Insight Meditation Timer

buddha1

I have never considered myself an activist. I wouldn’t know where to start. I know that we are in a time in which action is necessary and important, if only to show that we are awake – or wish to be – and that caring humans are not so last century. I think that showing support – or lack thereof – by how and where we spend our money is a method to induce change. I think that in addition to taking care of each other and making decisions aligned with the good, a daily spiritual practice is of the utmost importance.

Spiritual practice can be a lonely business. It’s not that you need company or that it’s something anyone can do with you, though we can practice together. There’s the cushion at the zendo where we sat around a big square while a sweet nun made the bell to sing, signalling the start of silent practice. We closed our eyes and though it was a room full of people, the work we did was solitary.

After a period of sitting in this square the bell would sing again and we would turn one hundred and eighty degrees to face the white wall behind us. The bell sings and we sit for about half an hour. Still together, still alone.

Satsang is “a sacred gathering” if you ask Google. It’s the folks with whom you study and practice. You ask, “My hip felt pins and needles when we did that pigeon, how was yours?”

“Pins and needles, yeah. Mine too.” Might be a response from a member of your satsang.

“It’s been hard getting to the cushion lately.” Someone might say and there is someone with an answer or, in the least, words of encouragement like, “I experience that too.” So at least you know you’re not alone.

I recently misplaced the kitchen timer I use in my meditation station. I remembered back before iphones were a thing there were the ipod shuffles. The studio owner where I studied in the single digits of the twenty-first century used one of these things for a meditation timer. She would poke at the sleek glassy screen and cue up a bell that would chime us into and out of the timed meditation practice at the end of yoga class.

I remember that five minutes felt interminable, if we went for ten I was crawling out of my skin. Not too many yoga classes that I have been to conclude with a seated practice. If I am honest, I will admit that I don’t include it in classes I teach because of how tense folks can get in that five minutes. It is daunting, dear Reader, to see the abject dismay on a dozen faces who are not in the mood to sit quietly. I can hear their noisy minds, “I didn’t sign up for this! I came for a yoga practice! Why in the hell are we meditating?”

One night while I was looking at my meditation space and feeling quite sick and tired of myself and my nightly fits of resistance, not unlike those early years of sitting at the end of a yoga class, I remembered that meditation timer from those years ago. I pull out the ‘ole sliver of glass that passes for a telephone and find the app without much difficulty; Insight Meditation Timer.

I’m usually late to discovering the things that have been cool for a decade, so I will not be insulted if you think I’m ridiculous for starting to use this thing last week. I sat down and set the timer. I resolve to one of the first practices I brought home from a weekend immersion with Swami; sit for eleven minutes practicing ujjaii pranayama and look for the spaces between thoughts.

A digital bell sings. I close my eyes, rest my hands lightly on my knees and focus on that sacred movement of breath. The stillness rises and falls like waves. There is a moment when I can see a gap in thinking coming closer to me, it washes across my brow then lets in thoughts of what color I should have colored that dragonfly’s wing in the coloring book I got for Christmas. This is how it goes.

The bell chimes neatly and I hold the space another moment longer. I find that this practice fortifies discipline; not to jump right up when the meditation is over but remain for another five breaths. Creak the eyes open and ride the practice out into the space of daily existence. My Teacher calls this the wake of meditation.

When I regard the phone’s reflective surface the Insight Meditation Timer adds an element to my practice I hadn’t really noticed I was missing; companions. The screen shows that 2,365 people just meditated with me, or 3,477 people meditated with me from around the world. Over 5,000 sat in meditation with me last night.

Germany, Australia, Ohio, New York, New Zealand and Florida where I sit in a dimly lit room. I find the number of people meditating in the middle of the night absolutely staggering and inspiring (though it might not be the middle of the night where they are).

Since I began using this meditation timer the daily news has not gotten any better. The upheavals and divisive rhetoric have not diminished  over the last couple of weeks. I will admit, dear Reader, I have been afraid and at the same time deeply discouraged. The challenges grow and I fall into despairing for our wretched and wonderful world. I temporarily forgot, because I was not able to see, the daily efforts on behalf of the good happening all around me.

I believe there are more people than not pursuing the spiritual path and practices, but these people are not on television, they are not sensational or very public. But this is a pervasive practice wherein one little lamp can quietly touch its flame to a wick nearby. I think of this when practice is at the bottom of the to-do list at the end of a mighty long day. When it isn’t simply practice, but an effort on behalf of the good, motivation changes and inspiration arises! Though we might practice in our small corner of the world there are a million plus lamps lighting the darkness one breath at a time.

That thought kinda makes you want to go meditate right now, doesn’t it?

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Kali Natha Yoga at URU Yoga and Beyond

I received some most exciting news last week! I’m adding another class to the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond. This isn’t just any ‘ole class either, folks. I got permission to teach Kali Natha Yoga at Uru.

Why would I need permission? You might ask. And from whom?

I’m studying with the Teacher of my heart, Swami Jaya Devi, in Atlanta in her 500 hour teacher training program. In that I am learning Kali Natha Yoga as taught by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. I want to teach this yoga because teaching is another form of practice. But also, when I practice or teach Kali Natha Yoga I am in the flow of that lineage and in such sweet harmony with the teachings. I feel that I’m in the presence of my Teacher no matter where in the world we are.

I inquired as to whether I may teach at the yoga studio in Pensacola because I’m still in training. Like novice hairdressers who need to practice on a warm body once they graduate from those infernal mannequin heads, teaching yoga is not very different.

I assure you, future Kali Natha Yoga practitioners, that I am an infinitely better yoga instructor than I am a hairdresser. No one needs to worry about losing an ear or their hair smoking and burning under a dome dryer! Having said that, it’s better to check in with one’s Teacher before teaching the things one studies.

My poetic heart doesn’t answer the question of what, exactly, this kind of yoga is. So I went to the website to help find the right language to describe it.

Kali Natha Yoga takes its name from Mother Kali, the all-embracing Mother who takes the pain and suffering of her children, and the Nathas who are ancient yogis from the lineage of Lord Shiva. It is this balancing of masculine and feminine that makes Kali Natha Yoga transformative. This yoga awakens the Divine feminine principle of Shakti and moves the practitioner to a deeper self-awareness.

Kali Natha Yoga is a root yoga, complete in itself, and can be used as the basis for all other yoga practices. It utilizes many of the yogic tools including mantra, mudra and pranayam and can change the breath and the quality of blood. It changes air to prana and prana to pure shakti. Every chakra is opened and stretched. The essence of Kali Natha Yoga interweaves together the mind, body and soul. 

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Kali Natha Yoga is on the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond  beginning the weekend after Labor Day. Class will be Saturdays at 2 pm. There will be a monthly series, so we have a chance to dive into it and devote heart and mind to some of the variations that show up while visiting the same set of postures. This will provide Time and Space to investigate the challenges and growth born from repeated efforts.

Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, a prayer in motion and the unspoken poetry of the soul. I cannot wait to practice with you.

nataraja