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Practice notes: On lingering

There are times when I languidly linger and times when I awaken and hurry in search of my goal; but cruelly thou hidest thyself from before me.
Rabindranath Tagore Gitanjali Poem #14


    1. to remain or stay in a place longer than is usual or expected, as if from reluctance to leave
    2. to remain alive; continue or persist, although gradually dying, ceasing, disappearing, etc.
    3. to dwell in contemplation, thought, or enjoyment.
    4. to be tardy in action; delay; dawdle
    5. to walk slowly; saunter along

Last year, on my birthday, we went to the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where we experienced Zarina Bhimji’s haunting film – Yellow Patch. There was one sequence – where the camera zooms slowly towards the crumbling facade of an old Indian palace, revealing a world of untold richness and depth. Afterwards, I was struck by the thought that it is when we slow down – even momentarily – that the world – in particularly the everyday or mundane world that so much of contemporary magical writing tends to disdain – becomes wondrous.

Recalling one of my first posts on enfolding – Pondering Daily Practice I noted that Tantra is not so much about pursuing a distinct set of practices but living one’s life in a particular way. A particular concern for me has been how to “think” beyond the concept of bracketed “exercises” (which are usually cast as productive trajectories) and the valorisation of the interruptive non-ordinary “altered state” and to refocus attention towards the everyday world which we seem to spend so much time, it seems, attempting to mount an escape from, or mourning the loss of enchantment within.

1. The sensation body: I am sad. I am hungry. I am happy and so on.
2. The energy body/the BwO; a body of energetic qualities, intensities, and speeds.
3. The emanation body: a body of expression and value.
Three Bodies Practice: Project three bodies as modes of each other. Roll up the sensation and the energy bodies into the emanation body. Experience yourself as the world: the moving expressive creation.

Everything is a body. The body expresses everything. The body is a city, a cosmopolis. Oh, how wondrous are the habits of the human body – Calcutta!
“Three Bodies” Anne Weinstone, Avatar Bodies: A Tantra for Posthumanism

Reflecting on the everyday experience that life is lived at different speeds – and times – and increasingly, it seems, the emphasis is on times/speeds being productive of something. Going places, moving through space, progressing towards goals, aims, tasks, achievements, with all the attendent self-monitoring and policing. The language, the speeds, the (regulatory) time of work has colonised every sphere of activity. Magic – and all it’s attendant extra-daily practices and attainments – has become work. At the same time, less present and less theorised, there are the gaps: the intermissions, spaces, the distractions; the pauses between and within purposeful activities and trajectories, in which a magic dwells (see the sidelong glance for some earlier reflections).

…a meaningful practice does not coincide with a sign; meaning cannot be reduced to a sign which exists on a separate ‘level’ outside the immediate sphere of the body’s acts. Habit is a knowledge and a remembering in the hands and in the body; and in the cultivation of habit it is our body which ‘understands.
Paul Connerton How Societies Remember

Lingerings can be thought of as nonproductive micro-practices, momentary intensifications, sought and found within the gaps and pauses of purposive activity. I let my eyes wander around me, alighting – resting in the shadow between keyboard and desk; on the shimmer of a peeling sticker on the side of the Dell box on my desk, on the stick figure frozen in the act of running on the fire exit sign over to my right. I let my hand caress an iron railing as I walk down some steps on the Thames embankment. Reading onscreen, I idly caress the computer, the vibrations of its drives thrills throughout me. Pausing for a moment on the way to get my lunch, I’m momentarily enthralled by the way ripples dance across a pavement puddle. Such moments are small instances of finding/remembering the sense of immanent presence – the feeling of alive-ness.

Lingering also suggests the hauntings and traces of other moments on us; in memories, shared histories and affects; there at the edge of conscious awareness, the felt ghost-presences – at once familiar and strange; the co-minglings of thresholds that continually whirl around us, that we are immersed in. More of that perhaps, another time.


  1. Gyrus
    Posted February 1st 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve found more and more that apparent “depression” is often a way in which the “sensation body” brings me back to these intense gaps in directed, purposeful—but often anxious—living. Opening up to its gravity (rather than wallowing in it) can expose a profound and unexpected space of attention and non-striving engagement with the world (not to mention compassion). The humble flip-side to the bemoaning of a lack of meaning or purpose is this lingering, goal-free magic.

  2. Alice Y.
    Posted February 3rd 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    This is superb. I have been convinced by the transformative power of slowing down and entering into the moments. To me it’s almost as if slowing down, allowing ourselves to succumb to gravity, helps align us with the underlying system of earth-as-we-inhabit-her.

    I struggle to justify my spacious moments in the social space — surely I along with everyone else ought always to be working harder? But what if taking the slow moment’s attention — entering into the sensuous transformative space, embodied, right here — what if that is part of emerging from the trance that compels us to participate in destructive patterns?

    Thanks for another great post.