Yum Yum. Technically, the definition of the Hindu word rasa is “liquid,” but our friend Anu was encouraging us to think of this word – which in Hinduism describes the ultimate, and ultimately spiritual, pleasure in any aesthetic experience – more as “juice” or “nectar,” the most delicious experience we can savor.

“You know, when you ride a roller coaster or watch a good scary movie, and even if you feel shocked or frightened or any intense feeling, but as it ends you say, ‘Wow, that was great!’? Or when you feel so happy after a really funny movie, or really touched by a dance or a painting? That savoring of your own feelings, that intense and still balanced connection with all of our feelings, is rasa. That is when your heart is in a higher place. And that is the purpose of art!” Anu also indicated that this richness of connection is what the artist feels as well. She said that in the Hindu tradition, the pursuit of the artist is a doubly blessed one, because artists not only elevate themselves but also elevate their audience. In this way, art is equated with a spiritual pursuit and a spiritual practice, a ritual.

She told us about one of her rituals. She maintains an altar in her dance studio. She explained her need to touch it, again and again, each time she enters. In this way, she marks that time and that place as special. And sacred. She also told us of a moment, eight years ago, when onstage she had a sort of out-of-body experience, that after so many years of practice and discipline her awareness danced right out of her and turned and saw herself. At that moment she knew, just had complete faith that her purpose on this earth was to dance, that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do. I exclaimed, “That must have been such a peaceful moment!” She lit up and chirped, “Completely!”

Last Sunday, she was completely peaceful and graceful, powerful and beautiful, kinetic and grounded, inspired and inspiring as she danced a recital at the Long Center. A glowing altar, overflowing with flowers and candles, graced one corner of the stage. She had told my daughters of the belief that an energy flows from performer to audience and back, like a circuit. It lights everyone up. Larkin, the actor of our family, had lit up at this description. “That’s just what I feel when I act! That’s why I love to do it so much!”

And, that is why both of my girls loved watching an exotic and elegant dance on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a dark theater. We were glowing along with her. We were witnessing how beautifully the spirit can inspire the body and how very yummy it is to be inspired as well. Kyrie said, “I love how she incarnates her dancing into her spirituality.”  Cheers to that! With big cups of rasa overflowing.

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