Welcome to One by One, where I’ll share reflections on real life through the lens of mindfulness practice. I’m a Vipassana meditation instructor in the Washington, DC area, and am closely affiliated with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. In addition to leading meditation groups and retreats, I’ve been teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) since 2006. Which comes in really handy, as right now I have an incredibly stressful life! As the saying goes, we teach what we need to learn.
I began meditating in college in 1990, and considered it a useful practice that came and went as I had the time and inclination. I had been dealing with high levels of anxiety and occasional panic attacks since childhood, and the basic techniques brought a great deal of relief. Then in 2005, when my oldest son was 8 months old, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. When the stress hit the fan, so to speak, I realized that the only tool I had to deal with fear and uncertainty – that actually worked – was the one I’d been dabbling in for fifteen years. While chemotherapy, radiation, and radical surgery saved my body, the practice of mindful awareness, compassion and observing the changing nature of all things saved my life.
My intention is to write about how I use mindfulness practice to handle life’s current challenges, which at this point include raising three young children (two of whom we adopted as three-year-olds from Ethiopia); living with chronic pain in the form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a degenerative connective tissue disorder that can make life really
shitty interesting; caring for my Dad (age 70) who lives with us and has COPD, and my Mom, who is in a nursing home nearby (also age 70) in the late stages of Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), an early onset form of dementia. Are we having fun yet? Stick around. It’s not as bad as it sounds!
My students ask the best questions about everything from basic “meditation 101” to how to work with very sticky personal situations with more awareness and compassion. I enjoy pondering the questions, with them and also for myself, as I find most to be universal, and we really are all in it together. I’ll occasionally write about those questions here, so if you would like to submit one of your own, please do!