This past Thursday evening I was lead into a dimly lit auditorium along with 10 other participants of what was called an Innovation Lab, lead by the Swedish group TILLT. One of our two lab leaders, Jon Liinason, sat at a piano in the far dark corner of the stage. His fingers ruminated over the instrument, from which came short open-ended phrases without resolve. Between these musical expressions were space, breath, and pause – a space that invited us to be and to think. The phrases were like the beginning of thoughts that we were to carry into the expanse of our own imaginations.
On the screen in front of us was a still image of Berlin; the telltale Fehrensehen Turm, or TV tower, rising tall on the left side of the screen. Jon’s music trailed off. He stood and asked us,
“What is vision?”
There was a long silence. We had all settled into our seats and were waiting for the presentation to continue. We then realized that we were part of the presentation and that Jon was waiting for us to answer. There would be no passive reception of material. Most of us sat up an inch or two in our seats, grounding our feet into the ground, elongating the spine, and becoming more active through the entire body. The light remained dim as we delved into defining Vision. Our way of speaking and sharing, reflected Jon’s musical phrases that had preceded us. There was space and patience. Naturally, without any instruction, we waited for each person to speak, and after he or she had finished, there was a pause, just in case he or she had anything to add. There was time enough for everyone to share.
Vision is….an image, imagined, an image we have for the future, un-realized, impossible,….the answers were many, and all accepted. There was no wrong. When we ran out of definitions, there was a pause and then we found more. When we trailed off into a discussion, we were brought backing to talking about “What is vision?”
The entire time my eyes rested half-consciously on the image of Berlin’s TV tower. From time to time I became aware of where my eyes were resting. “This was a vision,” I thought, “a Foucoult vision of power and control.” A tall spire reaching high above the city. From every part of East Berlin, you see the tower, and just maybe the tower is watching you.
I thought as well of the Matrimander, the impressive meditation edifice, located in South India at the center of the alternative, futuristic city of Auroville, founded in the early 1970s by followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Matrimander, is a gold-geodesic dome supported by 12 pillars, and appears something like a giant-sized golf ball, set amongst green fields and gardens.
Along the inside of the dome, white carpeted glass ramps spiral upwards toward the Inner Chamber (aka meditation chamber) like the inside of a nautilus shell. As I padded along the white carpet this past December in my double layer of perfect white socks, a dress-requirement of all visitors, I had the feeling that I had entered a futuristic space world – a new age of humanity.
In the photo above, you can see the nautilus-like structure, as well as the ray of light that passes from top of the dome, down through the inner chamber, through the central chamber (above) and out through the bottom, into a crystal ball floating at the center of a lotus pond (to the left). The Matrimandir is the structural embodiment of a futuristic vision.
We are surrounded by structural visions – some more functional than others. I have often thought how, I myself have very little knowledge about the structures I occupy and experience on a daily basis. If stranded in the wild, I doubt that I could build but a basic, rudimentary shelter for myself .
In the documentary film Breath Made Visible, Anna Halpern talks about each individual being a manifestation of the image he has of him/herself. Consciously or unconsciously we all have an image of ourselves – a vision of ourselves and this is who we essentially are. We therefore all have the power to re-image ourselves – to become the person we want to be. The person of our own vision. In the film, we learn that Anna had been struggling with a serious illness. She used the power of vision, painting the vision she saw of herself and then embodying this vision through movement, to become this vision and to successfully ward off her illness.
What is the current image or vision that you have of yourself? How conscious/ unconscious is it? What vision would you like to have of yourself and your life? Make that vision: draw, write, dance – using whatever medium makes sense to you.
* Try writing an invocation poem, in which you call on or invoke the qualities of other things. Use repetition starting with the words I am…
It is your vision, and with visions there is no limit. Explore making associations with weather, color, texture, smell, movement, animals, flowers, anything you can think of.
I am the gleaming tropic sun…
I am deep chlorophyll green…
I am the wiperwillow calling from above…
I am the moon lily bathing in soft purple light….
I am the ancient salty sea….
I am spiral, melt, coil and spring…
Later you can fill in with the object’s more specific quality, i.e. what makes you the gleaming tropic sun?