Hatha signifies simultaneous stillness and movement, activity and receptivity, masculinity and femininity—it is the relation of the sun to the moon. As a powerful idea and a beautiful practice it brings together two opposing principles and two things seemingly separated. But, as my last piece (It Rests By Changing) essayed, when we find opposition or contrariness we should not be too quick to understand them in overly concrete and dimensionless terms: They actually belong to one another.
We can imagine everything as being originally connected. That is, in the beginning—or before the beginning—“all was one.” Then by some necessity or plan or accident (it doesn’t really matter which) the primal oneness became separated and difference(s) arose.
Here things got interesting: Difference became that which allowed the erotic lure of the universe to work upon us, to draw us towards and away, to hold us and release us. The universe became surging drives and complex paths, a cosmic chasm breathing darkness and colored lights and life. And once difference awoke the unchanging world stirred, and movement and stillness as such became possible.
—Aside from our mortality and capacity for an interior life, I would argue that difference signals our most true human condition.
In any event, following this vision of the world and of our own being, the space that exists between us becomes more meaningful than problematic. Thanks to separation and difference we have room for ourselves. Space opens up between us and allows us to become who we are, to become our very own being.
Yet, thankfully, we are not alone. We abide together by breathing in and out the great and small distances between us.
If we align ourselves to this narrative we no longer have to worry about returning to some static state of changelessness, nor fear some inverted curve that ever tosses us about without hope for ground: Being separated and different allows for the space between us, and it gives us the opportunity to share and make gifts of ourselves to each other.
Here, having talked about the space between us, I wish to introduce the notion of conspiracy.
The philosopher, priest, and critic, Ivan Illich, led an amazing life. He also offered brilliant and touching insights into the workings of the world and the soul. One such offering was a rethinking of conspiracy. He traced it back to the Latin conspiriatio, which literally means a “commingling of breaths” or a “breathing together.” It implies union and agreement (—only later would the meaning twist to convey something about secret plots with nefarious intentions).
Ivan’s purpose in recovering original conspiracy was to show how a group of people from different backgrounds and unlike walks of life could come together as a community. All of the necessary separation that we experience—from one another, the world, ourselves—is breathed in and out. It is embraced and let go in practiced breathing.
When we breathe together intentionally we recreate and recall a primal bond of air.
We are bound and sustained by the spaces separating us. Yet it is also the great gulf into which we confidently proceed, the distance between here and that far-off horizon by which we live life as such.
My hope, which I believe Ivan would have shared, is that when we take time to practice Hatha with others a space of intentional co-breathing manifests. In this shared space of respiration—this space of conspiring—we can purposefully be together, we can intentionally linger and practice awhile with one another. And we can do this without ever being subsumed into sameness or homogeneity. In fact, through such radical sharing and acceptance we more fully become ourselves.
In truth, by embracing what separates us—by breathing in that space between and letting it go—we can experience who we really are: Beings of breath. In so embracing this elemental way of being, we realize that we relationally constitute those around us, as they do us as well.
—Consider the conspiracy of your practice.