Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

Sally Kempton on “Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation

When I sit and become quite and still, I open my heart and see the interconnectedness of things, this isn’t mystical, it’s the way love works. How interchangeable the words, love and meditation, are and when they merge the experience becomes powerful and transformative.

Sally Kempton is one of the best meditation teachers in the world and yet as one would hope from someone who has been studding meditation for over forty years, approachable and unpretentious. I’m saying this in the same with the same caveat that the author of this post, Jean Fain, used, that being, my knowledge of this wonderful teacher has been from a distance, through books, Cd’s and large group meditations.

I’m on my second reading of her new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” and of the hundreds of books that I’ve read on meditation this one is special and one of the best guides to meditation I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in.

Even this interview with Jean Fain, hold insights into approaches to meditation, for example when Sally is asked by Jean, about love and meditation and Sally answers, “Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep.”

I think I’ll let Jean take it from here…

It’s easy to like Sally Kempton, a meditation inspiration to “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert. Not because Kempton listens carefully or laughs easily, though I’m partial to anyone who can do either in this crazy-busy world. Certainly, her likability has nothing to do with the fact that Gilbert counts herself as one of Kempton’s followers. If anything, claims to fame only raise expectations, making the subject of such claims harder, not easier to like.

No, what makes the beloved meditation teacher so likable is the same thing that makes Gilbert a best-selling author — her special ability to translate subtle life truths into simple, practical and compassion-enhancing lessons.

To be clear, Gilbert has learned from Kempton as I have — from a distance. We’ve both been inspired by Kempton’s written meditations on meditation, but Gilbert has taken that inspiration further. The truth is a little confusing, but to be precise: The ashram Gilbert described in “Eat Pray Love” was founded by Kempton’s original meditation inspiration, Swami Muktananda.

Me, I’ve yet to give Kempton’s new book, “Meditation for the Love of It,” sufficient time. I’m intrigued by what the dust jacket promises: “Practical secrets to help us turn meditation into an unconditional embrace of the fullness of our experience — on and off the meditation cushion.” No surprise, that promise was not fulfilled on first reading. With more time, I’m hoping fulfillment will come.

If you’re reluctant to take my word for Kempton’s likability, consider taking Gilbert’s: “She [Kempton] is not only one of the best meditation teachers in the world; she is also one of us,” Gilbert writes. “She manages to fearlessly explore the outer reaches of the universe without ever losing the warm voice of your dear friend from just around the block.”

Speaking of books, Kempton and I share the same publisher. Because of that, we got to talking about our shared interests: eating, meditating and loving. Before I share select questions and answers from our recent phone conversation, I must say that while we resonate with that old Beatles’ song, “All You Need Is Love,” and we appreciate a heart-opening meditation and a mouth-watering dessert, we don’t see eye to eye on everything. Rather than simply agreeing to disagree, you’ll see that our unspoken agreement is to the open, honest and playful exchange of ideas.

Q. What drew you to meditation?

A. In my late 20s, I realized I didn’t really know who I was. I was following the path of success in NY, and doing pretty well — writing for magazines, dating, known in my circle for being cool — but there was a pervasive feeling of not being satisfied by any of it. It was literally as though my heart wasn’t in it. Even though I was doing everything I was ‘supposed’ to do in life, I found myself asking: “Is this all there is?”

Q. OK, so you were dissatisfied. But you were following in the footsteps of your dad [the late Newsday columnist Murray Kempton.] Why did you trade journalism for meditation?

A. I didn’t exactly trade journalism for meditation. Once a writer always a writer! My writing simply morphed as my priorities morphed… What changed my trajectory was a spontaneous and very radical awakening of my heart, which arrived out of nowhere and shifted my priorities in an instant. The problem was, I couldn’t hold onto the open-heart space because my mind was so unruly. So I started looking for ways to tame my mind, and meditation seemed to be it.

Q. Your story sounds a lot like Elizabeth Gilbert’s. You both went through, how do you put it, a “moderate life crisis”?

A. Yes, she and I have a lot in common. We’re both social observers — we’re both interested in the way society works, love works, relationships work. We’re both radically independent. We were both operating in a male-dominated publishing world – she wrote for GQ; I wrote for Esquire. And we were both drawn to the same kind of [heart-based] spirituality.

Q. Elizabeth Gilbert says your writings have been “life-saving.” Do you know what she means by that?

A. People often tell me that the book inspires them to want to meditate. This is probably what she meant. In the book, I suggest a path of playfulness and experimentation that helps people get past barriers and deeper into the exquisite spaciousness of their inner world. There’s this enormous treasure house inside of us. Most of us get to the door, catch a glimpse, but can’t go further. There was a time in my practice when I reached this same limit in how deep I could go. By experimenting with different ways of meditating, I learned how to go much deeper. What I share in the book is the approach that let me do that along with a lot of practices, some classical, some fairly original.

Q. You prescribe a variety of love-enhancing meditations in your book. What’s love got to do with it?

A. Love is what makes meditation juicy, enjoyable, deep. When love is lacking, I’ve learned in my many years of teaching, meditation can start to feel dry, dutiful, unconnected to our emotional life, and then eventually we don’t want to do it anymore. But if you kindle love in your meditation, it not only makes your practice juicy, it begins to spill out into your actions and interactions with other people. It starts to change the way you are in the world.

Q. Do you have a favorite love-kindling meditation?

A. My favorite is to let the breath draw your attention to the upper chest, behind the breast bone, right to the physical heart. On the inhalation, feel the breath caressing your heart. On the exhalation, feel the breath softening or expanding the heart. As you do this, a tender, loving energy arises.

Q. Living with an open, loving heart in this sometimes cold, cruel world sounds scary and difficult, if not impossible. But you clearly recommend it. Why?

A. When your heart is open, you have infinitely more power. Many students tell me when they make this practice a part of their life, they’re better able to navigate difficult situations. The can speak from the heart; their words have more impact. It helps them deal with an unruly teenager, an out-of-control manager, a lot of situations in which they’d ordinarily be reactive.

Q. You encourage readers to meditate a daunting one-and-a-half to three hours a day? Seriously?

A. That’s only for people interested in a radical experience of depth in meditation. For everyone else, I recommend starting with 20 minutes day. If it’s hard to sit still, start with five minutes, and add a minute a day.

Q. What’s your daily meditation practice like? Click here to continue by visiting the original source of this post

“Eat, Pray and Love” and Meditation, whether you are speaking about Elizabeth Gilberts book or Sally Kempton’s, they are about opening the heart and the expansion of our awareness moving us from self-centeredness to other-centeredness.

This reminds me, Sally has a wonderful CD called the “Awakened Heart,” with two guided meditations, which if you really would like to spend some quality time with one of the most knowledgeable meditation teachers in the world and connecting with your inner presence, I would highly recommend it.

 

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