Day three started out bright and early at Myogetsu-bo Studio with John for a guided meditation. Like the previous day with Pranayama, John gave us a sampling and brief account of the methods of meditation. He categorized them into three main types.
1) Concentrating or focusing on one object i.e. staring at a candle flame, watching your breath,chanting a mantra
2) Being open i.e. opening up your mind and thinking of something vast and unlimited like the sky, trying to send your senses so far out you can hear every little sound and nuance
3) A combination of the first two i.e. focusing on one thing and staying open at the same time
We started out with a loving kindness meditation. I have never done it in the way that John has described but I found it interesting. He broke the meditation into four parts: meditating on your teacher, meditating on your student, meditating on your friend, meditating on your enemy. The teacher doesn’t have to be your teacher as in your yoga teacher ( all my students now let out a sigh of relief) but someone who has guided you and made a profound difference in your life like a parent or grandparent- someone you love deeply. The student is one who you have compassion for- your child, your friend who needs compassion at this time in their life- the love of compassion. The friend is someone who has a wonderful event in their life that you are celebrating with them. A marriage a birth- the love of joy. You enemy is someone who has wronged you. You meditate with on them with the love of detachment. John described this as standing from a high vantage point and just overlooking a vast space below you.
I have done something similar with my mediation teacher but it focused more on just the meditation of compassion for someone we knew who was hurting- building light inside our selves and then sending to them. Nun Ann (Anila) MacNeil of the Zuru Ling Buddhist Temple in Vancouver is our in house meditation teacher at our yoga studio in White Rock where she lives. We are blessed to have her as a teacher and guide.
I was in tears during the first part of the meditation. I thought of my father as my teacher and how his death gave me the practice of yoga which had now brought me to this place today. I thought of my son as my student and all the love he needs to grow into a man. I thought of my friend Jennifer as my friend and her celebration of finding a loving husband and hopefully a family. I thought of a nasty flight attendant i worked with last month that was so hurtful to all the crew and passengers. I was definitely not crying by the last one….
The second method was chanting mantra. We chant “om nama shivaya” for three minutes continuously and then sat in silence for I believe it was a minute. You could hear everything so clearly afterwards. The rain and frogs and a distant bell- very effective.
We all then wandered out of this enchanting studio in the Japanese forest to find… what else?..Well An Illy coffee truck OF COURSE!! Really it was too hilarious. I am so grateful to Fran Kuzui for setting up this wonderful time in Nikko and I know I will return.
Well we all packed up and headed to the train and I met up with the Merry band to ride into Yokohama together. We had Marc St.Pierre from Maui, Mark Shveima from San Fran, Yuki- John’s translator this trip, and Stacey- a delightful yogi from Kamakura. I have never been in such a casual setting with my teacher so I found I was a little unsure what was considered “appropriate behaviour”- until John started doing Dustin Hoffman impressions from Rainman. Marc settled in with a book and nursed a cold ( which I seem to have come down with as well), Mark – a icon of studentship- transcribed one of Paul Muller-Ortega’s talks, Stacey and Yuki chatted and I worked on my blog. Later in the trip John started to ask us about spirituality in Japan. He had some great questions and I felt that great old pull of what it felt like to be in university again and having deep discourses on Japanese sociology and history. My degree from UVIC centered around this stuff so I started pulling 20 year old information out of my head and hoping that I was still clear on it. ( John later confirmed – after doing research himself- that I was.) It felt a little strange to be teaching your teacher! Yipes! Very humbling.
Everyone asked if I was coming to practice that night and I was suddenly presented with the information that there was a mini workshop that night. I had been up since 4:30 and already tired but John said ” Yea- your coming aren’t you?” and of course if my teacher says that how could I say no? So I checked into my cubicle of a hotel room which is very tiny and very perfect and is so small you “don’t have room to change your mind” as one the pilots once said and dragged my tired ass back out the door. I felt like I should be going to bed and resting my sore ears and throat but no- out the door I went. It was raining cats and dogs- grey and ugly- and I was in a daze. Have you ever seen the movie “Lost in Translation”?- well just like that. I made it Yokohama station and found the studio. This studio is apparently bigger than the one in Shinjuku but I found the light in there a bit darker and starker. Maybe it just matched my mood. At least the picture in the entrance was cheery!
I said a little prayer for Grace to help me through the night-I felt sweaty and shaky and worried I might have a fever. Just please don’t let me fall on my head…that was my mantra. Well just as I thought, anugraha, the grace that binds- came up and helped me through practice. I actually felt amazingly good by the halfway point. John was in a funny giddy mood as were the rest of the merry band and the practice started in fits of laughter from the “gaijin corner”. Marc got me to balance on my own in pincha for the first time by moving my arm bones more forward- Thank you Marc! and Mark and John took turns “Breaking me open and molding me out” as John said everytime he worked on my upper back. My backbends were a little weak from fatigue and my low back felt strange so I had a feeling my cycle was coming as that tends to the first indicator- but all in all it was a decent practice. John came to me during one of the last poses where we were resting on our backs and cracked all my toes!! Just like my husband Chris does at home! I didn’t know if I was more shocked or mortified! I was sooooo not expecting that! I gasped and then laughed- “That takes the cake!” I said. I mean really it was one of those nights.
John came back in one of the last poses and I asked him how he knew my toes would crack. “Vata”- he said, ” Even your eyes in meditation and pranayama go up”. Hmm. Vata- I have to ask him more about that. I always feel so heavy- maybe he means my inner body is Vata- that might make sense. Vata is the wind dosha and it always goes up- you are always in you head. Great for writing- not so great for yoga.
It was an amazing night/day/night. As Marc said to John when we went to start asana practice that night, “Hey John- that was a great mediation practice yesterday!”That morning meditation practice seemed very far away in both time and place. St. Pierre wins the prize for summing it all up.