Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2012

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Page 23 of 51

Samadhi in a Time of ChaoS T yoga&spirit Siddha master Yogmata's unique path to stillness By Caroline Ryder he Kumbh Mela is the Woodstock of Hindu culture, a mass pilgrimage I'm not woman, I am human. So I don't fear man. throng looked on as a diminutive Japanese woman dressed in peach-colored robes descended into a 9' x 9' x 9' pit and assumed the lotus pose. A sheet of corrugated steel was pulled over the mouth of the pit, sealing her in. Her name is Yogmata Keiko Aikawa, and she is a Siddha master, the first woman and first non- Indian to publicly achieve samadhi, an altered state in which all senses and bodily functions are slowed almost to the point of stoppage. Yogmata sat in that hole for three days, seemingly without food or wa- ter, or even much air. When she emerged, the crowd erupt- ashtanga yoga to Ram Dass), she has been buried in this way about 20 times. I ask her, via Skype, what it is like to be interred in that dark pit. "I cannot explain the inner darkness," she replies in broken English, her image ed. You can see it too, on YouTube. With encouragement from Pilot Baba, her fellow student under Hari Baba (who also taught pixilating intermittently. "People who's there maybe become crazy and die. If mind works too much, then it becomes like garbage, people die inside. We need the divine breathing. Then you become divine, so after that everything can happen." to get the gist. And her immense calm tells a story all its own. One can only imagine what it must have been like, a tiny Japanese lady in the middle of such a throng. Isn't it frightening, I ask her, being surrounded by so many followers, shouting and yelling? "No, I feel love," she says. "People of course can't control it, so they rush and they want to see me, but I am not scared of anything. I am happy sending love and peace." A yogini in a man's world, she's one of just a few female sages to have attained such Sometimes it's difficult to understand the finer points of what she's saying, but it's easy dha master and receive blessings, she tells me. To help enhance meditation, Yogmata also teaches various breathwork techniques that help renew energy. However, she cautions that practicing these techniques too often can overstimulate the mind and deplete energy. Appar- ently, "Restraint is vital." When we speak, Yogmata's already back in Tokyo, where she began teaching yoga asanas 40 years ago and is a prominent yoga teacher. (Today, her use of the word "yoga" refers to blessing ("special blessing from the master") and transmission in another two-day workshop. She begins her blessing by articulating a sacred sound, or mantra, through an initiation known as diksha. Reciting this mantra makes it possible to tune into Yogmata or another Sid- 24 wholelifetimesmagazine.com levels of devotion in India. To her, though, her gender is irrelevant. "I'm not woman, I am human. So I don't fear man. Every child come from woman womb. Every god has a wife. I am not direct mother. Man can come and woman can also come. " Yogmata has been traveling the world, her goal being to transmit samadhi to as many people as possible. She was in Los Angeles in June and will return in October to deliver her anugraha fects would be felt on a global scale. "Peace and power and love," she says, are the answer, sounding like John, Yoko and Mahatma Gandhi rolled into one. "More divine being, not just mind, not body, you have something greater that comes from inside." Like Luke Skywalker when he first meets Yoda, I can't help but feel a little guru-weary, a little incredulous, like the "cold whites" in need of warming (as Mark Twain put it after visiting the Kumbh Mela). And then I remember Yogmata sitting in that pit in the sweltering heat, emerging with a little smile on her face, this tiny little human who, according to some spiritual accreditation authority in India, is a bona fide "Master of the Universe." And this cold white can't help but hope that she's on to something. meditation.) The Fukushima nuclear disaster weighs heavily upon her. "People are suffering nuclear problems, too much in fear. They need some divine power." Such disasters come, she says, because of humankind's disassociation from nature. "We have a karma because people too much desire," she says. "We deserted our nature. More problem because we are misunderstanding the beauty. Mind is not respecting our body. So suffering coming." If more Americans would practice meditation, she says, the ef- attracting an estimated 30 to 70 million people to the banks of the Ganges. At the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2007, a babbling

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