If you have watched Friends, you’d probably remember this scene when Rachel falls off her balcony while taking out the Christmas lights and hangs outside Mr. Heckles’ window.
In this freeze frame, what struck me most was Mr.Heckles’ state of relaxation. I felt, as always, wistful. I have not put my legs up and relaxed either in mind and body in years, if ever. It’s not that I don’t. It’s that I can’t.
I have always been a restless person. Teachers in my convent school called me names like “jumping jack”, “spring seat” etc. Even now, as I sit typing this article, my toes clench and unclench rhythmically, and I alternate between cross-legged sitting (I have a floor table) and Japanese seiza every one minute. “Spring seat” fits me perfectly because I can’t sit still for two minutes before jumping up like the spring under my butt expanded. I have broken two computer chairs in the past five years because of my physical restlessness – another reason for choosing a floor table to work – one can’t break a floor, I hope. I can’t stand, I must move all the time. Even in sleep, I can’t stay still – I toss and turn so much that I wake up with more body ache than I had when I went to bed.
The mind is ten times more restless. The only time my mind is stable is when I am writing. Thankfully, I am a writer by profession – did I choose the profession subconsciously because of the brief respite writing affords me from my relentless agitation, or was it lucky coincidence?
I have tried meditation. I cannot meditate. If I force myself to sit still for anything more than 2 minutes, my body feels like it would explode. I try focusing on my breath as I am taught to. Yeah right.
I am currently reading a text book on Ayurvedic principles and finally understand why I could be the way I am. All human beings, according to Ayurveda, are a combination of three elements – air (vata), fire (pitta) and kapha (earth). Those ruled by Vata – air must move. Stillness is unnatural to them. And when the air element is disturbed (as it seems to be for me in recent times), they are a veritable tempest – both in body and mind. The text also prescribes that the way for people like us to meditate is to not force stillness but use movement as an ally – to roll a rosary as the mind repeats a word or phrase – a mantra.
When I was 13 and my mom had just died, my dad hired a yoga-meditation coach for me. I was a disturbed teen at that time, and like all teenage pricks, didn’t take the coach seriously – I was disinterested in the class, and dropped it altogether in a couple of months. But there was something he said then that I remember now – he taught me a one-word chant and said “your mind is like a mad elephant – the more you restrain it, the more damage it would cause. The best way to treat it is let it roam freely but around the pivot of the one word”.
In my adolescent arrogance, it didn’t make sense to me. Now I wonder if he was right. I remember the one-word that I was supposed to pivot my thoughts around. Perhaps I should try it.
As for the Heckles pose, I had better reconcile to the fact that I would never ever be able to relax in body or mind like that. And that it’s ok.