my preoccupation with balance.

What exactly does that mean, “to balance”?  To stand still, to remain stoic, unchanging, rigid?  Who wants that?  I’ve become so concerned with the notion of balance that I’ve failed to see the beauty of balancing.  The sweetness of swinging, teetering, and wobbling….the nuances and the fluctuations.

This notion that we can be as small as a grain of sand or as expansive as the universe and no space in between is a more noble resting place.  We can sit on either end of the spectrum and not one single color within that scale is more beautiful than another, nor would exist without the other six hues.  I can be happy AND dark, joyous AND melancholy, shy AND funny and the true balance is accepting the fluctuations within my varietals.

At the end of this day, they had a pizza party.  The vibe was festive, anticipatory and vibrant.  Some of us “dressed up”, which is to say, wore an outfit without spandex as the main ingredient.  Perhaps we put earrings in our ears, or showered, maybe dabbed some scented lotion on our sunburns.  Cameras were clicking away and smiles were open and easy.  An adobe-style, wood-fired stove was constantly loaded, one at a time, with thin-crust, hand-made pizzas, delivered to our plates until we could eat no more.  Until, that is, they brought out the dessert pizzas covered in chocolate and bananas, pineapples and raisins.  All of us, having been deprived of chocolate (no caffeine) and no sugar either since they stopped serving us desserts, swooped down on those sweet pies like pot-heads to the bong at a reggae party.

Stuffed full and buzzing on a glucose high, the music started and the dance party commenced.  And man, did we dance.  We jumped, shimmied, twisted, sweated, gyrated, conga’d, clapped and threw our arms to the sky.  We let go.  Collectively, we flushed away our Gunk and we let the cool, clear waters of Joy seep in.

I did the worm through a conga line and later, silently crept out of the dance floor, where I lit my poi and spun fire under the stars.  The dance floor instantly shifted towards me and to the whooping and hollering of my friends, I performed.  Circles of fire traced arcs around my body, illuminating my smile and in flickering glimpses, framed the freedom I felt inside.

As the dance floor settled down, we ran towards the ocean, in the rain, leaving our clothes on the shore.  Twenty-five of us, liberated and free, streaked our naked white bums across the sand, splashing into the sea under the most gigantic starry sky.  We giggled, screamed and shrieked with pure, unadulterated, unrestrained joy.  In awe that under the cosmos, amidst the calm, tropical waves, this was actually happening.  It was like Lord of the Flies meets Avatar, but without the death or the orgies.  Some had never dared to skinny-dip before…the rest of us nudies just allowed ourselves to bob and jiggle.  And as the sound of our shrieks merged with the sound of the waves, we noticed the waves were glowing.  Glittering electricity danced in our hands like sparklers on the 4th of July.  Every splash or stroke left a luminous trail of green.  Phosphorescence.  And it was everywhere.

And so silently I bobbed, having swung the pendulum from sludgy Emotional Gunk to the sparkling sea of Joy…all within a day.   I floated in an ocean of fairy dust beneath a canopy of fireflies, suspended in equilibrium, wrapped and balanced in a 360 degree Universe.

And then those little shiny Phospho-fuckers started to bite.  Which only proves my point: balance doesn’t exist.

Happy Teetering.

“There’s a kind of luck that’s not much more than being in the right place at the right time, a kind of inspiration that’s not much more than doing the right thing in the right way, and both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment.” –Gregory David Roberts, “Shantaram.”

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