When were you first exposed to dharma and when/how did you know that this was the path for you?
I had the blessing to be born in a dharma household where my parents volunteered to host weekly meditation sittings in our home for a local VIpassana organization in Hawai’i. We recited the three refuges in pali every night before I went to bed. Monks like Munindra and Sayadaw U Pandita would come to stay with us when I was growing up. Even Joseph Goldstein came to my home before I was old enough to appreciate his teachings. Though I sat off and on my whole life and did many day long retreats in my teenage years, it was my first 3 day residential retreat on the North Shore of O’ahu where I had my first deep transformative sitting- on the last day I had an experience of being perfectly at peace with myself exactly the way I was. As an insecure and awkward late bloomer this was a huge breakthrough. I did a 7 day Vipassana retreat in Burma two years later and had the same experience on the 5th day- total ease and equanimity with myself and the world. From there my dedication to this path deepened and solidified.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience? Does it reflect in your work and relationships?
There’s literally no part of my daily experience that isn’t influenced by the dharma and my mindfulness practice. It is my trust in the freedom and beauty available in each present moment, especially since taking my Year To Live class and meditating on our impermanence, that guides my heart and mind throughout the day. When I take the time to set aside my phone look at the world around me I find every day little sights and interactions profoundly moving: two friends on the sidewalk in an extra long embrace, the light peeking through leaves on a tree, the pink and purple hues of the sky as the sun rises and sets, the taste of a juicy strawberry. This trust and practice grounds me in chaotic moments throughout my work day when I remember to step back and breathe. It gives me patience when I encounter challenges with people in my life and also allows me to open my heart wide and tune in to the love I feel for not just my friends, family and sangha but every being (big and small) I pass on the street, sit next to on the bus.
Who is your teacher(s)?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have many wise and compassionate dharma teachers in my life, some who were like aunties and uncles growing up in Hawai’i, some who became friends, all who continue to inspire me with their dedication, their knowledge, their love, their authenticity, most notably Michele McDonald, Steve Smith, Graham White, Gavin Harrison, Kamala Masters, Lynne Bousfield, Trudy Goodman, Noah Levine, Matthew Brensilver, Vinny Ferraro and Gene Lushtak. They’ve shown me that my teacher can be any person anywhere any time- a challenging and confrontational individual, a beggar in the street, each has the ability to open my eyes to a greater truth and dig deep within myself to open my heart even in moments of doubt or anger or confusion or sadness.
How long/often do you mediate?
I wish I was sitting for an hour a day morning and night but my daily sitting practice doesn’t generally last more than 10-15 minutes; I try to attend the weekly sitting groups at Against The Stream at least once a week which last about 30-40 minutes
Which sangha do you normally attend?
I’ve been sitting with Against The Stream for over 10 years now.
What is your primarily profession?
I’m a filmmaker/photographer/one-woman production crew
Was there an experience in your life where you realize the profound power of the practice?
This practice has helped me through every difficult experience I’ve ever had. I once broke up with a boyfriend in the middle of a day long retreat and went back to finish it; I needed the solace of the dharma in that moment more than ever. I also went through months of heavy depression in 2010 following a brief manic episode during which I had been diagnosed as bipolar. It was to this day the most painfully confusing time of my life. Though it was difficult to practice during those months mindfulness did provide me with a bit of space during moments when my depression became too heavy. With meditation and regular exercise I’ve been able to stay off medication for years and retain a stable mental and emotional balance.