Karuna: I am Karuna, I am the founder and Executive Director of Mind Oasis, and this is Meditation Happy Hour, Tea, Talk and Truth with Karuna. And my guest today is my Dharma sister and dear friend, Sarah Blackburn. Sarah, how are you?
Sarah: I’m great Karuna. How are you? So nice to be here.
Karuna: I know it’s really nice. It’s this beautiful spring morning here in Colorado. Where in the world are you?
Sarah: I am in New York and it’s about the same here. The sun is shining and spring is sprung. It’s great.
Karuna: It kind of feels energetically like there’s been a bit of a shift and a lightening of the old mood, doesn’t it?
Sarah: Oh, yes, definitely. Thank goodness. It feels…I was ready for that shift.
Karuna: Totally! Ok, so tell me a little bit about your morning.
Sarah: Sure. So just this morning or in general, how I roll?
Karuna: This morning.
Sarah: So just today I was up around eight thirty. My partner is very much a morning person, so up and running and that’s not how I am. But I woke up and he was already like in the thick of it. So I made some breakfast for us. We sat, we hung out. We talked a little bit about a class he’s going to teach. So that was sweet. And then he left. So I turned on the heat, got like cleaned things up. As soon as he’s out the door, I’m like, now I can actually be warm, turn up the heat. And then I just spent the morning straightening up, looking forward to our chat today, thinking about that. And that’s been in. Yeah.
Karuna: Sarah, you didn’t grow up in New York. What took you to New York?
Sarah: Oh, my goodness. So I moved here a month after high school. I am originally from Kentucky and I applied to one college out of high school in New York City. And it’s lucky I got in. It’s the only place I applied and I got in. So I was doing a musical theater program that started in the summer. So I moved up here to go to theater school and I got here…it was really, though I moved up here to get out of Kentucky; to get away from my family, and what just felt very constricting. And yeah, that’s what got me here. That was…20, my god, 17..that was over 21 years ago, and I’ve been in New York since, I mean, there was a little detour, but, yeah…
Karuna: There’s always a little detour. I worry about people who haven’t had a small detour at some point. Maybe it’s going to happen when they’re 75; who knows!
Sarah: For sure. For sure. Many a detour.
Karuna: Awesome. And so you are deeply involved with Three Jewels and of course, Three Jewels is a beautiful dharma place that partners with my Mind Oasis and it’s home to my beautiful teacher and our beautiful teacher, Hector La. So tell us a little bit about your role at Three Jewels and maybe just a little bit about how you discovered Three Jewels.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, then I’ll answer the second question first. I found Three Jewels when I was looking for a meditation studio and I tried a few other places, but when I landed at Three Jewels, I stayed because there was this one girl who went also to the same meditation classes and she was just so cool. I don’t think I would have lasted if it hadn’t been for this chick I was trying to like, be like. And they had such a nice community, like, I would go and we could sit after the meditation and hang out. And then I could, like, pick that girl’s mind and all these other people who seemed to fit this mold of what I thought spirituality was or what a meditator was. That was later totally crushed. But that’s sort of how I found it. I was looking for meditation and then I stuck probably because of two things. The community was so lovely and beautiful. I was meeting new friends and that was a time in my life I wanted to switch things up. And because what they were teaching just rang so true in my heart. And so I’ve stayed connected for the past ten years and now it feels very much like my family. And what I do there is I guide meditation. I have done so many things over ten years. I helped out a little while with the fundraising. I helped out with their memberships, and now I run their children’s program. And as well as any time there’s an opportunity to teach some of the philosophy or do some of the community outreach where we’ll go and share meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices, I’ll jump in there, too, and help out.
Karuna: So one of the things about Sarah that I really admire is her ability to retain information. So we’ve studied together over the past few years and I can’t believe it’s been a few years like doesn’t it feel like yesterday, right?
Sarah: It sure does!
