Extreme sports with their peak-performance athletes. Dancers - ballet, dervish and Indonesian trance alike. Improvising musicians. Mystics in absorptive states of Samadhi or Satori. The list of people experiencing varying states of oneness with whatever activity they're engaged in isn't limited to anything or anyone. A fisherman gutting catch, a toddler sucking on his big toe ... the door to oneness requires no formalities or special credentials.


However, one prerequisite for oneness through physical action -- arising accidentally or cultivated as a knack one slips into easily -- tends to be at least fundamental mastery of technique. To the extent that doing what needs to be done can occur without conscious struggle over mechanics, the usual self-conscious mental and fear-based emotional contractions are less likely to assert themselves. Now there's a greater chance that one falls fully into each moment without holding back or getting caught up in parallel processing (physically doing while simultaneously mentalizing and spacing out).


Called the empty mind in contemplative practices, the focus of attention during sports isn't directed inwardly at the mechanism of consciousness and the observer itself. It's focused instead on skillfully interacting with the sport and navigating its moment-to-moment demands on the body with appropriate responses.


The more self concern and knots of fear relax, the more avoidance and standing aside give way to stepping into the midst of it all for head-on encounters with reality. Then the innate intelligence of a physically healthy body with its perception and reflexes can deal with the practical demands of the sport. We're free to have amazingly fluid, fractional entries into the moment-to-moment process of living. It's an incredibly simultaneity and interconnectedness of things that reside well outside our ability to control or even grasp. Still, we can step into the midst of it and make ourselves available.


I love kayaking and finally enjoy easy access to relatively calm water to actually do a lot of it. As my body adapts to the particular demands of this exercise, I find myself going for longer trips at ever greater distances from the shoreline. Sea kayakers are exposed to multiple degrees of motional freedom which constantly affect the ride. The sea's completely outside your control. Everything changes constantly - water textures and wave patterns, currents and speed.


This shifty environment enforces letting go. Once you do, the process becomes less and less of you versus the water (effort) or even you with the water (flow). The separate observer simply steps out. Because so many physical vectors are anything but static -- up and down, canted and tilted, fore and aft, cresting waves in an angle, head-one or along the ridge -- it's relatively easy to keep the mind fluidly suspended and merely get on with staying in the rhythmic flow.


If you don't, it's equally easy to feel slightly queasy and noxious as the center of gravity keeps shifting and rolling below your hips and nothing is constant save for movement. But with silly visions of Jaws and internal dialogues kept at bay and eventually simply absent, there's a whole world of sensations to be tasted, all incredibly ephemeral and transient.


At times, you see how wave patterns are about to change and you merely think/feel a bodily response that then arises spontaneously and timed perfectly. If you can stay in that space, you might as well be flying far above the waters unmoored from gravity and earthly restraints. Shafts of light penetrate the water, flicker as individual rays below and illuminate the sea floor. Surface waves make hexagonally pulsating patterns in the shallows. Underwater formations create breakers. You're moving through it all as a tiny part of something vast and silent yet present and alive.


Without conscious volition, your body responds, the kayak slightly changes direction, the circular arm rhythm of the paddle and the sensation of breathing through your hips minutely adjusted to watch it happen on its own accord.


This flux of varying depths of touching on, staying with and falling into Oneness create a definitive change in the body that lingers like an aroma afterwards - like a deep shower and cleansing of the psyche that leaves a sheen of freshness on the skin. You needn't live by the sea in perennial sunshine either. Listening to music can be a similar journey, with you noticing intersecting waves of rhythmic strands, the pitch and yaw of melodies, the slight fluctuations of tempi all occurring simultaneously and you hearing them as such, all at once, all equally important. No doer, no doing, just a stepping in.


If you go bathing in music to chase oceanic immersion, the brand and model of kayak are completely immaterial. Your main tools are your attention (the center of gravity) remaining exposed to constantly turning currents (the music). Just as the sea feels different from day to day, with no wave ever repeating itself, so does listening to familiar tunes offer up raw newness if we can approach the music with an open state of heart and mind.


Music listening can become a still point of spiritual renewal; an emotional roller coaster ride; a higher mind trip of seeing unfurling patterns overlapping with others. None of these journeys really concern themselves over technicalities. As long as the sea beckons; as long as your kayak is seaworthy; as long as you're intrigued to go out again; you're already in possession of your own vacation from ordinariness, your own place in the sun.


All of this is intensely personal and quite outside the kinds of things one can verbalize to share and discuss. It's nothing audio discourse can appropriate. One can at best hint at the existence of these dimensions that are always open to explore. If living well is indeed the best revenge -- something about that saying's focus is a bit off -- then audiophiles and music lovers are already way ahead. Just remember that having a kayak and ogling it in the shade is very different from getting fit enough to take it out on long trips and actually use it regularly.


What gets lost dancing in the waves is the self contraction, that habitual recoil which separates us from the world around us. Strangely enough, having the small I temporarily relinquish its pathological death grip in self-forgetfulness means that something else is found. It so happens that listening to music can spontaneously engage an internalized process that's quite similar to formal meditation - an unknotting of resistances so we can enter the flow of something larger than ourselves and become cleansed, made new and somehow more spacious in this process. Talking about audio equipment then isn't merely silly, it simply doesn't relate. At all. End of story then and enough talking about it...