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Community Spotlight: Henry Morris

Henry Morris

 

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

That’s quite the story! The short version is in my early twenties I became severely ill which turned into a chronic condition. At the time I was unsure if I would survive it. I became interested in meditation because I felt that it was paramount that I learned how to cultivate peace in my mind in order to offer forgiveness to others, if it was indeed the end of my time on earth. The ironic thing is meditation did bring that peace for me, and the forgiveness, and I firmly believe that is what saved me and set me on my journey to wholeness and health.

What inspires you to meditate?

The therapeutic benefits that now are infused into every facet of my life are my number one motivation. Also it just makes me a better person and a lot easier to be around. I believe that it all starts with healing our own hearts. If the world had the opportunity and resources to heal the wounds they carry around, the whole world would know peace. I’m inspired to continue my meditation practice to display a different way of living, and inspire others to search themselves and find that healing that is available to us all.

What does your meditation practice look like?

My meditation practice is pretty informal these days. I try to practice meditation and prayer daily but often it happens on the go. I feel like at this point (almost 10 years into my practice), my practice is such a big part of everything in my life, it has become naturally integrated into all I do. So even if I don’t make the time to sit and be still, it does provide space in my mind while I go about my daily tasks. My meditation practice also includes a lot of singing and dancing, my two favorite forms of expression.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Yes! I like to read inspiring spiritual texts, everything from Buddhist Sutras to the Bible. And singing is always a part of my practice as well. It helps to remind me that my voice is powerful and needed in the world.

How is your life different because of meditation?

My life post meditation practice is like night and day to who I was previously. Being mindful of my inner and outer life has healed me in ways I can’t quite explain. I’ve found a new way to relate to my thoughts and my life. It has given me purpose and shown me that I am worthy. As someone who has struggled with mental health issues my entire life, I really feel that I wouldn’t still be here had I not been introduced to meditation and the loving and supportive community that came along with that. I am so grateful to Kelly and her compassionate wisdom that has helped me let go of so much trauma. She showed me how to really love others, but most importantly, how to love me for me.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I think the biggest challenge has been learning to have patience! Allowing my life to unfold instead of trying to control every little aspect is a hard practice, and a lifelong one. The mantra “sometimes, it’s like this” tends to come in handy for me in that regard.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Keep going! Reach out for support and encouragement when you need it. Find a community of like-minded people to practice with and support you. Find a teacher who speaks to your heart. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s not a race to the finish line. The healing journey is not linear, and can often feel discouraging. But having the intention to open your heart makes mountains move. You’re doing a great job having gotten started in the first place. You are so needed here!

What does your heart most long for?

My heart most longs for all beating hearts to find peace. I long for a day where hunger and loneliness disappear for all people, regardless of who they are. Especially all people from all walks of life who are marginalized or treated as unworthy. I want all people the world over to know they are needed here, they have purpose, and they are loved more than they could ever imagine.

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Sacred Simplicity

Guest Blog Contributed by Brooke Binstock //

When I sit down to contemplate simplicity, I am struck by how deeply spiritual and sacred the practice of boiling things down to their essence feels. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated and even obsessed with getting down to the bottom of things.  I always questioned motivation and maintained a healthy level of skepticism when witnessing other human beings appear so certain in their convictions. I feel committed to knowing what exists beyond the labels and the masks that we are so prone to wear. Especially now, in an age where distraction is at our fingertips at every given moment, I find particular importance in finding out what is really here for us, under the surface.

Every other week, I have the privilege to teach yin yoga and meditation to men at a conscious sober living house in Austin, Texas called Tribe. Having gone through aspects of recovery myself, I understand how deeply raw and vulnerable it is to feel so exposed during those early stages.  It is a truly humbling journey that really begs us to take a deeper look within. At the beginning of each class, I do a check-in with the guys.  In our last meeting, one of the men sitting in the front row, was wearing a shirt that pictured a camping style coffee mug with the words, “keep it simple’ underneath it.

During his check-in, he pointed to his shirt and reflected that it has been an important part of his recovery to simplify his life. As he spoke, I could tell that the other men seemed to be in agreement with him. He shared that when things feel overly complicated, that is when overwhelm and anxiety can creep back in along with all the old behavior patterns. Simplicity is a sweet spot and a portal to silently connect with something greater than ourselves. We had a beautiful conversation about minimalism and then began our yoga practice together, quietly.

