Adbhuta: Wonder & Awe
Today is my son Nova’s thirteenth birthday. Thirteen years ago on a beautiful August evening I gave birth to a perfect baby boy who completely changed the way I would experience and see the world. I remember the first few days following his birth his father and I and our new babe were wrapped in this hazy golden glow, everything looked new and bright, everything was miraculous and the world felt like it was bursting with love at every possible seam. Magic was everywhere I looked. And though my son has never ceased to delight me of course that sense of the miraculous didn’t last forever and soon enough we were caught up in the day to day grind of being new parents dealing with sleep deprivation.
Life presents us with these key moments and opportunities for wonder, some of them are miraculous such as the birth of a child, some are full of sadness such as the death of a loved one. These both fall under the heading of Adbhuta the Sanksrit word for the rasa of Wonder and Awe. We experience adbhuta when we observe the wonder of nature or are confronted with some new piece of information that shifts our perspective or blows apart our limited understanding of how things work. And of course adbhuta can be found in simple everyday moments if we know how to look for it.
It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, it happens to the best of us. And while we should always remember that we are fortunate to have full lives that require our active participation it can also happen that if we stay too busy we can miss the magic that is happening at all times. That golden glow that enveloped my vision after the birth of my son is always present…it just becomes obscured under the endless daily chores that need doing and the paperwork that needs filing. Yoga has been the practice that has helped me to stay connected to the essence of wonder or adbhuta in my daily life and never fails to help me reclaim the perspective of gratitude and awe.
Today was my son’s birthday but it was very different than the day he was born when I was woken up by the magic of my body going into labour or the promise of a miracle soon to happen. Today I did not wake up with that feeling of mixed fear and excitement that is characteristic of adbhuta. I woke up to my alarm. And dogs that needed walking. And a dishwasher that needed emptying. And so on. And while I did get the chance to kiss my sweet boy and even have a nice lunch with him my day was crowded with obligations and errands and I found myself feeling disconnected from the sense of wonder I had hoped would inspire my day. That’s just the way it is some days.
But I have my practice and it is there for me everyday even if it’s only half an hour that I have to fit in to the spaces between other activities. With just a moment on my cushion to turn into the sweetness of my breath and the rhythm of my heartbeat I can reconnect to the thrill of remembrance, the mystery of my existence. As I stretch out into the familiar forms of my asana practice I am amazed at the mystery of my body, after years of inhabiting it (35 to be precise) there is still more to discover, it is endless, mystery I can never fully plumb. What a wonder this mind, this heart, this physical experience…. I open my eyes to look out on the world after my practice and I again see magic everywhere, love bursting from every possible seam….it was right there all along. And even the forgetting and the not seeing becomes part of the mystery that delights me.
What a wondrous world this is and what magical lives we lead. May we never forget it.