Life as a Meditation Practice - Insights from Masters

For over a week, I've enjoyed deep silence, longer periods of meditation, touching base with a few friends, spring cleaning, reading, and delighting in the insights gained and imparted by wonderful teachers.

A week and a half ago, I had the privilege and honor of studying with Elena Brower, an Anusara Yoga certified teacher, who shares her heart and gifts all over the country, and also writes a wonderful blog for the Huffington Post, among other talents. For a long time I have wanted to take one of her classes "live" - since I had already experienced her teaching "online," and I was grateful to be able to experience her deep teaching in a beautiful art gallery.

One of the most wonderful things Elena told us, was that we have the power to transmute the triggers in our lives into nourishment, through our practices, and most particularly in our bodies, through yoga. She explained that we can choose practice over indulging in our preferences and thus create meaningful boundaries to maximize an ultimate flow of energy in our bodies and consequently in our lives. Elena's teaching was filled with grace, humility, and poetry, and I was very moved by the depth of her wise instructions.

A week ago, I also had my yearly private lesson with Frans Stiene, my Reiki teacher, who was here visiting from Australia, and who co-founded the International House of Reiki with his wife, and gifted and celebrated author, Bronwen Stiene. Together they wrote The Reiki Sourcebook, which is the definitive text on Reiki.

Every year for the last four, I have both studied with Frans and also privately met with him to discuss my own personal practice and learn a new meditation technique. What distinguishes the Reiki that Frans and Bronwen teach from most forms taught in the West, is that their Japanese style is based on the way that Mikao Usui taught his own students, which is to say, they were initiated into meditation practices and techniques which they practiced until they were ready to move on. Their practices allowed them to embody oneness and their healing abilities flowed from this, firmly anchored in their deep personal work. Anyone who has practiced meditation knows that it has the ability to transform one's life, and indeed, the lives of all those one comes in contact with as well.

Frans very much emphasized this understanding of Reiki as a meditation practice, first and foremost, during the lecture he gave last Thursday night, when he categorically stated that "Life needs to become meditation, and meditation needs to become life." I found myself hanging on those words. This wise assessment comes from a man who practices meditation many hours a day, and when you have a treatment with him, his personal practice is very evident in his presence, and in the healing experience as well. When Reiki is practiced in this way, you experience oneness, and transcend all duality: no longer does a practitioner, a client, or a divine energy exist separately. They are all one.

I have also been immersed in Sally Kempton's new book, Meditation for the Love of it, in preparation for a book club meeting this weekend, but also in anticipation of her visit here to Willow Street Yoga Center in the Washington, DC area, a month from now. I am looking forward to two days of sitting at the feet of such a seasoned meditation master, and imbibing her wisdom, and having the opportunity to meditate with a packed room as well.

This book is a gem, chalk full of wisdom, and wonderful quotations as well. There is a whole section dedicated to understanding the notion of oneness through practical exercises and suggestions, supported by a lifetime of insights.

"Remembering oneness makes love arise," Sally wisely teaches. She notes that meditation is an intimate relationship that we must cultivate, and going deeper into this practice happens because we must want to do this. It brings us into greater self awareness of who we are at our essence, and allows us to experience our true nature.

Kempton's book is a rich resource for both novice and experienced meditators as well. Each one will glean the needed wisdom from its pages, and will find satiation in its many quotations. I share a few here:

"Wherever the mind goes,
whether turned inward
or toward the outside world,
everywhere there is the divine.
Since the divine is everywhere,
where can the mind go
to avoid it?"
~ Vijnana Bhairava

"In this nakedness the spirit finds rest,
for when it covets nothing,
nothing raises it up,
and nothing weighs it down."
~ St John of the Cross

"I have realized at last
the true nature of prayer and meditation.
They are simply your own play
as longing and as aspiration."
~ Ramprasad


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