What many of us experience as the body—as separate but parallel tributaries of corresponding sense experiences—is limited to the Cartesian tendency to extricate intertwined processes from one another and to reduce them to their mechanical components. Thus, the experience of the body becomes not a sensory totality but a description of causes and effects.

In truth, the “body” cannot be attributed to parts and processes but to the co-arising of experience—in which several distinct aspects of one mysterious (and often inaccurately interpreted) whole are given their fullest expression by and through and because of one another.

Pain is a coherent expression, for example, of interacting nerves and muscles and bones, which are in turn connected to a web of firing synapses and information-processing neurons.

All experience, as quantum physicists have hypothesized, is nonlocal (that is, existing in no one part but in the whole) and entangled (that is, directly dependent on the phenomena that seem to surround it…and if one dares to look closer, inseparable).

Cause and effect are immaterial in such a worldview, and the very basis of our perception is faulty, fragmented, incomplete. The experience of co-arising collapses such phenomena as time, life, death, falling in and out of love, to reducible, discontinuous components in an irreducible, continuous universe.

I’m Nirmala Nataraj, a New York–based writer, editor, book midwife, theater artist, and mythmaker.

As someone who has woven in and out of a number of different word realms—nonprofit communications, advertising, theatre, publishing, and community arts, to name a few—I know that liberation is possible through the stories we choose to tell. As a first-generation South Asian American, I myself exist in the liminal spaces between cultures, art forms, and languages—and it is this multiplicity of narratives that informs my personal and professional approach.

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