Saturday, May 4, 2013

Meditation workshop-The Art of Living Foundation

I Meditate New YorkLast Friday night I went to a free meditation workshop at The Art of Living Foundation. A friend had told me about it and I had also heard about it before from looking at MeetUps.  I am a member of MeetUp and cyber-stalk a lot of MeetUps but haven't done any of them yet because of fears that have to do with social anxiety...but that's another topic for another blog post.  Anyway, free meditation classes are held at the Art of Living Institute through I Meditate NY Mondays and Fridays 6:30-8pm.
Part of me was afraid that this "free meditation class" was some kind of scam, that I would go to this workshop and they would show me how to meditate for 15 minutes and then try to get me to buy something for the next hour and a half. Maybe New York is getting to me?  Anyway, it wasn't like that at all.
The center is located in Midtown East (5th ave/30th st.)  and was surprisingly comforting and calming.  Though I could still hear street noise from below, the meditation room was light and airy, mostly empty with tall ceilings and big windows and hard wood floors, so it felt nice to be in that space.  Legless chairs were arranged in a circle and most of the chairs filled up, probably about 15 people filled the circle.
The teacher started with a quick introduction and asked us to briefly introduce ourselves, sharing our names, occupation and what brought us to this class.  It was relatively painless and kind of interesting.  There was a guy dressed in an expensive suit who works in real-estate, a pretty Russian woman who was late, a young pediatrician in a sexy red dress, a guy that was clearly smitten with my friend, and a guy with some sinus issues included in the group.   And of course me and my friend.   I said that I worked in costumes and also was a brand new yoga teacher and that I wanted to work on my non-existent meditation practice.  She commented, "wow".  I wasn't sure exactly why she said wow, but I thought it was kind of nice.   I suppose it's possible that she could have been judging me for being a yoga teacher who doesn't have a meditation practice, but I really don't think she was ;)

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The teacher started by effectively demonstrating two different breathing techniques.  One that was new to me (she called it yogic coffee) and an old favorite-Nadi Sodhana, aka alternate nostril breathing.  She explained that the first was good for a centering pick-me-up any time of the day instead of coffee and the other was for calming and balancing out the left and right hemispheres of the brain and body.   We all learned and practiced the breath exercises, or pranayama, together.  It was effective and enjoyable for me and the rest of the group seemed to also appreciate it. The teacher noted that the energy in the room seemed calmer after we had all done the breathing exercises.  It was noticeable.  Next we did a 1/2 hour guided meditation during which the our guide helped bring our focus inward by taking us on a mental walking tour of our bodies, head to toe, then toe to head.  It was very nice.
Afterwards, we shared a little about our experiences as the circle was opened up for questions.  At first people asked some good, reasonable questions about how to focus, what to focus on, and how to take that focus outside of this meditation room.  Then at one point one of the questions and the (many) follow up(s) to that question got to be a little annoying, but my friend and I still managed to get out of there without having our meditation buzzes killed completely.  :) We both agreed that we felt better exiting the center than we had when we had first entered.  I would definitely go again.

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