As a toddler, I used to doodle squiggly lines, and I remember thinking, "Hmm! Even if I tried really hard I could never draw that exact same line ever again." In a rugged, elementary way, this is the meaning of Vessel.
Within the past few years, the term vessel has crystalized into a personal philosophical staple meaning literally and figuratively everything to me. It is the way I view the connection we each have with ourselves, our partner, our communities, the world (nature and it's cultures), and the universe as a whole. When connecting the concept to the practice of yoga and taiji, is it the way we allow our minds and bodies to become 'vessels' that carry our memories and perceptions while simultaneously and continuously opening ourselves up to new experiences, sensations, and possibilities; becoming a vessel, a container, a conduit for energy and breath to move throughout the layers of our being in every moment.
When I started seeing the practice in this way, it effortlessly seeped into my daily life, and I began to see things I previously would have overlooked.
There is an abundance constantly surrounding us - if you are still, if you listen and feel the space within and around you, you come in direct contact with this vastness; a vastness from which you can not be separated. We are entwined with it and enveloped by it. That's why we hear so many philosophies convey that there's no need to search, it's right where you're sitting. Which, I understand, can feel scary or overwhelming - like there's an eye on you.
I used to take highway 36 when I was going to school in Boulder and every morning there would be bumper-to-bumper traffic, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the view of the mountains. One morning, I was gazing contemplatively at the Flatirons as I was waiting for movement in the flow and I had this feeling that as I was observing the mountains, they were observing me. I felt watched. They didn't grow eyes and gawk at me, but I truly felt that I was part of their experience and that they were part of mine. In that simple way, I felt a bond, this inexplicable connection that went to the core. It included everything; the mountains, the roads, the university, the people on the road, the flow itself... The rest of the commute, I felt hyperaware of the connection I had with those who were sharing the morning drive with me, and I had a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of it all.
Experiences, passions, and paths choose us just as much as we choose them; it's a sort of agreement, a partnership that requires love and tending, "Love or the lack of it" as Mr. Rogers would say. Whatever we do in this world, there is a message coming through each of us via collaboration with our internal and external worlds. We are each a vessel allotted the phenomena of experience and the ability to be experienced.
You've, undoubtedly, felt this ineffable essence move through you or have witnessed it move through someone by means of any medium. When we allow ourselves to connect with and wholeheartedly give ourselves over to anything, we feel it. We become a vessel, and it becomes part of us. When we dance to live music or when listening to someone who has finely honed their skill and style with an instrument. When witnessing love, or any true feeling that flows through us or others. When we cry, laugh, practice empathy. When we connect to our breath, our heart, our innermost selves. If you intimately connect with this world in any way, you have felt this sense of divinity move with and through you.
You've felt this sense of divinity as you.
These short-lived moments, whether mundane or sensational, are all fundamentally special. Even when we record, photograph, or perfectly document a moment, there is something that disappears along the way. The magic, the action, the reality. In concentration with taiji and yoga practice, feeling ourselves as a vessel is embodied when we allow ourselves to observe the push and pull of polarity while maintaining an inner equilibrium and awareness that is constant. No matter how many photographs or videos someone takes of a yoga or taiji pose, sequence, or form, that which is not captured is the essence of the practice; the prana (life force), qi (energy), intention, and all the internalized goodies. Jackson Pollock said of his work, "Energy and motion made visible - memories arrested in space." These moments, pieces of art, and postures, are like the squiggly lines I would draw that simply cannot be recreated exactly the same. They may be extremely meaningful or seemingly meaningless, but nevertheless, they are completely original and an honor to behold.