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When he was in his late fifties, my father often pointed to elderly people on the street as the very example of what he did not wish to be. In his youth he had been an outstanding athlete, captain of the Harvard football team and on the verge of signing with the Cleveland Browns when an injury on the field cut short his dream. He was also a brilliant man with a zest for news and knowledge. Maybe as he approached late middle age, he could not face the prospect of his athlete’s body turning feeble and frail or his bright brain growing dim. All I know is that he escaped dementia and physical decrepitude by dying of heart failure at age 65. I was with him when he died. I was almost 40 and only just beginning to understand what growing older might mean. Now I am nearly the age my father was when he escaped longevity. All I know is that I want to live to be 100. And beyond.

The Liberating Sprawl

June 28, 2014 – 6:17 pm |

Cat Mid Air

If you live in a cold climate, you probably know the pleasure of diving under a jumble of blankets to warm yourself or to curl up with a loved one or simply experience your own body, turf and soul as snug, sheltered and serene.

Regardless of where you live, you probably remember the childhood stunt of scooching down under the covers with a book and a flashlight and disappearing into a shadowy nook of delinquency and delight.

And no matter who you are, there must be days that drive you directly under the covers when you get home, a retreat that leaves you in some variation of the fetal position, where you contemplate remaining forever in a damp sweat of self-pity, dejection and irrevocable loss of confidence.

These are circles we make with our bodies, each withdrawal a personification of the desire to purr like a sleeping cat curled complacently in on itself. And they are good. But you must not forget the opposite inclination, the desire to fan out, to plump down on your bed, or any suitably sized flat surface, and abandon yourself to a big fat liberating sprawl.

It’s better to do it when no one else is around, not necessary, just better, because this is all about you, your body and the ceiling. And nobody else. What is necessary is to lie flat on your back and be completely naked so that every part and pore of you draws breath while your body opens up and out, with arms and legs lightly but lengthily flung in four directions.

This is not a closed off or compact time-out from life. This is expansion, pride, power. As a woman, I envy that men can walk shirtless outside. I envy the woman who is so confident in her body that she will wear as little as legally possible. The liberating sprawl gives me something of that sense of ease and thrill in my physical reality.

This is my chance to display all of me, even if it’s only to the ceiling. Perhaps it feels so refreshing because it is only to the ceiling. There’s no one there to react, no interaction or judgment, no push and no pull. It’s just me, spread out, as is.

It’s your chance to listen. Your body talks. If you know how to listen.

Things might take an erotic turn and could lead to masturbation and that’s fine, but then you are masturbating; you are no longer practicing or experiencing the liberating sprawl. And it’s no fair picking up a book, magazine, tablet or phone. It has to be just you. Just you lazing and basking in your body, releasing life stress through your fingers and toes and all unblocked openings – releasing toxic energy, tingles, adrenaline, gas – while you sink and keep on sinking into a state of exquisite simplicity and surrender, just breathing, just being. You are exposed but unseen, transparent, letting go.

Imagine your whole body smiling up at the ceiling. Here I am, you say. Just as I am. This is me, nobody else. Just me.

Who are you talking to? God. Your higher self. Your inner child. Your ex. Who am I talking to? My mother, perhaps, father, brother. Anyone who ignored or shamed my body because it wasn’t perfect, anyone shaming it now because it has aged.

If you can manage to do this outside, if you can turn your naked, flawed body into a big broad smile at the wide-open sky, you are gold.

Here I am. Just as I am. It may be I am speaking to no one at all. No one is listening, nobody cares. Yet here I am, even so.

 

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