love in, love out

These were the words of a very sweet and inspiring young homesteader that I was privileged to meet yesterday. He was referring to growing plants, although the application of the principle is universal. When he carries composted fertilizer to his plants, he tries to so with an attitude of love. Otherwise, he said, if you feed your plants frustration-laced compost, they will take that on and you’ll end up taking that in again when you consume their fruits.

So – love in, love out!

When we arrived on his land we were offered a tour. We were shown the shelter where he and his partner currently sleep: a sturdy structure with a roof and tarps that closed it in on three sides. They will stay here until the tiny home they are constructing is ready, hopefully by Thanksgiving. There was another roofed-but-partially-open structure where food was prepared and enjoyed. Also a composting outdoor toilet. Little walking paths snake through the land where he has planted fruit trees, chestnuts, and a vegetable garden among the previously established green nations in this corner of the planet.

This young visionary embodies a deep understanding of the interdependence of all life. He plants for generations that will inhabit the land long after he has finished his earthwalk.

May his vision of reality gradually take root in our collective consciousness. Our survival depends upon it.

How Connections Create Interdependent Relationships
photo from kathleenallen.net

(t)here

When there becomes here…

My husband and I have recently been transported to Victoria, BC, to spend some time with family established here. Notably, we have been able to hug our 13 month old grandson for the first time! Our first grandbaby… one of the special sweetnesses of life…!

I have fallen into a time warp of sorts here, oblivious of what day it is, or even the precise time of the day… When there is a little one, everything naturally starts to organize around his/her rhythm. It’s been a delight. After breakfast and a bit of yogāsana practice, I have been taking my grandson to a nearby park/playground. As I push his stroller to the park, I sing him two French folksongs. And sometimes he seems to hum along. I shadow him on the play structures and marvel at the things he learns to do every day. There have been some lovely, if brief, moments of connection with other grandparents grandparenting. I watch him closely for signs of fatigue so that I can offer him a snack and a ride home before he gets too strung out. On the way home he invariably falls asleep. Once home I park his stroller near the kitchen door and tuck my sweater around him. Then I brew some tea and keep an ear open for the sounds of him awakening.

It is such magic to be welcomed into our grandson’s home. My son and daughter-in-law have created something so beautiful here. Love and creativity overflow everywhere! There are apple trees, a big garden, four ducks, a stand of evergreens, fresh flower arrangements… apple crisp, spicy milky black tea… and love.

So much love.

North Saanich – British Columbia Travel and Adventure Vacations

how can we know the dancer from the dance?

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

(W.B.Yeats  Among School Children)

Today’s Bharatnatyam class with Supratimji tapped into the mystery of embodiment.

It started innocently enough, with me showing him a step we had worked on previously. He wasn’t satisfied. He gave me cue after cue in an attempt to get me to truly inhabit the movement.

He had me sit down and find an internal focus. Once I felt established in that, I was to initiate the arm and eye movements. I slowly began to move. I experienced the feeling that it was the surrounding space that lifted my arm. Not me, moving, but just movement. The sweep of the arm, the drishti or gaze: no longer just graceful movements that I was doing. The dancer, and the dance coalescing…

After this he had me move on to explore the asamyukta hasta mudras – the single hand gestures – from this same consciousness.

Supratim: When you take the hand position of, for example, triśula – you must feel the energy coursing through the three raised fingers. If you do not, then it’s not right. When the energy finds its path, the gesture will be right. You must feel this.

The application of this is all-encompassing. Yogāsana, Bharatanatyam, holding my grandson – it touches everything in this ecstatically beautiful, embodied existence. W.B.Yeats’ final question sums it up:

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Shiva Nataraja Stock Illustrations – 553 Shiva Nataraja Stock  Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime

Immersion

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.

2 for 1 on All Anytime Ticket Types to Immersive Van Gogh | WagJag
Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience

rain dance

I just did something I’ve never done before.

For the last week the heat and humidity have been building. The earth… so dry. And then today the clouds rolled in and Rudra let loose with a torrential downpour. Thunder. Sheets of rain. I looked at my husband and said – I want to go outside and dance in it. We looked at each other. Conspiratorially he said – I’ll record you!

So I ran outside and entered the downpour. Stood in the pelting rain reaching my arms skyward. Drank it in. Like the earth, the plants. Swayed. Stamped my feet in the puddling water finding rhythmical patterns. Cupped my hands to catch it. Pretended I was a tree, my arms its branches. Touched the water on the ground, brought its blessing up to my eyes.

Finally, full, I came back inside.

To avoid getting chilled in the A/C I ran a hot bath. Water again – but this time contained, controlled. My usual comfort zone. As I soaked, I thought back to those moments of release – of shedding boundaries. My Bharatanatyam teacher had been urging me for a while to do something like this. Nice idea, I thought.

Today I went beyond the thought.

I did something I’ve never done before.

: )

Photo from the Ottawa Citizen, August 13, 2021.

heart space

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?

In the liminal heart space of the Divine Dancer.

The quiet at the centre of the maelstrom of life.

Om namah Śivaya.

25  handmade dancing Shiva Natraj statue Indoor outdoor image 0
Natarāja, the Cosmic Dancer

Namaskaram

A greeting. As in hello.

A flowing sequence that typically begins a practice of yogāsana.

A movement prayer that punctuates a class or performance of Bharatanatyam.

I have been focussing a lot lately on the movement prayer version of Namaskaram. A few dance classes ago my teacher, observing my Namaskaram, suggested, can you do it with more feeling? Since, I have begun to open each of my yoga practice sessions by repeating the dance Namaskaram three times, with greater attention/intention before I follow it with my Surya and Chandra Namaskaram variations.

I asked my dance guruji what each element of the dance Namaskaram signified. His response taught me that different schools of dance practiced different variations of the Namaskaram.

Some of the common elements: a sweeping motion to acknowledge the eight directions; touching the earth that we would dance upon, bringing this blessing up to our eyes, and releasing the blessing back to the earth with outstretched hands; reaching prayer hands up to acknowledge the Divine love that holds us in being, drawing prayer hands to the third eye to acknowledge our gurus, and finally bringing prayer hands to the heart to acknowledge our companions on the path.

And then Supratim Talukder, my teacher, did something that quite took me by surprise: he made the sign of the cross, observing/asking this is your Namaskaram?

I was brought up as a Roman Catholic in a very devout and loving family. Attendance at weekly Mass and a celebration of the main feast days in the Christian calendar were part of the air I breathed. Making the sign of the cross as I intoned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit was a gesture that commonly punctuated other prayers. It was something so much done as to have become somewhat invisible – again, like the air I breathed.

Seeing my teacher (brought up as a Shaivite Hindu with a special devotion to the Bengali saint Sri Ramakrishna) make this gesture, made me see it in a new way. It held up a mirror…

A new question emerged: How does the tradition in which I was brought up inform my spiritual sādhanas of yogāsana and Bharatanatyam – and vice-versa?

A new area of exploration and inquiry.

Thank you, Guruji.

Q&A with Fr John Flader: A new Sign of the Cross

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:

. . .

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.

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.