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The Experiment

In a casual phone conversation, I informed my mother that her thirty one year old daughter would be willingly embracing homelessness. She took the information in stride. Apparently, she’s grown used to this. Maybe she’s learned from experience that any attempts to deter me from a decided

course of action merely solidify my stubbornness. Perhaps, she’s grown confident that experiments such as these will bob and weave their short lived course, then peter out once I realize that it’s cold or hot or annoying or I’m hungry. Perhaps the fifteen year old barefoot and impetuous child that lives inside my mother’s chest, the one who remains thirsty for freedom and rebellious against imposed silences, recognizes me as her unrest incarnated. This unrest might be the wellspring of my beauty or the fuel that feeds my beast. It depends on who you ask.

While my mother will clearly view this as homelessness, I’ve instead adopted the term “transience.” Theoretically this life is just one big transition. Every time I think I’ve arrived at a place, a place that feels comfortable and satisfying, such as the home of my own body, I simultaneously begin mourning and celebrating its demise. I start seeing the symptoms of death in the creases in my shoulders. I hear it when I vocalize the word “no” or find pleasure in the something simple, such as sleep. Impermanence serves as both my coffin and my cradle.

The experiment sits like a box of questions, piled into my Buick with all the other items I couldn’t find the inclination to abdicate. I use the curve of a question mark as a ladle to sip nectar from the stream of curiosity. Just like the colored pencils that now live in a bin in my backseat, I use them to highlight the themes that seem important such as what happens when I relinquish my choke hold on control? What’s follows if I turn to uncertainty and say “Welcome, friend!” What would it feel like to surrender BEFORE it’s demanded of me? At what point does necessity become a ruse? In order to dance with these questions, I recently maneuvered a couch cushion into my Buick and began offering to house and dog sit for friends. Culturally, it appears like much is required in order to maintain an equilibrium. We assume we couldn’t possibly live without _______, but can we know this to be true without washing it out our system and observing the aftermath of its absence?

When I embarked on a five day backpacking adventure a good three years ago, the first few days were excruciatingly difficult, partially because the elevation was sickening and the act of walking with weight on my back dug divots into my hips and shoulders and stretched the soles of my feet . Yet, in addition to that, I’d willingly stuck myself in a circumstance where my most powerful addictions: cell phone usage, alcohol consumption, distraction, and feverish eating simply weren’t options. What does one do with one’s mind when what usually covers or consumes it becomes suddenly unattainable? Well, I’ll tell you. First, one freaks the fuck out. Then, one calms the fuck down.

In preparation for “The Transience Experiment, “ and in honor of the tenet of yogic tradition known as Aparigraha, a Sanskrit word translated as non-grasping, non-greediness, or non-attachment. I attempted (once again) to minimize my possessions. I tackled the project of purging in phases. In the first round, I attempted to get rid of the objects that I’d accumulated that had outgrown their usefulness. Then, I discarded objects I no longer loved.

In the final and most challenging wave, I leaned into letting go of even sentimental objects I still valued. The ones that hailed heavy with antiquated sentimentality. I parted with a pink and gold smeared canvas. The paint sends a message of merging as two circles link with one another, neither one quite perfect, glowing a darker gold at the center. This creates depth, like the midpoint was a place you could dive into leading me to ask the question when I unwrapped the gift, “Is this my vagina?” Javi, whose name is really Alex, but I refused to use his given name since “I already had one on those” laughed at my inquiry. He was still teaching me about intimacy but I was yet to embrace these merging circles. I wanted to be more like circles that ricocheted off one another or once in a while or cast each other adoring glances. He let me dance elusively, childishly, gracelessly around him for the span of year and he kept laughing, though perhaps not understanding, while I changed his name and changed the subject. One day the laughter turned to tears and I realized I did not yet know how to hold a lover’s pain, we hadn’t got to that point in the intimacy training. The flame that back lit the connection between the interwoven circles, that aspect that kept me bouncing into him, had snuffed out. His tears revealed that our time had run out as well. It didn’t seem kind to insert myself in his turmoil only to remove myself in the coming weeks. I had to tell the warm artist with chocolate skin that even my elusive love now dwindled, and so I did, but I kept the canvas for the next eight years.

I lit the edges of my most cherished vision board and stood watch and it smoldered into ash. It was merely a poster board pasted with images of the dreams I most wished to bring to fruition but I’d spent the entire first day of January of 2017 selecting and printing the perfect representations of my next phase of life. I’d selected excerpts of poetry, photos of women standing on mountain tops and at rock bases or being twirled in the rain or held in a joyful embrace. I interspersed handwritten locations and measurable quests across the board and for the next year and half, I checked and removed what I’d finished and replaced it with the next measurable step or rising passion. Yet as a student of the magical elements of life, reminders have recently flown at me that it’s okay, healthy even, if the person we’ve been dies, or if the images of who we thought we’d become perish. Furthermore, as I continue to investigate the incredible power of intent, I’ve repeatedly stumbled over this hitch: it isn’t until we release that we ever receive. Let it burn. Let’s start again.

Into the fire I tossed pieces of paper bearing notes and mantras I’d written to myself, and rocks and beach glass I’d collected in places or from people I adored, I re-gifted crystals and books to individuals who I knew would love them better than I. How long had a dragged from place to place emblems of relationships and time periods that have long since finished? Is any collection of words and illustrations too small a representation, and thus a limitation, on the explosion that is our lives? Clearly the joy had begun to bleed from these objects. Instead they cast the shadow of love and left me lunging into the darkness to try to touch the shade. Shade, however, cannot be touched, only felt. We cannot make the past tangible, nor can these trinkets.

I’ve frequently fled residences like one scrambles towards the exit of a cave when the earth rumbles, as though the walls and ceilings are crumbling and threatening captivity. This time however, I slowly meandered the white windowed rooms of our duplex, with it’s small garden, ballet bar, and high ceilings. I let my hand slide across the patched section of wall where my foot went through accidentally. I lingered in the hallway where Kat and I hung ridiculous attempts at artwork. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind chimes that serenaded my breakfasts. This was the place in which I had learned about contentment, serenity, and spontaneous exorcisms. This had been a home, perhaps more so than any other place I’ve ever lived.

Yet Aparigraha is a practice of accepting and releasing, absorbing and transcending, leaning in and letting it all (Yes, ALL.) ride on through. I have been told to hold things, people, and places lightly, to let life adapt inside the palm of my hand and watch it curiously, and to listen to the whispers of my heart before it’s forced to scream. Perhaps I can grow so open and watchful, that when the wise one nudges me and says “You’re ready,” I won’t sidestep the next opportunity or attempt to dodge the bullet of change. So the experiment continues and I continue to question whether a place to land and call “mine” is a necessity or an agreed upon illusion. Can I be at home inside the kindness and generosity of others? Can I feel at peace without having an assigned section of ground for the items I’ve dubbed unrelinquishable, like my body or my Buick? Can I cease chasing symbols and shadows? Can I consistently choose a city and still see with eyes of a traveler? Is my personal nature nomadic? Is this freedom? The impetuous and barefoot child then once lived inside my mother now sits on the dirty earth of my diaphragm and beats a drum. At least for now, my heart is her home.


Yogi Gone Rogue


Anika Spencer | San DIego, CA

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