The Chrysalis of Clouds

Long flights are a time for introspection and solitude. Maybe given how little I get of this precious time unconnected, and alone, I am doubly appreciative of these spots of solitude gifted to me.

It is strange to think I am surrounded by sentient beings on a flight amidst the clouds. It was cramped being surrounded by people, but yet, free enough to let my fancies roam the beautiful worlds outside. The stars that I stare at from down below seem closer, and more familiar without the forms of the lit urban landscape to obscure the view.

Squinting into the night, it is faintly possible to remember a world swirling below and worlds swirling all around us, and worlds in which our problems are just that – fleeting wisps of cloud.

It is also rarely that I get to indulge in the beautiful meditations afforded by looking out the window. The tinkling lights of spots of civilization below make me think of how our problems look from above. I can think benignly of mankind just as I can do so when I am atop a mountain looking down at our lives.

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The rain bearing clouds were floating heavily as I surveyed them longingly from the airplane window. There is a strange uplifting feeling in being up among the clouds. When you are up there for hours together just quietly admiring the clouds, and the various lights that illumine them, there is cosmic beauty there. A calm beauty that words cannot do justice to. The idea of a soaring high atop a large thrumming bird watching the moonbeams light up the clouds is magical.

Watching the sun rise from above the clouds is even more magical. The transformation between dusk to night and from night to dawn is amazing. When on a long flight like that, it is doubly interesting to note that it is hard to imagine trees among the clouds. There is just a white/grey world tinged with silver, gold, yellow and orange against a black or blue sky. Where are the greens and purples that the eyes yearn for up there?

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Flying among the clouds, there was a strange sense of being transient. Aren’t we all transient beings, here among the clouds for a while? This world. While it feels beautiful to experience this fleeting sensation, it is also bourne upon us about the fragility of our beings. We are in pressure controlled vessels , being looked after by flight attendants with food and drink that our peculiar palates can accept.

As the flight announcements came on about our landing, I felt an unease. A return from the lands of fancy above to one tinged with reality. Was this how adventurers felt? Maybe it was because of the chapter I was reading in The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen as he wraps up his 6 month trek in the Tibetan Dolpo region on the lookout for snow leopards:
“To emerge gradually from such a chrysalis, drying new wings in the sun’s quiet, like a butterfly, to avoid a sudden tearing of the spirit. Certainly this has been a silent time, and a hallucinatory inner journey too, and now there is this sudden loss of altitude.”

The transcendental nature of flights,  watching the moonbeams, suns-rays and so on illumine the fluffy worlds below is a gift indeed. A time of mellifluous thought,  the landing to the earth is seldom smooth – do birds feel that way?

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A Poem From The Clouds:


The rain bearing clouds shimmer over the city lights below

Giving way to a darker journey where

The stars keep me company as they twinkle over the wing

Blinking and twinkling their friendly greeting as my eyes fathom their shapes.
The sun’s rays across the wing span creep in, slowly

Ushering in a new world

The same world blanketed by the stars

Or is it?
A billion diamonds replaced by one

One Star that outshines everything – The Supreme Star

Till Time takes charge at dusk again

A reminder that Time alone endures.

The Art of Breathing

A colleague caught me mid breath one day. It was one of those days that butterflies would have looked on me with mixed emotions.

On the one hand with pride: When did this caterpillar learn to flit like this?

On the other hand with amused tolerance: The half-wit seems to be forgetting the sweet joy of collecting nectar amidst pretty bright flowers, with all the fast paced flitting. Forfeiting the sweet thing about flitting – tut tut!  Flutter tutter utter nutter! (I am not high up on the poems caterpillars learn to sing about when still creepy crawlies; and the butterfly metaphor only goes so far!)

Anyway, it was one of the many days in which I flitted about the old work spot tasking, multi-tasking, sub-tasking, reminding others about their tasking, setting reminders for my own tasks and so on. Thoroughly immersed in my second self that Mary Oliver so succinctly calls the Social Self…yes, it was one of those days.

Mary Oliver’s, Upstream, is a book of many marvelous essays.  The essay, Of Power and Time, talks about the three selves in many of us:

•The Child Self

•The Social Self &

•The Eternal Self.

 

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Though in the essay, Mary Oliver, refers to the Eternal Self as the artistic self, I like to interpret it as the Creative self.

• The Child Self is in us always, it never really leaves us.

• The second self is the social self. This is the do-er, the list maker, the planner, the executer.

• Then, there is the third self: the creative self, the dreamer, the wanderer.

T’was during one of these trying days that I remembered the deep breath technique my Yoga teachers had tried to teach me about. Take deep breaths, and concentrate on it filling your stomach, feel it coming in and out of your nostrils and so on. So, I started my deep breaths as I was walking from one meeting to another. Deep breath, exhale, deep breath, exhale and so on. I had thought no one watched, but one colleague caught me, and grinned. “That should be your GIF you know?” he said.

I nodded sheepishly, and went back to my brand of breath-less flitting within minutes.

