Tillmans: Star Struck #3

When coming into the space of meditation, one way to notice the moment is to feel the air that your body has displaced. In the midst of a harried morning, the instruction can be so granular as to guide us into a subtler awareness of being.

When working with this visualization, I can began to take notice of how the air molecules around me shifted with each in-breath and out-breath. During a hard sit, as a way of reminding myself of my intention to focus on the breath, I’ll my right hand on my heart-center and my left on my lower belly to become more physically aware of the breath as it moves the body.

It calls to mind this Wolfgang Tillmans photograph, which I once saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s writeup describes it as similar to John Cage’s visual scores, and I’m inclined to agree. Like Cage’s body of work, Tillmans’s Star Struck #3 thrives on the subtle nuances of deepening experience.

Wolfgang Tillmans,  Star Struck #3

Wolfgang Tillmans, Star Struck #3

The background is pink, but not uniformly so: Paler on one edge, deeper plum towards the middle. Likewise, the lines aren't linear. To connect to yesterday's note on Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, these lines almost seem to be in kairos time — finding meaning versus chronology. Breathing with the intent of connecting — truly connecting — with my breath and the body, I considered the rise of my chest and belly with each inhale as reaching from one of those jittery, socialite-thin lines to the next. As I wrote yesterday, we’re not guaranteed that by practicing today we’ll be X% better when we go to practice again tomorrow. And so these moment-to-moment shifts, the tangible moments of something happening, become all the more interesting.

It’s also worth pointing out, if you look at Tillmans's larger body of work (including the book If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters), that we can also see how this equates with his own vision as an artist, which defies classification. While many of his works fall into this sense of abstraction, he's also photographed still lifes and starry nights; club kids and celebrities. He is not contained between his hat and his boots.

Subtle as our shifts may seem, it is also hard to think of many of our habitual actions as completely consistent. And isn’t that fascinating, too.

Today’s Contemplation

Consider the quality of your breath today — I mean, really consider it. Locate where it is most prominent, and then dive deeper. How far out does your chest or belly extend when you breathe in? How much does it fall when you breathe out? Consider the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that. Is the breath ever truly the same, day-to-day? Is it ever truly the same, breath-to-breath?