It is a new moon tonight and there is a sense of emptiness in the sky. I have longed for this sense of emptiness to be so in my head. I chased all sorts of behaviors to quiet the chatter in my overactive mind.
This overactive mind, which feels like a dangerous neighborhood at times, is what brought me to my knees and lead to my spiritual practice over 20 years ago.
My mother had been urging me to meditate long before I fell to my knees but couldn’t hear it coming from her. As they say when the student is ready the teacher appears.
I was in a big transition, ending a relationship, moving, confused, uncertain of my work and completely lost. At that time I was introduced to a wonderful women named Nancy, who was in her 70’s at the time but looked like she was in her 50’s. She had quite a story and had been a big time fashion model in NYC in the 50’s – a wild child of sorts. She was trying to rebuild her life after her long stint of modeling and addiction and in her 40’s had found Meditation. Nancy invited me up to Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Zen Monastery located in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
It was a life changing experience for me.
I was completely ready to embrace where I was, I was ready to sit with myself and not run away. I was so gently reminded – THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH. In stillness, I would continuously struggle with berating myself with violent thoughts that followed with brutal actions towards myself. This was the farthest behavior from the Yoga practice of AHIMSA, non-violence. Sitting for me was uncomfortable to say the least more along the lines of terrifying. I believed the hype in my head and I thought I WAS the hype in my head. As I began to practice sitting regularly I started to recognize the little spaces between my thoughts and I could see and feel the light of love not fear and self-hatred. I started to watch my thoughts and recognize the mind was simply doing what it does best, entertaining me! I began witnessing and not participating in my thoughts.
THAT was REVOLUTIONARY for me!
Like Chogyam Trungpa said, “Meditation is one insult after the other.” I completely understood this. If it wasn’t “you’re not good enough,” then it was “you don’t have time for this.” It was a constant roll of negative mantras and insults. As a result of discipline, which for me translates into commitment, I started to develop a spine by sitting up tall and taking my seat. I became less dependent on outside forces, I became more responsible for my action, I became much more compassionate towards myself and as a result towards others and I developed and embodied the practice of Ahimsa. I became aware of an inner strength and the ability to comprehend what was real and what was not.
Meditation has been one of the most precious and transformative gifts of my life and is what lead me to Yoga. My meditation after many years is not a formal sit today. Communing with nature and music have replaced a formal sit. These practices have allowed for me to be completely absorbed and engaged with what is right in front of me. I shower in the morning, have some tea and engage for 20-30 min of chanting. After chanting, I sit and embody the power of sound and vibration and how it wakes me up on a deep cellular level. I engage with stillness. Every Monday (Moonday) I commune with nature. I take a very intentional walk and or adventure and let myself reap the healing effects, such as peace of mind, connecting with my breath and with that which breaths me.
Sri Desikachar, a beautiful man I had the honor of studying with in India over several years and the son of Sri Krishnamacharya, talks about linking the mind to something good-subha (auspicious) and how this is a necessary aspect of meditation. He says: “What is subha, what is auspicious, is something that only a caring guide can indicate, one who knows you well enough to choose.” I am eternally grateful to Swami Satchidananda for this reminder, “Don’t think that only when you close your eyes, you are meditating. Anything that you do with total attention IS meditation.”
“All those who love Nature she loves in return, and will richly reward, not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called, but with the best things, of this world- not with money and titles, horses and carriages, but with bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind.” – John Lubbock
“The object of Indian music is the training of the mind and soul, for music is the best way of concentration. When you tell a person to concentrate on a certain object, the very act of trying to concentrate makes his mind more disturbed. But music, which attracts the soul, keeps the mind concentrated. Besides, the beauty of music, there is that tenderness which brings life to the heart.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan, the great Sufi master and musician.
A simple, profound & gentle instruction by Jack Kornfield goes like this:
To awaken, sit calmly, letting each breath clear your mind and open your heart.
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