Athletics: The New Asceticism ? Reflection #5: Mystery Measured in Feet

The life I seek is?..

Not a concept but an existence.

Not a belief but a practice.

Not an idea but an exercise.

Not a thought but a do.

Not a theory but a dance.

– Amanda Storywarrior (1)

What is the life I seek?

Why am I here?

What is my special purpose?

What personally connects me with this moment in history?

At age 14, sitting in a seminar at the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago a long,?long time ago, the teacher at the front of the room asked the question,??What grounds you in history??

At that formative age, I did not fully grasp, or even slightly grasp, the nature?of the question. Nor did I grasp that I would spend the next 50 years?attempting to find my personal resolution. Today, much older, I have finally?discovered the answer.

I have spent most of my life searching for a cause that was big enough to?encompass my boundless passion, consuming interest, daily focus, and?obsessive attention. I have considered eradicating poverty, eliminating?hunger, ending illiteracy, creating social justice, establishing world peace,?and many other worthy causes.

I sought a cause; a cause that might justify my existence in this world; a?cause that might deliver purpose to my life; a cause bigger than myself; a?cause that might save me from a meaninglessness existence; a cause that?might make sense of my life expenditure. The human community promotes a?smorgasbord of meaning options for consideration: family, friends, romance,?children, pets, money, power, politics, social status, education, career,?influence, popularity, and 1000 forms of consumption.

Certainly there must be some human cause that might provide ultimate?meaning to my finite journey? Over the decades, I have successfully?experienced many great causes, institutions, and charismatic leaders. Each?finite attempt to give some meaning ended in the same place: emptiness.

Today it is popular in the human family to be an ?environmentalist.? The?environment, appropriately, is a meaningful and consuming cause for many,?including me. However, it is not enough. It is not enough even though our?failure to address this cause may result in our collective demise. Even the?cause of saving the environment is incapable of satisfying the deeper hunger?pre-programmed into the heart of every fully awakened being.

As an aging athlete and a relatively new tennis player, I was recently?surprised while standing on the tennis court and listening to a high school?coach on the next court instructing his young student in the Great Secret of?the game. I strained to overhear the instruction. ?Tennis is not about your?hands or your arms or your shoulders or your head or your wrist or your?core. No. Tennis is about the feet!?

This insight contradicted every intuitive thought about the game of tennis I?was attempting to learn. To consider that this game played ?in the air? was?actually about my feet was a radical concept. This awareness began a?journey I am yet exploring.

Hand speed is an asset, but ask any athlete and they will tell you, it is?all about footwork.

– Sugar Ray Leonard (2)

If we extend this understanding of the feet as ?that which allows us to play?the game,? we begin to grasp the deep insight of ascetics throughout history.

Ascetics have always understood it is through the body that the game of life?is played. Yet, the game of life is not about the body. The body is the?necessary vehicle through which we might be delivered beyond the body.?This insight is nonsense unless we are willing to search deeply into the?paradox, and then it makes perfect sense.

As we move beyond the confines of the body through asceticism or athletics?played-in- depth, we can begin to touch the deep places. It is the body that?grounds me in history, and specifically, it is the feet. Fifty years later I am?beginning to answer the question of ?what grounds me in history?? And?now I know! It is my feet!

I have discovered that which at some level I have always known: I am an?infinite actuality. This is my truth. I am a synthesis of In-finite Reality and?time and space and physicality. I am an infinite actuality. This synthesis is?revealed through intimacy with My Primary Relationship.

My feet ground me in history.

Contemporary popular teachers of deep things often assist students by?creating awareness that ?breath can only happen in the present.? Often this?instruction occurs while the student is sitting on a cushion. Thus, by?focusing on the breath one might practice ?mindfulness? and presence. This?certainly is true. However, it is perhaps a deeper exercise to practice?focusing one?s attention on the feet. The feet can also only be in ?the?present,? only in ?the now.? I cannot experience my feet as a past or future?tense; only right now. As well, the value of the feet is that they are a whole?lot further from the head than the breath or the butt! And?.these feet might?find a path to serve the boundless suffering and messy finite needs of the?human community. The feet rest upon the ground. The feet rest upon the?Earth.

It is my feet that ground me in history!

Today the finite footprints of my feet explore an In-finite Shore.

It is this step, this step right now, that grounds me in actuality; that grounds?me in history.

Are you massaging our Mother Earth every time your foot touches?her? Are you planting seeds of joy and peace? ?Peace is every step.

– Thich Nhat Hanh (3)

If I can infuse the Infinite into my walking in this world, everything I touch?has the possibility of transformation, because only the Infinite transforms. ?The finite cannot transform the finite. Only the Infinite finally gives?meaning to the finite struggle of human history.

I see the universe as an infinite number of patterns that whirl and?dance around a still center.?? I imitate the celestial circular motions?and partake in a timeless cosmic dance.? I experience reality as order?around a center.? I dance to find my centered still point.? My dance?gives meaning to life. ??- Jena Marcovicci (4)

(1) Storywarrior, Amanda, ?Kierkegaard Actuality Reflections,? (unpublished) Interior Mythos Journeys,?Bloomington, IN, 2016.

(2) YouTube Sketchers Commercial, 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCqlQQZuXEA

(3) Hanh, Thich Nhat, Peace Is Every Step, New York, NY, Bantam Books: 1992, p 91.

(4) Personalized Affirmation adapted from: Marcovicci, Jena, The Dance of Tennis, Richmond, MA,?1986: p 11.

One thought on “Athletics: The New Asceticism ? Reflection #5: Mystery Measured in Feet”

  1. Michael, thank you for this new awareness of my feet!

    And I really appreciate your comment that the environmental cause ?won?t satisfy the deeper hunger pre-programmed into the heart of every fully awakened being.?

    I have often wondered if the human family might take better care of our planet if we practiced relating to the Earth as as infused with Ultimate Reality. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, ?Are you massaging Mother Earth every time your foot touches her??

    We can chose to practice a relationship of environmentalism that acknowledges the Ultimate Presence in the light streaming through the trees, in the shadows playing off grass, in the waves crashing against the shore.

    When we see the Mystery in all things and in no thing, both our experience of existence and our relationship to our planet is transformed. It begins with giving credit where credit is due!

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