The Disappearing Self

The beat was building, the steady pulse of the music quickening as my reaches on the VersaClimber met its tempo. Every strike of my arm was another note hit. Every foot drop, a boom in sync with the bass.

“Four long, four short!” the instructor yelled.

My left arm extended to its maximum length 12 inches above my head, pulling my right knee up to my waist, where it nearly kissed my right elbow before pushing down and reversing the motion. The fourth push/pull was immediately followed by four short push/pulls at half the length. We repeated this rhythm – four long, four short – for 45 seconds, and I disappeared.

The room is a rave. The ceiling lights are synced, too, and bop, weaving blues and purples into greens and grays and yellows. My neon Nikes, the only garment of color on my body, is illuminated in the black light. Sweat shimmers on my skin and becomes another lens for light to be refracted, the way a slick street after a rain brightens the vibe of a city into a glowing fluorescence.

I am completely absorbed in music and motion, the effort and ease in which time is keeping me. A rapturous delight.

After 30 minutes, the last song fades out and I watch myself stretch and shorten in the mirror. It is the first time in my life that I have worked out without a shirt on – just leggings and a sports bra. I give a silent thanks to the other women in the class who, by simply standardizing the attire, have given me the courage to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

Somehow this class became a safe space to express my body in a non-performative way and now I see with my own non-judgmental eyes how amazing movement is, for the sake of itself. It releases you from your fixed physical existence – dense muscle, stubborn body fat, beauty marks and blemishes – and allows you to spiritually reside elsewhere.

On this plane, you don’t really care how you look, you’re simply grateful to go. A body in motion stays in motion because of how it feels; a lightness of being with its own aura, ambience, and approach; mass amplified by acceleration. So what if you’re breathless; you’re alive, and the elevated heart rate naturally proves where you’ve been, as a marker of distance over time. Velocity.

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