What is your career and what you love most about it?
I am an actor and a mindfulness facilitator. I love that my work as an actress is so aligned with my meditation practice. Both involve dropping oneself into the present moment, as fully and as often as possible, and what could be a more worthy endeavor than that? I love that placing my awareness of reality is always available and always the most interesting choice and that it changes literally all aspects of my life. I love the freedom that comes with stepping into life in this way.
When and how did you choose to start guiding meditation?
I had a dedicated practice for almost 3 years before I decided to enroll in a teacher training program. It was important to me not to run before walking or walk before crawling, so to speak. I had such incredible insights in my sitting practice over the years, and my teachers were instrumental in that, so I think it’s natural to want to evolve to be more like these people you so admire. I’m fortunate in that my acting career started taking off as I deepened my practice, which of course, is no coincidence, so when I teach, it’s just for the joy of sitting and sharing the dharma, it’s not for money.
We are hearing the words overwhelmed, anxiety, stress a lot in conversations right now. How can we also find joy and make sure we are taking care of ourselves and others?
Joy and self-compassion are essential components to well being. Without them, we can kind of push and strive until we burn out completely, but we can’t thrive, and simply put, we don’t feel good. So, what is joy? Thich Nhat Hanh helpfully defines this. If you’re walking through the desert, dying of thirst, and you come upon a pool of fresh, clean water, happiness is the feeling you have when you drink the water, the cessation of suffering. Joy is the feeling you have when you see the water, you’re still thirsty, but you feel elated anyway because you know that the end of your suffering is possible. So, essentially joy is always available if we learn to ask ourselves, ‘what is right with right now?’ or bring to mind those things that bliss us out, like the fact that we have taste buds and chocolate exists, ha! Or, as Thay says, we have arms, and hugging is possible. This is something we don’t do. We think it’s a waste of time or unsophisticated but, it’s the only shot we have at balancing the negativity bias of the mind and building the neural pathways of joy in our brains, which transforms our experience of reality. In other words, joy is a habit. You have to practice it. You can have it even if you’re thirsty, or broke, or in between jobs, or lonely, or what have you. That goes double for self-compassion. In our culture, we idolize people who put themselves last, like they are saints, but we deserve our love as much as any other human being on the planet. When we build the habit of stopping, taking a breath, turning toward the self, and caring for the hurt we find there, we can begin to move in the world from a more peaceful, resourced place. Over time, all sorts of little things change. We become better listeners, more forgiving, more present, less triggered, and more abundant. In particular, our relationships change a lot. I’m not trying to romanticize this. It is a habit we have to cultivate, like learning piano, and there is certainly an onslaught of competing stimuli aggressively trying to steal our attention but, it’s the most rewarding work I have ever done by a mile. And mindfulness is the foundation for all of it.
Do you have a daily practice that helps you stay grounded?
Lately, I’ve been sitting every day, but that’s not always the case or possible, and it’s important to note that. Sitting with your eyes closed and focusing on your breath may not be right for you all the time. Sometimes a moving meditation like stretching while watching your breath might be better. My personal favorite is QiGong because it’s a very gentle but powerful, body-oriented way of moving energy, so it’s less heady, which is good for me. I’ve been enjoying Mimi Kuo-Deemer’s videos on YouTube. Other personal practices include journaling, moving slowly, bubble baths, pulling tarots, going for walks, and praying (my prayers always start with “Dear God, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you...”). Oh, and I highly recommend Tara Brach’s free podcast.
How does your community help support you and vice versa? Do you actively volunteer or how do stay involved or give back?
In the Buddhist tradition, the community or the relational field is called the “Sangha,” and we take refuge in the Sangha. I have a community of fellow practitioners, teachers, my hilarious family, a few dear best friends and my incredibly loving partner who keep me buoyant and supported. We check on each other regularly in a real way, which can be rare in our social media, performative world. We all value authenticity, so we create space for each other to be ourselves selves; however, we are arising at this moment. It’s such a gift.
What’s one small thing we can all do on a daily basis to find joy?
Do this: you can do it in 1 minute or less; stop, breathe down into the lower body, notice what you can hear, see, feel and turn toward one thing that is right with right now. The simpler, the better. “My legs work.” “I have hot coffee.” “I’m grateful for my healthy lungs.” Feel that good feeling down in every cell of the body and continue about your day.
What’s one small thing we can all do on a daily basis to share or give joy?
A smile. Really seeing people, without concept, is a blessing. Also, these practices I am mentioning are an offering to those around you. They are a gift to the world. People are hungry for someone who can see them, listen without judging or trying to solve, be compassionate in a grounded way, so be that person.
What does Women Supporting Women mean to you? What can we do to help each other more?
To me, women supporting women is the most natural thing in the world. It’s all I know. There is no more supportive being on the planet than a woman. Women are incomprehensibly generous, resilient, thoughtful, intelligent, community-driven, loving, capable, and powerful. When this isn’t the case, something has gone wrong. We can help each other more by doing the deeper work to transcend the competitive, divisive, and insecure conditioning that the patriarchy has imposed on us. What I would like to see more of is women being compassionate toward themselves. Treating themselves the way they treat their best friend, child, partner. It takes a lot of kindness toward the self to heal from the patriarchy. Let’s start now.
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