As every child knows, there is nothing like an unexpected thrill, the surprise you hadn’t even imagined that takes you to a new place, the place you never saw coming. The punchline of a great joke, the surprising turn in a new trail, the thrill of hiding and never knowing how they’ll find you – we come right into the moment as when we teeter on the edge of anticipation.
I was reminded of the unexpected this morning when I woke up from a restless night of sleep, disoriented, achey, feeling way out of my body. Eventually I started writing on the floor of my living room, alternately scribbling a few unedited sentences and rolling around the floor, feeling into my body. I began to feel my tailbone, wiggling it free as I have been doing the last few days.
A sound came from my throat – plaintive, mournful, and I remembered the whale video I had seen recently, in which a whale was caught up in fishing nets, his tail and fins totally bound, he was barely able to surface to breathe, and death was imminent. The divers worked for what seemed like hours to free him, with only one knife. The sound that came out of my mouth was akin to whale sound, and as I continued to move my tailbone and sound, I found myself in a sound web of voices seemingly connected to whales and others around the world.
Back to the actual whale video: eventually they were able to free the whale, and he began to swim off. That seemed like the end of it, but suddenly he turned and breached into the air in a thrilling display of power and joy. Again and again he leaped into the air, exhilarated, free, and – perhaps, to communicate his thanks.
As I continued to move on the floor, I spotted a nearby gym ball and began to lie back on it. I wasn’t quite centered as I stretched back, however, and suddenly I was spiraling around in circles, eventually landing on the floor. A whoop of pure delight came from my throat, that childlike joy and body rush of absolute fun. This unexpected surprise ending had delivered me into deeply felt full-bodied delight, and I pondered the simple joy of being thrown off balance and recovering. I began to play with balance, standing on one leg and instead of earnestly trying to feel stability, as I often do, I let myself improvisationally explore, my arms swinging and my unweighted leg moving in funny ways, deliberately searching for the play between stability and chaos. This was both exhilarating and my balance actually improved by not over-efforting.
This unexpected play led to further insights, such as how the uncertainty of any moment can go many ways – the whale could have killed the men who were attempting to save it, or I could have hurt myself when falling off the ball. Yet somehow in both cases there was trust. The men were acting out of love and I’d like to think that the whale felt their caring. And since I have a lot of experience playing on balls, my body knew how to move more quickly than my mind could follow. Yet we never know the outcome of any moment, despite our careful planning and control, almost anything can arise. And there lies the possibility of unexpected delight and unimagined turns and twists in the plot.
Another insight I had: how I go to sleep when I think I know what is going to happen. A simple stretch of my leg, if I think I know where I am the pathway my muscles should follow, becomes boring and lifeless. My mind is elsewhere. It is only when I am feeling moment to moment into what I am doing that I can be present to the unexpected. My body’s evolution includes rough terrain, swinging through trees, and exploring in jungles – I imagine it yearns for novelty, an unexplored pathway, and comes alive to the new. I felt very rejuvenated by my improvisational exploration this morning; the fun of improvising is readily available, and I have attempted to track my play and accompanying thoughts as an example.