You know how you can be in a certain situation and all of a sudden, boom, a solution appears right at your fingertips? And sometimes, you are in a situation — and not even aware of it until the solution appears?
I’m talking, of course, about the recent New York Times Magazine “Tip” article, “How to Stand Still.”
The article interview John Eicke, a German whose resume lists his major skill as “living statue.”
I’m sure the NYT had no idea how relevant such an article would be to a guy who lives on a tropical island off the coast of Belize, especially now that the rainy season is almost over.
I too have been mistaken for a statue.
The main difference between John Eicke’s quest for singularity in his field and mine is that he is vertical and I am horizontal.
Whoever came up with the expression “As still as a statue” never specified that the statue had to be of someone standing up. I mean, come on. The phrase “reclining figure” is practically synonymous with the sculptor Henry Moore.
Just do a Google search for “reclining Buddha.” You’ll see.
The longest Eicke has held a single vertical statue pose is two-and-a-half-hours. It was for world peace and orphaned children in war-torn countries.
It was for the “Men in Black 2” premiere in Berlin.
Not even the original “Men in Black.” The sequel.
But I am not judging. Standing without twitching, sneezing, blinking, or farting for two-and-a-half hours is one hell of a feat for a man in his 50s, even for the premiere of a movie sequel.
I can do that.
Well, not standing up. Which makes no sense.
But reclining. On a beach lounge. Or in a hammock. Or possibly in a big colorful plastic chair in four inches of Caribbean Sea, such as are found at the Sandy Toes Bar on Boca del Rio.
To be fair, I have dedicated my life on this island to learning how to be still.
I start my days in silent, purposeful meditation while lying perfectly still in bed. This can begin as early as 5 a.m. and continue until almost 7 a.m.
It often begins with the observation, “What a beautiful sunrise.” Then I go back to sleep.
From there I pass through the several stages of meditative journey:
1. Roll over flat on my back.
2. Return to sleep state, to build energy for the meditative journey ahead.
3. Dream fitfully, using such dreams as guideposts for the meditative journey ahead.
4. Somewhere around 6:30 a.m., I stretch arms and legs out in a comfortable “corpse pose” and begin sequencing the phrases, mantras, and techniques I have perfected since 1971. These will drop the brainwaves down to the fully relaxed state characterized by the slow undulations of Delta waves.
Now I am meditating. Please do not disturb.
Over the years, I have found that I can dip into the Delta quite rapidly, like during a conversation in which the other party says something like “another thing about me that you might not know” after a 15-minute non-stop barrage of things about this person that I already didn’t need to know.
Sadly, my superhuman ability to embrace the Delta wave state has been mischaracterized by others as “He’s so dull.” or “He’s so lazy.” or “Check his pulse. Is he dead?”
None of those being true, of course. I mean, maybe they’re mostly not true.
But enough about me. How does the human statue John Eicke do it?
While the word “Zen” does not come up once in the reasonably brief NYT article, Eicke’s advice on human statuary drips with Zen: ‘‘Recognize what’s happening, but don’t give in.”
How should this apply to a sunbathing occupant of a tropical island off the coast of Belize?
The most obvious application is sandflies. It takes great self-control to recognize that the sandflies are turning your ankles into itchy slabs of scarified hamburger. And not give in.
“Don’t give in” sounds good coming from a human stature and looks pretty cool on a T-shirt but I would apply the words very carefully, as I would DEET and SPH 50 cremes.
If you are a visitor from someplace that does not often see the sun, like all of Canada, large parts of England, or the basement of your mother’s home where you write code or earn a living on the Internet, posing like a statue in a beach chair can be very dangerous. And very painful later that evening as you seek solace in vast quantities of local rum to ease the pain and embarrassment of the crimson tide that has washed over your shoulders, face, arms and especially the backs of your legs where who knew you had so much tender incendiary flesh.
Contrary to popular thinking, the life-guiding axiom “Feel the burn” did not get its start in some trendy little Brooklyn sweat studio. No, that was crafted in tropical hotel rooms all across the Equator, hours after the sun had set on many a vacation now spoiled by second-degree inflictions the hue of boiled lobster and the oddly quixotic term that fails to absolve personal responsibility in such situations: “sun poisoning.”
You weren’t poisoned, baby. You fried your cheeks. Self-inflicted wounds.
Listen, I understand the pressure. Nobody wants to return home to Portland (either one) or Michigan or Toronto from a topical vacation looking as pale as when they left.
To modify Eicke’s axiom: Recognize what is happening. Finish the cold Belikin in your hand. Find a new position. I would recommend spending no more than five cold Belikin beers in direct sunlight on your first day of posing as tropical horizontal statuary. After that, find the shade of a thick palm tree, the cool interior of a palapa bar, or cover up. The key is “cold.” If your beers are consistently turning warm before you hit bottom, that is a warning to reduce your sun-to-beer exposure to no more than three of the petite green bottles.
Seriously, though, finishing a Belikin beer while still cold is the easiest challenge you will face during your time on Ambergris Caye.
Getting off to a good start is hard for visitors and I acknowledge that. Your time here is compacted and the pace is intense. You’ve got lots of stuff to do and so little time in which to do it. Sometimes raising your pale skin tone to the rich caramel-mocha hue you desire seems hopelessly out of reach and you simply opt for lobster red. Trust me. We are entering the season of endless sunshine and constant breezes. Your skin tones will darken and deepen if you start off slowly. Remember, a good vacation tan is a marathon, not a sprint.
For those vacationers and residents who have mastered the art of beachside horizontal statuary, Eicke has additional tips for achieving that ultimate state pose, the one that often elicits such responses from people who pass your hammock as: “Oh my god, is he dead?”
“Start in a balanced stance that distributes your weight evenly between both feet, without leaving your limbs unsustainably outstretched. Your muscles should be engaged but not clenched, which leads to cramping. Try not to blink.”
I think any sun worshiper who embraces this strategy, can remain in corpse pose for a surprisingly long time.
Just remember to change position when your beer grows warm.