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How did you get into meditation and how has meditation impacted your life?

Eight years ago, I had an experience of trauma while I was doing academic fieldwork in Southern Africa. Thankfully, I was unharmed physically, but from a psychological and emotional perspective, I was in shambles.

My therapist asked me what action step I could take in order to feel safe in the world again. I said, “Learn meditation,” because I knew I could protect myself better if I learned to stay present and aware of my surroundings. And yet, the benefits of learning meditation reached far beyond my physical safety.

The more I practiced, the more I learned how to cultivate an inner happiness that could remain untouched by outer circumstances. I also learned how to soothe my emotional wounds with self-compassion.

How does it feel when you are in a meditative state?

When I am meditating, my thoughts begin to slow down as I watch them. At first, there is only a brief pause between each thought, then the pause between thoughts grows longer as I go deeper.

In meditation, this brings me a feeling of profound peace, as I realize that what defines me is my silent center, not my chatty mind.

What is the top 3 most valuable life advice you can give from your life experience so far?

#1 The days you say “I don’t have time to meditate” are the exact days you need to meditate the most. Even if you just have five minutes, you will still reap the benefit.

#2 To paraphrase author Matt Kahn, when you are feeling down, you deserve more love, not less. Try not to beat yourself up if you feel anxious, stressed, or not yourself. That’s the moment you need to shower yourself with compassion.

#3 Give yourself the gift of unstructured time at least once a week. Make no plans for that time period, whether it’s an hour, two hours, etc. When you wake up that morning, go where the road takes you, or where your heart leads you – whether that’s a farmers market, a walk in the forest, a movie by yourself, a yoga class, or journaling on your couch. Allow yourself to recharge, and you’ll have more energy the rest of your week.

What is your favourite quote?

It’s actually from my husband, Darrin Kagele, who is a therapist and mindfulness teacher:

“Surrender does not mean giving up, it means giving up control.” ~ Darrin Kagele

The best things in my life came to me when I stopped trying to manipulate the timing and circumstances of their arrival. I let go, and trusted that life would bring me the blessings I longed for in their own time – and that includes my wonderful husband and our beautiful new baby, Ruby.

What is something easy and simple that we can do right now to make the world a better place?

Listen deeper. Whenever you’re talking to someone who has a problem, resist the temptation to jump in right away with advice or an anecdote from your own life. Stay with their experience. Ask them questions. Listen more closely. Give them understanding and empathy first, because that is what truly heals.

What would you say has been the biggest benefit from meditation?

Resilience. After I meditate, my mind operates at a calmer pace, which allows me to respond consciously to challenging circumstances in my day rather than being reactive when they arise. I’ve learned not to take things so personally, although I still struggle with that!

What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome? How did you overcome it? And what lessons did you learn from it?

Healing my relationship with my father. We were always clashing when I was younger, and I often felt unloved, unworthy, and like I was “the problem child” or “the difficult one.” It’s a painful story that I carried with me into my adult life. I overcame it by doing my inner work – learning to love myself exactly as I am. I’ve even been able to forgive my Dad. The work of Tara Brach, who teaches meditation and Buddhist psychology, helped me to do that.

I learned to stop expecting my Dad to meet my needs for being heard and understood, because he does not have the tools for that at this point in his evolution. Instead, I need to recognize and appreciate the ways that he does show his love for me.

When you think about happiness, how do you define that for yourself?

Happiness means being able to remain connected to myself in the face of all things good and bad. When I feel good about myself, I’m naturally happy, and I can extend more love to others.

Do you have a message for our Mindbliss Community?

YES! It’s a message of gratitude.

“Thank you for taking the time to meditate. Every time you do that, you are raising your own consciousness and the consciousness of the planet. Your time on the couch, the cushion, or wherever you practice meditation, is a gift to us all.” ~ Love Christina.