When were you first exposed to dharma?
My first exposure to dharma was during my undergraduate studies majoring in Philosophy/Asian Studies. However, this didn’t translate to a personal practice until a few years later when I lost two friends to suicide in a six-month period. The bereavement related to their deaths was so overwhelming that it forced me to seek out additional community and support. Around that time I was also reading a book by a person who found healing through meditation and was miserable enough to be willing to try it out. I initially started meditating hoping that I would learn how to stop thinking, stop feeling and disconnect from other people- aversion at it’s finest! However, the first time I fully knew impermanence, on the cushion, I experienced a huge sense of relief- relief from the burden of self, relief from the need to control, relief from the need to know and be certain about everything. When I started a meditation practice, I was in early recovery from substance abuse. Now, with over 12 years of practice and almost 17 years of sobriety I can’t imagine my life without the hope and support provided by the dharma.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience?
My professional life is built around bodhisattva vows. I work as a trauma therapist in private practice- my office is at the meditation center, am enrolled as a full-time student in a psychiatric nurse practitioner program at Vanderbilt University and also manage the daily operations of the meditation center. Helping people heal, find freedom from the wounds of the past, and befriend their internal experience is at the heart of what I do. One of the primary therapy modalities I use in my practice is called sandplay therapy- the client and I use miniatures/symbolic small toys to work through internal conflicts; I pair this with meditation in sessions. The miniatures represent all of the unknown parts of the experience as well as all of the possibilities available when we grow our awareness. I have about 500 miniatures in the office, some arrangement of them would probably make an interesting photograph.
In addition to professional work, I feel most grounded, connected and effortlessly mindful when I’m in nature. I often meditate on my back deck and take great pleasure in gardening.