Class Notes, Week 39: Lessons from Santorini


Preparing for meditation along Santorini’s caldera.

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.


Just, wow.

I now understand why Shiva Rea has attracted such a “cult” following of yogis from around the globe.

This past week has been incredibly empowering, energizing and emotional. Not only has my own personal yoga practice deepened, but I am now armed with precious new threads to weave into my own teaching.  It is tremendously exciting — and further confirms that I am on the appropriate path.  I am eager to get into the yoga studio and integrate these colorful threads into my yoga teaching tapestry.  But I need to remain mindful to move slowly.  Sometimes my pitta nature aggressively nudges me to move quicker than appropriate …

I complete Shiva’s program with gratitude that is one hundred times more powerful than the gratitude I radiated on the first day here in Santorini.  My heart is full.  I am so incredibly happy.  But “happy” is a word that doesn’t capture my emotion completely.  I am … radiating something beautiful.

The practices each day and evening were wonderful — we worked through the elements (earth, water, fire, air) with beautiful, fluid sequencing.  There were also stand-out moments sprinkled within the prana flow practice: meditating on a small rock for five minutes; spontaneous dancing (a la trance dance); mirroring a partner in vinyasa sequencing; and learning the “lion’s fart.”  That’s a technique practiced by Buddhist monks that involves taking a deep inhale, then exhaling with a loud roar and shaking the head and lips and cheeks — it is hilarious to watch, and really forces participants to let go and get over any embarrassment or hesitation that stems from ego.  Perhaps I will break it out in a class some day.

The teacher training focused on heart meditation, and it really energized my curiosity and love for meditation and mudras.  Shiva taught us the four entry markers to guide people into a meditative state: 1) find a comfortable seat; 2) bring awareness to the breath; 3) find the inner gaze; 4) help cultivate awareness of the heart bhava (heart consciousness).  On paper, it looks super basic and easy to follow.  But there is an art to guiding would-be mediators, especially beginners.  So much of it comes down to finding the language appropriate for the student, or group of students, and speaking authentically and from experience.

This is the part I love — creating and nurturing the meditation “nest” for students.  Words just manifest themselves as I watch students and feed off their energy.  It is extremely heart warming for me to see smiles on each student while they are in meditation.  I just love inspiring people to slow the f@&$ down and come a little closer to their spirit.  Anyone can do it — young, old, male, female, healthy, disabled.  It’s accessible to all, as long as you come with an open mind.

Shiva provided us with such beautiful meditations that also doubled as inspiring examples.  Her word choice, pacing and instruction is something I hope to emulate, although not necessarily copy.  (I gotta be me.)

She also had us do some shorter meditations while holding various mudras.  She said that “108 moments” — about two minutes — in meditation holding a mudra can be as effective (if not more) that a longer guided mediation.  The mudra, whether it is solar (expansive) or lunar (introspective) in nature, can be a powerful invoker that will accelerate a meditative state.

This is perfect for beginners, or those who find meditation “boring.”  I definitely plan on experimenting with this after savasana — ending practice with a minute or two of meditation while holding angali or swastika mudra.

Although I am still so new with so so so so so so so so so so so much to learn … my teacher training peers here in Santorini say that I am really good at leading meditation!  This comes as a really sweet surprise given my interest yet uncertainty that I had the “right” approach.

I led a few heart meditations that received “wows” from yogis who have made a career out of teaching yoga.  One yogi even called it “brilliant” and told Shiva my meditation guidance has inspired her to practice more.

Um, wow.  This sort of validation is an amazing take away for me.  I am still working hard to temper my ego after receiving such empowering compliments.

Now, it’s time to integrate the lessons I’ve learned along the caldera of Santorini into my daily life, daily practice and teaching.  Like this ancient volcano years so many years ago, I am erupting — with new vigor and wonder.

I wish I didn’t need to leave, but Santorini will most certainly remain in my heart.  This is the place where meditation really clicked.

Thank you, Shiva Rea.

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