Design-in-self

What I sought to create, I found inside myself.

11 years ago (feels like lightyears), for my architectural thesis I designed CeSRON- the Center for Self Reflection, Otherness and Narcissism. A building designed to be a mirror for our inner space.

Little did I know I would create Come to Center, a live mirror that does just that, or that I would end up becoming that mirror myself for others, down the line. 

This surreal project was a celebration of, in a very tongue n cheek way- the obsolescence of self-awareness- before I had heard of transformation, awakening, healing, or any of the work I do now- ALL of which is about self-awareness.

I was fascinated by the race riots in Detroit- and in studying, and considering what led to the violence and deep separation between people, I saw very clearly, how the inner division leads to outer conflict. I was just so curious about the moment at which a child looks in the mirror and says- “me”. 

I spent final year of architecture school studying Lacan and Jung and Heiddeger and falling in love with Gordon Matta Clark…. I had a hay day questioning everything in a way that ultimately led to transcending my discipline of design and architecture altogether, when staring at the face of human suffering. 

What supported this inquiry was a reflection from my professor- I had finally found one person who saw my hunger for the edges of knowledge, and encouraged me to go all out-wherever you are Rupinder Singh I am so deeply grateful for our time together spent in joyous explorations of the depths of art, architecture, meaning, connection and dissection of life itself! For hiding my keys to get me out of hiding in the bottomless pit that was opening up as I got closer to facing existential truths. You weren’t just a teacher, you were a healer to me.

I didn’t know it then, but the questions alive in all these drawings are: What is the root of separation?

How did we become people? What got made into a self? Who am I? What is this? I even labeled the diagrams things like (my favorite) “Labyrinthine search for self”, never suspecting any of this had to with Spirituality.

And the thing is, I knew then, that all this, is really the search for our center. I just hadn’t seen I was literally searching for my self and that the answers lay within me, and that I could trust all that which I knew, but couldn’t understand. 

That took time. It took living in inquiry and eventually turning inwards.

It took facing the pain of my own inner separation, seeing through the trap of needing to understand things that lay beyond the confines of the mind.

As they say, hindsight is 20-20! Of course it adds up. Having looked in the mirror long and hard, coming to face myself over the years, now I have become the mirror I once set out to design.

Everyday, I hold a mirror to reflect back the truth, power and wisdom that lies within my clients, their shadows, their light and everything in between. In deep inquiry, I appeal to something that lies beyond my clients’ intellects to allow them to step outside the confines of their minds- diving into their conditioning, their traumas to find freedom within.

The journey of personal healing paves the path for our collective transformation. 

I often say, everything is everything- all forms reflect the One. What appears to be separate, is a facet of difference, not separation.

From the outside it may seem like I am doing transformational work, business consulting, designing a building, painting a painting, writing a poem or telling a story… 

From the inside, it’s always been about one thing- falling ever more deeply into loving exploration of myself, and life itself!

on advaita

Advait Vedant (अद्वैत वेदान्त) is the collected body of existential knowing transmitted through eons in India, reflecting the nature of being and the organization of formless into form that points to source.

A = not/without. Dvait – two/second.

So the word Advaita, points carefully to ‘that without a second.’ For it wouldn’t suffice to say One- it must be noted that there is no possibility herein for a second- for divisiveness within the whole. The focus is on the indivisible whole that knows nothing outside of itself- pointing to intrinsic, inherent existential connectedness, oneness, wholeness of which all form is a reflection. Multiplicity without separateness. And there is no possible way for a separate self to exist, even though sometimes we are deluded into believing in this separation…In Vedanta, each “piece” of the whole is known and celebrated to be a “small wholeness.”

Lacan wrote “The I cannot exist except in the field of the other.” Conditioned to believe in the separation between self and other, driven by the evolutionary need for self preservation, somewhere along the line the knowingness of the connection of the piece to the whole is lost and an identity emerges, wrapping its cocoon around a piece of the small, a small wholeness, that forgets its own nature.

And 13.8 billion years of evolution later, one small wholeness begins to question itself. To yearn to know itself. A seeker is born. Consciously or unconsciously, engaged in a journey that inevitably begins to point back to the seeker itself. Constructs and identity unravel into a homecoming. Wholeness begins to be experienced by its smaller reflection, and self dissolves into Self.

Advaita. That without a second.

the ease of being!

erik-on-the-water-copy
the ease of being

no action 

           rooted
 in      lack

could ever

bring

forth fulfillment for fulfilment

is

here    now     whole ness
               !          (the nature)


of being 

               free and full and delight full !

action
            may
                     (or may not)
arise and 

you 

will know from the 

very 

ease of being

 

in prose:

No action rooted in lack could ever bring forth fulfillment.

