Flying Lessons

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Here’s what I get for being a cross on a sail.
Here’s how I jitterbug light.
I don’t say it’s dull, but mainly
I’m pretty uneasy up here — exposed and nervous.

Mainly I’d rather not fly
in one place with my tail traipsing down
like a dog that’s been beaten,
like a cow shooing gnats.

Mainly I study the ground
just looking for someplace to land
without making myself to smithereens;
or stare off into the distance–

which is farther up here, and
clearer, and more empty than you’d suspect–
like a prophet without a vision,
like a corpse with some regrets.

I’m tied to a string. It runs from the fist
of someone probably knotted-up as me.
I don’t say whose fault it is. I’m a kite–
I don’t say anything–

waiting to be reeled in or cut free.

— Jim Simmerman, Poetry (1989)

Flying Lessons

If you watched the video of the mermaid kite, but didn’t have the audio turned on, it contains my 5-year old daughter, Lilly, squealing with delight, “It’s flying! … I’m flying the kite!” which is followed shortly thereafter by the dead pan observation, “I think the mermaid is cold.”

In between the ecstasy of being airborne and the diagnosis that “the mermaid is cold,” the wind swirled and the kite nearly crashed. Indeed, just after recovering its loft, Lilly tripped on something pokey and the kite came crashing to the ground. Both handler and mermaid emerged unfazed but wisened to the reality that this kite flying business is rough stuff.

So too, it would seem, is this sitting still and turning inward business.

The path that Patanjali offers starts right here (now!), smack dab in the middle of our busy, complicated lives and then spirals ever inward to the still point at the center of it all. As has been said, it’s a journey of 10,000 steps that leads us nowhere but takes us everywhere.

We become aware of our relationships with others, aware of our relationship with our selves, conscious of having a body, alert that there’s something which animates us; captivated, we turn inward, discovering our capacity for connecting, clarifying and deepening… .

And yet, just because the laminated trail map is readable, the path can nonetheless seem impenetrable once you set out and find it’s overgrown, poorly marked, and blocked by damage from earlier storms.

The ecstasy gives way to discomfort: “I don’t say it’s dull, but mainly/ I’m pretty uneasy up here — exposed and nervous.”

Can we let that be okay?

In the essay version of this: yes. In the real life version?

“Mainly I study the ground/ just looking for someplace to land/ without making myself to smithereens…”

What if you didn’t have to like meditation? What if you didn’t have to be good at it? What if we agreed that you are so totally not the meditating type?

And yet.

What if instead you were a kite. You know, just resting in a porch chair or laying outside on the lawn.
Forget about waiting on the breath.
Wait for the wind. It will lift you.
Best part? There’s no strings attached.
(Or is it easier to be tied to a string
to be held by someone as knotted-up (or worse?) as you?)
There’s no ground
Nowhere to land
So therefore stop
Making yourself to smithereens
You’re a kite
Cut free

(“It’s flying… I’m flying! The Kite!”)



Al Bingham leads PostureTweak and Breathe, Move and Rest classes online at Online classes are $5/class however Project LOVE makes them FREE with the code LOVE at checkout. Use it 1x or 100 times:

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