On Truth and Identity

A few years ago I created an art collection inspired by an experience I had while on a ten day silent meditation retreat. At one point, I had a vision of a nuclear mushroom cloud with the words SAT NAM overlaid on it.

Sat Nam is the main word that appears in the Sikh sacred scripture. The word Sat means “everlasting truth” and the word Nam means “name”. Translated loosely, it means “who’s name is truth” or “truth is my identity”.

In that moment I considered that all of life is part of truth. Whatever concept of God we might have, it surely embodies all of reality as it is. The light and the dark. The good and the bad.

It’s easy to become disillusioned or righteous. But how do we maintain an equanimous perspective – seeing the entirety of reality as interconnected?

I was inspired to translate this vision into physical art. The first piece came together within a few weeks and I felt called to expand on the concept with additional imagery beyond the nuclear explosion. What was most striking to me was this idea of using challenging imagery not to criticize but to create dialogue.

Each piece is a social mirror calling us to stop and reflect on how what we see has somehow informed who we are. The goal being to approach the subject matter not with judgement, but with acceptance as we endeavor to see our own reflection in whatever is being depicted.

Though the things we see may not be agreeable to us, they are nonetheless part of our reality. A reality of which we are also an expression. By acknowledging this we can consider that shifting our global situation requires a holistic approach that involves all participants in the system.

Today, for the first time, I share a slideshow of these images with a corresponding spoken word poem that I wrote to accompany them.

For me, much of this approach revolves around deep listening. When Guru Nanak, founder of Sikh Dharma, came out of samadhi, he spoke 36 stanzas of which four were about listening. Each stanza concludes with: “Deeply listening, sorrows and errors depart”. The implication is that when we listen deeply enough we cultivate an understanding of all things based on the interrelatedness of life – thus all sorrows and errors depart.

For the last five years, my partner and I have been exploring listening as a discipline combining research from Harvard and MIT with yogic tradition and our own work with online group process through Sutra. This weekend we’re piloting one of our first workshop experiences around this theme. If you’re in New York City and you feel called to join us, please do. You can register here.

We’ll also be offering an online course in deep listening and awareness based communication soon. Please email us if that is of interest to you.

2 Replies to “On Truth and Identity”

  1. Hi Lorenz
    Thank you for this very forthright and candid exploration of your inner world and experience…and your willingness to share your insights and questions and perceptions. I have listened many times…and stopped each time I felt the words running ahead of me. I resonate with the struggles with acceptance and coming to terms with the incongruencies in myself and in the world…and how the two of us come together. Having said that, I hesitate to say too much because as I was listening I wanted to stop at each line and in each moment to say, “What does that mean to you. Could you clarify what this means for you because I don’t want to project my perception…I wanted to have a conversation.” There were many words and phrases that I could see from many different perspectives and my journey has taken me down a road where I too value embracing the differences, the harsh places and I wondered if we diverged in our understanding of how that is for us or if we had a similar experience. The terms mirror and reflection and I can’t remember the other ones made me want to stop and ask you what they meant for you…I am beginning to see that those undesireable traits that we have silenced and judged really have the jewel hidden inside if we would only listen for long enough…is that how it is for you…I wish we could have had that conversation…I have a tendancy toward wanting to question and I have learned that sometimes I am seeing difference where there is none and sometimes the question simply clarifies and broadens my own experience…Thank you again and thank you for listening…Blessings always

    1. Hi Anne – thank you for your deep reflection. What I mean is that when I look deeply at almost any situation or person, I find that aspect within myself as well. And if I do not see the reflection directly, I am still sure it is there. Some aspect of this other person, particularly if it is bothering me, is usually found within myself. Possibly this is what you mean by the hidden jewel. Seeing and embracing the shadow within myself has been a gradual and rewarding process of self acceptance for me. It is very much ongoing. As I get past my own shame, I find less urge to shame others. The kinds of issues I highlight in the slideshow imagery are very much prone to shame and blame. They’re sensitive and painful issues and it is not my place to tell anyone how they should or shouldn’t feel about them. So rather than do that, my intention is to ask the viewer to examine what comes up – to look at the internal experience and see if there’s any space to explore the relationship we have to what we see in the world.

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