A few years ago I created an art collection inspired by an experience I had while on a ten day silent meditation retreat. At one point, I had a vision of a nuclear mushroom cloud with the words SAT NAM overlaid on it.
Sat Nam is the main word that appears in the Sikh sacred scripture. The word Sat means “everlasting truth” and the word Nam means “name”. Translated loosely, it means “who’s name is truth” or “truth is my identity”.
In that moment I considered that all of life is part of truth. Whatever concept of God we might have, it surely embodies all of reality as it is. The light and the dark. The good and the bad.
It’s easy to become disillusioned or righteous. But how do we maintain an equanimous perspective – seeing the entirety of reality as interconnected?
I was inspired to translate this vision into physical art. The first piece came together within a few weeks and I felt called to expand on the concept with additional imagery beyond the nuclear explosion. What was most striking to me was this idea of using challenging imagery not to criticize but to create dialogue.
Each piece is a social mirror calling us to stop and reflect on how what we see has somehow informed who we are. The goal being to approach the subject matter not with judgement, but with acceptance as we endeavor to see our own reflection in whatever is being depicted.
Though the things we see may not be agreeable to us, they are nonetheless part of our reality. A reality of which we are also an expression. By acknowledging this we can consider that shifting our global situation requires a holistic approach that involves all participants in the system.
Today, for the first time, I share a slideshow of these images with a corresponding spoken word poem that I wrote to accompany them.
For me, much of this approach revolves around deep listening. When Guru Nanak, founder of Sikh Dharma, came out of samadhi, he spoke 36 stanzas of which four were about listening. Each stanza concludes with: “Deeply listening, sorrows and errors depart”. The implication is that when we listen deeply enough we cultivate an understanding of all things based on the interrelatedness of life – thus all sorrows and errors depart.
For the last five years, my partner and I have been exploring listening as a discipline combining research from Harvard and MIT with yogic tradition and our own work with online group process through Sutra. This weekend we’re piloting one of our first workshop experiences around this theme. If you’re in New York City and you feel called to join us, please do. You can register here.
We’ll also be offering an online course in deep listening and awareness based communication soon. Please email us if that is of interest to you.