body talk 7

man ray

I stumbled across this quote by Eckhart Tolle the other day: “When you no longer believe everything you think, you become aware and realize that the thinker is not who you are.” I feel both liberated and banished by this idea. If I’m not the person thinking this thought then where does that leave me? Suddenly, I’m standing outside myself in some unimagined place that has never been seen or mapped or described before, a somewhere that looks like nowhere, observing from a distance like a ghost or a shadow or an audience member. It must be dark out there. Are there walls? Is there a floor? Am I alone?

In other words, after 46 years, I no longer believe everything I think or feel.

By now you have probably noticed that I use the term “body talk” loosely to include bag full of notions: “body talk” is my aches, pains, paranoias, symptoms, mark rydensubconsciousness, instincts, and impulses. I know, it’s a mess. If I were spiritual I’d call it spirit, or if I were an academic like my friend Rich Doyle, I would probably call it “ecstatically embodied implicate orders” or what my uncle Ned Block, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at NYU, terms “phenomenal consciousness.” Uncle Ned would probably say it’s all in my head, it has nothing to do with the rest of my body at all. But let’s agree I am thinking like a poet, not a professor, when I say that my body knows things I don’t. If I spend too much time defining terms I’ll be stymied by precision, I’ll lose focus and forget what I was trying to say. I might even have to abandon the whole trip because it doesn’t add up. It’s ineffable. So please forgive my transgression, sit back, and listen to the story.

I’m thinking about the things I’ve done because I didn’t stop myself, the many times I didn’t listen to rational fears or common sense and instead, allowed some illogical, unsentimental, ruffian part of me to take over. I’m talking about stepping outside of the so-called box (although I cringe to use this cliché. Let’s call it a picture instead.) If “the thinker is not who you are” and you no longer believe everything you feel, where does that take you? Strange places.

magritte eyeIn elementary school, I invented a game of creek walking. After school let out, I’d wander across the street to Old Mill Park where instead of playing on the swings or jungle gym, I’d walk down to the creek, pull on the pair of ratty shoes I kept in my backpack, and start walking downstream. I didn’t walk along the water, I’d walk in it, scrabbling from rock to mossy rock, balancing myself on stone walls and overhanging branches, sending the crawdads and minnows and water skeeters skittering in front of me. It ran through the town, under streets, and through neighborhoods. The creek was no-mans-land and I walked where no one had walked before, through sections clotted with bushes, under people’s houses and along the neglected edges of their gardens, lulled into a trance by the soft plunk and shhh of my progress, my pants by then soaked and heavy, walked so long I became one with the water, a water creature, a wild thing in a cold, mossy underworld littered with broken glass and ancient bits of rusty detritus.

Mind: Why would you do that? It makes no sense at all. What’s wrong with using the sidewalk?

Body: You could have gotten hurt. Or sick. Or caught a cold. Giardia. Tetanus. Slip on a rock and drown in the water. They’d never find you.

Mind: Harebrained. Like the time you spent three days and two nights alone in Death Valley without food. 15-year-olds should be at home, not traipsing around in the desert in their underwear.

Body: What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have a death wish?

Mind: You say rites of passage, I say ship of fools.

Body: At least she wore the underwear that time. Remember the time she posed nude for that magazine? I have never felt more exposed in my life.

Mind: Rhymes with Fauntleroy, killjoy, Helen of Troy, and could you please shut up? I’m trying to pretend that never happened.

Body: Or the time she I took a trip around the world by herself. Throw yourself off a tall building, why don’t you, it’d be much quicker.

Mind: Speaking of suicide, what kind of numbskull chooses to write? There’s no money, appreciation, or power in writing. Paper airplanes make more sense.

Body: My tailbone hurts. I have carpal tunnel. Get up and do something, for god’s sake.

Mind: And by the way, intelligent women don’t have to have children these days, you know. Motherhood is so regressive, so anti-intellectual. You don’t have to think with your vagina.

Body: I resent that remark. If I had anything to say about it, we’d have adopted. Besides, you of all things should know better than to bad-mouth the vagina. I wonder what she’d have to say in her defense.

Mind: Okay, you’re right. Let’s leave her out of this.

I wish I could say I acted with intelligence and courage, but I didn’t. Looking back, it seems that the choices that made no sense were the ones that transformed me; senseless steps were the ones that took me somewhere provocative, towards something I didn’t know I needed.

When I forget myself, step out, and keep going, that’s when I can turn around and see the bigger picture.

tous magritte

This is the 7th entry of my series called “body talk.” To read more, go to  my home page to select.

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

20 comments

  1. I wouldn’t worry ’bout it none, though
    They’re dreams and they’re only in your head.

  2. macdougalstreetbaby

    First off, let me say what good writing this is. I particularly like the dialogue between mind and body. Your passage about creek walking is gorgeous. Really, really good.

    Okay, onto Uncle Ned. I wish I had the chops to talk consciousness. I will say I have always liked the term “phenomena.” The decisions I make could be filed in that camp, no question.

  3. Your words are cathartic, consistently laden with this dense and uncanny momentum of being. Like a literal extension of you. I like that.

    46? Preposterous. I had you pegged for 30.

    • Brandy! Thanks for your comment– sometimes I wonder if I’ve written myself out onto a plank, or into a dark corner, and I have no idea if I’ve communicated anything. Do you ever do that? (I’m all 46, girlfriend. I love your new gravatar!)

      • Funny you should mention that. Six months ago when I began blogging I came into the thing head first, crashing down, unexpectedly creating quite a seeming stir. Met intense and beautiful people. Had many meaningful exchanges daily. Saw a swift uptake in followers. Wrote intentionally, from the heart, bleeding my soul out as if someone slit my jugular.

        It was powerful and swept me off my feet.

        Recently I’ve receded into a deep and lonely lagoon in which my hemorrhaging has ceased, and the thoughts flow from a less specific, less audience-contentious place. The result has me disappointed — I didn’t realize I still cared so much about engagement where I currently am emotionally — but I suppose that fire still burns. In time I guess it will balance out, when I’m doing less public journaling and more ‘engaging’… But to answer your question, yes. I totally do that.

        • audience-conscientious 🙂 …sorry, I blog from my phone

          • Only six months? I pegged you for a veteran.

            I guess maybe it goes in waves like that. When I started blogging, it was intense (for me, at least, since I had no readers), then I lost focus, then I got a second wind. For me, the topics I feel most attached to are not necessarily the crowd-pleasers, and when I share those things, I always feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t know if my discomfort is a sign that I should stick to more popular subjects or that I’m pushing myself/growing somehow and I should stick with it. Who knows.

  4. I love that part, of you as a child creek walking – it reads like a meditation. In fact, the whole piece has so many layers it makes me need to stop and meditate a while…

  5. This business of not being what or who you think is RIGHT ON. When you become untethered, and look down at your body as merely an extension of your soul, living in a particular time & place, you become free to slowly uncover the real you. I am sure of this. For me, it was the beginning of, well, EVERYTHING.

  6. I am still a creek walker. On a warm, lazy day, I would rather walk a creek than do almost anything else. When you walk a creek you move with the water and shape of the land. You know where you came from and where you are going, but nobody made the road, only water and time.
    There are places on streams where the water makes music, and I can sit and dream for hours without much need to think or do anything.

  7. Anna, I love this! (Gosh, I was creek walking yesterday, and the day before that, and…)
    I must tell you that I find your writing incredibly inspiring.
    This series makes me think about how our DNA might be full of things we don’t know about. Like when someone has a brain injury/rewiring and then suddenly they play the piano like masters (and they never played before). What is held in our bodies we don’t know about? It’s sort of thrilling to think about.

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