TRA, an essay and a meditation on staying at the Caldera: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

TRA is the word “ART” in reverse, it signifies a way of changing our perception and the wholeness of our embodied experience.

Tra can be found in words such as travel, transport, traverse, transformation, training and translation. Of Sanskrit words there are mantra, tantra, yantra and sutra. Mantra is an instrument of thought, by repeating a word with ardor we cultivate the heat of transformation. Tantra can be translated as: “a tool (tra) for expanding (tan)”,—the stretching out on a loom of connections in order to form an interpenetrating nexus or a matrix. The various Tantric practices stretches our awareness beyond dualistic mental filters—expanding our energy through intensifying the juice of sensory experience. Yantra is a Tantric form of sacred art: geometrical compositions or instruments designed to concentrate the psychic forces on a pattern that shows the shivering (sisirita) interaction of the elements of reality. Through the lens of "tra", the body is a physical system that metabolizes its own form, much like a volcanic supereruption with its ensuing Caldera formation—the breath weaves us into the uncoiling landscape.

Tra is relational, a tool for connection and transformation, like the breath. It weaves together the apparent dualism of emptiness and form, subject and object, mind and body, male and female, inhale and exhale, text and context, inside and outside, physical world and imaginary world, heaven and earth, body and landscape. In ancient times this relationality—where parts of Nature were connected like pearls on a string—was embodied in sculptures of deities. By meditating on the dancing Nataraja, Chhinnamasta’s garland of skulls or the 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara, one would incarnate the relations between forces the deity embodied, as well as its postural alignment. These currents of “Tra” interconnects, like Avalokiteshvara’s arms—they’re a delta that connects the river to the Ocean.

Albert Einstein claimed that quantum mechanics allows two objects to affect each other immediately across large distances, what he called “spooky action at a distance”. Beyond Faraday and Maxwells discovery of the Electromagnetic Field—through which distant bodies influence each other—Einstein showed that gravity is also held by a field: the mountainous landscape of spacetime. The physicality of matter and energy distorts the surface of spacetime into hills and valleys—the geometry of peaks and crags, crevasses and gorges, glens and cirques—Einstein’s patterns of alignment were non-Euclidean. This dissolution of the rigidity of space and time opened up a fresh, pulsating, albeit vertiginous territory of meaning. Einstein was the first to realize that empty space is not no-thing, it has wonderful properties. One of these properties is that it is possible for more space to grow into existence, which means that empty space can have its own native energy. Because this energy is a property of space itself it would not dwindle as space expands. More space means more of this mysterious space-energy—Einstein's gravity theory—generating the expansion of the universe by the dynamism of Dark Energy. In an increasingly accelerating universe, emptiness becomes an oxymoron—the void has fullness.

Yoga is an “ART” designed to TRAnscend our limited sense of self, and thus delve into fields of sensation which awakens the energy (prana) in the sediments of our bodies. The practice of Haṭha Yoga (the physical aspect of yoga) is a device for moving deeper into the center of the ever-changing landscape within, paradoxically connecting us to the landscape without. It is said in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā that the awakening of the kundalini (the nexus of power generated by the breath) into the central channel of the body (the space between the two energy channels: Ida and Pingala) is the foundation of all tantra. The simultaneous beholding of opposing forces is also reflected in the word Yoga which means “union” or “yoke”. When we optimize our breath and surrender into the inhalation and the exhalation, both patterns work simultaneously in the nervous system and engender a greater sense of wholeness.

As we release a storm of breath that inundates the darkest corners of our selves, we invite its energy (prana) to wash away residual holding patterns that bind our lungs. As the tidal current of our breath releases, we may experience our preconceptions dissolving into the pulp of the ripening landscape.

Photo: me demonstrating Adho Mukha Vrksasana (photo Julia Tingulstad)