Friday, January 23, 2009

foi response from Miguel Gutierrez (NY)

hi to all of you

I am writing to you from an apartment in san diego (not my own), where I’m staying for two weeks while I make a piece on students at UCSD. I’m staying just a few feet away from the beach here – an unusual and fortuitous circumstance, though one that comes mixed it with a little bit of frustration at having had to leave new york so soon after the new year, and so soon after foi.

I don’t know if I was fully prepared for the overwhelming amount of feelings that I have been having since last week. It’s also been incredible to hear all of your responses. Truly remarkable. I haven’t been totally sure about what my role is supposed to be inside all of this. I’ve been trying to honor the amount of time that it’s taking me to process the experience. I think I’m just letting myself listen to you while remembering what happened to me, too.

I can’t tell how much of the way I’m feeling is about me having trouble “re-integrating” into the world, or how much of it is just my general experience of living in a bubble outside of things. Hmm, that’s not really it, it’s more contradictory than that. I have been vacillating a lot between that outsider-ness (probably just par for the course actually), and an uncommon sense of belonging or, for lack of a better word, harmony with things. Hmm, that’s not it either. In one of my other spiritual practices, they talk a lot about being a “worker among workers.” I think it’s kind of like that. Even as I sit here, on this futon in this room that is not mine (does any room belong to anyone?) I feel myself part of a “divine” composition, simultaneously arbitrary and perfectly placed.

And that’s a lot of what came up for me during foi last week. There was so much banality for so much of it, maybe most of it... there was so much, oh my god here I am again. Here I am again. Oh and here I am. Again. There’s that nail sticking out of the floor. There’s that piece of paper taped to the wall. There’s that pillar that feels rough and indented. And there’s that cold window that, like a big block of ice, appears to be emanating frosty vapor. And look I have to pee again. And again. And again. And again. I was embarrassed at how much I had to pee. And so sometimes I did just do it in the bathroom in the corner of the studio and not in the jugs. I pee a lot when I’m tired, but this was ridiculous. It was like, move a little, pee, bump into shit, pee, moan and groan, pee.

Increasingly since the event, I’ve realized how all of this is stuff you get to, go through, by doing any kind of intense meditation. There’s that scratch again on my nose. There’s me almost falling asleep. There’s that vision of that person I know.

But I don’t formally meditate very regularly, and so doing foi was like jumping into the mega super advanced Zen workshop in a day. Well even as I write this I realize that I think of performing as a spiritual experience. So maybe this event was just my way of going to the advanced Zen workshop – saying fuck I wanna dance for 24 hours straight. I want to take into account how this fits into the rest of the world and all of the things in it that confuse me.

And the irony of it, of course, is that really what the practice is/was, really what came up for me more than anything, anything else, was love.

I don’t know that I was aware of it the whole time. I know that I spent a lot of time, particularly when it was hard, envisioning each of you and dancing “with” you for part of the time. It was simple stuff really... a lot of time it was just a mind game to see if I could remember all of the people and all of the states involved. But I loved doing that, loved the different ways that people’s bodies and faces and general spirits entered and exited my consciousness. Some of you I still haven’t even spoken to, so that was super abstract, of course. I felt so lucky, so very grateful, to have you as support though. It was extraordinarily different doing it this time, compared to 7 years ago, because of that support. That and, well, I’m just a really different person than 7 years ago. I can’t quite convince myself into a trance anymore. I am more aware of the solidity of my presence and of its attendant questions, concerns.... My head is full of a lot more... STUFF. And also I’d done it once before. So inside of the panic or misery or fear of what it was going to be was the underlying knowledge that it WOULD, eventually, end. I wasn’t trapped.

But wait, I was going to talk more about love. So there was the love I felt for you all. And then, there was the love I felt for the people who came to watch - a constant, mostly anonymous to me, cast of people who I’d bump into or temporarily touch. Touch was so powerful, though it was also confusing. I’ve done too much dance touch/pseudo-bodywork to avoid a tendency toward thinking of touch as exclusively a “healing” or “information-getting” practice. I don’t know how to just... touch. And then, at one point, when I was going around a pretty full room, convinced that I only had about 3 hours left. (WOW WAS THAT WRONG), I came across my friend Michelle, who I thought had only just gotten there (I found out later she’d been there several times already), and she was one of the only people who I truly recognized and I instantly went to hug her and we instantly burst into tears together and we held each other for a long time. And I had to pee right after that and then after THAT I broke into a heart-cracking, total body/spirit offering, super energetic dance where the overwhelming mantra that kept going through my head, through my body was I AM ALIVE. I AM ALIVE. I AM ALIVE. and the simple reality of this statement, its undeniable, corporeal force, brought me into an energy that justified all of the agony of the past 16 hours and that truly surprised me. I mean, over and over again during foi, I kept realizing that I had “more” than I thought I had. I had more love, I had more energy, I had more work, I had more movement, I had more acceptance, I had more bullshit thinking going through my head. It was a lot.

After the heart cracking dance post michelle hug, I thought of everyone in my life, and named them. My mom, my dad, my sister, my sister’s girlfriend, my niece, all of my friends, my extended family members. Everyone. I thought about them, I thought about how much I loved them and how much I need them and how many good things I want to have happen to all of them.

