by Dennis Dalman
One day this past spring, Christie Hamak of Sartell picked up an issue of the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader from a stack of papers she’d been meaning to read.
Instantly, her attention was grabbed by a story about a young woman who has been teaching meditation. Hamak read the feature story, as all kinds of bells and whistles went off in her head. Everything just seemed to click, so much so that Hamak decided to email the woman, Kateri Heymans, a student at the College of St. Benedict.
Hamak is a teacher of yoga at Stay Fit in Sartell. She also teaches Pilates at her home. Hamak grew up loving to teach dance, even as a high-school student in Becker. While earning an education degree at CSB, she pursued her love of dance. Later, while living in Rice, she continued teaching dance and Pilates in her studio in Big Lake.
“That story in the Newsleader was exactly what I needed to read at that moment,” she recalled. “When doing yoga, we do some meditation, but I just felt this woman could enhance yoga with her meditation insights.”
Hamak teaches an hour-long yoga class, and during its first five minutes participants use a form of meditation to try to calm their minds. However, Hamak has always thought meditation techniques could be extended throughout yoga instruction, which is why the news story about Heymans piqued her curiosity so much.
Hamak and Heymans hit it off from the get-go. After further emails and phone conversations, Hamak asked Heymans if she’d be willing to do a meditation seminar if Hamak could roust up some willing students. Heymans was gung-ho about the chance.
So later that same month, Heymans visited Stay Fit to give her meditation seminar to the 10 students gathered. Some of those students had told Hamak they weren’t sure they could afford the three-hour class. When Hamak conveyed that information to Heymans, she was quick to say, not to worry, they can take the seminar for free.
On the day of the seminar, nine participants attended. There were seven females and two males, ranging in age from 13 to close to 60, including a woman in her 50s battling stage-4 colon cancer. That woman later said she was amazed by Heymans and by all of the wisdom she communicated for being such a young woman.
Just before the seminar started, a series of glitches began to happen – technical things. Heymans, however, dealt with the setbacks coolly, calmly without once getting frazzled.
“That in itself was a lesson – how she handled that,” Hamak said. “It was as if she were doing her technique in practice right before our eyes. She was (indirectly) showing how to let go of craziness, to come back to the present and start over.”
In her teaching, Heymans showed participants how to use key phrases repeated over and over (sometimes known as “mantras”) to trigger the meditative quiet and to get one’s focus from the mind to the heart.
“It really works,” Hamak said. “I now even use meditation phrases while I’m busy, and they help me to be grounded. I’ve also taught one of my boys – a fifth-grader – how to use them, and they help him, too. The phrases are short, simple statements but with profound meanings.”
Heymans, who studied a form of meditation known as ISHA in Mexico and in Uruguay, always does follow-ups with her clients. She has also taught her methods via Skype with others throughout the world, creating a network of meditation.
Heymans described the meditation technique this way:
There are two requirements to successful ISHA meditation. One is to learn to become comfortable. The other, once the state of comfort has been achieved, is to let go and not try to control one’s mind.
Certain repeated phrases bring about feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the present moment. With the mind free of barbs and clutter, feelings of unity and joy and unconditional love seep into mind and body. Uglier thoughts and feelings are expelled.
“It’s really a form of cleansing, of cleaning,” Heymans said. “In meditation, you focus, then let the mind wander, then focus and let the mind wander. The phrases you repeat during meditation actually have a way of rewiring the brain.”
Hamak struggled with words with how best to express how pleased everyone was after Heymans’ three-hour class.
“It’s kind of like going to a movie and when you come out of the movie you feel so good you want to see it again and again, to get even more out of it,” Hamak said. “And it’s a really good movie. A heartfelt, inspirational movie.”
And like that really good movie, Hamak is eager to have Heymans back again as a guest instructor for her students.