What is contemplation

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Learning, reflecting living

the way of the non-mind driven life

Contemplation means different things in different philosophical traditions. In India contemplation is essentially composed of sravanam (learning the practice), mananam (reflecting on the practice) and nidhidhyasanam (living the knowing, deepening and being in it and making it one’s own). While this way of contemplating is prescribed for intellectual traditions, any practice (saadhana) that aims at Brahmasakshatkaram or the experience of Brahman, or transcendence, essentially has the same stages.

The role of the mind is mostly in the first stage—sravanam. In this stage one learns from the teacher with full attention and commitment. The structure of practice, its rules and all other material aspects of the practice are important in this stage. In dance, the physicality of the practice is the focus here, in ‘seeing’ the embodied expression of the practice and in being able to enter into it or lay it upon oneself as much as possible.

Mananam is the process of reflecting upon the learning. In dance this is facilitated through allowing the body to respond to the physical and material information. Rather than imitation, this stage is about being attentive to the ways in which we individually respond to the received material. In a Rasa based dance practice, this includes being attentive to the feeling constellations enabled by the physical vocabulary. The teacher guides this process through embodied reflection and through holding the space for learners to sustain the non verbal modalities of this process.

Nidhidhyasanam is where the learner develops the practice and deepens their engagement with it. The practice then becomes a way of stepping outside of our chitta or mind-driven limited understanding of reality. It offers an expansion from our limited selfhood towards contextualizing our life and experience as part of larger patterns and feelings. This is where the practice truly becomes a saadhana as it can lead to experience of Brahman (Brahmasakshatkaram).

Padma MenonGiraffe Studio