Later that week-end I ran into this beautiful children’s book in the library. A book that was just waiting to be written. A beautiful capture of all the different types of breath, Alphabreaths 

Written by : Christopher Willard (a clinical psychologist) & Rechtschaffen MA, Daniel (a counselor)

Illustrated by:  Clifton-Brown

 

 

The book is a lovely read urging us to Breathe like a Dolphin taking a dive, or our favorite one, The Ninja Breath – silently and slowly. The illustrations too make for a marvelously relaxing read. Please check out their Youtube clip : here

 

 

Mindful breathing and Yoga are excellent concepts to teach the children, and I am always in awe of those who can take complex concepts and make them palatable for the consumption of young and old alike.

If you happen to come home and find the son and I swimming like dolphins or getting ready for a Star Trek mission on the floor while Yoga-ing along with the Cosmic Kids Yoga series by Jaime Amor , do not be alarmed. Her yoga videos are appealing and fun. If, along the way, we do something to calm ourselves down – then great, else, we have had a great time.

There are so many aspects to the Philosophy of Being (I am amused it has such a strictly medical sounding name: Ontology)

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, and reading the Wikipedia page itself boggles my simple mind (A post on the Study of Philosophy is sitting up on its hind legs and begging to be written). Maybe, what is required is a Ninja Training on Ontology. Excerpt from the wiki page:

Such an understanding of ontological categories, however, is merely taxonomic, classificatory. Aristotle’s categories are the ways in which a being may be addressed simply as a being, such as:[9]

  • what it is (its ‘whatness’, quiddity, haecceity or essence)
  • how it is (its ‘howness’ or qualitativeness)
  • how much it is (quantitativeness)
  • where it is (its relatedness to other beings)

*** Taking a Y for Yawning Breath before a Z for zzzz breath about now ****

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Keeping ontological explanations aside, if The Nature of Being comes down to simple techniques of breath, fluidity and movement, it makes the simplicity behind it all brilliant.

It was one of those ‘Simple is brilliant’ types of  quotes that I went looking for. I know many brilliant blokes and blokees have said marvelous things about simplicity -I know old Leonardo Da Vinci said something about it, so did old man, Einstein. In any case, looking for one of those made me fumble on this one by Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl

From Wikipedia: Thor Heyerdahl became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between separate cultures.

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Continue reading “The Art of Breathing”

The Meditative Glaze

The lark does let me win sometimes. I can’t deny that I love the early morning snooze in. I am not one of those birds who sit up in bed chirping happily. I like to squirm about the nest and cheep rather groggily before nudging in to my day. Yet, there are days when I get up before dawn cracks over the horizon and those days, I don’t like to waste indoors. I want to boast to the world that I am up, I am embracing the day. Most days in Hawaii during our recent vacation, I was up to welcome my day with a smile and a walk. It was our first day in Kauai, the Garden Island. While there, our apartment had a partial ocean view. What that means is, that if you are tall enough and know how to crane your neck in a Z-shaped angle, you will be able to see the ocean. Early on our first morning, I went a-walking. I inhaled the fresh sea air, I looked up at the lightening sky and admired the hues. I thought of how an artist would capture that moment, and how despite the many, many paintings of a tropical beach, there are few that can truly capture the essence of being there. How do you make a painting breathe? How do you make a photograph scent the salted air, or listen to the crashing sound of waves. I found that I could not stand still, I needed to do something, and so I did. I walked. I must have walked quite a bit for the sun had risen and I decided that no matter how lax peoples’ standards are in the dressing department in Hawaii, I could not pass off my nightie as formal wear for too long into the morning. So, I headed back to our apartment.

If there is a fault with my early morning walks, it is that it puts me in a loquacious mood. I want to share my energy and relive the scenery and all that boot. As I headed back home, I remembered that the husband rashly took it upon himself to meditate first thing in the morning, so maybe I will find him quietly contemplating the wonders of the world.

Aha! Just as I thought: I turned the corner to see the husband there on the porch in our apartment. I was dying to share the exhilaration of the morning air, and waved to him at the rate of 38 mph in the clockwise direction and 32 mph in the anti-clockwise direction . At first, I thought he did not notice me. For there was no reaction from him, though he clearly had his face turned towards me. It must be the meditative glaze. So, I hollered my best “HI!” – I modulated the pitch so that it could be heard over the sound of the waves and simultaneously broke into a run to better conquer the lawn between self and the porch.

If there was an Indian movie director at the time, he could have gotten the perfect shot of a less-than-glamourous, slightly disheveled heroine running in slow motion through the lifting mists, and plugged it into any of his movies. Obviously one expects the hero to do his share. I mean, one doesn’t expect him to stand around while the heroine does all the work right?

You could have thrown a blade of grass at me and knocked me down at what happened next. The man turned and scuttled off inside like he had never seen me before. The nerve!

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But, I must not be too harsh on the poor man, for it turns out that he had never seen me before. I was rushing through the wrong lawns and waving and Hi-ing to  the man of the house at Building 2N when I should have been hollering at the man in Building 1N. I forgave the man his impudence and went on with a dignified gait to see the man I loved at Building 1N. I needn’t have worried. My man was there neatly tucked in bed, transcending that beautiful world of dreams and dreaming of meditating while looking at that ocean. Or maybe, the meditation had sent him to his dreams again.

Whatever it was, the world was in its right place and I marched out again to sip a cup of water before the household awoke.

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