Fulfillment is here and now. Wholeness is the nature of being- free, full and delightful! Action may or may not arise- you will know, from the very ease of being.

and more:

To examine inner grasping with curiosity and amusement, rooting into being, is to invite its own dissolution.

Photo above
My husband floating on backwaters in rural Thailand, March 2016 (from STUDIO-ish)

to heal the world, heal your wounds

You cannot give to the world what you do not have. And you cannot ask the world to be what you are not.

You cannot give to the world what you do not have. And you cannot ask the world to be  what you are not.

In Viktor Frankl’s words:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

In Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s words:
“If there is no transformation in you and me, if there is no change in a way we perceive , experience, feel and act in this world, How can you change the world?”

It has become clear to me, that the only (not just the best) way to help the world or make it a better place or create positive impact, as many are out to do, is for each person to clarify and settle their inner space. The only way to heal the world, is to confront and heal your own wounds.

To connect with the peace within, and solidify into that connection.

Notice I didn’t say find peace within, because it’s already there. Your attention probably just happens to be elsewhere, and because life happens “at the intersection of awareness and physical reality,” your experience and perception is limited to the expanse of your awareness.

Everything you know and experience already exists in it.

You must be wondering how I would know this most fundamental, intimate secret about you that you may not even know for sure…I know, because this peace, this stillness, this beingness, this fundamental wholeness, is my home. And it is also yours.

You may have forgotten, but maybe as we journey here together, I can help you remember…

 

a story of my becoming

I used to think I was Ishita. Then I was sure I was nothing. Now I know I am everything.

As Ishita I have spent my life asking big questions and dissecting the edges of knowledge, unconsciously engaged in what I now recognize as a search for core Truth.

Growing up close to rivers and mountains in a Himalayan valley, I could be found admiring forests full of Koel songs or tracing lines of ants for hours at end, moving through the day with eyes closed, trying to see without seeing…

Driven by hungry existential curiosity, I looked for Truth in my homeland and awaylands, in forests and mountains, deserts and oceans. An explorer and creator, a wonderer and a wanderer I did, made, felt and thought about much…

Searching for answers through my work, I evolved into a multidisciplinary designer and thinker. Trained as an architect and a writer, I grappled with steel and concrete on one end, and our very humanity on another. Refusing to limit my explorations to a single label, I have worked as an architect, designer, painter, photographer, potter, editor, journalist and yogi…

I kept searching for Truth in the hearts and minds of others, in up-down-out-and-arounds, until my incessant questioning began pointing me towards my self and I got quiet, clear, still and full.

I separated knowing and understanding. I dropped the lie.

I admitted that the answers to my own questions lay inside me and had always been there. I realized time was a modification of my mind.
I accepted and surrendered to that which I knew but didn’t understand.
I began to align my outer self with my inner knowing.

Then, walking past a bookstore window I read the words “I Am That” popping out at me. To my own surprise, I heard myself say, “Why, yes, I am!” I walked into the bookstore, picked up the book, opened it up to be brought home by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings. It became the only book I read for 4 years!

Over the next couple months, re-cognizing my own inner truth I had never had the words to articulate, I wept with joy and laughed with gratitude. Here at last, home at last! And then, the depths of my I-ness dissolved. All boundaries between me and not me melted so completely that there was no I left…no time, no space…nothing but the non conceptual one-ness, that which had no second. That which cannot be put into words, for it is the thing that makes words. And all else.

Eyes opened, the dream was over.

If you’re curious, yeah, I kept going to work, apparently losing your I doesn’t prevent architecture to be made through “you!” A glorious time of learning and assimilation followed. I discovered that the biggest questions have small and simple answers, that there is no core Truth. And that is magnificent!

I don’t believe there is The Truth, but I have found a Truth, in which I am finally home. And I want to help you find yours.

In 2015, I left work & home to make space and figure out how to engage consciously with the world and integrate my inside and outside. In that space emerged pointers that have brought me to exactly where I need to be now.

Now, whether I am leading a meditation, designing a product or a process, a painting or a poem or a photoshoot, I do it just for the pleasure of doing it. I don’t expect or need it to fill a hunger or a void in me. And the work is both better, and more pleasurable than ever.

Life is light, joyful, wholesome.

Fully at home in the foreground of spaciousness, I play in the world centered in peace within. And this fuels a joyous curiosity and a wondrous exploration, rather than limiting them.

I am ever more intrigued by the manifest world and want to know its very fundamentals as I explore life in its fullness! I am finally, free.