Himalaya

vaulting outline

of mountain peaks

lifting up and up out of the earthbound.

skies opening out and out, clouds draw a curtain then part –

revealing a reality that stops

thought –

dividing a continent, headwaters crashing, cascading, down and down

from heights that define the word

world axis

whose intimate concavities are caressed by cloud

holy sadhus seeking highest realization

wander sacred slopes and sit, seeking

an echo of mountain stillness

in womb-like caves

braving the elemental,

climbing through obscuring cloud

to gaze down upon worldly concerns –

– now miniature

abode of the Sky-clad One

whose being opens in all directions

offering a reflection of highest realization

encoded in rock and snow:

Himalaya.

image from nationalgeographic.com

(this poem was inspired by a choreography of the same name interpreted by my dance guru, Supratim Talukder.)

9 yards of magic

Today started with a little magic.

The magic of connection – from one side of the planet to the other – through 9 yards of fabric.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I have begun studying Bharatanatyam with Supratim Talukder, a teacher in Kolkata. Santasree Sasmal, a friend of my teacher and an accomplished performer and teacher as well, agreed to teach this awkward westerner the intricacies of draping a saree for dance.

So, today, as my day was beginning and her day ending, we met online.

The 9 yards of a saree hold incredible potential. In expert hands (like Santasree’s), it can shape-shift from a half-saree or dhoti-style drape for dance, to an elegant full saree with exquisite variations for every occasion. In hands like mine, however, more often than not, something is created that resembles a floppy mess.

My first stumbling block: I was convinced that my left side was my right, and asserted this falsity with conviction… until I realized my error, and continued with a little more humility. But every time I encountered a difficulty, Santasree, exhibiting an abundance of patience and good humour, found a novel approach that resolved the issue. You don’t have a cord to tie around your waist? – no problem, just tie the saree to itself. No half saree – ? Aha. Let’s fold the top third of the width down… When I was dismayed by my complete inability to create pleats with Santasree’s one-handed lightning accuracy, she showed me how I could lay the pallu on the floor and do better.

Many thanks to this wonderful performer and teacher who took the time today to reach halfway across the planet and connect with me, through 9 yards of fabric!

Santasree Sasmal (wearing a perfectly draped half saree!) dances CHANDRACHOODA.

Finding Tagore…

Sixty one winters, sinking into our third lockdown in the pandemic, and I finally found Tagore. Or perhaps, Tagore finally found me.

His novella Chaturanga was profoundly disorienting. It both shook and lifted me up. The unexpected twisting and turning plot seems to me to echo the organic unwinding of life itself.

The novel Yogayog pulled me deep into a world simultaneously foreign and extremely familiar. And then left me floating in mid-air at its abrupt and totally unexpected ending. Again, like life itself.

I have started a journey from a foreign literary name to the intimacy of inhabiting the worlds the name created…

Improvisation!

Lesson # 3 with my new Bharatanatyam teacher, Supratim Talukder.

Interesting territory today. He asked me to use my own movement vocabulary to explore the theme of birthing.

Deep breath.

This takes me into some pretty deep waters. My own experiences birthing my four children, of course. And… the birth of my first grandchild! – and the rebirth of the light at the imminent solstice – and a friend’s story of a woman pregnant and on the road during the first months of the lockdown in India, giving birth – and the Christ, born into poverty in a stable –

– and the Earth Mother groaning to birth our world.

And the ways we’ve systematically destroyed Her creation…

It will be interesting to see where this takes me.

Abhyāsa

“Keep practising!”

That was the last message from my new Bharatanatyam teacher. And I’m spun back into the Patanjala Yoga Darshana, 1.12:

[The vritti states of mind] are stilled by PRACTICE and dispassion.

The ordering of the two requirements to still the mind is significant: first, PRACTICE. After much practice, the ability to remain dispassionate ( Bryant) , or, in other words, to embody surrender.

This translates perfectly into the world of dance. Learning to dance within a specific tradition requires enormous discipline and constant practice. At a certain point of mastery, the possibility of dissolving into the flow of the Holy Mystery in which our particular bodies are embedded, arises.

This surrender allows the individual dance to merge into the Universal Dance – into the wild and whirling dance of Lord Śiva’s great Tāndava…

Shiva Tandava Stotram by Cristiane Lopes
cover of Shiva Tandava Stotram by Cristiane Lopes

R is for rethinking; S is for sweetness; T is for truth…

This summer I made a first trip to the west coast, where two of my sons currently live. Along with a wonderful chance to drink in the verdant beauty of Victoria, BC, the trip also afforded me some precious time to rethink how I am called to “mother” now.

When my children were small, so much energy went into loving them and making sure they were safe and happy. As they’ve become independent and moved on and away, there have been little moments of panic – how can I keep them safe now? They’re so far away…!

The realization crept upon me that it was always only an illusion that I was ever keeping them safe. The universe flowed through me to nurture and protect them… and the universe still does this, not only through me, but through other channels as well.

There is a sweetness in this truth. Love is infinitely creative, constantly manifesting in new and unimagined ways.

The universe truly has “got our back”!

Hari Om.