Week Six of the Mystic Heart Meditation program will be led by Jim Leff, an initiate in the Inayati Sufi Order, and Kim Hehr, a hospice nurse and yoga and meditation practitioner for 20 years.
Leff, who has taught the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer for many years in Rochester, New York, will hold daily Sufi meditation sessions from 7:15 to 8 a.m. in the Presbyterian House Chapel. He will also hold sessions on the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in the Hall of Missions.
Hehr, a certified level 2 teacher of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation who teaches weekly classes at Yoga Village in Clearwater, Florida, will hold daily Kundalini Yoga and meditation sessions from 8:15 to 9 a.m. in the Presbyterian House Chapel, and Monday and Wednesday from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. in Hurlbut Sanctuary.
“The simplest way to begin any practice is focusing on the breath,” Leff said. “By focusing on the breath, we shut out a lot of external stimulus and we concentrate on that one simple practice. It’s really the simplest form of entering meditation.”
Leff is a longtime student of religion and mysticism who has taught the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic for many years, and has studied extensively with Neil Douglas-Klotz, a renowned scholar of religious studies. Because of the many different cultures in the world, Leff said, there are a number of breathing practices. In the Sufi tradition, which originated in India, the breathing practice draws from Buddhism and Hinduism.
One primary practice focuses on the elements: earth, fire, water and air. This practice connects a person with the subtle elements of their body, and it draws them into a state of quiet.
“When you work with the breath, you kind of quiet the sympathetic nervous system which is the fight-or-flight system, and enhance the parasympathetic system, which is your rest-and-regenerate system,” Leff said. “In a high-stress world, it’s really helpful to nourish the other parts of our nervous system that allow us to get into recovery and quiet and peace.”
Leff said that meditation helps create space in one’s mind for clarity and creativity to flourish. By using the breath, one is able to quiet the mind so that fresh ideas, inspiration and peace can come.
On Tuesday and Thursday, Leff will also offer sessions on the Lord’s Aramaic Prayer. Aramaic is the language Jesus spoke and taught in, and Leff said that, by chanting and speaking Aramaic, Chautauquans will be able to get the feeling of Jesus’ words and experience his teachings in an intimate way.
Hehr, who led sessions last week, found Kundalini Yoga 20 years ago while dealing with addiction. She said yoga helped her in her recovery program, making the whole process easier to handle.
“I got started because I was seriously addicted to some substances,” Hehr said. “Now, I teach something called ‘Beyond Addiction’ at (Yoga Village), and it’s about turning to our own inner light (rather) than whatever that is that numbs us.”
After overcoming her addiction, Hehr became certified to teach Kundalini Yoga and meditation, which she has done for 12 years.
“Kundalini is your potential — (it’s) kind of a creative energy,” she said. “The yoga part, the gentle movements, helps bring that energy up through your body; it’s a lot about working with the energy centers of the body.”
Coming into a second week of sessions, Hehr hopes Chautauquans learn to be more kind, less judgmental and able to live in the present with less anxiety.