I guess the Lord must be in New York City

*Title from a Harry Nilsson song of the same title (1969)

Picture by plastAnka, creative commons license

On April 20, Caren Osten Gerszberg published an article in the New York Times that chronicled how yoga studios in New York City are incorporating more meditation, in both their classes and their studios. The reason, according to Cyndi Lee, is that “the yoga community in New York has matured.” Before, the community just wanted to move. Now, they want stillness.

Through quotes by Alan Finger and Carla Stangenberg, the article posits the theory that meditation counterbalances New York City’s pace of hustle and bustle. It also suggests that meditation is creeping into yoga studios because it has become more popular and accepted since Transcendental Meditation hit the United States in the 1960’s.

When I read this article, I cheered.

In 2008, I attended a Prayer of Heart and Body retreat with Father Thomas Ryan in which he suggested that meditation is something Christians can give to American practices of yoga that will actually bring yoga back to its roots. He suggests that yoga began in India as a way of training and stilling the body to be able to sit in peace, to free the mind for meditation. This idea is based, in part, on the Yoga Sutras, where Patanjali writes, “yoga is the ability to control the fluctuations of the mind” (Sutra 1.2, translation from yogawithsubhash.com).

At the retreat, another instructor introduced meditation differently: “Yoga without meditation is like driving a Ferrari to buy milk: it’s not using the full potential.”

Now, if I had a Ferrari, it’d probably be my only car. I’d take it to buy milk, but I’d also take it out on the freeway and press the gas. Gosh that’d be fun.

I suppose the same is with meditation: I can use it for the daily spiritual, mental, and psychological maintenance it brings in the privacy of my own home. I can also use what I learn there to help me be patient while in line at the grocery store, buying milk.

Father Ryan’s book, Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice, was published in 1995. The New York Times article mentions meditation classes beginning at the Tibetan House in 1999. I doubt there’s a correlation because I’m sure there were meditation classes in New York City before 1999. But the dates are worth mentioning.

I began practicing meditation two months before I began practicing yoga. I did not directly connect the two practices before I had met Father Ryan. While I had learned about meditation during my yoga teacher training, the importance of meditation was not impressed upon me until the Prayer of Heart and Body retreat. This probably says more about me than the connection of the two practices. Frankly, I can’t separate them anymore–the two practices are too integrated in my own life.

All this boils down to why I cheered when I read the article: I see the presence of God in meditation classes in New York City, and that sighting gives me warm fuzzies.

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