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Squares for breathing, becoming, and beholding : cultivating a relationship with the unknown Lee, Nicole Yung Sin


Drawing from the autobiographical context of impossibility to know and understand a suicide loss, this writing traces concept-based (Bal, 2002, 2009) paths for personal becoming. The work entails an exploration of what it means to cultivate a relationship with the unknown. It illustrates a four-movement conceptual framework inspired by a meditative square breathing exercise: the unknown, attunement, presence, and home. The framework offers a structure to brave the chaotic, tumultuous unknown with the goal of finding peace and equanimity. Though this writing outlines a series of paths, journeying through the square demands individuals to repeatedly meet, adjust, and transform themselves in the process. Navigating the four movements encourages one to live life as a constantly emerging and unfolding revelation. The author makes her journeys in relation to academic, artistic, curricular, pedagogical, and personal inquiries and practices, using methodological compasses of living inquiry (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Meyer, 2006, 2010; Springgay et al., 2005), specifically a/r/tography (LeBlanc & Irwin, 2019; Springgay et al., 2008; Triggs & Irwin, 2019), currere (Pinar, 1975, 2004), and contemplative practice (Garbutt & Roenpagel, 2018; Kumar, 2013). The conceptual study of individual movements develops in tandem with an artistic practice, including walking, divination, conceptual art, and textile installation work. Each turn of the framework inspires considerations of the self amidst affective, temporal, spatial, spiritual, and relational entanglements with(in) the world. This tracing demonstrates how attuning to the good, hauling in the world, being at home in it, and crossing into the unknown again are lifelong processes much like breathing. With every conceptual turn, the author faces important lessons of living with an ethos of abundance, of reaching for the beyond with faith and persistence, of worlding while holding fast to ethics and love, and of stepping forward with courage-vulnerability. Transcending the original context from which the author writes, she discovers how mapping life’s challenges along the square propels movement through thresholds. Individuals can be on the path of many squares at once. Each presents a curriculum that teaches and provokes, opening one up to the possibility of living an artful, purposeful, and meaningful existence.

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