There’s a class that I teach called Body, Mind, Spirit. Pretty funny, actually, to call it that but I couldn’t name the course what it really is: Integral Transformative Practice. I mean, nobody knows what that is, right? And what would that look like on a university transcript? But Body, Mind, Spirit is a reasonable offering in a Comparative Religious Studies Program.
But why mention it here?
The course is entirely experiential. The goal is to develop a practice in ‘the cultivation of an extraordinary capacity.’ That’s what we called it in the original experiment that I participated in. The original ITP was inaugurated by Michael Murphy and George Leonard. I participated in the first three cycles (i.e. three years) of the experiment. After that, the whole thing became a practice of the kata, meditation, exercise, and meetings, and left the original experiment behind. My BMS class sticks to the original experiment as closely as possible, given the time constraints of a single semester.
During the original ITP and during each and every BMS course that I give, something happens about halfway through the cycle. Participants for the most part lose their practice. They fall off the wagon, for lack of a better phrase.
And so, in our kaddish practice (if I may call it that) I am not surprised and I fully anticipated that a time would come when our own enthusiasm, commitment, and practice would waver, wobble, falter, and fall.
So, okay, we’ve done better than expected so far. We’re about three quarters of the way through the year. So, that’s not so bad. I think Erin’s held it together better than I have, despite her domestic woes. But she is, after all, a musician—and musicians know how to practice.
I, on the other hand, am completely out of practice.
So. In the Body, Mind, Spirit class (RelS 123) this is the turning point. And the point at which we begin to see who just wavers, wobbles, and falls—and who picks themselves up and starts running again. It’s that latter thing that makes all the difference. Anybody can have a good start. But how many people can climb back out of a major slump?
Confession: It is now four days that I have not (as contracted) listened to Erin’s Kogan’s Kaddish. Four days! And I can’t bring myself to do it. Whether this is because my old anti-music mode is fighting back with force, or whether this is the natural progression of our project, I just don’t know.
Furthermore, I’ve stopped writing my tzaddik stories. And this is not for lack of stories to tell. I don’t know what’s happened. I just know that I’ve stopped. Why? I just don’t know.
Previously, I considered that when it comes to the kaddish that perhaps this falling apart of the practice was actually functional. Which right now is sounding like just another very good excuse. Or maybe it’s accurate, I just don’t know.
Is the Mourner’s Kaddish just like any other practice?
When you get just plain sick of it, is that a good sign or a bad one?
This feels like a critical moment in our project. If it were a race, I sit down and take the pebbles out of my running shoes right about now. Whereas, in the past—I’ve always just kept running despite the pain. And then come to a halt at the end and chucked the shoes and there went the practice, down the drain soon after.
New ideas—easy. Follow through—a whole lot tougher.
I’m finding myself longing for something new. New puppy. New exercise machine. New courses to teach.
What I’ve learned from ITP and my own Body, Mind, Spirit class is that the path to any ‘new me’ is through practice. Through follow through. And not through starting a new project.
So. Here is the test, in these last few months, of the integrity of my own kaddish practice. Wobble, falter, and fall — or pick myself up, dust myself off, and pull it together?
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
That’s the expression I believe.
But I don’t believe it. Time for less play. Time to get back to work.
Or is sloughing off on the kaddish entirely functional? Our kaddish in two-part harmony project feels very much like the ITP experiment that we did. The question is, have we been cultivating something extraordinary here and is our kaddish something healing?
Maybe by the time of our Yahrtzeit in November I’ll have figured this one out.