Kusum Ishaya is a meditation teacher from Japan who has lived and taught in the USA for many years. She meditated on and off since childhood, but after experiencing burn-out while pursuing a career in television in Japan and later in corporate America, she determined to deepen her practice. Kusum undertook a six month residency in Washington state, USA, for a practice called Ishayas’ Ascension, an effortless meditation practice that can be done at any time, and after this experience she became a teacher herself. Clay Hamilton interviewed Kusum in summer 2019.
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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher.
My name is Kusum Ishaya, I teach a method called Ishayas’ Ascension. It’s a method to effortlessly return to our natural state. It is a very simple and natural technique; you can practice with your eyes open and closed, which allows you to practice throughout the day. I learned the technique 20 years ago in Japan and in trying to learn it further, I ended up moving to the US. Some people say that I moved to a wrong direction (you’re supposed to go to east – Japan, India, etc. for spirituality, they said 🙂 )
I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and I travel to teach classes. I’ve taught in Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Japan. I’ve held many different jobs and currently I stay at home when I’m not traveling to teach.
How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?
I was reading books and trying to meditate since I was a kid. I put that aside when I decided to pursue fame and success. I was successful and then got burned out. In my depression, I started to search for a way out and started to learn many healing methods and meditation techniques.
I read many books, tried many things and met many teachers over the years. Then I reached a point where I felt that I got as much knowledge as I could get about enlightenment yet it was clear that I didn’t “know” it at my gut level. And I needed to know. I had zero desire to become a teacher but there was only one teacher I could truly trust and she was holding a teacher training for Ishayas’ Ascension (6-months residential training). So I decided to take the course to take myself all the way, wherever that is or whatever it means and eventually became a teacher.
What types of meditations have you studied or practised, and what method do you mainly use or teach now?
Various guided meditation (visualization, manifestation, relaxation, etc.), several Buddhist meditations (mindfullness including Vipassana, Mikkyo, Tibettan, mantra, etc.), Flower of Life, O pono pono, Yogic meditation (breathing, combination with yoga, etc.), small other techniques suggested by different teachers and the Ishayas’ Ascension.
I teach Ishayas’ Ascension.
What is the greatest benefit you personally get from meditation?
Knowing or rather re-discovering the human’s natural state.
What is your favourite meditation technique or form of practice?
The Ishayas’ Ascension and dzogchen meditation.
What do most students struggle with or get wrong?
Seeing the simplicity of what is. The mind’s tendency is to make things complicated and apply effort. Most people believe that there is a right way and a wrong way. The Ishayas’ Ascension is super simple and people struggle with the simplicity.
How many times and how much time per day do you recommend students to meditate?
2-3 times a day, 20 minutes each time with eyes closed, as often as you remember to do so with eyes open.
Describe your ideal meditation session (location, length, outcome, etc)
I appreciate the fact that I can meditate anytime, anywhere. I enjoy meditating at a movie theater during previews and while watching the show. I like meditating on a plane or a packed train in Japan. I appreciate being able to meditate when I wake up middle of the night or sleepless night. I enjoy meditating to sleep. I appreciate being able to meditate while listening and talking to someone, even when I’m translating.
What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?
It requires focus, you have to quiet the mind, or it is to create a certain experience.
What meditation books have you read and admired, re-read, or do you recommend to others (they can be directly or indirectly related to meditation)?
Here are some: All books of Tony Parsons, Jed McKenna’s first 3 books, all books of Bernadette Roberts, “Prior to Consciousness” by Nisargadatta Maharaji, “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie, “I – Reality and Subjectivity” by David Hawkins, “Awareness” by Anthony de Melo, “The End of Your World” by Adyashanti, and UG Krishnamurti books.
How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?
Ishaya.info lists all the certified teachers and their contacts, and I’m listed there too.
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[This interview is an extract. You can read Kusum’s full interview, plus 29 more interviews, in the book How Do You Meditate? Interviews with 30 Meditation Teachers. Available from Amazon.]