Two Ravens Trust. We are always in the middle. How do I know what I must do? Poly-existence. Lata Mani shows us a fully living world, in all its particular being and in all its inter-dependent connections—in its “is-ness.” Lata Mani and I share much, including the embodied spiritual ideas, whether in secular or religious forms! Body, mind, heart.
Lata speaks of learning to live her life post-accident, a terrible injury from an auto accident that changed everything. Yes, this was Lata’s own personal journey; she was “dropped into the present.” And also, in the most literal way, we are all living in a “post-accident” damaged earth. How do we respond? We have been dropped into the present. We must become aware of what that means. Without denying the wounding, how do we contribute to nurturing flourishing for all the critters of terra, including ourselves and others, whether human or other than human? How do we cultivate response-ability? Lata’s teachings are fundamental to that question for me. This film is deep and wise—and necessary for now.
Cyborg, Theorist, Polymath
These beautifully staged and provocative exchanges between Lata Mani and Kabir Sanjay Bavikatte yield strategies for addressing trauma and building community that are at once deeply spiritual and capable of producing radical political shifts in our worlds.
Philosopher, Activist and Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz
In this beautiful and evocative film, we join Lata Mani and Kabir Sanjay Bavikatte in in a conversation at the point a conversation usually begins: in the middle. By hearing Kabir’s questions as gifts, Lata introduces us to a philosophy of “isness.” We learn how what is shared by everything is simultaneously what makes each thing unique and particular. To attend to “isness” is to become alive to the fecundity of the world. Lata encourages us to consider how social categories such as race and gender do not exhaust our potential; we are always more than how we have been apprehended. In moments of injury or even catastrophe, our bodies become our closest companions, and we can feel and think differently. This elegant and artful conversation is punctuated by images of a world that flickers with life. We become aware of how a politics of liberation requires new ways of being in our bodies as well as in the world. All those committed to a politics of liberation will want to see this film.
Professor of Race and Cultural Studies, Goldsmith’s College, University of London
How do we go beyond categories and conditioning, how do we know who we are and what to do, how do we live? Lata Mani responds by reframing “tantra” into the language of everyday life. She speaks from experience; when bedridden after a near-fatal accident, she became sensitized to the body and heart as sites of enormous intelligence. Mani points us to processes that will help us “fall below the level of perception,” into our “isness.”
Mani’s readers will recognize the passionate voice and penetrating mind of her scholarly books, but she is much, much more than an intellectual now; alive to a permeable, connected world, she draws from the intelligence of her heart and body also, and she affirms her knowledge of the essential dharma of the universe, and the presence of the divine. The film takes for its poetics the very values that Mani speaks about— relationality, situatedness, alertness, and detail; it is a pleasure to hear and see and be there.
Author of numerous poetry books and a free verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita
An inspired and inspiring documentary The Earth on its Axis, We in our Skin: The Tantra of Embodiment focuses on ‘isness’ ‘the middle ground’ (of being) that is so central to every philosophical understanding of existence. Lata’s focus on embodiment emphasizes that none of us can escape a minute-to-minute encounter with other ‘isnesses’ which we may choose to look up to or down upon, but ultimately cannot ignore completely – for whether we are aware of it or not, we are in unique, perpetually evolving, relationships with a myriad ‘isnesses’ having the same essence and value as our own.
Lata provides profound insights on the fundamental question of ‘why we are who we are where we are’ so necessary for us to begin new healing relationships with our friends, partners and family – with all men, women and children – as well as with insects, animals, plants and the stars: all existence. We are led lovingly, compassionately, assuredly through a landscape of precious embodiment everywhere – a focus on the specific that becomes an insistent meditation on an all-pervasive essence within an infinity of ‘isness’ all around us, helping us embrace an overarching oneness.
South African writer
The tantra film and The Tantra Chronicles speak in unison to utter old truths in new ways. Above all, as I mentioned after the screening of your film in San Francisco, I think your emphasis on Is-ness heralds a novel and important turn to third-personness. This he/she/it axis stands in contrast to the emphasis on I-ness that we often find in spiritual texts such as the Upanishads, which dwell on the ego and its transcendence through self-contemplation as atman. Conventionally, then, the “I” enters into a dialogue with a Divine “You,” only to slowly recognize itself, through a process of shedding, in that You. By contrast Isness points us from the very outset towards a shared sense of creatureliness, a non-hierarchical yet connected sense of collective being. For this insight I thank you.
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature & Slavic Languages and Literatures, UC Berkeley