Inhabiting Transitions

Issue 1 | The Summer of The Pause

“When we pause, allow a gap and breathe deeply, we can experience instant refreshment. Suddenly, we slow down, look out, and there’s the world.”

Pema Chödrön

Welcome to The Summer of The Pause, a weekly moment to “slow down and look out” through tools and teachings for the art of living.

Until a few days ago, billions-of-year-old light had been pinging around in our universe, undetected. Now here we are, suddenly offered a glimpse of the once imperceptible, rendered into view: a lush, beautiful, and wholly reorienting vision of our ever-expanding universe and our place in it.

As we peer through cosmic dust, we focus our lens towards transitions — what lies “between A and B” — in the human experience.

May this Pause allow you — with one foot firmly planted in the here, and the other suspended in the not-yet-there — to court the mystery and wonder you encounter in all the transitions you inhabit this season.

Generative Questions with Yo-Yo Ma
As you inhabit a transition,
how do you move from A to B?

Notice what this evokes for you as you listen. Make a few notes in your journal about the transitions that are alive in your world and what it’s like to be in this process of change.

Go Deeper: A playlist for your week

Listen to the full episode with Yo-Yo Ma and a few companion episodes from On Being and Poetry Unbound for your continued exploration of the in-between. Save this playlist to your Spotify.

The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a citizen artist and a forensic musicologist, decoding the work of musical creators across time and space. In his art, Yo-Yo Ma resists fixed boundaries, and would like to rename classical music just “music” — born in improvisation, and traversing territory as vast and fluid as the world we inhabit. In this generous and intimate conversation, he shares his philosophy of curiosity about life, and of performance as hospitality.

Music is a source of solace and nourishment in the best of times and the hardest of times. It has been for so many of us in this year of pandemic, and Cloud Cult is on every playlist Krista makes. Craig Minowa started the band in 1995. Its trajectory was cathartically changed the day he and his wife Connie woke up to find that their firstborn two-year-old son, Kaidin, had mysteriously died in his sleep. The music that has emerged ever since has spanned the human experience from the rawest grief to the fiercest hope. We welcomed Craig and the whole Cloud Cult ensemble to On Being Studios in Minneapolis, for conversation and music, in 2016.

The astrophysicist Mario Livio spent 24 years at the Space Telescope Science Institute working with the Hubble Telescope, which has revealed the reality and beauty of the Universe to scientists and citizens in whole new ways. The Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Telescope, will become fully operational in 2022, and will further some of the questions about the early formation of the Universe and the origins of life to which Mario Livio has been devoted. Krista spoke with him in 2010, and this conversation has become an On Being Classic, imparting a thrilling sense of all we are learning about the cosmos in this generation in time, our terrible earthly woes notwithstanding. Also: how scientific advance always meets recurrent mystery, from the emergence of life in the Universe to the very heart of mathematics and the puzzle of dark matter and dark energy.

This poem stretches the word ‘expect’ into dozens of formulations. Proceeding alphabetically through the index of the book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Katie Manning creates an exhausting list of all the expectations created during pregnancy,about rejecting some pressures and embracing others; surviving some, being knocked over by others. The humor and pace of this poem places insight alongside insidiousness.

The ornithologist Drew Lanham is lyrical in the languages of science, humans, and birds. His celebrated books include The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and a collection of poetry and meditations called Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts. Drew Lanham’s way of seeing and hearing and noticing the present and the history that birds traverse — through our backyards and beyond — is a revelatory way to be present to the world and to life in our time.

This conversation took place in partnership with The Great Northern.

Towards the end of his interview with Krista, Yo-Yo Ma offers this observation: “There’s a moment where you can go into nature and always, at any moment, figure out some parallel to what’s happening in a sound-centric world … ”

More to come on that next week. See you then 🍃.

From all of us at On Being, with love.





Illustrations by Stephanie Deangelis
Generative Questions with Yo-Yo Ma Music Composition by Gautam Srikishan


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