Your Eyes Are Desire.

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Eyes of Desire, Tamil Nadu 2008 (© reproduction)

You are wedged between moving walls of hot damp bodies and can almost take your feet off of the ground to just float along through the shouts and music that fill the space between the top of your head and the high stone ceiling.

You think, “This is what my Mom hopes I’m not doing right now.” But the intensity of the people pressing on every side of you is intoxicating, their prayers and laughter reassuring, and you wouldn’t miss this for anything.

What you want is to see and to be seen by the deity. This is called darshan. It can be defined as “the exchange of glances.” The point is the exchange, the visual conversation. You look at the deity to see something about yourself. At the same time, this exchange is expansive in that you are also having darshan with the several thousand other people who are all there for the very same reason as you, so the darshan ricochets back and forth like laser tag. Eyes connect and everything is amplified: the sounds, smells, colors, and movement. Seeing and being seen. Seeing and being seen.

The Space Above Our Heads, Minaksi Temple, Madurai (©

There is a goddess named Kamakshi, whose name can be translated as the one whose eyes are desire. Kama=Desire and Aksha=eye. Kamakshi was crazy about Shiva and built him a puja, tending to it repeatedly and devotedly until he showed up. She looked at him with her big dark eyes, and that was that. The darshan was so powerful that their future together was sealed.

Kamaksi's Eyes of Desire

There is some point or many points in your life when you are Kamakshi: when your eyes are soft with love or heavy with desire, when you know what you want and you stick with it, when you are unwavering in your devotion and committed to what matters. You are Kamakshi when your passion is so effulgent that it inspires others to turn toward whom and what they love.

And just as Kamakshi is one form of Shiva’s beloved, she is just one form of you. There are infinite others because we are never just one being to the one we love. My teacher Douglas Brooks speaks about it like this: there is you, there is the other person, and there is relationship. Think of how many facets there are to one word, one glance, one thought. Each is a point of departure exploding in multiple directions like fireworks. Every spark generates a new conversation.

Minaksi of Madurai, Warrior Princess

Anyone who speaks more than one language knows that the you speaking your native tongue is slightly different from the you speaking another language. The different linguistic structures create alternate frames of reference and sets of relationships. Part of the liberating release of entering into another culture is the recognition that your habitual frames of reference are removed. You are free to reconfigure, to create different types of conversations within yourself and with other people. A new you is mirrored back and you diversify. This is what I did at some point in that crowded hall. I released into it and what I received was more of myself that I had ever imagined. More Susannas. And I liked it.

Akhilandesvari, Mother of the Universe. She is Never Not Broken.

I was planning a spring 2012 retreat with my teacher Douglas, and trying to settle on a topic. I suggested Kamakshi, but told him that I was torn because I was equally drawn to two other forms of Shiva’s beloved: Minakshi, a sort of Warrior Princess, whose stunningly labyrinthine temple I have twice visited in Madurai, and Akhilandeshvari, who rides a crocodile, and can be seen as mother of the Universe, which is pretty amazing. All three goddesses are closely associated with the Sri Chakra, one of those geometric things that is actually an infinitely expanding map of consciousness. It is shown either nestled at the feet of the goddess or in the case of Akhilandeshvari, dangled from her ears as jewelry.

Douglas said to me, “Do the three. They are all you.” And so it was decided. And just as they are all me, they are also all you…and you…and you.


This is about deepening the conversation and expanding it. This is about the yearning desire for more meaning and beauty, for an exchange of glances over conversation and an invitation to see more facets of our selves and of others.

What do you really want?

Ask yourself this question because our very nature is desire, so it’s important to get clear on what matters.

How do you want to receive the world?

Your answer will open new doorways leading to exquisitely winding passageways within yourself.

If you’re curious, there’s more information on our upcoming retreat here and also here.

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Susanna Harwood Rubin

Susanna is passionately committed to finding beauty in everyday life. She is a yoga teacher-writer-visual artist, which means that she rarely stops moving except to meditate. She is ERYT-500, has been teaching for over 12 years, and travels regularly to South India to delve into the traditions of Rajanaka Yoga that inspire her work. Her spiritual home is the great Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram. She teaches internationally, but is based in New York. Find her weekly classes at Twisted Trunk Yoga and Abhaya Yoga .

Susanna’s artwork is represented in collections such as the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Berkeley Museum, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. She lectured and wrote for MoMA for years, including co-writing the book “Looking at Matisse and Picasso,” and she will still happily talk about Picasso for hours if you ask her.

Susanna currently writes on yoga, writing, art, and life for a number of publications, including The Huffington Post , Mantra Yoga+Health , Rebelle Society , and YOGANONYMOUS . She gives talks on yoga, Hindu myth, and philosophy, and created the popular Writing Your Practice workshops and telecourses for yogis, applying yoga philosophy and myth to the practice of writing.
Overall, she is amazed at the richness of her life.
Find her on Twitter , Facebook , &

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anonymous Aug 20, 2012 11:49am

[…] along with it, that first glance, first brush of skin, that first of many firsts that would keep you coming back for seconds and […]

anonymous May 10, 2012 8:25pm

[…] vacations” involve me teaching yoga in tropical places, having discussions on dharma, artha, kama, and moksa, and entertaining a group of yogis all week long. Great stuff but it can take a little […]

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:05pm

Sorry for the double post. I thought it hadn't posted.

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:48pm

I wish I could come; this sounds wonderful! I hope you’ll do another retreat in the future; I’d come from Hawaii for it.

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:45pm

This sounds like a wonderful retreat; I so wish I could go! I hope you’ll have more in the future; I would come from Hawaii for it.

    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 11:05pm

    Thank you, G.C. – it was wonderful & hopefully there will be another chance!

Kate Bartolotta Apr 29, 2012 7:17pm

Ooooh. I think I may have to go to this!!! Still trying to decide what to do with our convo, but rest assured—I will blog it!

    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 11:04pm

    Thanks, Kate! It was great! & yes – we should talk again sometime soon!

anonymous Apr 26, 2012 8:29am

Gorgeous, Suzanne. This Yoga has done nothing but show me—sometimes against my fear-based limited vision—that I'm not one fixed point but multi-faceted, encompassing many perspectives. What a beautiful reminder to embrace our totality!

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

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    anonymous Apr 26, 2012 1:39pm

    Thank you Valerie. I think stepping into our diversity is like a gift – finding freedom in a constant state of possibility!

anonymous Apr 26, 2012 5:08am

Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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