Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Escape

Tell me: what does it mean for you to escape?

And where would you go? A shimmering white beach? The summit of a mountain that touches the sky? Or maybe a holy village, a temple, or a sacred river?

But still, I ask you: have you really escaped?


I get out of the car and walk along the sandy driveway in the velvet summer evening. Light slants through the majestic oak trees, and Spanish moss forms golden canopies above my head. My mind whirs with a thousand plans and a thousand anxieties.

I reach the front door of a renovated barn and sigh. I slip off my shoes and enter a room with warm wood floors and saffron walls. I join the other students in front of the wall-to-wall mirrors and we fold our palms and recite prayers in unison.

We offer our respects to the earth, to God, to our guru, to the audience, and then we turn to the corner of the room to offer obeisance to the deity of Lord Nataraj – the Lord of Dance.

We begin to dance, and the room resounds with the rhythm of our feet. One by one, my thousands of thoughts drop away. My worries, daydreams, plans, schedule... my excitement, sadness, anger…


When I dance Bharatanatyam, my mind washes clean. If I think about a single plan, even form a single sentence in my head, my hands slip, my feet fall off beat, and I lose my expression. It’s impossible to dance and to think.

Every moment I feel the fire circulate through my body; I focus on every moment to bend, jump, smile, and shift my gaze. Just to breathe is an adventure. Every moment is alive. I am alive.

This is my addiction to Bharatanatyam dance.

Amazing how in life so often we want to escape the present moment into an other world.

But dance is an escape from my world into the pure and present moment.

“The same stream of life
that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world
and dances in rhythmic measures.”
 Rabindranath Tagore 

Anapayani dasi, my dance guru

So please tell me now: what is your escape? 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Trump-all Answer

Chandramukhi (photo by Indradyumna Swami)

One afternoon, several of us on the young-girls tour, Kishori Yatra, were swimming in a lake, laughing and fooling around. Then Chandramukhi, the youngest girl on the whole Yatra, swam up to me. She's five.

"Hey Bhakti," her eyes were wide. "Which one do you like better, the sun or the moon?"

I was utterly unarmed. Usually I'm the one asking the hypothetical questions.

I studied her for a moment and a slow smile crept up my face. "Why... the sun."

"Why?" she persisted.

And so I gave her my reasons - the sun is bright, steady, and helps us all to grow. "Which one do you like better?" I asked.

"The moon," she said instantly. I smiled to think that maybe she liked the moon because her name means 'the maiden with the moon-face'.

She told me her reason with a grin and then swam off, and I just stood there, more unarmed by her reason even than her question.

Later that evening, the whole Kishori Yatra sat on the beach around a campfire under an almost-full moon. We had a weird talent show, we sang some songs, and then... we asked hypothetical questions. Everyone threw around gross and crazy questions that had us all laughing.

Then I called out, "Well, which one do you prefer, the sun or the moon?"

Everyone had their answer - the sun because it's cheery, the moon because you can look at it... some answers were scientific, some were just based on feeling.

Finally I said, "You see, Chandramukhi asked me this question earlier today." I looked at Chandramukhi across the campfire. "You want to tell everyone what your answer was?"

She shook her head.


She shook her head again, and I knew she'd never say it. She's a shy girl.

"Go ahead," Yamuna, her mother, said. "Just say it, Bhakti,"

"Yeah, we all want to know!" some girls chorused.

"Well," I began. "She said that she loves the moon more... because Krishna and the gopis dance under the moon for the rasa dance."

Sighs and "wow"s chased around the campfire circle. Some of us glanced up at the moon, which shone down on us in silver shadows.

"That answer trumps all," one girl sighed.

I couldn't agree more.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.