Karuna: And it has. It’s been a few years. And so one of the things that is so amazing about Sarah is that she is so well studied and not only is she well studied, but she questions it, you know she really puts the Dharma to the test. But if I ever have a burning question that I can’t remember, she is like this wonderful go to of the information as it was presented. So I just want to get into it. You are presenting a master class on Mind Oasis on the 10th of April and it’s the Lady Niguma practice. And what I love about this is the Cannon is so sparsely filled with women. Of course it’s rich in the divine feminine, which is something different. But in terms of female instructors or female teachings, the Dikini is not as well represented in the teachings, particularly the open teaching. So I’m curious, Sarah, can you just tell us about Lady Niguma and the practice and what lights you up about it?
Sarah: Yes, I certainly can. So…right. This is a practice that was the first written yoga philosophy that has been found to date. And it was written down by this, like you said, Master Dakini. Her name is Niguma. And we’ll get more into her story in the master class because there’s a whole thing about her name, and I’ll be able to go into more detail of what her whole story was. But she was this incredible practitioner of a lot of the ideas that I know you share at Mind Oasis and that we talk about at Three Jewels. And she was sought out by one of the other masters of the time, this guy named Naropa. And he was looking for someone to teach him; to take him deeper into the practices and he heard… I’ll have to review this, but I’m pretty sure it was like one of the sages who said you need to find this angel, this gem named Niguma, and she is the one who’s going to guide you deeper into your practice. And so it’s, again, a whole story. He goes out on a quest looking for this angel Niguma. And when he finds her, it’s interesting. At first she’s like, no, no, no, no, no, I can’t do it. Not teaching you. You’re not ready. And he has to prove himself to her. But what she ends up doing is passing on this lineage that she has of how to move the energy in your body in a very specific way that will get you towards the goal of liberation. And in layman’s terms, it’s like do this to be happier. And she was a master of it and uses very specific tools and techniques for us to reach a higher state of peace. And it’s such a beautiful story. I can’t wait to dive more into the detail of it. And it is so special because I think as we talk about the philosophy and go through the Asana, it has that really beautiful feminine flair to it, which I love, speaks to my heart so much and it’s just powerful.
Karuna: So I think you answered it, but I was going to ask you for you, when you think about the word liberation, awakening, enlightenment, we talk about it at Mind Oasis in a lot of different ways. You can have the deep desire to become a Buddha. But we have an audience of people with all sorts of backgrounds and all different traditions. And so we also talk about the awakening to happiness in this lifetime. I’m just curious for you personally, what do you feel enlightenment is for you? Like when you think about that Tada! what does that look like for you personally?
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. That’s such a good question. For me, it’s this experience that I work towards where I’m not at the mercy of the crappy things that happen in the world and the even crappier things that will go on in my mind. And you know, there’s these textbook definitions for what liberation is and what enlightenment is. And to be honest, I still grapple sometimes with like, is that possible? Or if it is, am I the one who could do that? But I am a hundred percent committed to trying, because if you’ve ever had a taste of some happiness that felt very pure, some love that felt unconditional, it would make sense that we could have more of that if we understood what the formula was. And so I’m willing to figure out, as best I can, that formula, because I have seen through the course of my life that I’ve gone from states of being a little more lost and confused and beat down by the world and my own shortcomings to where that’s gotten a little bit better. And so if I can make that leap, I’m down to continue to see how many more leaps I can take. So what does it mean to me? Yeah, it means a greater sense of happiness and peace that feels like I have some ownership over it and less of the feeling of helplessness and lack of control that I felt for so many years,
Karuna: For people who are listening to this rather than watching it, I have this kind of shit eating grin on my face because I’ve always known that Sarah and I are kind of twins in a way and in some ways not right? Like, I don’t know if you like to run 19 miles over the Continental Divide, but the way that you just described your practice and what has happened over the past decade plus years is exactly how I describe to my students and my friends my own personal practice and how it has worked on me. I like to think of the stones and the river. I fly fish. And so I was just fly fishing this week and caught nothing, which I never do, which is fine, right? But it was so interesting. I was looking at the rocks in the river and so many were round or rounding because they had gotten tossed around enough to get those difficult edges off. And now they are all these like really beautiful rounded stones. And to me, that’s kind of what you just described. It’s like you let the river and the turbulence of life work on you. And it’s a shift in perception to where instead of feeling that life is handing you a bunch of bullshit, the bullshit can turn into the gold, the elixir of our lives. And so that was really fun for me to listen to you describe. Thank you, Sarah.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.
