listening

Divinity:

You ask for the grace to become the “mere instrument” that enables love to flow into the world.

You ask for the grace to become “the container” through which love pours forth into the world.

Know this: you have always been My instrument.

Know this: My love dissolves the container.

Me:

. . .

The Inheritance of Loss

Yesterday I started reading this novel by Kiran Desai. She won the Man Booker Prize for it in 2006. It has been slowly tearing my heart out.

Her writing is deeply poetic. It reaches into the intimate details of lives lived, of places inhabited… I’m only 42 pages into the worlds the author describes, and I am wrenched by the penetrating violence of colonialism. I shudder to recall my Bengali dance teacher saying there were signs saying no Indians allowed – in India.

And I am thrown into a reflection on how I fit into the horror of colonialism. People in my own country are reeling from the unearthing of so many unmarked graves surrounding the residential schools. The extreme violence of ripping indigenous children away from home.

From home.

I’ve always been a homebody, given to bouts of homesickness whenever I have had to leave home. As I reach inside myself and touch this deep feeling of loss, I am overwhelmed.

It is an immense privilege to have Kiran Desai’s words draw me deeper into this dark and shameful reality.

One of the immense blessings that studying Bharatanatyam dance with my Bengali teacher affords me is the antidote to the sickening reality of racism: connection. To say that love is the answer sounds trite, but it is true. However, it needs a specific application, a specific connection between specific people. Then the transforming power of love can flow.

And transform the one world we inhabit.

Daily Recco, April 1: The Inheritance of Loss, alternating between  despondency and droll

Ānanda Natamaduvar Thillai: a reflection on the first steps in the dance…

All crawling and flying beings; all the green ones deeply rooted in the soil’s nourishing embrace; all feeding, breeding, birthing, dying – with one hand in pure blessing, you throw beneficence off extravagantly in all directions.

You hold the paśa, the instrument that destroys what is no longer needed; you are served with endless devotion by Nandi; being and perceiving the thread that runs through everything, transforming endlessly, you are the dancer and the dance.

When I perceive the faintest tracing of your action and boundless love – I dissolve in awe.

But you are too vast, too endless, too overwhelming for me to hold. I create a frame, a threshold, a form for the formless. I surrender to this. Again and again. When fear overwhelms me, your love is there, an infinite web of support that banishes all doubt and confusion in the pure light of love.

Your love animates the world, shimmering, unfolding every where and every when, and dancing, dancing – always dancing – a wonder to my mind!

Your hair, intertwined with the cascading turbulence of the sacred feminine in and through all, surrounds, connects, transforms, flows, dances –

urging me to move from here to there,

to leave shrinking into the coiled comfort of the known,

to surrender everything

into the pure bliss of love.

Supratim Talukder dances Ānanda Natamaduvar Thillai. Supratimji has taught me the first few steps in this exquisite sacred dance. The above reflection is on those first steps. So many thanks to my teacher for this gift.

sankalpa

When performing, my Bharatanatyam teacher said, if you lose your focus for one second, you’ve lost your audience.

The connection is broken.

He went on to say that his impression of people practicing yogāsana was that they did a posture, then came out of it, did another posture, and so on – and that the thread of sustained awareness was absent.

Svadhyāya opportunity…

Yogāsana is a sādhana I’ve practiced for a long time, but what depth is there in my practice? How often is my practice just one posture, another posture, another posture… with my mind flying in a dozen different directions? To be honest, it’s most of the time. So once again, my new sādhana of Bharatanatyam has nudged me into taking a fresh look at my more established sādhana of yogāsana.

My sankalpa: to find the thread of sustained awareness that transforms āsana practice (and me) into a conduit for the flow of the Divine.

Thank you, Guruji.

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happy international dance day!

I’ve been practicing and teaching yogāsana for many years, but a few months ago took a Hanuman-sized leap into the world of Bharatanatyam: Indian Classical dance.

I’m 62. To be honest, I’ve had many doubts about my capacity to explore this exquisite dance idiom. At one point I even – and I say this with a degree of shame – wished I had another face, another body. I was forced to confront this – and eventually settle into the truth of who I am and where I’m at in this lifetime. This venture really churned up the oceanic depths of my self, revealing the hālāhala, the poisonous attitude, that I had hidden at my core.

My teacher, who at 26 is the inverse of my current age, has been a providential guide on this journey. Where I saw limitation – he sees creative potential. This has freed me to begin to look at myself in the same way. There is no limit to creative potential. It is the Divinity that inhabits each of us.

On International Dance Day I want to offer a profound thank you to Supratim Talukder, my Bharatanatyam guruji. May he and all dancing spirits continually find new ways to celebrate the ecstasy of embodiment .

Om Namah Sivaya!

yogāyoga

Mid to late afternoon, after tea, after reading Tagore. I lie down on the couch and curl up like a comma. Not to sleep, but to go quietly inside and think things through.

Today, I am considering the collision of world-views.

A few blog posts back I considered this distance that separates in the air you breathe: the inevitability of the separation that results from being coiled into our cultural cocoons.

The divide is fractal, existing not only on the macro level of culture, but on the micro level of any two individuals. We are all blind, in varying degrees, to the ground upon which we stand. We look out into the world, thinking that we see objectively. But the really real is veiled by the innumerable beliefs we hold about it.

What to do, then? Just give up and sink into the false conviction that only my world-view is real?

It occurs to me that attempting to bridge the gap is why we’re here. Here, now, in apparent isolation from everything else. Our attempts to find connection may often be clumsy and miss the mark. But we can’t give up the project.

This conundrum reminds me of the title of one of Tagore’s novels: Yogayog. That is, yoga + ayoga. Yoga – connection, and its opposite – ayoga – separation. The former is the ultimate reality that underlies everything. The latter is the relative reality in which we spend most of our time.

May we support each other in the attempt to bridge the gap and find connection. The survival of everything depends upon this.

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

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.