Many great wisdom masters refer to enlightenment as the state of “seeing with the eyes of a child.” If we could just get back to the way young children experience the world, we’d be in a state of wonder and awe all of the time – for the child is in a state of “beginner’s mind” or “empty mind.” Everything is new – colors, sounds, textures, tastes. Every experience is an opportunity for adventure, fascination, and absorption.
As adults we often lose this sense of wonder and awe. From all of the pain, suffering, hurt, trauma, and just the challenge to simply survive in today’s world, we close down and close off. Our senses become dull. We stop noticing the little miracles of life. Our world becomes limited and small.
Springtime is about expansion. It’s about blossoming the heart. In the colder winter months, we tend to stay tight in the bud. But in spring, we suddenly feel the call to let go and open up. This is the perfect season to create a fresh start, to begin something new, to make that change we’ve been dreaming of.
But in order to blossom, you have to let go of the bud. You have to release the past, the routine, the familiar.
I’ve been feeling a kind of restlessness lately. Maybe it’s because I have cabin fever since there’s still snow on the ground in spots and although the sun is warming up, there’s a brisk wind. I can feel my heart aching to blossom. I feel and sense a change in the air. I think I’m also feeling the impact of Covid, which was such a major life shift for me and for many others I know. It’s good to acknowledge where we’ve been and to ask what do we want now?
What do you want now?
I’ve been reflecting on the powerful teaching and mythology of the Saptah Tandava, the Seven Dances of Nataraja, which is the theme of the April Pillars of Peace Ashaya classes.
The journey of the dance is Vikrukti (crooked, undone, leaving some fraction of opening in any amount of certainty). Like life, things never unfold in a straight line. It’s perfectly imperfect, not orderly, not totally sequential. Vikrukti also describes the nature of the universe which is perfectly unfinished and in a state of becoming. This becoming and changing state forces us to stay awake. If life never changed, we would become bored. Yet we still tend to cling to our routines, to the familiar, and we resist change. This can dull our senses and cause us to miss the dance.
In the Saptah Tandava, we start with the seventh dance first (Vikrukti), which is Ananda Tandava because Ananda Tandava represents the fullest expression of all of the dances.
The Tantra tells us that we already have everything we need inside of us and so we start with the end first, Ananda Tandava.
Ananda is bliss that goes beyond happiness and joy to thriving. It is a compelling state of consciousness, the highest vibratory level we can touch. We have a deep desire to thrive, to be fully expressed, to find deeper meaning and fulfillment in life.
Tandava means dance but it also means to be completely absorbed in the state of your state, to be possessed by the state of your state. Douglas Brooks suggests that the Tandava can be described like this, “What the yogi really wants is wildness without savagery, fury without anger, and urgency without anxiety. But if you happen to experience savagery, anger, and anxiety, well that’s Tandava too.”
Tantra is all about checking in rather than checking out of life. And, to dance the Ananda Tandava, you have to be willing to really check in, to experience everything, to feel all of your feelings, to be wholly in the state of your state, and not push anything away.
Each of the Seven Dances has a corresponding Rasa (taste, emotion, feeling). For the first dance, Ananda Tandava, the Rasa is Adbhuta, wonder and awe. Wonder is characterized by a state of openness, softness, presence, and curiosity. You have to be in the present moment to experience Adbhuta. And Adbhuta can be cultivated. You can train yourself to notice it more and more throughout the day by simply being aware of it. It’s like a muscle, though. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
Whenever your mind slows down and becomes still, as in meditation, you’re toning your wonder muscle. When your mind is clear and you come into the present moment, wonder becomes accessible. A sunrise or sunset, an animal in nature, a solar eclipse, or a baby beginning to walk, can all be seen as wonder through a clear and present mind.
Wonder is the state of consciousness that exists in the gap between thoughts. The gap is teeming with possibility and potential. It holds a piece of the unknown, the mystery of life. Access to the gap is tricky, however. The more you try to get there, the further away from it you get. To access this state, to get inside of the gap, you need to surrender and let go. It’s the only way.
When you savor your experience, when you can accept it fully without any judgment, you enter into the first of the seven dances, Ananda Tandava.
May you return to your natural state of seeing with the eyes of a child and step into the Ananda Tandava, the dance of bliss, wonder, and awe. I hope to see you on the mat!
Todd and the Ashaya Yoga Team