Karuna: So tell me a little bit just about the practice itself. We have people of all shapes and sizes. We have people of all different ages. We have all different abilities. You know, is is this OK for everyone or do you have to be able to do a headstand?
Sarah: No, no. I actually was really drawn to this specific practice because I do not put myself in the category of a hardcore yogi. When I think of yoga, I tend to run away when it’s the classical sense of it, just because I was never especially physical. I don’t like to sweat. So anyway, to be a little more clear on your question, who can take this class, I think it’s great for anyone. The asana itself, which we will do in the master class, I’ll take you through the sequence, which is about a seventy five minute sequence, the way that I’ll present it. I would put it under the category of a gentle yoga class. So it’s a little more than what a restorative would be. But it’s not your hard core Ashtanga “I’m going to push you through” what in my experience sometimes feels like a hellacious time, you know? It’s gentle. That said, there will be variations that if you want to push a little bit harder, you can do that. But overall, it’s a gentler asana sequence. And what we’ll do in the master class is spend the first half of the class talking about the story and the philosophy behind why we do the poses and the sequence of poses that we do, so that when you actually go through the practice itself, you have that as a framework to apply to the actual movement. So this is a great opportunity for anyone of any shape and sizes, I’ll be sure and make it as accessible as need be. And if you’re also a hard core yogi, it’s a great way to put those things in practice in a slightly different way with a new slant. And also, if you’ve been studying yoga a long time, you’ll get a whole new sequence that you can use for different reasons in different stages of your practice. I mean, my partner is a much more dedicated yogi than I am, but it’s not like every single day it’s going to be Ashtanga or the series or whatever. So this is a nice thing to learn for some variation in what your practice might already be.
Karuna: Yeah, and I really love the idea of having a practice that you understand the underlying philosophy that matches up with the pose itself, which means that if you’re working with something specifically in your life that you can invoke, not just like whatever you do on your cushion, whether it’s a purification or if it’s just simply some samatha each day, but that you can also invoke a physical manifestation as well, which is really important, right, where body, mind and spirit minimally.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I couldn’t agree more and it’s so great for that. The philosophy. It’s why I was attracted to it. I would consider myself a meditator, meaning I love to analyze things and go inward and approach the world from that. What is my relation to it all? Not to say that your views don’t do that, but what I loved about this particular presentation of our subtle body and the physical practice, that physical movement as a tool, is that it was so logical to me. It just made sense. And I really appreciate that part of it. So, again, I think it’s such a great tool for us to use to find that happiness in what we were talking about.
Karuna: Awesome. Ok, so this masterclass is the Lady Niguma practice, you can find it at Mindoasis.org. There is a tab that says “Learn” and you can search on there or you can just scroll down and you’ll see Sarah and you’ll see Lady Niguma. It’s happening on the 10th of April. It’s from 9:00 until noon Central. So it’s a three hour workshop. And so, Sarah, I always like to to end my podcast the same. We definitely talked. Tea? Do you have tea? I have coffee.
Sarah: I do have tea. It’s over here. I’ll go. Should I go grab it?
Karuna: Yeah, it’s ok. Somebody has to always have some sort of tea or coffee. And then the third part of the podcast is truth. So what is your truth Sarah?
Sarah: What is my truth? Well, today, my truth is about joy and about vulnerability. Stepping into new things. And. What else? For some reason, the word study is coming up for me, so I’m just going to say it, that feels like a truth I’m living out right now.
Karuna: Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much for joining me today again, Sarah Blackburn leading the Niguma on the 10th of April at Mind Oasis. You can go to Mindoasis.org. You’ll find it under “Learn”. Sign up often. Can’t wait. It’s going to be all about the the divine feminine, which is awesome. Can’t wait. Thanks, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks, Karuna. See you all soon.
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