Samkhya has been present in my Yoga studies (implicitly and explicitly) almost from the beginning. It is, for example, impossible to study the Yoga Sutra without standing on the foundations laid out in the Samkhya Karika. If the Yoga Sutra is about “how to be in the world,” Samkhya is about “what is and what is being.”
Over a decade ago I started studying Samkhya (for the first time) with my teacher, but that was cut off during the transition from Israel to Romania. I have since tried approaching the text a few times, but have never settled into it. I felt like it was rejecting me. I was not getting it.
In recent years the universe brought to my attention two beings whose work guided me into the current exploration. The first was Christopher Alexander and his work The Nature of Order. The other was the sudden emergence of the work of Hilma af Klint.
My exploration into Alexander’s work originated in questions about architecture but his work took me way beyond that. His writings about generative processes were a deep and resonant reminder for me to always try to seek out a gradual, step-by-step, felt-sense process. Within the grand metaphysical scale of his work, I stumbled onto a small word that I did not know how to pronounce: gouache. I recognized that it may be a kind of paint I encountered as a child pronounced in Hebrew as “go-asch.” But I thought “it can’t be that” … yet … it was. And so, Alexander re-introduced me to a specific painting medium which gradually became an invitation to reconnect with painting itself.
A couple of years later I encountered the work of Hilma af Klint and I was blown away. I never felt an attraction to drawing or painting “things in the world.” Hilma’s work swept me up and in, and gave me permission to paint vividly.
But I was still stuck with the question of what to paint? I was not interested in “things of the world” and I have not been blessed with “astral visions from beyond this world” … and so I was … stuck. Samkhya got me unstuck.
I decided to try to create a painting for each of the 73 verses of the text. This would give me a way to be with the text in a deeper and more … colorful … relationship. I hoped it would take me beyond intellectual understanding (which I’d already failed at a few times) into a more embodied experience. Contemplating a painting of a verse would create a space of contemplation for each verse.
As I explored the first few verses, a generative process emerged. This process generates a whole-istic experience in which I feel spaciously and softly held. I feel relieved from a self-inflicted and burdening tension of trying to intellectually grasp the text. I feel like I am living with it and it is living in me. The reading, writing, drawing & painting are meshing well together. And now, this process is extending to include this online sharing.
As I write these words, I have completed paintings for 15 verses and I am studying verse 25. I am more involved in the inquiry during the fall and winter months and less so during the spring and summer months when I prioritize physical outside work. I intend to release a verse every two weeks, at least until the release schedule catches up with the verses I have completed.