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The Spell of the Shell

Convinced that we are separate, as if cast under a spell, we bump around blindly in this life-time, unable to see beyond the end of our noses. The spell is mesmerizing, hypnotic and leaves us in a kind of stupor. The Japanese poet Shuho alluded to the totality of the trance in this verse: “cicada shell/little did I know/it was my life.” The aim of a yoga practice is to realize that we are not separate but to know that our language, technology, the air that we breathe, the belief systems we share, and our food are a continuum, a kind of connective tissue that binds us together. Thich Nhat Hanh referred to this connective tissue as “inter-being.” It is a world-wide-web where every cell, every thought, every action is part of its webbing. “What are the boundaries of self?” my Zen teacher Roshi Joan Sutherland used to ask. Does your body end at the tip of your toe or the crown of your head? Whatever gave us the idea that we are independent, stand-alone entities, once removed from the w.w.w. of inter-being?
Some of our shells are shiny and expensive. Some are metal-clad and armored like a Humvee. Others are dainty, adorned in the finest lace. Whatever the facade, we need to break the spell of the shell. It requires a kind of second coming, the first being at birth, when we tore through the egg sac and emerged from the womb. Through the rigors of practice our shell cracks open a second time. As our waters break, we are flooded by feelings of sympathy and love. From then on, the dividing lines of war, hatred, condemnation and abuse crumble.
When we wake from the spell of the shell, we realize the big Self with a capital S. So spend a bit of time each day chipping away at the rigidity of your shell. When you see through the spell of your shell, you’ll know that your true body is unconfined, as boundless as the body of the Buddha.
Alchemy + Aim