10 May “Next Time Get the Heads”
I learned to meditate in a loft in Chelsea, with the young fencers of New York stampeding overhead.
“The footsteps are like our thoughts; they come and go. Bring your attention back to the breath,” my Teacher* would say.
The single most salient feature of my original Yoga Teacher Training was not the pressure to advance my physical practice – although that was there, or the challenge of developing the neural circuitry to “direct traffic” on the mat: “Inhale and take your right foot forward. No. Sorry. I meant your left foot, the other right foot.” That was there too.
The most salient feature of those demanding all-weekend immersions was that my Teacher plunged us in to meditation every chance she got.
Meditation, defined for our purposes here, is the state (or states) beyond “ordinary mind.”
It was in savasana, after a deep physical practice – my body, completely relaxed, sounds arising and subsiding in the spaciousness of a quiet mind – that I first tasted meditative states. When we sat to meditate, my mind slightly anesthetized from the yoga chanting and the smell of incense, I got the hang of training my awareness on the breath and on the mantra.
In that Chelsea loft, I found blessed quietude – and space – between breaths, between “me” and the thoughts that were arising and subsiding.
Who (or what) was this “me” that thoughts dissolved into.
For many – and I was not an exception – learning to meditate is a beautiful, grace-filled experience.
Awakening Meditation Energy
Meditation naturally and organically deepens and expands when your meditation energy, your Shakti, which literally means “power,” is awakened.
The goddesses of yoga represent the Shakti, which is the liberative power of yoga. They represent aspects of our awareness, of higher awareness, and there’s a reason so many of them wield weapons and wear skirts or garlands made of skulls.
The skulls represent the demons the goddesses slay: the egoic contractions, the limited identities, the stored grief, the automatic patterns – whatever causes us to suffer and prevents us from knowing ourselves as sat, cit, ananda, pure being, consciousness and bliss.
In our Teacher Training, so many people were experiencing the awakening of Shakti which signals the beginning of this deep yogic clearing out process, we started looking at our Teacher lovingly – and sometimes a bit suspiciously – as one of the fierce goddesses of yoga, the kind that wears a garland of skulls.
At the end of my two-year training in June of 2008, I was walking down West 28th Street on a warm summer evening and came across mannequins – the headless variety – sprawled on the sidewalk.
At home, I sent my Teacher a tender email, “Dear Rudrani, I saw mannequins on the sidewalk that had no heads and thought of you.”
Not missing an opportunity to teach and confirming what we’d suspected all along about her true identity, she wrote simply: Next time get the heads.
*Rudrani Farbman Brown, Director of World Yoga Center, was my first Teacher of Yoga and meditation. I am eternally grateful to her for transmitting the Shakti and the authentic core of yoga to me and to so many.