“In the centre of the castle of Brahman, our own body, there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower, and within can be found a small space. We should find who dwells there, and we should want to know him…The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe.”—The Chandogya Upanishad 8.1*
In winter, I love to walk in Riverside Park and look at the stark branches against a clear blue sky. Often I spy a nest high above, maybe the home of a song bird, red-tail hawk or even a raccoon. The nests are made out of twigs, leaves, mud, perhaps a bit of silver tinsel from a discarded Christmas tree. Each piece of the nest, a thread. The threads woven together in a shape that provides safety for the occupants.
I too have a nest, woven from threads. I’ve carried threads from birth. They include tales my parents told me about life before I remember; how my father threw me into the water at 18 months forcing me to learn how to swim. How I painted for hours in our basement listening to the classic Rolling Stones album Between the Buttons. The first time I kissed a boy named Karl in the back of a school bus; visited the Italian Alps on a skiing vacation, moved to an apartment in the then dark realms of the Meatpacking District. The day my grandma Sally died right in front of my eyes.
These fragments create my unique story…my sutras. The Yoga Sutras of Brette.
This nest is fragile. It has almost disengaged during tornados of emotion and gotten soggy with sadness. It’s hardened to a point of brittleness while baking in the fires of passion. But it is resilient.
It’s provided safety just like the nest of the Riverside Park’s resident blue jays. It’s been a place to mate, cook for my family, and watch from the edge as my daughters Jessica and Rachel flew to their own abodes.
My stories pull at my heart— heart strings—so I know this nest of memories resides there. Something else lives there as well. It’s the joy of playing in the first snows of January-pummel New York City. The wonder of observing the gray Hudson River flow slowly outside my window at sunset. The freedom I feel singing and dancing naked under summer moonlit skies. And the love I feel sitting across from an old friend, trading stories, revealing the hidden treasures of our nests.
That joy, wonder, freedom, and love is what dwells in my nest and I long to know this resident better.
*The Upanishads (Penquin Classics), with an introduction by Juan Mascaro.