The Art of Liberation

It is typical, during a time of great fear or tyranny, that the arts get neglected. Survival takes precedence and creativity is squandered. The arts provide an immeasurable amount of avenues for releasing negative feelings like fear, doubt, sadness, grief, and silence. It is something that we take for granted; those of us who feel free and safe enough to immerse ourselves in it.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding politics today, and bringing up North Korea typically strikes a negative chord. It can illicit fear and anger almost immediately. While it is a serious situation, I want to shift the attention away from the leaders to the citizens. Think about their lifestyle and what fear they must experience every day. Now, think about their lack of artwork. Photos of North Korea highlight breathtaking views of beautiful scenery, but lack color within everyday life. There is no art. There is no expression. Anything that is created is done so for one purpose: to glorify their leader. That does not mean they do so willingly and that is their art. Their devotion is typically not by choice, and their art (or lack-thereof) illustrates that. There is no freedom to think critically or to express themselves.

What would it look like for children to fulfill their dreams of taking dance classes or learning to play instruments? Someone might paint a canvas of the sky above their new home or a mural of their indescribable journey. Feet that have never danced would carry someone away from their fears. Voices that were silent would suddenly be heard. Hands that served would finally create. Generations of emotion would come pouring from them as they describe their ordeal in a language that the entire world could understand: art.

It is easy for them to fade from our memory altogether as we go about our daily lives; standing next to art that we barely notice is hanging there anymore. Let us be compassionate and empathetic to the people there who are just like us, but who are yearning to be free. Let’s remember the spirit inside of them that they may have forgotten. One day, they will need us to watch and listen as they are liberated through creation. When that day comes, we will see some of the most powerful art that we have seen throughout history.

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Sanskrit in the Mountains

   Last year, I was invited to a place called Yogaville. Hidden in the mountains of Virginia, this retreat proved to be just what I needed. Not only did it provide me with a relaxing weekend, it completely changed my life. I have craved that place since I left it. The spirit, positive energy, and genuine beauty of the people and the ashram were nothing short of inspirational.

    Before that visit, I had never experienced chanting. I remember walking into the room terrified, because I knew that my first guided meditation session would include chanting. I survived it with little embarrassment, and found it to be very relaxing. Fast-forward to the Saturday night ceremony and I was absolutely, 100% terrified. I went from being a stay at home mom and isolated student, to sitting in a room full of strangers chanting Sanskrit. I had a choice to make: I could allow my embarrassment to ruin the experience for me, or I could dive in and and learn as much as possible. I chose the latter. I thought about our human nature and how we are so easily embarrassed-an emotion that forces us to miss out on many of life’s greatest moments. So, I chose adventure. 

      I fumbled my way through the words and appreciated the music being played. I watched the other attendees swaying back and forth, eyes closed, lost in verse. I envied them. I wanted to feel free. 

      Something amazing happened and halfway through the ceremony, I felt it. I felt the energy rush over me like a wave of peace. I felt connected to the words that I previously feared, and I was completely devoted to the ceremony. When it was over, I felt relaxed, collected, energized, and awake to the world around me. I wanted to stay in that world forever. 

     Sanskrit is a beautiful language that is intimidating at first glance. Fortunately, there are many websites and videos that offer assistance with understanding and pronouncing the verses. There is something magical hidden within those words. Once you learn how and the words slide off of your tongue, you are hooked. It is also open to any religion, and is not limited to practicing Hindus. There are unrelated chants that can be used by anyone. Buddhists use chanting, and that is a philosophy that does not praise any god or idol. So, don’t feel like you are betraying your current belief system by practicing a chant.

       I am working on an at-home practice, and will be visiting another ashram within the next couple of months. I hope that this story brought hope to someone who has been afraid to try chanting, for fear of being embarrassed or doing it incorrectly. Free yourself. As long as you are practicing and are reciting them from a place of truth, you will feel the calming and restoring effects of the chant. 

Om Namah Shivaya.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

                 (More on that later)
Namaste.