Betwixt and Between

I rose early this morning, and by early I mean shortly after five o’clock in the morning. This is before the alarm, which has been set for six. Five is the time I’d like to get up, and six is the time I need to.

This past October, I participated in a “cleanse” led by Cate Stillman, “yogahealer,” with some of the other members of the Greater Boston area “kula,” or Anusara yoga community, including my teacher, whose classes I most often attend. Participants got to choose their own goals for what types of food to eat, and Cate was trying to encourage experimentation with a raw foods diet. I learned the joys of many Ayurvedic principles, and these raw foods, especially juice. “Fasts” seem to be a component of many spiritual practices, and there is something to be said for simplifying one’s diet to give the body a break from all with which we assault it. But a part of this cleanse also was the adoption of many self-care practices, including Ben Franklin’s old dictum, “early to bed and early to rise.” Each workday this fall was quite considerable, as I was teaching six college classes, when three or four is a normal load. What a joy for me to face the day having meditated and or exercised.

So to rise early pleases me, because I will have created space in my day, which so easily fills with the demands of others. Teaching is after all, people work, and we do not align neatly into the structures we have created in this modern era. It further pleases me because I have been fighting off some illness this week, which is why the alarm has been set for six instead of five. More importantly, according to Ayurveda, there are some good reasons relating to the natural cycle of the day to rise this early. In fact, one reads this as the advice of many yoga teachers, most notably repeatedly in The Subtle Body by Stephanie Syman. The advice is that one is likely to have more energy through the day if one rises at that time. Whether it is through the power of suggestion, or some other underlying dynamic, this is consistent with my own experience of the practice.

This time is “betwixt and between,” just like the seasons are right now. I love the word crepuscular, not only because it rhymes with the word muscular, but also because it denotes a time between. Some animals are nocturnal, like those masked bandits who visit your trash, and some are diurnal, like those who flit about these days finding mates and building nests. But some, like deer, appear at those in-between times of dawn and dusk, to shyly feed on your shrubbery and summer gardens, and so are crepuscular.

Another such word I like is liminal. I encountered this notion of liminality in an essay entitled “Doctoral Dissertations as Liminal Journeys of the Self: Betwixt and Between in Graduate Sociology Progams,” which appeared in the journal Teaching Sociology, and which I read around the time I was finishing my doctoral dissertation. The doctoral candidate is a liminal figure, journeying between the social roles of student and professional. There is great power, often analytical or perceptual power, in liminality. It may be that the maintenance of liminality may be desirable, that one may not necessarily journey from one pole to the other. One may be unable to or may not desire to resolve the differences, and this may lend great power.

Recently, my social theory class, “Modern Social Thought” read Georg Simmel’s essay “The Stranger,” which describes another sort of liminality that arrives in the modern era, mostly with urbanization. One is “in the group but not of it.” Speaking of “journeys of the self,” we are covering symbolic interactionism now, most notably the views of George Herbert Mead, who developed ideas about the socialization, the social self, and the dialectic between individual and society, particularly in the process of becoming.

Actually, I wonder more what if one is in and of more than one group. That I think is a chief and underlying tension of this blog, that I stand by different yet equally profound paths of learning in the sociology and yoga communities.


About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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