When did you first experience meditation/mindfulness?
In retrospect, I was first introduced to mindfulness through prayer as a very young girl. We chanted our prayers every day, several times...collectively as a family and individually, and also with the larger community in the church. It was a ritual for me. My childhood prayers transpired into asana, pranayama, mantras and meditation over the years of practice within yoga and Tibetan Buddhism, although prayer still dances itself into my ritual. Many years ago I was a marathon runner, and often my long runs guided me into a meditative state. Regardless of the exact faculty applied, to intentionally embrace a non-judgmental & loving focus of one's attention is a sacred act in which soothes the mind and heart like nothing else.
What impact did that first encounter have on you?
To be honest, as I stepped into the meditation practices as a young adult, everything felt very, very uncomfortable. It was painful for my to witness some of the thought and behavioral patterns that had slowly crept into my being and took over. I also felt alone.
Many different physical and emotional ailments presented themselves in the first few years of a consistent meditation practice, which is common as the practices begin to purify the systems. However, the unfolding and revealing is continuous...it never really ends. At this point within my journey of mindfulness, I have a certain set of teachings that I call upon when moving through nebulous sensations or patterns that arise when lighting up the unknown with practices. I keep returning to these practices because they are so effective in providing more clarity and understanding in my day-to-day life circumstances.
What changes/effects did you see in your life?
I had to make very challenging decisions which required courage and trust. After resting in a recognition that certain circumstances in my life were not aligned with my inner journey and innate purpose, many changes needed to take place. Meditation revealed this recognition. As a result, certain relationships or roles had to dissolve, other relationships needed redefinition or new boundaries and new relationships were ignited. These changes were agonizing at times, but in the end provided enormous freedom. From there I was able to contain and direct my energy and awareness into forms that served and nourished my mind & heart. Again, this never ends. I contemplate the conditions in my life continuously, assessing whether the roles and relationships I have in my life (e.g., with my body, mind, breath, God, time, responsibilities, food, husband, children, parents, community etc) allow me to contain my power so that I can continue to evolve and grow as a human being.
Another impact of a consistent meditation practice for me includes an increased capacity for empathy - being able to see situations from another person's perspective. I also feel a continuous meditation practice provides me with the ability to 'respond' versus 'react', allowing me to communicate more effectively. I sleep better and digest food more effectively when I'm consistently meditating. One of the most significant (indirect) impacts meditation has had in my life is with the beloved ones in my life. Specific relationships in my life have become much more intimate and rich, including with my husband, children, parents, siblings and a few key friendships.
How did you deepen your practice?
I feel my practices began to deepen based on timing....I received a set of teachings from a radiant teacher, and it was perfect timing for me. My teachers over the years have reminded me that once as we are open to receive & strong enough (energetically) to contain the teachings, the practices will become ALIVE. Often there are subtle initiations that are required before our practices can perform their dance of alchemy. I still have so much deepening to do.
My practices also began to deepen once as I connected with a teacher and aligned with a set of teachings. There have been specific practices that have had a tremendous impact with purification and with opening up my awareness, and these tools were presented to me at the right time in my journey and shared with me by a few incredibly humble, awakened and deeply loving masters.
Do you have any 'funny' meditation stories or reflections of the starting of your journey? (ie: falling asleep in a class, etc.
One significant piece of my journey with self discovery has been learning how to laugh at myself - not to take myself too seriously (which was hard work for me). Laughing at my own silly behaviour has become a drill of mine, which often includes a few very sensational belly laughs. Keepin' it lighthearted!