Yoga Sleuth is always on the prowl to discover extraordinary instructors and unique classes, so when word got out of exclusive meditation classes - literally - popping up around Manhattan, it was time to explore: The Path.
Requesting an invitation on thepath.com was the first step in becoming part of this elite sitting phenomenon, followed by a response email detailing their next pop-up meditation session at Soho Synagogue led by renowned meditation instructor, Light "The Daily Meditator" Watkins.
When I arrived at the location on this particularly freezing Friday morning, a doorman was outside checking in a list of names. With an 8:00 AM start time, it felt like I was entering a VIP after-hours party from the night prior. Upon entering the space, a very friendly woman offered to take my jacket, and then directed me to a complimentary tea station.The Synagogue lobby, dressed in colorful artwork and exposed brick, was a welcoming area for people to mingle before going inwards.
One small staircase led our group of young professionals down to a ground floor, open-space layout showcasing around 30-40 meditation cushions organized into six rows. As I found a comfortable seat, Light joined us at the front of the room with a glowing radiance you could undoubtedly see all the way from the entrance on Crosby Street.
Dina Kaplan, one of the founders of The Path, stood up to introduce herself and welcome the group. She went on to explain the four meditations we’d be practicing over the next hour: energizing, mindfulness, mantra and compassion.
Light took center stage and encouraged us to make any adjustments that would allow us to sit quietly and comfortably, without too much distraction. Sitting – eyes closed – with a room full of strangers in a random downtown Synagogue was already a great exercise for me to let go of uncertainty and find centeredness.
As we sat crossed-legged, palms facing down on each thigh, we were guided into our first meditation of energizing the body through practicing breath of fire. We lifted both arms parallel to the floor and drew our fingers into small fists with the thumbs pointing towards the ears. For the next few minutes we released a sequence of quick and forceful exhales from deep within the solar plexus. Then, to create even more heat we started twisting, inhaling to twist right and exhaling to twist left. When we finally released the arms down to the sides and found the natural rhythm of our breath, I felt a Kundalini-like flow of energy spiral through me.
The next mindfulness meditation was more peaceful and self-reflective, sitting with our thoughts and continuing to come back to the breath. Light verbally guided us through this mind exercise reminding us if we’d like to know what lies ahead in our future, we must remain present where everything is happening right now.
The following mantra meditation was a verbal call-and-response of the short mantra “So Hum” translating to “I am that.” We began by speaking the mantra out loud, then getting softer and softer until we all shared a quiet whisper. “It’s less about who you are on the outside, and more about figuring out who you are as the observer on the inside,” Light explained.
We closed the meditation session with a compassion practice weaving back in the “So Hum” mantra to create positive affirmations, which we spoke silently in our minds. We repeated phrases like, “I am compassionate with myself” and “I am compassionate with others.”
Once we found our gaze and brought a sense of presence back into the room, Light offered the opportunity for questions. A brave guy in the back of the room asked the one question all New Yorkers struggle with: “How do you find a quiet place to sit and meditate daily when you live in a city with so many distractions?”
Light assured us that there will always be distractions in our lives, but we need to keep sitting, even just three minutes a day. We can be in a cramped apartment or on a park bench amongst loud sirens and horns, it doesn’t matter. Once we learn how to tune out all that noise and go inside ourselves, that’s when we find the stillness that guides us towards the path.
-Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
Meditation sessions are $20.
Invites must be requested at thepath.com where details on location, teacher and day/time will be provided.