From Ananda Meditation Teacher Training graduate Mare Baranski:
In terms of physical proximity to Ananda Village, I live in a remote outpost called Cocoa Beach, Florida. It’s a four-block wide island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Banana River, a natural setting conducive to meditating. So with my own attunement of consciousness with God who is the “Doer,” and the attunement of many people here, our class has begun.
We meet in the public library where the vibration is further uplifted by a collection of Yogananda’s and Kriyananda’s books. The ten or so people in the current group love the serenity derived from meditating with others, even if half of them have been too distracted at home so far to meditate alone.
We began a couple of months ago, meeting on Wednesdays around noon. In our library setting, it has been pretty inevitable that, other than the group’s core members, there are inquisitors on the periphery, a changing cast of characters. Nevertheless, we started as a group with a discussion of meditation’s benefits, and what the students hoped to derive for themselves. The universal answer seemed to be “peace.” We got seated comfortably and correctly, went through two relaxation exercises, concentrated on observing the breath without control while gazing at the spiritual eye, and ended with a brief foray into expansion of consciousness. (Jyotish’ guided meditation on the Ananda Meditation Teacher Support Center webpage was particularly helpful.) In subsequent weeks, we added the Hong-Sau mantra.
Initially, we didn’t mention “God” or begin and end the session with prayers. This naturally evolved as the group became more cohesive, and as I learned that the library staff is quite open-minded. We began to talk about the flow of energy in the body, the mind-breath connection, and engaging the heart’s feeling. Affirmation practice has been introduced, as well as excerpts from “The Art and Science of Raja Yoga.”
Early on, I adopted the attitude that if even one person benefited, my time would have been well spent. There are already a handful of motivated seekers. Some had been doing yoga postures for a while, and were ready to move inwardly to another level. Two students were experiencing their breath in the spine before the topic came up in class.
On a Deeper Level
Some of the students are personal friends and acquaintances. The merely curious ones dropped off quickly. Others are dabblers in this and that, such as trying out liberal churches and other forms of spiritual exploration. They come when they don’t have lunch dates, doctor appointments, or contractors at the house.
I make no judgment about them and am happy when they come at all. I don’t chase after students, and I think that’s a very important attitude to have about teaching. My own personal example speaks more clearly than cajoling or confronting.
My primary energy is directed toward my own spiritual growth and the growth of those who are ready to seek Yogananda’s teachings, or at least ready to be ready, such as Blanche, who has argued at her husband for decades for wasting time meditating and being “calm;” or Robert, the karate black belt, who has practiced some form of Zen mindfulness of the breath, but may be ready for a deeper understanding of yoga devotion, meditation techniques and philosophy; or Sandi, the hatha yoga teacher with a desire to know and practice the other seven limbs of Patanjali; or the rest of the devoted students who show up week after week due to an awakening peace and love gained from their new practice. To paraphrase my Guru’s reference to his large family, perhaps God has given me a “small” family to nurture.
There seem to be no limits on where this group can go. As more students are starting to meditate at home, they are eager to periodically increase the length of Hong Sau practice as a group by an additional five minutes, and then go deeper into stillness. We have begun to start and end our meditation with a prayer, and the practice of visualization will be introduced soon.
What seems to be happening is that a meditation group of regular members is evolving from this class. Since many have never meditated before, there is ongoing instruction and guidance, and the students love the weekly group practice and don’t want it to end. They have found their beehive of meditation honey. Cocoa Beach has established, what is for now, a yoga meditation class with a perennial beginner’s mind.
Mare Baranski (graduate of the online Ananda meditation teacher training, 2016)