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Theme: Returning to Joy

This delicate wood carving from Nepal was most likely used as a decorative wall ornament. It depicts an apsara, a female sky spirit often found residing in depictions of heaven. Apsara are said to be able to travel between earth and heaven, displaying their ability to exist liminally between different states. Though found in all Indian religions, apsara inhabitat an ambiguous position in Buddhism, sometimes symbolically representing the reward for a
spiritual path while other times posing as temptresses to Buddhist ascetics. Existing within different planes and modes, apsara serve a reminder that no matter where you go, you can always return to joy.

Image credit:Flying Figure,Nepal, 16th century, Wood, 11 x 19 1/4 x 5 3/8 in, Rubin Museum of Art Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin, C2006.66.655 (HAR 700091).

Mindfulness Meditation Series

Himalayan practitioners have, for centuries, used meditation to quiet the mind, open the heart, calm the nervous system, and increase one’s ability to focus. Now, western scientists, business leaders, and the secular world have embraced meditation as a vital tool for brain health. Learn more

Presented in partnership with Sharon Salzberg and the New York Insight Meditation Center.

About the Teacher

Tracy Cochran is editorial director of Parabola, a quarterly magazine that for forty years has drawn on the world’s cultural and wisdom traditions to explore the questions that all humans share. She has been a student of meditation and spiritual practices for decades and teaches mindfulness meditation and mindful writing at New York Insight Meditation Center and throughout the greater New York area. In addition toParabola, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Psychology Today, O Magazine, New York Magazine, the Boston Review, and many other publications and anthologies. For more information please visit