grace and transformation

Our life, like a river, strikes its banks not to find itself closed in by them, but to realize anew every moment that it has its unending opening towards the sea. It is as a poem that strikes its meter at every step not to be silenced by its rigid regulations, but to give expression every moment to the inner freedom of its harmony. – Rabindranath Tagore: The Problem of Self from Sadhana.

Or perhaps life is like the highly codified art form of Bharatanatyam.

One must first learn the rules of this intricate dance idiom in order that the Divine might find expression through it. The latter cannot happen through force or calculation, but only and ever through Grace.

When it does come together, Divinity dances among us and we are utterly transformed.

I experience this in Supratim Talukdar’s expression of Arekar’s choreography Ardhanarīshvara

thoughts on the eve of mahaśivarātri

Diversity is of many kinds – in a family of ten, there are ten different kinds of diversity. -Rabindranath Tagore*

This observation, penned by Tagore in 1895, expresses a perennial truth. Why then do we insist on separating life into polarities? Are you black or white? Gay or straight? Liberal or conservative? Religious or non-religious?

Daring to look at the astounding abundance of diversity in the natural world, it becomes evident that nothing could be further from the truth. There is only and ever a continuously evolving flow of expression. An infinity of dancing points of light.

Let’s embrace the image of the tāndava dance of Śiva Natarāja encompassing everything and every place and all time. The swirling ecstasy that has no opposite.

Wishing you all an auspicious Mahaśivarātri!

*from Raja O Proja , 1895, translated by Debjani Sengupta

Can I chant Shiva Tandava Stotram inside my house? - Quora


Today, as my online Bharatanatyam class was finishing up, the next student, a little girl from Dubai, Zoomed in. My teacher (Kolkata, India), myself (Ottawa, Canada), and little Adhanu (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) were all on the screen together. I doubt that Adhanu speaks much English, but she certainly understood me waving hello – and responded enthusiastically. My teacher then requested that I perform Namaskaram to end my class, and Adhanu leapt up to perform Namaskaram to start her class.

So she and I danced together, touching the earth with our fingertips and bringing Earth’s blessing up to our eyes, then saluting God, the Guru, and each other.

The pure magic of connection!

Salutation/ Pranam - My Site

the air you breathe

starving for air

I gasp

craving connection

(Tagore’s intimate whisper, Ramakrishna’s bliss, a temple dancer caught in stone, your own swirl of ecstatic expression…)

I’ll never be able to occupy

the ground upon which you dance

but am impelled to try and catch

a lungful

of the air you breathe

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Bharatanatyam dancer Supratim Talukdar.


Today the sun shines. The banks of snow begin to warm and sink into the still hidden earth. Spring is not yet here, but its song is whispered. Our winter souls recognize the melody and start to thaw…

Joy erupts…

Today I had bharatanatyam class #19 with Supratim Talukder. In spite of his observation that my attempt at Natta Adavus #8 was woefully lacking, I feel flooded by an irrepressible optimism. Guided by his observations, I will improve. And he introduced me to some rhythmic footwork in the Pancha Nadai. I love playing with rhythm. My father was an amateur percussionist, and I carry on his love of rhythm. I’m SO excited to explore this new footwork! Beating out rhythms with my feet…

The rhythm of the changing season fills my soul. Time to get out for a walk – to taste the promise that fills the air.


Photo credit: Sophie Chargé

light within light

…the story…

Nandanar, a pure-hearted devotee, asks permission of the presiding Brahmin priest to enter the temple so he might gaze on the statue of Lord Śiva. Being of a lower caste, he is summarily dismissed by the haughty priest, who then suggests that Nandanar might gain admittance to the temple if he single-handedly completes a virtually impossible task. Nandanar collapses in despair, but when he raises his head again, he sees that the task has been miraculously completed by the Lord Śiva Himself! Nandanar joyously rushes to show the hard-hearted Brahmin, who not only denies him entrance again, but beats him cruelly. As Nandanar limps away, crushed, he ventures one last glance back at the temple – and sees that the statue of Nandi has miraculously moved aside to allow Nandanar a clear view of his beloved Lord Śiva! Joy ignites his being as he prostrates before his Lord.

In the following video, you will see this story exquisitely portrayed through dance by Supratim Talukder. Pay special attention to the central retelling of the story through mime…

…there is a point in the mimed section where the dancer turns from incarnating the brutal Brahmin to becoming the despairing Nandanar.

This pivotal point has the feeling of a gravitational well… as I have watched this video again and again, I feel drawn more and more deeply into this transitional point.

These two characters – opposites – can one exist without the other? Does the one not in fact define the other? Is this not a microcosm of the world of samsara? Are these polarities not continually orbiting one another on a gradual spiral toward ultimate meaning?

The wild tāndava of Lord Śiva – does it not take in all this? The good and the evil in the world are not static entities, but energies that dance together, continually transforming towards the bliss that has no opposite.

Swirling. Ecstatic. Light within Light.

holding space

During my yoga teacher training we talked about holding space. A teacher in front of a class of yoga students needs to find an authentic way to hold space. This is not about having all your sequencing and cues memorized… it’s much deeper and more subtle.

And challenging.

It’s about letting go of planning. It’s about expanding into vulnerability. It’s about allowing the heart to open to those who have gathered for your class. It’s about becoming an empty channel for the divine to flow through you and embrace everyone there.

For me, it’s much easier to write about than to do.

In my online Bharatanatyam class this morning, my teacher touched on this concept from his point of view as a performer on stage. Each dance gesture needs to be expansive, to fill the space and create connection with the rasikas (literally, the tasters, or audience). He mentioned too that, for him, Bharatanatyam is a sadhana. It’s a sacred path to moksha, or liberation. This is not an overlay, but rather at the core of what it is to dance…

…and at the core of what it is to teach or practice yoga, or maybe just to serve tea to a friend.