Kolam Art

One of the fascinating and fantastic capacities of the human being is in his/her ability to create art out of virtually anything. The evolutionary scheme is partially substantiated by the caveman’s first renderings as he shared his perceptions of life as art. In Southern India among tribal people, the art of the kolam has been developed as a way of blessing and protecting the entrance way to a building or complex. Daily, the kolam is re-designed in an amazing array of variety.

The kolam is usually a pattern of geometric design, often a Yantra, made by sprinkling rice flour between the fingers. A Yantra is a sacred symbol or geometric pattern thought to embody certain energies. When the Yantra is used as a meditative focal point it is reasonable to assume that the energy of the form can impact the consciousness, aka a visual Mantra. For more information on Yantra and Sacred Geometry, our old friend Google Search can probably provide much insight!

For this post I found myself at a Kolam Contest. It appears to be a strictly feminine form of creativity as there were no male participants. I was truly awed at the expertise of the artists and the variety of the patterns. This contest was only using rice powder. When colors are used the pattern is called a Ratnam and there is an additional element of beauty and complexity. I did not stay for the awards, however I suspect that the peacock placed highly just by way of ingenuity. Which is your favorite??  Can we use our creativity to make art out of life in whatever scenario we find ourselves?? I look forward to your ideas.

Best Wishes from India!!

For a larger view, click back and forth on the images.


My Studies

Time is speeding by, as it has a tendency to do after the age of 30! We find ourselves already in 2010. I send good wishes to you all that it will be an outstanding year in every way!

In India, each day is quite full for me with studies, practice, and the day to day of laundry and groceries. In this post I will attempt to explain just what I am doing with my time here.

The alarm is set for 4 or 4:30am. After a glass of ground flax seed and powdered wheatgrass in hibiscus juice(!) I have a morning meditation and prayers that I learned when living with the Tibetan Buddhists. At 5:30am I set out, in the dark, to pick fresh flowers for the Hindu puja that begins at 6am. Puja is a term used for various forms of devotional ritual. A Catholic mass could be seen as a form of puja with its incense and candles. The puja here is entitled the Bharata Samaja and is a 30-40 minute service of Vedic chants acknowledging the blessings of the elements of earth, water, fire, and light. I am learning to chant the Vedic mantras and I find the service to be powerfully uplifting.

Back in my room I have an asana practice which is my own sequence taken from Ashtanga techniques. At this point my intention in asana is maintenance more so than increased prowess. Then onto the dining room for breakfast by 7:30am, followed by group meditation at 8:00am in the meeting hall of the School of the Wisdom.

The School of the Wisdom is a yearly course offered by the Theosophical Society to its members. In this years School thus far we have had a meditation intensive with Ajahn Sumedho Bhikkhu of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, a two week course on the teachings of 20th Century philosopher, J.Krishnamurti, and a two week course on the Theosophical writings of Annie Besant, revered in India for her “stateswomanship” in helping India gain its independence. We are currently finishing the School with a course entitled “Practical Theosophy”. The intention is to show how Theosophical philosophy can be incorporated into one’s daily life. Classes run from 8:30am till 11:00am. In some of the courses there have been afternoon sessions and papers to present in class. For additional information on the School go to www.ts-adyar.org

Another aspect of my study takes place at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, the school founded by TKV Desikachar to further his father’s teachings. I have been a student of Desikachar and Viniyoga since 1986 and completed a course in Yoga Therapy in 1991 with Viniyoga America.

Since my arrival in Chennai, I have participated in weekly classes at the KYM on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the source text of Ashtanga yoga philosophy, as well as classes on the Gayatri Mantra. Next week I will begin a class on Vedic Chanting. As seen in the photos, the KYM is housed in a beautiful new facility and is a hub of teaching activities for national and international courses. Their website is www.kym.org

Many of you know I have waited impatiently for my schedule to be free and allow for my time here in India. I am so grateful to all of you who have played a part in getting me here by taking my classes and supporting my studios. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send me a line or a post. I am very aware of the blessings involving my trip and will hope to share some of those blessings upon my return.

With Love


For a better view click back and forth on the photos.

Daily Life at Adyar

The heavy monsoon weather has passed and Chennai is now in its winter, reminiscent of tropical climates such as Hawaii or coastal Florida, with sunshine, balmy breezes, & sporadic showers. It is THE time to visit if you cannot tolerate heat.

In this post I am sharing the photos of my living quarters and locale. For many of you it may seem rather primitive, yet I feel I am living in a palace; surrounded by Nature, my needs comfortably met. How much of life is spent trying to provide for a comfort level established by one’s upbringing or society in which there are too many THINGS?? Things meant to bring us happiness and eventually ending up in the garage or storage locker! I have lived like a monk for years and do realize it is not possible or desirable for everyone, still, this Christmas we can consider our relationship to the ecology of owning things ?

I do wish you all a wonderful holiday! The meaning of the season whether you are Christian, Jewish, or other, refers to the increased capacity for light. Light in the heart, light in the home, light in the world!! Holiday Blessings and Love!!

Since many of these photos require some explanation, check out the captions below. As always click back and forth for the full view.

Photo Captions:

1. Doorway to Heaven: This is the entrance passage to the second floor of a building know as the New Quadrangle, where my room is located.

2. Bedroom: What more is needed than a bed, a desk, a yoga mat, and an altar ?!

3. Common washing area for teeth, dishes, or laundry. Yes, I am hand washing my clothes in a bucket! There is laundry service however for the less frugal.

4. View from the patio with clothesline: Being among the trees means sharing with chipmunks, many types of birds, and an occasional monkey.

5. Shower Room: cold water only. In these temperatures hot is really not needed, however desirable.

6. Squat toilet: I have told students for years about squatting and hip flexibility. Toilet paper is a different discussion!

7. The beautiful dining room of the Indian Quarters known as Bhojanasala. Krishna as a baby is known as Bala Krishna.

8. Southern Indian lunch: (counterclock wise from the cup) rasa, a thin, spicy vegetable broth; sautéed mung beans; turmeric rice; folded chapatti bread; papadum, a lentil flour cracker; and chayote squash curry. Soooo good!

9. Raja the head cook and a satisfied customer!

10. Banyan tree opposite my building: A banyan tree sends out roots from its branches eventually creating a small forest from a single tree. Here the slender trees are roots of the big tree.

11. The shore along the Adyar property: A lone coconut in the foreground.

12.  Sunset over Adyar: The Theosophical Society property begins at the tree line.