And I have to insert here, that this thought grazed by me again, almost imperceptibly, the other day when I heard about the suicide bomb attack in Baghdad in front of the Shiite Temple. Coupled with the general incomprehensibility of what that kind of experience must be, was the embodied consideration that scores of people lost someone they loved that day. I’m still not sure how to take this in. But I do know that part of what it means to take it in involves time. It’s stopping and thinking about it. It’s about the importance of doing something with the privilege of being alive.

And I say that here because, like many of you I think, the idea of “contemplating those who are displaced by the wars...” was, at best, an abstract reality for me throughout the event. It was like there were the people in the room, who were solid, there were the people in my life, who were historical but readily visible, there was you all, who were a combination of the previous category, the imaginary, or the phantasmagoric, and then there was.... a kind of ether, or some kind of stretched out, cloud like, spacey fuzz like when you see pictures of far away galaxies. I had guestbooks that people could write into during the event and I got so many extraordinary, beautiful responses from people. One of those responses was quite critical, and it has really resonated for me, was already resonating for me before I even did foi, I think... it said “Can we do something more besides lament?”

Of course this question has stayed with me. But I think I’m really in tune with what Kyli said here about the complexity of war and about there needing to be a “baseline shift.” This is an idea that interests me, one that rubs up or hits against a mode of being in the world that is about “reaction” to an existing perception of reality. I often find that “reacting” to things just leaves me enslaved to those things still. Am I revealing myself to be terribly naïve here? I don’t know. When people say things like “War is an inevitable part of life,” and then they point to history to demonstrate how it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, I can’t help but think to myself, REALLY? Have we really, as individuals, as a group, tapped into our total power as spiritual beings, as thinking bodies? Have we exhausted compassion? Have we been blind to other, parallel histories that have been developing at the same time? I see examples of thoughtful, compassionate living all of the time: The way my relationship with my parents has changed over the last 20 years since I came out to them, the way that I am able to listen compared to ten years ago, the way a group of people of all different backgrounds can sit in a classroom and argue, or at a meeting, not interested in hurting each other but instead able to unite around a common interest or purpose. I live in New York, for god’s sakes, a combination of short fuses to be sure, but also a petrie dish of incredible tolerance. I know these are really really small things, that they are all entrenched within the complexity of their own circumstances and histories, but I am encouraged by them. I am interested in the way the body itself is an ever shifting topography of violence and reconciliation, of separation and integration. I mean, fuck, I don’t think I would have stayed interested in a body-based art form for this long if I didn’t have this interest. I like the thickness, and the changing nature of what bodies do and signify.

The day after foi, I woke up and felt amazingly good and peaceful. And then I tried getting up and was so very sore and heavy. But then I drank some water, had breakfast, started doing things in my apartment and my body began to be more fluid. I started cleaning my desk (a Sisyphean task if there ever was one) and I have never felt so intentional IN MY LIFE. I moved one thing at a time to its clear place. I finished one thing before I did the next. It all moved along easily. I listened to music, I think, and I went on with the next task. Maybe this is what people who are Virgos, or just really calm, feel like all the time. But wow that is so not my reality very much. It was extraordinary. All throughout the next few days, even into today, there have been waxing/waning levels of this intentionality, in ways that are surprising, profound. It was incredible to feel, “well now I should do this. And no I shouldn’t do that...” and so on. Granted, this intentionality has already seen its path thwarted, re-directed.. But.. it’s okay. I felt that, too, during foi. During one extraordinary moment, the voice in my head kept saying: It’s all right. It’s all right. Again, nothing the Buddhists haven’t been telling us for years, but I needed to hear the voice myself.

I think to myself: What happens now? There are so many directions to go with this, if I (or we) want.

I wonder how people would feel about me posting their pre/post emails about the event onto the blog.

I wonder if any of you video taped some of your event and if you’d be willing to send me, as soon as you could, a dvd or some amount of that footage, even just in an email if you know how to do that...

I wonder how I am going to do this again in 2 and a half weeks as part of a festival in berlin. During foi and shortly after I first thought, oh no, I can’t possibly do this again. But then over the weekend it hit me, no, I CAN do it again, and in fact, I SHOULD do it again. You don’t meditate only once a year. It’s a practice. If I try to imagine that that event will be like last week’s, well no way could I do it. But if I try to approach it as another practice of compassion, another attempt to stay awake to turbulence of my continually-seeking-full-actualization body, then I think I’m okay. If some of you are able to get footage to me soon, I’d love to show some of that during the event in Berlin. This is an idea that is still developing and I haven’t fully figured it out... It might be better for me to just keep it simple there, though.

I wish I had a couple thousand dollars so that I could bring us all together, for real, into one room where we could meet and talk and, well, sure, dance.

I want to understand more about the world. I want to use this action as a platform for keeping my eyes and ears and heart open to the difficulties within and beyond my immediate reach.

I feel so humbled by this event. I feel so humbled knowing you participated in it. I feel lucky that my life is different now.

with love and respect

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