Shriyoga Blog

Here Circa 2006

Posted on February 22nd, 2011

It is a cold, dark January desert morning with the faint outline of Joshua trees illumined by a sliver of the moon. The crescent moon, Sally Kempton had explained the night before was the Shiva Moon: the moon of awareness, an auspicious moon of The One.
A group of dedicated students of meditation and contemplative studies have joined Sally for a week at The Joshua Tree Retreat Center/Institute of Mentalphysics, designed largely by Frank Lloyd Wright. The accommodations are austere, reflecting a landscape free of distractions other than the constellations above.
Sally is already seated near the puja where a tall, lean yogini finishes lighting incense and candles, transforming the communal hall into a sacred temple. A faint smell of recently burned sage clears the space in these pre-sunrise hours. It is a time revered by many wisdom traditions, when the veil between worlds is most transparent.
Identities concealed beneath layers of sweaters and scarves, everyone sits closely together on the floor near Sally. The only sound is breathing.
She begins to speak in hushed tones. Her voice is spectacular in its smooth honey tones. It is simultaneously husky and gentle. Immediately it is apparent that there really is nowhere but here.
She invokes the “Great Spirit of Love and Truth”, borrowing a Chinook Indian blessing, “who flows throughout the whole Universe, to be with us, to teach us and show us the way”. There is a collective pause in the room. The so-called “energy” is palpable: the frequency feels very much like being in the company of the most loving and supportive friends. Friends who are also fiercely loyal and protective. The idea of Shakti is not only understood, but “felt” in Sally’s presence.
The instruction this morning is deceptively challenging: to slip into the space in between the inhales and exhales and vice versa. The Sanskrit term for this midpoint, or gap, is the madhya. Sally reveals that it is the same instruction received from her teacher, Baba Muktananda, back in her days of wearing the orange robes of a swami.
The room dips into the gap as the roomful of minds empty out at the end of every exhale. Again, the gap, as these same minds are flooded with breath on the inhale.
This gap swallows both the reverie of the past and the worries of the future. Sally calls it “the space of the heart”.
Connected to the whole, we sit in silence, slipping into eternity together. There is nowhere to go but here.

Experiencing the Inner Self

Posted on February 18th, 2011

The “Inner Self”?
If you had asked me back in the late 90’s about the “Inner Self” I would most likely immediately jump to some description of my thoughts, perceptions and especially, feelings about whatever was going on in my life.  Everything would be about “me”.
Me, me, me, me, meeeeee!!!
There was no perceptible awareness that there was something other than the thinking me. Even more baffling, there was no real acknowledgment of how narrow the bandwidth of my awareness was.
I remember vividly how my dear cousin, Meadow, would point out the beauty of flowers on our springtime morning hikes in Los Angeles, and how my gaze remain fixed on my climbing feet as I babbled on about whatever was ailing me, breaking my heart or hurting my feelings. All with extra emphasis on “me” and “my”.
(This moment is probably a good one to thank all the friends and family who patiently put up with “me” during this era.)
It is no surprise that the second chapter, “How Do We Experience the Inner Self?”, of Sally Kempton’s new book is especially poignant.
As I described in prior blog entries this year, my road to experiencing myself as the Self, was tumultuous.  There was incredible doubt pushing and asserting that there was nothing but the thinking mind, and that the cultivation of this kind of thinking intelligence was the “way”.
I persisted with my goal to experience the Self, and began, as Sally says, “to look for, to identify, and to identify with [my] essence”.
And, then, one meditation practice in particular gave me the entry point to becoming aware of my own existence.
It is called the madhya.  The midpoint.  The fractional pause between breaths, words, everything… that offers passage to experiencing the Awareness, the Presence… the Self underlying it all.

(An account of the actual morning I learned the madhya meditation from Sally will be posted next week.)