Inspiration can come from anywhere. Even memories. Today I remember those Highway Commutes from years ago, as I stare at the computer screen and begin writing this editorial.
Twelve years ago, at a small farewell gathering at the university where I taught in Midwestern United States, a few weeks before I left that country for good to relocate to India, I was asked if I would miss something about America. I didn’t have to think at all because I knew what I would miss the most. I would miss the vast and open spaces and huge stretches of fields across the plains of the Midwest US, where I had lived, studied and worked for more than 14 years.
My workplace was a bit far from my home, and the daily commute involved driving on a wide highway, which like most other highways in that part of the country cut across the vast cornfields and open plains. Because there were not many constructed buildings in those large stretches of fields and farms, one could get a great, expansive view of the open sky above. It was that view of openness and vastness which I would miss the most, I shared with my colleagues and friends that afternoon.
But what I didn’t share was this. There were many instances when I felt a strange, happy feeling when driving on way to or back from work.
This would happen when I looked up at that vast Midwestern blue sky surrounding the large trees and a few other structures that came along the highway. As the car moved ahead and take me further and further into this vastness of the ever-expanding and ever-widening sky, I would begin to feel a sense of deep insignificance and smallness against the infinite immensity that was all around me, enveloping me.
And then there were those clear and bright mornings when one could clearly see between the silvery, fluffy clouds those sometimes bright-and-shining, sometimes hazy-and-thick rays of the Sun falling upon the Earth’s surface in all directions: Sun’s rays, Light, pouring itself down in abundance from the Source, shining from within the clouds, bringing Grace and Love to all of us, all of the Earth.
Every time such a perception came over while driving, a feeling of spontaneous joy would become part of me. This might be only for a few moments, but those moments brought tremendous sense of opening to the Infinite into which I would feel myself to be slowly driving. I remember clearly that at such moments my chest expanded, a liberating exhalation happened spontaneously, shoulders relaxed, and if the hands didn’t have to hold the steering wheel I would have also opened my arms wide and high in the Light Above.
Meditating while driving? Or a Remembrance of the Infinite?
Truly, the Great Skies are full of Deep Inspiration. We just have to be open to them.
“…when you feel that you are shut up in a completely narrow and limited thought, will, consciousness, when you feel as though you were in a shell, then if you begin thinking about something very vast, as for example, the immensity of the waters of an ocean, and if really you can think of this ocean and how it stretches out far, far, far, far, in all directions, like this (Mother stretches out her arms), how, compared with you, it is so far, so far that you cannot see the other shore, you cannot reach its end anywhere, neither behind nor in front nor to the right or left… it is wide, wide, wide, wide… you think of this and then you feel that you are floating on this sea, like that, and that there are no limits… This is very easy. Then you can widen your consciousness a little.
“Other people, for example, begin looking at the sky; and then they imagine all those spaces between all those stars, and all… that kind of infinity of spaces in which the earth is a tiny point, and you too are just a very tiny point, smaller than an ant, on the earth. And so you look at the sky and feel that you are floating in these infinite spaces between the planets, and that you are growing vaster and vaster to go farther and farther.” (CWM, Vol. 6, pp. 344-345)
The present issue of Renaissance is all about Space, or should I say, Spaces. Spaces within and without, inner and outer and in between. Spaces in their stillness and immensity, in their emptiness and richness. Spaces that are sacred and that are made sacred. Spaces that are infinitely vast and intimately personal.
Along with spaces come in memories and experiences – historical, cultural, personal, psychological, spiritual. These and other related themes are explored in the diversity of pieces selected for this issue. The ideas explored here range from contemplation on the infinity of space to the aesthetic practice of invoking an awareness of the infinite in finite spaces.
An educator from Auroville invokes the sacred memory behind a specific architectural symbolism of a sacred space. A college student from the USA tells us of the different elements which when consciously used invoke sacredness and peace in a specific space, thus facilitating spiritual upliftment.
A poem inspired by the beauty of a dawn facilitates a contemplation of the infinity beyond, while another poem reminds us of the sacredness of this very land of Bharat, our motherland, India. An artist’s meditation on art, consciousness and spaces – inner and outer, compels us to slow down and meditate with the artist herself, while another piece speaks of the harmony that we aspire for – both in our inner and outer spaces.
For the Guiding Light section of this issue, we have selected three poems of Sri Aurobindo, which speak of the immensity and eternity of Space, and its connection to the widening, heightening and deepening of consciousness.
This month, we take a break from our ‘Book of the Month’ series, we’ll be back with another insightful book next month. But we are happy to start another series, ‘Word of the Month,’ in which we will highlight one Sanskrit word and present its deeper meaning(s) and significance. The selected word will be related to the theme of the issue. This month we feature the word – ākāśa (आकाश).
We hope our readers will enjoy going through this issue, as much as we enjoyed compiling it.
As always, we offer this work at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Beloo Mehra (for Renaissance Editorial Team)
Cover photo: Closing in and Clearing out, by Suhas Mehra