Journeys are, more often than not, very personal experiences, and not always something you can plan for – they just happen.
To begin the new year, I decided to do a little local wandering to the Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) in Chelsea, a museum “dedicated to the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions.” I’ve been wanting to go there for a couple years, but despite the fact that I’ve even been in their cafe a couple of times, I still haven’t seen the art collection. I specifically wanted to see the exhibit Mandala: The Hidden Circle which closes on January 11, 2010 and knew that this would be my last opportunity.
I ventured out in the bitter cold with a bad case of post-holiday blahs. I couldn’t have chosen a better place for a change of perspective. The museum is sleek and modern yet warm and embracing – seven levels (six with exhibition space) situated around a center stairway, the concentric ring-like design feeling very much like the richly colored, deceptively simple patterns of the mandalas found on the top two floors. I took the elevator to the top floor and spent the rest of the afternoon slowly spiraling my way back down to earth.
Mandalas, in addition to being visual meditation tools, are the product of extremely advanced meditation practices used by Tantric Buddhists to accelerate the achievement of enlightenment. They are intricate two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional forms evoking complex spiritual symbolism… and they are captivatingly beautiful.
My experience of the art was not exactly soothing – more stimulating, provoking, inspiring, and a little unsettling (in a good way). Just what I needed. I entered the museum cold and grey – overstimulated by the external world. By the time I returned to the ground floor I felt the rich colors, textures, and symbolism taunting my mind (or soul?) back to life.
The journey inward also left me a little hungry! Good thing RMA has a wonderful cafe with a simple menu inspired by the flavors of the Himalayas (read exotic spices and rice), and they have a liquor license – though I opted for a passionfruit white tea from their fantastic selection of loose teas to go with my Tibetan Momos (steamed beef dumplings).
Here’s to the beginning of an enlightened new decade… I wish you all a peaceful, prosperous, and exhilarating journey!