Recently, I went to one of my favorite sanctuaries in New York City, ABC Carpet & Home. For those who don’t know it, ABC is a shop that showcases unique, interesting arts and crafts for the home from around the world. You can just walk around and drink in the beauty and diversity. I’m not advocating shopping. Not at all. Artists, poets, writers, and musicians understand beauty as an expression of the divine. Not cosmetic beauty, but rather a cosmic creativity that artists channel into a poetic form. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert said in a TED talk that artists are “mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine”.
ABC holds many yoga and meditation events. The event I attended was in honor of the great Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. It was the launch of a new, permanent meditation room dedicated to his work. Thich Nhat Hanh is a widely inspiring figure, perhaps because he delivers teachings in simple and relatable forms. One of those forms is calligraphy. He creates calligraphic pieces showcasing short, powerful Zen statements. These calligraphies were on display in the new meditation space, and I went around photographing them. Many cultural commentators say that nowadays we outsource our memories to our smart phones. We’ve gotten used to taking a picture of something, instead of making an effort to remember it. But I believe there is also an innate human desire to record things that remind us of our true nature. Because so often we forget. We need constant reminding.
One statement resonated with me particularly, and I posted the photo on Instagram: “The way out is in”. A student saw the photo and commented: “Please remind me often”. This is the essence of what we’re doing here together in this world. We’re reminding each other of our true nature, which is love, compassion, sweetness, divinity, interconnection; what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “inter-being”.
We don’t have to look someone in the eyes with a really intense gaze and say: “Remember! You are a divine being!” Though we could. We can think of many creative and different ways to remind each other daily. Can you think of someone who needs reminding?
A friend who is a yoga teacher in Paris, holds luxurious yoga retreats in exotic locations. When you think of going to a yoga retreat, you might tend to think: “I’m going to rest and relax”. “I’m going to feel so good!” You focus on your self. But when the practitioners arrive at her retreat, each is tasked with a responsibility. They get a little piece of paper with another yogi’s name. And they are charged with taking care of that person, anonymously, for the duration of the retreat; making sure they feel happy, supported, and connected. Through reminding others of their true identity, we remind ourselves.
Yoga teachers are particularly lucky, because our main job is to remind students of their true selves. What could be better?