I have a situation. I get into the zone a little too literally. Spaces impact my identity in drastic ways.
If I’m in a closed room, it impacts the way I think, hold my body and feel by the end of the day. If I’m sitting at my desk the whole day, juggling typing and reading, it affects me another way.
Most intriguingly, say I walk away from this closed room or myopic desk, and decide to take a walk on the streets outside, the park maybe or a busy market alley, it would take me at least an hour to get in sync with the world outside.
Over the course of many years, I have come to realise this happens because I was too involved or engrossed in my present situation and failed to realign myself when that situation changed – drastically in a short span of time (flights make me feel the same way).
I first noticed this in 1998. Back then, I would be preoccupied with a confusion – where do I keep my hands?
What is this, you think? A disconnect of the body and mind from the public space? Or is it just what happens to all daydreamers and freelancers?
Walking out of the gully, trying to make up my mind as to how I should behave today. What’s my mood? Am I in a jovial mood, and thus, smile at everyone? Am I smiling a little too much? How long should you look at a passerby before it starts to get weird? And how long should you let someone look at you before you frown? Once I remember walking back from school I had this strange thought, why do ears and noses jut out of our faces like this?
These are trivial questions. Where should I keep my hand! These are everyday situations, and it’s bizarre to align yourself like this on a daily basis, or every time you access the public space. But so many factors come together in this context.
Like body posture.
I felt awkward with my arms flaying about me because my shoulders were tense and my body was not anchored to the ground properly. It’s a defense reaction when you feel uncomfortable with your surroundings. I was not drawing enough strength from the ground. Not depending on it enough. I was walking too fast and too light. I have now started walking consciously, using the strength of the ground to propel me further. It helps me feel more grounded and present.
None of this impacts me when I’m on the road for a long stretch of time – a field day or while traveling. In fact, the more I’m out there, the chaotic world of the streets claims me. I’m in sync with the various happenings all around me. I know that guy is going to turn left, and that scooter will slow down to look for parking. Ninja mode. But if I have not stepped out of the house for two days at a stretch, I am unprepared for the sensory explosion that the street is going to prove.
It will give me anxiety and anger issues. I will misconstrue a look to mean something else, I will bump around the thelawalas, slip on a loose rock and a variety of other things.
But lately, I’ve also stumbled upon a solution. An answer to this unholy divorce of the self from the public space – where the street becomes part of the body and mind; an extension. The individual unnoticeably merges with the public, and there’s no more telling who’s who. A collective existence. You can also say, I mute my brain.
You don’t need to buy it. It’s my own experiment. I don’t want to experience that one-hour buffer zone of confusion before my brain tells me it’s okay to be okay in public.
Where does it come from? I’m still unsure. How does it go away? By believing and trusting. A getting out of the comfort zone in true sense. To believe that this stream of people and vehicles will swim me through. That I am a part of this stream and not an external force.
Every time I get it right, it’s the most Sufi feeling. It’s hard to explain it. There’s a sense of euphoria coming from the unexpected comfort I feel on the streets. There’s a lot of confidence and faith because I can trust myself and trust others around me.
And there’s that challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone. Leaving behind the impact of the previous space to embrace the space that’s unfolding in the present moment. Like frame after frame of reality stitched together on an edit machine. Let the video play, stead of pausing every frame and scrutinizing it.
Also known as M-I-N-D-F-U-L-N-E-S-S. Watch your breath. No need to hold on to a particular breath. Just watch how the wind gets into your body, and then leaves without you making any extra effort. That this reality continues even when you fall asleep.
Walking out in the streets is somewhat similar. Reality unfolds here at a maddening pace. Just trust it and go with the flow; the streets will accept you for one of its own.
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