Brooklyn-based meditation teacher Kathy Cherry started practicing in the Insight Meditation tradition about 20 years ago, after what she describes as a “long period of searching and struggle.” For the last 15 years, she has helped to run the secular Buddhist community Dharma Punx NYC. She’s also a practitioner of Somatic Experiencing®, a body-oriented approach to working with trauma and other stress disorders.
Cherry leads Tricyle’s Dharma Talk series this month with a four-part lecture titled “The Wisdom of the Body: Connecting with Your Inner Resilience.” In the series, Cherry explains how tuning in and paying attention to the body can provide insight into our own experience, and the capacity to unplug. As she puts it, “Pairing dharma and mindfulness with somatic tools for understanding and regulation increases our capacity to meet the challenges that we face and return to our natural state of relaxed awareness.”
Get to know the teacher who studied at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), repaired jewelry, and worked in the fashion industry before starting her practice, and watch her Dharma Talk here.
What’s your daily practice? I have a formal meditation practice of 30-to-60 minutes, but it’s really about bringing that off the cushion with mindfulness and somatic awareness in my walking-around life.
How did your practice change during the pandemic? The biggest change was that I started leading a weekday morning meditation class for our community—just a simple 30-minute guided practice. It’s been going for 16 months now and we get people from all around the country. As far as my own practice during the pandemic, it was a real rubber-meets-the-road moment of staying present with the fear, saying yes to all the instability and change, and lots of somatic practices to ground, so that the bracing in the body could be invited to let go.
When did you become a Buddhist and why? I had been searching for something as far back as I can remember. I dabbled in many different spiritual paths and practices that never quite caught hold. It was when I moved to New York City in 2000 that I fell in with what would become the DharmaPunx NYC crowd that things started to gel. There was something so practical and kind. I latched on and never let go.
Best part about retreat? I love pretty much everything about retreat, but practicing in a community where there are ongoing relationships—that kind of energy and dedication—makes things extra juicy.
Hardest part about retreat? Hard to say: each experience brings a different grist for practice.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without meditating? No clue really. Of course I’ve missed days of formal practice, but the embodied mindfulness and pause practices are so ingrained at this point. I try my best to live from there.
How did you get back on track? I use a lot of external resources, so I’ll see the blessing cords on my wrist, or hear myself making a suggestion to someone and think, I should take my own advice here. Early on I read about [Indian meditation master] Dipa Ma’s encouragement to at least take one mindful breath to forward the intention and I really love the honesty of that.
Who is your teacher? Everyone and everything has the capacity to be a teacher. That said, for the last 11 years I’ve chosen to study intensively with Heather Sundberg, a Senior Teacher out of Spirit Rock.
What non-Buddhist inspires you? Stacey Abrams
Book on your nightstand? Awakening Through the Nine Bodies, by Phillip Moffitt; Nurturing Resilience: Helping Clients Move Forward from Developmental Trauma—An Integrative Somatic Approach, by Kathy L. Kain and Stephen J. Terrell; and for balance, A Discovery of Witches. 😉
Coffee or tea? Coffee but tea will do in a pinch.
What was your first job? After I graduated from RISD, [the Rhode Island School of Design], I worked as a bench jeweler. I think my jewelry training was my first entrée into meditation. You have to be really present and focused or you’re liable to slice yourself or set things on fire.
What was your favorite subject in school? Biology.
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