I am on the cusp of leaving home to travel. This journey will take me to finally meet my grandson in person (he’s 13 months old now) and to be reunited after 18 months with his parents, and another of my sons. Anticipation of this journey has taken me into reflecting on what it is to leave, to arrive, to leave again…
Life is a series of leave-takings. And the arrivals – are they perhaps just preparation for the next leaving? It’s a grey, rainy day today, and I wonder if my contemplation has become tainted with a sentimental melancholy. But there is an undeniable truth here. In my sitting practice this morning I felt the exhalation as a leaving. As I focused on it I knew it as a preparation for the moment when I will leave this body.
Maybe all our living, all our breathing, all our journeying is a preparation for that leave-taking.
In my mind, this is not at all a morbid contemplation. It’s a reality check. A revisiting of the notion that – as Hamlet says – the readiness is all. No growth ever happens without this shedding of the old and a stepping into the new.
Lord Śiva holds the damaru in his right hand, creating the pulsating beat that brings everything into being. Simultaneously, his left hand holds agni, the fire of destruction and dissolution. Since the hands are the motor organs of the heart, this is where creation and destruction have their source.
May all your journeys be blessed. May we all come to rest in the dynamic stillness at the heart of the whirling tāndava dance of life.
Today I went with some friends to Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience. It was amazing! Flowers from his paintings flying around the walls of the room. Famous Van Gogh canvases being sketched, painted, and dissolving on the walls, on the floor… I was inside his art and wanted to run and twirl (I held myself back but did manage some sweeping arm gestures, as I walked around and around the room, drinking it in).
After we exited from the experience I walked with one friend back to her home where she served tea and treats. We sipped our tea on her patio. I watched birds alight on her new bird bath, dipping their beaks in for refreshment. The resident backyard bunny was enjoying a meal of clover. A wasp wandered over to see if it could share any of our treats.
And it struck me forcibly: LIFE IS THE ULTIMATE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE.
Van Gogh was profoundly immersed in life. He took his experience and found colour, shape, and texture to share his bliss. And here, in our time, his experience, expressed on his canvases, was projected onto the walls of the room taking me into an immersive experience. It in turn pushed me into seeing the actual flow of life surrounding me as the ultimate immersive experience.
Talk about circularity!
Back home, I found a dharma talk in my inbox from Richard Rohr . The following lines summed up the experience I was attempting to integrate:
Beholding happens when we stop trying to “hold” and allow ourselves to “be held” … We are completely enchanted by something outside and beyond ourselves. (Richard Rohr)
The Infinite Love that holds everything in being: it as intimate as the breath you are taking right now.
Perhaps when contemplating liminal space one cannot help being flooded with images and associations! After all, this is the in-between space, the space pregnant with possibility.
An image of Natarāja – the Cosmic Dancer – comes to mind.
In His upper right hand he holds the damaru, a small hand drum that symbolizes the pouring forth of creation. In his upper left hand he holds agni, the sacred fire representing dissolution. Creation and destruction. And where do these meet?
relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold
When I am bringing my students out of śavāsana, I usually ask them to curl onto their side in a foetal position, head resting on the lower arm. This brings the spine into its primary curve, just as we were when coiled into the womb space, quite literally surrounded by our mother.
I invite my students to rest in this shape for a few breaths, taking the time to just be in this in-between, liminal space, before we close our practice together and everyone moves off into their individual lives.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of this space.
There is a word in Sanskrit – sandhya – that designates the space where two things meet. The place of transition, of potential… It is the suspension felt at the top of the inhalation, the void at the bottom of the exhalation. It is where dawn meets day, where dusk meets night.
It is the womb of the world from which all things are born.
In my previous blog reflection I spoke of my Bharatanatyam teacher in a video clip he shared with me. A small figure in an immensity of sky, river, and earth – he is seen walking away from the camera witness, becoming smaller. Then he stops.
For a moment frozen in time he raises his arms into the starting position for dance. He enters the liminal space. The space opening out from everything preceding this moment. The birthplace of everything that proceeds from this moment.
A recent post on my dance guruji’s Instagram page shows a long shot of him, seemingly caught between earth and sky. The sky is full of billowing grey monsoon clouds, the earth is grey, with no vegetation visible – a slice of river stitches the two together. Earth, water, space. Elemental. And this small human getting smaller as he walks away from the camera witness.
At a certain point he stops.
Then, for a moment frozen in time, he raises his arms in the starting position of Bharatanatyam.
And then, he starts to dance.
The vulnerable transparency of this touched me deeply. No makeup, no costume, no lighting effects, no camera crew… just a human who, caught between heaven and earth, makes a decision…
I just read Rabindranath Tagore’s poem I Won’t Let You Go(Jete Nahi Dibo, translated from the Bangla by Fakrul Alam).
It is our perennial anthem. Our longing to grasp, to hold fast to – all that is dear, all that is ours. And this in the face of a world of leavings, of things torn away, of hearts torn apart. In the face of the unraveling of every minutely, carefully worked weaving. A conclusion denied but inevitable.