I saw the movie Samsara yesterday, and awoke this morning with a New Year alchemy idea for you to do. I’ve called it Samsara Alchemy, and as I type those words something deep within jumps to attention and formulates a concept for a book by that title, so I take a note to self.
In Sanskrit, Samsara means continuous flow, the repeating cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth – impermanence, the ever turning wheel of life. Samsara, the movie, (directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson), is a visual meditation on this theme, filmed over more than four years across twenty-five countries and five continents.
According to the Samsara website, the movie “explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation.”
The best way to enjoy the movie is to immerse yourself in its flow, to suspend (or at least quieten) the intellect’s need for information, location, and details. Flowing frees your mind and allows you to experience a Buddhist perspective of life’s dramas.
Some of the images are confronting – death, destruction, factory farming – while others are heart-achingly beautiful. Recurring close ups of eyes staring unmoving into the camera – or the camera staring deeply into eyes – interplay with panoramic bird’s eye views of the startling patterns we create as we move through life.
A favourite for me was the recurring theme of watching the sun move through a building or landscape, throwing patterns of shadows and light, followed by moonlit shadows and the passage of starry heavens before rebirth into morning light.
Patterns, patterns, recurring patterns, up close and grandly sweeping, patterns, patterns, recurring patterns, life, death, rebirth, continuous flow, Samsara.
Does Samsara speak to you of circles or spirals? Do you see a pattern of evolution, or devolution, within the grand recurring patterning of life (a spiral), or do you see one ever-repeating cycle, always returning to the same place (a circle), though perhaps seeing it with different eyes?
The countdown begins. Those of us who follow the western calendar are living the last day or two (give or take time zones) of 2012, about to mark the end of the old year and greet the birth of the new. Instead of writing New Year resolutions, I encourage you to immerse yourself in a Samsara Alchemy. This is what to do:
Begin by sitting quietly, perhaps after a meditation, and let some images come to you from your personal life during 2012. Write down the images that come to you. They might be obvious (the big events, both highs and lows), or they might surprise you (an image of a forgotten event or experience). Review your list. Make sure you have a mix of highs and lows, and a mix of mundane and unusual. Make sure your list includes some dilemmas you encountered during the year as well as some insights and epiphanies you recall.
If this seems difficult, begin again. Remember that Samsara means flow. Let it flow. Don’t approach this logically. Let images come to you.
If you enjoy words, simply take a piece of paper (as big or as small as you like), and write a single word for each image or thought that came to you. For the images that had a big impact on you, write the words in big letters, and for the images which were less impactful at the time, write the words in smaller letters. (Think of tag clouds on blog posts.) Arrange your words anywhere on your paper, at random, all over the place, or in a pattern. When you’ve finished, step back from the snapshot picture of your life in 2012, and let it speak to you.
If you enjoy art, create an artwork from your collection of 2012 images. Draw, paint, sculpt, collage, or choose any medium, then step back from your remembered vision of 2012, and let it speak to you anew.
The idea of this alchemy is to borrow the vision of the Samsara filmmakers to create a meditation on (to paraphrase the filmmakers) “the wonders of your personal world during 2012, from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of your spirituality and your human experience”. Your picture will help you to see and appreciate life’s continuous flow, the repeating cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. As you step into 2013, consider how this perspective can assist you in choosing what you birth, or rebirth, and how you flow, as you begin a new cycle of life.
(All images are stills from the movie.)
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