A recent interview from the North American Heartfulness Conferences.
When did you start meditating?
The first time I tried to meditate was right after I graduated college. In one of our last classes in the Theater program, a professor suggested we incorporate it into our day to support a healthy career and lifestyle. I sat under a tree and tried to relax and concentrate. It lasted about twenty minutes and I had no idea what I was doing. It took another five years before I tried again in earnest.
A good friend of mine from college went to a Vipassana retreat. That’s a ten-day silent meditation workshop. She thought I would get a lot out of it and she was right. It was like being in a lab for your mind/body. Having studied acting and learning about subtle energy from healing practices, it was a natural extension of the self-observation I had begun. But now instead of just being aware of myself, I was being trained to be equanimous to the sensation. It was like this key I was missing. As the sensation arose, I noticed it and moved on without reaction. This training helped us learn to react with neither aversion nor attraction and gently train our mind to find that middle balance.
I felt high afterwards. There was a hyper-awareness and a feeling of stability I had never known. But it didn’t last, and neither did my practice. There wasn’t an organized community outside the retreat, so after a month or two my practice fell off.
How did you get to know about Heartfulness meditation?
I had met a woman at a 4th of July party. We clicked instantly and she became a mentor of mine. We would go on hikes and talk about God and the universe and life. I was going through a really rough time in my life. After about a year of our friendship, she mentioned I should check out this meditation she did with some guy named Prasad – something she had been doing for over twenty years.
Something in it really clicked for me. And they had group meditations every week and individual meditation sittings, so I could ask questions and have the accountability I needed to sustain my practice. There was great literature that kept my analytical tendencies fed, as my heart slowly softened and opened. It was like an answer to a lifelong yearning. I cried a lot those first months after meditating, feeling the transformation inside, releasing years of tension and anxiety.
Within a couple months I was meditating every day. Within a few more months, I could really feel the beauty of the meditation and the fullness in my heart. Over the past four plus years I have become more of myself. My shyness has relaxed, the anxious feelings have subsided, and I’m a lot more kind to others and to myself. I’ve become a better person because of Heartfulness.
Why did you choose Heartfulness meditation? What about this method appeals to you the most?
It was a conscious choice. I was studying religion and still dabbling in Vipassana at the time. In a Vipassana retreat, the trainer said that trying more than one method is like trying to ride two horses, one with each foot. It was a turning point moment for me. I wasn’t sure. I went to my Heartfulness trainer and had a meditation sitting that just filled my heart. Something in me responded to it strongly, and within a couple weeks the other practices fell off.
In Heartfulness, there’s a naturalness and a simplicity. There’s no cost. It’s so effective, we all volunteer our time to give back to what we’ve gained from it. While every community has it’s challenges and people who rub us the wrong way, this community is so full of caring, heartful people. It’s like a big family, a global support system. I can go anywhere in the world and be supported and spiritually nourished.
I love how effective it is. I feel like since I was born I was yearning to find this path. It has met the inner call I’ve known since I was young and satiated the burning I had within before I found it.
How have you benefitted from Heartfulness meditation?
I still have things I have to face and am working to refine - we’re human! But I’ve balanced so much. And four years really isn’t that long for the amount of progress I feel I’ve had. Every year I look back and see how these layers of imbalance have simply shed. I used to have a lot of sadness and over-sensitivity. I used to feel a lot of anxiety and existential angst. That’s all dropped away. I feel a sense of satisfaction and trust in my life that I always fantasized was possible but have now actualized. I feel more confident and clear about what resonates with me, and comfortable moving on from what doesn’t. I feel content, more productive and also more relaxed. So many of my friends started meditation too because they saw how much softer I had become.
How did heartfulness help you in your profession?
I was struggling pursuing acting because for me it was about identity more than it was about having a career. Meditating helped me let go of needing to prove anything and move on. I’ve naturally been led to jobs that are more aligned with who I am and more satisfying to my being. As a volunteer for Heartfulness I started supporting the media team and honed my graphic design skills to be more competitive in a field I love and have been naturally drawn to since high school. Designing for Heartfulness Magazine has been such a joy to match that skillset with a movement I love.
Last year, I also decided to move away from the computer screen during the day and worked as a homeschool teacher for a child with autism for the year. Meditation prepared me for that because it helped me fully listen in my heart and be sensitive to the child’s needs, while being clear with boundaries as an adult and improvise creative solutions. It was a wonderful learning experience I wouldn’t have been up for without the refinement meditation has offered me.
Has your meditation made a difference to your friends and family? If, yes how?
A number of my friends and family have started Heartfulness. Some still have their reservations, and I respect and support the way they resonate with how life inspires them. Those that have taken it up or tried it have without exception seen the benefit of meditation in their life, even if they haven’t sustained the practice.
My best friend from childhood started meditating after seeing me over the course of a few years. I was having brunch with her one day. She said, “Em, you’re just glowing.” She said she could feel how much I had changed and knew it was time for her to try meditation. She has always been a deeply sensitive being and struggled with overwhelm of input as an empath. Meditation helped her regulate and understand that sensitivity and release tensions in her life. She also feels it’s helped her family dynamic improve. Recently she expressed how when we were young she was “the cool one” (it’s true, I was way more of a dork), but now that I’ve been meditating I’m “the cool one” because of how balanced I’ve become. (I still wouldn’t necessarily say I’m cooler than her, but I’m certainly cooler than I was at 14!) She recently texted me that she was back to taking meditation sittings with a trainer. We’re soul sisters, what can I say.
Your message to all those attending the Heartfulness Conferences?
First of all, GO! Second of all, do whatever it takes to sustain the practice. It will change your life.
Your one cent on how to lead a heartful life?
Notice in every situation how to bring in more kindness. In Hebrew the word for angel means messenger. What is your message? What kind of angel do you choose to be? The world changes when we all change inside. We can all be silent revolutionaries for evolution by consciously evolving ourselves.