I have been exploring meditation in studios, and, less consistently, on my own for years. I decided to try it at home, with a guide, hoping to finally set-up a regular practice for myself.
The first sessions I listened were done by a team I like to call “Opak.” Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra offer free 21-day meditations, 20 minutes each. Format: Winfrey gives inspiration on the idea, such as “Become What You Believe,” then Chopra takes it further, into more specifics, shared by a Sanskrit mantra, which is practiced during the meditation, a period of silence. Chopra then comes back to remind us that it’s time to release the mantra.
At first I found it a bit generic, but more recently I experienced their well-structured series in a more heartfelt way. It is probably a great way for beginners to get started. The 21 days and the 20 minutes help you to create that groove in your day for meditation going forward. (21 days is supposed to be the time it takes to create a new habit.)
Morris recently launched the ladies-only Infinity Call, accessed through the free Periscope app. The Icall is a livestream audio broadcast—7am every morning, Monday through Friday, for 21 minutes, $25 for the month ($1 a session).
Morris is founder of the Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program. What I've come to love about her Infinity Call (on time, in real time), besides the confidence in her voice, is her original content, seriously humored and thought-provoking (“it’s a Rorschach test out there”), even as she recreates our relationship to our thoughts: “The more relaxed you are, the more you hear.”
Every morning is different, and a tone is set: “See yourself in the great forest. Right behind you is your tree. Your spine is running the length of the spine of the tree…” I’m there, in the forest, in my body, for an infinite second.
Morris’s prompts up-end all my previous experiences of what it means to meditate. She integrates shamanism into her work, for one thing. “Your word is your wand,” Morris says. She guides us on a meditation journey, a rolling stone of metaphors, infusing the imagination and senses with science and the physical world. Morris walks a unique line and strikes that coherent chord of the spirit, yet rides ever closer to reality.
“A thought is a break in reality. Return to your senses over and over and over,” she says. This brings new clarity to my practice and I feel connected.
“Meditation is meant to be fun," Morris says, “and it has no purpose but itself, and what ‘itself’ is, is touching reality, silencing the mind, slowly over time, and being able to interact with the world around you as it is, not as you think it is.”
“This practice is in part about returning to the fields of the body, the wildflower fields of your body. It will become the favorite part of your day,” Morris says matter-of-factly—and it already has.
I also checked out the free CTZNWLL Mindful Mondays at noon, a livestream meditation (camera enabled), which serves as a platform to integrate meditation and social justice in the wellness community. CTZNWLL’s purpose is to “gather in practice, oriented towards collective action to change our world.” Jacoby Ballard presides over the month of December (each month is guided by a different teacher).
Ballard, a trans yoga and meditation teacher, has been working for social justice, in diverse communities, for 16 years. He is co-founder of the Third Root Community Health Center, in Brooklyn. The first Monday, Ballard guides us in a loving-kindness meditation, by the Buddhist book. Though Ballards’s directions are clear and well-paced, it’s never simple to send to a difficult person in one’s life: “Without getting caught up in the story, connect with this person’s humanity. May you be loved and loving. May you be safe from harm. May you be as healthy as you can be. May you be as happy..." This moves me in a sobering sense. There is something to the 20-minute timing, no matter who is guiding it.
The second Monday, Ballard guides a meditation on compassion. This sets the intention to actively give and offer compassion to ourselves and to others, with the knowledge that the less we hurt, the less we are likely to hurt others, and the more we can see that others who hurt are suffering, the more real our compassion will be. “Bring a loved one into your awareness, someone who is struggling, perhaps something is going wrong with their health, employment, relationships. Becoming aware of the degree of suffering this person is facing right now. Offering this person the same words. This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I turn towards this pain. Allow this unwanted experience to expand my heart and deepen my practice.” There is grace in practicing these words with intention.
I will revisit Mindful Mondays to hear more from CTZNWLL’s community on the rise. Ballard impressed me with his sincerity and I look forward to hearing other guests on CTZNWLL's livestream this year.
On the weekend, I go to my Insight Timer app, find the menu of prerecorded meditation offerings and choose Tara Brach’s “Coming Home to Being” at 21:18. She has a Buddhist and Vipassana background and the track has high ratings, with nearly 85,000 plays since it was first posted. Brach doesn’t enter the majestic forest or bring meditation to our current social and environmental climate. Her guidance is straightforward, warm, and easy to follow. I sense this would be better for the student looking for middle path tools. My own awareness is struck into the present moment by Morris’s livespeak and moved by CTZNWLL’s application of contemplation with social justice. However, all four meditative modes are useful and expand my consciousness a little more.
The best part is that on a Sunday, when there are no live offerings, I try my own meditation session for 20 minutes, and I am able to enter the relative stillness—livestream with myself. Thanks teachers.