When I first moved to New York, many of my spiritual friends raised an eyebrow. I have spent quite a few years in quiet retreats, peaceful monasteries in Asia, and beautiful ashrams in the Himalayas. New York does not seem to be a perfect place for someone who wants to go deep into meditation or a yoga practice.
However I felt an unexplained attraction for the big apple from the first time I visited over 15 years ago.
The reason why was a mystery to me for many years. Even now, all I have is educated speculations…vague but interesting.
Yoga and meditation – what is the connection?
Before I elaborate on the mystery, I want to explain the connection between meditation, yoga, and NYC.
Frequently, I’m asked about the connection between Yoga and Meditation.
When you visit a random studio in the west, yoga and meditation might look like very separate things.
Would you believe that originally they emerged from the same spiritual system?
The Yoga sutra of Patanjali, the most authoritative yogic text, specified 8 aspects of the path of yoga (Ashtanga system). In this system, the 7th aspect is meditation.
The 3rd aspect in the ladder is called Asana (body position). The 4th is Pranayama, control of the bio-magnetic life force, usually through breath work.
Do you realize that all the physical exercise “Yoga” is famous for is just the preparatory stage for meditation?!
Serious meditation is not about closing your eyes and thinking of nothing. It is about contracting the senses inward, building single pointed concentration on an object, and expanding your consciousness.
The real purpose of yoga and meditation
My yoga teacher from India sometimes compared serious meditation to an LSD experience (and he is not the only one that has said this). The mind expands to perceive subtle things that, normally, would go unseen in our consciousness.
Then, it is possible to directly experience what some Yogis call, “the secret of secrets, the mystery that is hidden inside, the ultimate question and answer!”
My Yoga teacher says that there are four BIG questions:
Where did I come from?
Where do I go when I die?
Who am I?
What am I here for?
He says the 3 first ones are not as important as the last. But, Wherever you came from, wherever you will go, and whoever you are… the practical question is what are You here for? If you are suppose to be a doctor and you are a lawyer, then you might not be very satisfied, and the clock of life is ticking.
The answers Yogis get in their meditation is usually not about their carrier but of their true essence.
Through yoga and meditation, we can uncover what we really are: the truth beyond identification with thoughts, emotions, and body.
If this mystery interests you too, it might be time to sign up for Yoga classes...
Is all Yoga and meditation in the spiritual super market the same?
Unfortunately not. All yoga practices are different and all meditation practices are different. Many yoga centers have watered down the ancient wisdom of yoga into a physical fitness exercise.
Practicing Yoga for flexibility, anti-aging, healing or fun is great, but it doesn’t utilize all that yoga can give you.
It is like owning a Ferrari and using it to cook eggs on the engine.
Can I find authentic Yoga and meditation practices in NYC?
And here is where New York comes into the picture.
When I got to the USA, I was looking for authentic yoga and meditation teachings.
One of the places I found was a retreat center in the Arizona desert called “Diamond Mountain”.
I spent about 6 month there, however I knew I needed to find work in a city somewhere soon.
The place that had the highest concentrated yoga and meditation activities was New York City.
One of the things that captured me about New York City is that it draws unbelievable amounts of beauty, talent, and diversity. My Yoga teacher once claimed that the earth is a living thing.
The traditional esoteric Yogis believe we have an aura of subtle energy around our bodies, this energy is accumulated in special centers called chakras, each chakra has its own unique function.
Getting Esoteric- the Chakras of the world and NYC
My yoga teacher believes earth has chakras too.
Some Yogis theorize that Israel (where I am from) is the power center of the world. This is why it attracts so many wars and conflicts over the centuries. Religions that emerge from Israel seem to have a lot militant qualities in them as well. (a God that hates and gets angry, command to kill complete nations …etc )
India is considered the heart chakra. Maybe that’s why, in spite of its poverty, it attracts so many soul seekers.
Tibet would be the crown chakra, the roof of the world, where very profound spiritual systems have reached their epiphany.
And New York is … take a guess.
What is New York City’s dominant Chakra?
Well it is probably the second chakra of the world. That is the Chakra of imagination, fashion, entertainment , charm and sexuality.
Walking on the streets of Manhattan feels like walking in the beating heart of fashion, life style and imagination. This is the center where western culture pulsates, for good and bad.
On the positive side, this is the most dominant chakra of the world in this day and age. The 2nd chakra has to do with the water element (NYC is surrounded by water). It is the chakra for creativity, sexuality and charm.
The down side of the second Chackra is that it is chaotic, confusing, shallow and moody…sound familiar?
The whole western world is suffering from this disease, however NYC is surely the leader of the West to set the tone.
Where you find the disease, you can also find the cure
Where energy is expressed in its strongest form, is also where the cure is developed.
The first time I visited the United States, I was amazed from the culinary ignorance of the fast food nation. Average Americans consume twice the amount of unhealthy food compared to an Israeli. However, the US has developed the largest network of health food stores and organic industries (much more than the Israeli equivalent).
New York has the same phenomena!
Since it is one of the most hectic cities in the world, people are desperate for going inward and finding peace.
This led to large amount of spiritual centers for every taste. Great masters, such as Ammaji (the hugging mother of India) and the Dalai Lama, have centers here. Whether its Judaism, Shamanism, Hinduism or Buddhism you can find them all here.
My personal recommendation
I certainly recommend paying a visit to The Three Jewels center. Geshe Michael Roach, the Tibetan Buddhist master who founded this center, has managed to inspire virtually millions worldwide.
His presence and blessing is felt here. It is center for authentic yoga and meditation in the heart of the busy city.
With donation based Buddhist philosophy, daily meditations and yoga practices, and a beautiful spiritual shop, it is a refuge for sanity and peace. Meet you there.