The truth is that the more ourselves we are,
the less self is in us.
–Meister Eckhart

In a glowing passage from Anna Karenina, Tolstoy describes an experience of self-transcendence with such color and detail that one feels its living quality as though from the inside. Oppressed by worry, the ruminative Konstantin Levin decides one day to work in the fields alongside the peasants, a highly unusual thing for a landowner, even one as eccentric as Levin, to do. Although unaccustomed to the hard physical labor, Levin eventually falls into a rhythm that washes away extraneous thoughts and brings his senses to life.

Infected Lattice, 2003, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches, © James Siena, Courtesy of Pacewildenstein; Photograp courtesy of Pacewildenstein
Infected Lattice, 2003, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches, © James Siena, Courtesy of Pacewildenstein; Photograp courtesy of Pacewildenstein

The grass cut with a juicy sound and fell in high, fragrant rows. On the short rows the mowers bunched together, their tin dippers rattling, their scythes ringing when they touched, the whetstones whistling upon the blades, and their good-humored voices resounding as they urged each other on.

In time Levin so loses himself in the work that it discloses to him a kind of state of grace.

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