This week’s Mystic Heart Meditation Program sessions will be led by Jim Leff, an Aramaic prayer specialist, and Kim Hehr, a Kundalini Yoga meditation teacher.
The Mystic Heart Meditation Program is an initiative by the Department of Religion designed to teach Chautauquans about the world’s various meditation traditions. Hehr’s sessions will be from 8:15 to 9 a.m. Monday, July 30, through Friday, August 3, in the Presbyterian House and from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 30, and Wednesday, August 1, in Hurlbut Church sanctuary. Leff’s sessions will be from 7:15 to 8 a.m. Monday, July 30, through Friday, August 3, in the Presbyterian House and from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in the Hall of Missions.
Leff was first introduced to the Aramaic version of the Lord’s Prayer in the 1980s by Neil Douglas-Klotz, author of Prayers from the Cosmos. Douglas-Klotz studied Arabic and Aramaic so he could translate the prayer in English.
“When you go directly from Aramaic to English, it is much richer, much broader and presents a picture of Jesus as really quite a mystical teacher offering a universal message that ‘Our Father’ as we know it is valid, but it is only one possibility among many possibilities in the translations,” Leff said. “It offers a rich opening to a vision of the teachings of Jesus that are unavailable in the King James version (of the Bible) that many of us know today.”
Aramaic is an ancient mantric language, like Sanskrit, and offers subtle levels of meaning and sound qualities that “greatly enrich the experience of prayer.” In each morning session, Leff will walk participants through lines of the prayer starting at the beginning with the meaning of “Abwoon.”
“Abwoon evokes that from which all things have come, almost as a birthing image,” he said. “So it orientes us to a divine being who has created everything. You are working vibrationally with your energy centers.”
Over time, Douglas-Klotz began to develop melodies and movement to go with the words, so the prayer also became a dance. Leff will teach the movements in his afternoon sessions.
“It works quite beautifully to move with the chant, the sound and the song of the prayer,” Leff said.
Leff said no matter which version of the Lord’s Prayer one experiences, his hope is that participants leave with an idea of how to incorporate its message into their daily routines.
“This can be used as a daily practice in any of the forms, from simple to long and elaborate,” he said. “It is a daily practice to attune to the source of creation and connect with the message of Jesus.”
In addition to Leff’s teachings, Hehr, also known as Karampreet Kaur, will lead Kundalini Yoga meditation.
Hehr is a certified level two teacher of Kundalini Yoga and meditation. Kundalini acts as a preparation before a longer meditation session, working with the glandular and nervous systems to calm the body down. To achieve this, Hehr’s sessions will begin with gentle body movements, chanting and pranayama, a Sanskrit breath practice, to prepare the body and mind for meditation.
Hehr said this style of meditation and breathwork can help Chautauquans ease everyday anxiety and stress.
“I am teaching more toward the idea of letting things go and being able to be more of ourselves,” she said. “It is so important to be able to touch that spiritual essence of ourselves, and we can only do that by dropping negative thought patterns and self-conscious blocks.”
Hehr will incorporate a therapeutic gong into her afternoon sessions.
“It is a really healing therapy at a cellular level, but its deeper goal is awareness and nonjudgmental appreciation of the present moment.” she said. “People just love it.”
Hehr said her ultimate goal through teaching is guiding people to reach their satnam, or their true identity.
“It leads to a feeling of beautiful and blissful awe,” she said. “Once we find ourselves, we do not have to worry about what we have to be for somebody else. That is where I think we really find peace.”