March 9, 2013

Part One: Touching Indra’s Net. ~ Katherine Shriver

“You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”

~ Speech given by Mahatma Gandhi at a Montessori Teachers College, Nov. 19, 1931.

Part One of Three: Prelude

*Recollections of three months of volunteering at an orphanage and one visit to a rehabilitation center for women and children rescued from sex trafficking in Mysore, Karnataka in South India. Selected names have been changed.

Our story of Indra’s Net started suddenly last summer when my husband and I learned our beloved cat, Margo, had a tumor. Post-operative complications led us to cancel summer vacation plans, and the days blurred together as we slipped into fighting for Margo’s life until she found the will to fight for her own.

I teach Ashtanga Yoga and received the Reiki Master symbol, but during those weeks of critical care, the power of touch and healing became a matter of life or death, and it was clear—all mammals thrive on attention; gaze, voice and touch are bundled together in the bonds of healing energy.

I don’t know why this was such an important fight for me. Probably because I’m both motherless and childless. When I became aware I was cradling Margo as if she were my child, I knew I would volunteer to hold babies on my next visit to India—so I could explore healing touch, and be around babies.

Indra’s Net is a myth and a metaphor.

Far away, in the abode of the great god, Indra—king of heaven—hangs a wondrous, vast net, much like a spider’s web in its intricacy and loveliness; it stretches out indefinitely in all directions.

At each crossing point of the net hangs a glittering jewel. Since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. The sparkling jewels hang there, suspended in and supported by the net, glittering like stars, dazzling to behold. The polished surface of each gem reflects all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Each jewel reflected in each gem also reflects all the other jewels, so the process of reflection is itself infinite.

Though this metaphor is Hindu and Buddhist, it’s a universal idea about common ground and interdependence many westerners have explored, from Dante to E.B. White.

While we’re always in the net, last Fall I fell and bounced within it, until I felt the euphoric brilliance of flipping around on a trampoline—thanks to a half dozen orphaned babies, and the support community of non-profits in Southern India working to serve women and children, exploited and trafficked at the margins of society.

To be continued…


My name is Katherine Shriver and my devotion to practicing Ashtanga Yoga began by chance in June 2000. For me, Ashtanga Yoga is a movement poetic and a self-healing discipline that helps me trust experiential awareness. I like to think of Yoga as physical embodiment of a thread that weaves together the fabric of universal consciousness. Before taking the teacher’s path and long before receiving KPJAYI authorization, I worked in pedestrian and bicycle transportation policy research and advocacy. I teach at Yoga Mala Shala in Philadelphia in dedication to the spirit and tradition of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. My husband, Dr. Rob Tucker, and our two cats, Margot and Georgie, like to remind me Ashtanga Yoga is not about asana after all. You can contact me through yogamalashala.com.


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Assistant Ed: Jennifer Spesia/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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