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Lions Roar : March 2014
my mind, a sacrilege comparable to cas- tration. You were given the power to love in order to use it, no matter what pain it may cause you.” For me, public speaking is pain, because I have stage fright. But in my mind, for an audience to have to sit through the reading of something already written, often years earlier, is like diners being force-fed already digested meals. So I try to come up with something interac- tive when I tour in support of my books. For my book on Yoko Ono, Reaching Out with No Hands, I traveled up the West Coast attempting what may have been the world’s first conceptual-art cover band. The audience and I reenacted some of Yoko’s pieces, or “instructional poems”— as made famous in her 1964 book, Grape- fruit, whose sequel, Acorn, appeared just last year—along with her film Up Your Legs Forever. Her “Wall Piece” consisted, in entirety, of this instruction: “Hit a wall with your head.” So at a club in Oakland, I told the crowd, “Hit a wall with your head.” Nothing happened. People went on talk- ing, drinking, and waiting for the show to begin. I didn’t mind. If ignoring me was what they did with it, then that would be the show. Then one girl said, “Okay.” She bashed her head really hard into the wall, slowly and deliberately, maybe five times. She looked all starry-eyed after and she was smiling. She said, “ That felt good.” I’d never hit a wall with my head, either. This wall was cement. I touched my forehead to it hesitantly. Then harder. It did feel good! It felt con- centrated. I felt everything right there at the top of my face and nowhere else in my body, as if all sensation had drained upward. It was cool. I had a tender feel- ing; I felt fragility. Most of the time you don’t feel your head and face. You see out of them, so you can’t see them—only images or reflections of them. We have such a floaty life, gelatinous. If there is no boundary between self and universe, as some practices or philosophies conclude, then what do we even have these bodies for? The sudden contact of head to wall delineates it. It is a uniquely satisfying sensation. Next, a Harvard-educated attorney said, “I’ll do it.” That was a precious brain she was bashing! Her boyfriend said, “No, thank you. I’m good” and remained in the semi-dark on the club’s couch with his un-throbbing head. It was like any other night for him. Up and down California on that tour, people hit their heads, “watched” a cho- reographed dance in total darkness, and walked on treadmills naked. Or didn’t— and had the experience of being the one who would not take off their clothes, and having that feeling. Some remarked that it was their first time being naked as an adult around other adults without having sex. It’s kind of strange how steadfastly we cling to covering. We spend so much money and time and heartache focusing on this body, changing it, starving it, operating on it. We hide and abuse it, allowing our shame to keep us from simple things we feel like doing, like go swimming or dance funny, because someone might get a glimpse of us, of our underneath; someone might not like this body. But who are these someones? When people got naked on my “Ono covers” tour, nothing happened. Nobody reacted. I was really curious and wanted to ask the naked people what it felt like, how they saw it. I’m a journalist and I probe. But Yoko never does that, so I never did that, all tour long. It hurt me to not ask. Finally, at the next-to-last show, I real- ized that asking others about their expe- rience, their perceptions, was how I pro- tect myself from immersion (and fear of drowning) in my own. Journalism had provided me with the sensation of being in control of the situation; if I was feed- ing on and exploiting information, that meant I must not be filling the only other role I’d known: that of the exploited. That winter in California, forced by my own choosing out of what was com- fortable for me, I got to experience what it feels like to stay in my own skin. It felt pretty cool. Thank you, Yoko. ♦ Fine handcraFted buddhist statues Je Tsongkhapa, Losang Dragpa Hand Made Copper Statue 9” Earth-friendly tees and hats for men, women and kids. Choose from several messages and designs. 50% of profits go to organizations teaching children the power of compassion. sohaclothing.com make a statement. make a difference. SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 68