On my way to see my family in the Italian Alps I frequently pass through Venice, staying with a dear friend from college who is Venetian. I remember on the last day of one of my very first visits, I had walked quite a bit all day. Some of it wondering into palaces & museums, some of it getting lost. There was this one final spot I was keen on making it to – Palazzo Grassi, a 16th century palace that presents temporary art exhibitions from the Pinault Collection.
As it is with getting to any location in Venice, you walk thru small alleyways, over bridges, under arches & if you don’t lose your sense of direction you arrive at your destination.
It was a sultry August day, the sun relentless in its abundance. I was a bit delirious at this point from the heat & fatigue, when I found myself suddenly before this small chapel. It appeared almost like a mirage in a desert. I assumed I was lost & felt frustrated, not realizing that the entrance to Palazzo Grassi was just to my right. Instead all I saw were a few individuals entering & leaving this unassuming chapel. I decided to follow them in as I desperately needed to sit and that too shrouded from the sun.
As soon as I stepped into the chapel, I felt myself taken in. I sat down and found myself in what can only be described as an atmosphere of a larger presence.
I think about that space occasionally. I have come across many such spaces around the world, even up at Ananda Ashram here in NY. More often I think about the state of mind that made me available for that experience – a feeling of being lost, fatigued, unable to go any further, ready to stop & surrender all agency, ready to find my seat.
In Yoga Philosophy we are told that in part such a state of mind is necessary to enter & inhabit our inner landscape. When we have exhausted our identification with our personality self and all the fears & desires that come with it, we spontaneously make ourselves available to the immediacy of a larger presence. It is said that ‘misinformed desires & fears, false ideas, social inhibitions prevent us from mingling with our conscious self ‘. Part of our practice on our mat & meditation seat is to exhaust this misidentification.