We have a tendency as human beings to make things more complicated than they are. A quote often attributed to Confucius comes to mind: “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Likely as a defense mechanism, we make up stories in our heads about what we think is happening—we mind-read, future-think, obsess over what-ifs, and go into catastrophic thought patterns.  We take refuge in trying to figure things out instead of floating in the grey area because it feels safer.

However, what if we actually challenged ourselves to lean into simplicity more? What might we find underneath all the story?  We may begin to slough off the unnecessary layers and expose what is truly important and live with greater levels of authenticity. I love this inquiry by Buddhist psychologist Flint Sparks, who asks “How simple are you willing to let this be?”  I challenge myself to consider this often and it leaves me feeling relieved and spacious.

In a practical sense, we can rely on meditation to bring us closer to our deepest essence. I recall from my earlier days as a practitioner, being introduced to a technique where you visualize peeling back layers of an onion as if they are aspects of your identity.  This really touched me. It helped me see that beyond all the labels I choose for myself, or that have been chosen for me, at the very core we are but pure emptiness. The practice of simplifying things for ourselves is in itself deeply sacred. Who am I if not this label? At the core, underneath all our behaviors and markers of self, we are vast and more connected than we think.

We can also use the breath to illustrate this concept of emptiness. The other morning, during a weekly group meditation that I attend, we discussed the natural pause that occurs at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale—Kumbhaka; how, without even trying, we experience breath naturally on its own. We don’t need to force our will on the breath for it to happen—it just does. What if, in each moment, we could consider simplicity as a form of trust? Just as an exhale inevitably follows an inhale, we can surrender a thought that isn’t serving us and lean into a deeper truth. We may discover what is really happening for us in the moment and connect to the vastness of sacred simplicity.

This summer at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, Kelly Lindsey and I will be exploring sacred simplicity during our retreat August 5-9. We would be honored to hold space for you there. Learn more here.

You can find out more about Brooke and her heart-centered offerings at her website: https://www.opencirclehealingaustin.com/

 

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Community Spotlight: Jill Faulkner

Jill Faulkner
Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

Through working on my relationship with myself and seeking out the tools and resources to support that journey, meditation seemed like it could be a great addition. It was also through yoga practice that I came to learn more about meditation, and the desire grew to get a deeper understanding and really implement a practice.

What inspires you to meditate?

Being still and in silence always feels so nice for me, so it makes we want to do it more. I’ve also noticed a significant shift in the way I am in the world, and how I show up for myself and those around me.

What does your meditation practice look like?

Some days it’s via yoga practice, some days when I walk my dog. Some days it’s journaling, or a guided meditation, and some days it’s a few minutes to just sit quietly.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Lately I’ve been listening to the same guided meditation, which has helped (hello decision fatigue!). I also show up to meditate as though it were a meeting with myself and God. This approach came from my therapist, and it has made it easier to sit each day. I pretend I’m sitting there in a meeting, checking in. And, though not consistently, I’m always game for a candle, or some incense!

How is your life different because of meditation?

Generally my life feels more peaceful. Now I can more easily thwart negative thoughts, get back to my breath, and remember that it is okay, and that I am okay. Meditation has also brought some really wonderful people into my life. I also feel like I bring an energy to new friends, or groups, that make them feel at ease, which makes me feel great!

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

Consistency has been the biggest challenge. For a period of time as well, I put too much pressure on my meditations to reveal answers, or secrets I’ve been searching for. Not fair to meditation (and not fair to me)! I was really wanting to get something out of it, and forgot that the journey is what we get out of it – and that can catalyze some real change.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Apply no pressure! Sit for 30 seconds, 30 minutes, whatever feels good for YOU. Don’t mind the thoughts that come through, I guess that’s the whole point. Life is going to continue to happen, our thoughts will continue to be there, and meditation will help us navigate all of that as our best self making sure we are acting for our highest good, and the highest good of all concerned. Have fun with it, too! Try an app, try silence, try journaling, try nothing. You’ll know what’s going to work best for you <3

What does your heart most long for?

Love.

Jill Faulkner is the founder of Stick With It Co. Stick With It Co. is in the business of helping people focus on the relationship they have with themselves. Using affirmations on sticky-notes as a tool, our mission is for people to wholly, unabashedly, and guiltlessly love themselves. 

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My Work as a Human Being

My work as a human being is to quiet my mind, open my heart and do what I can to relieve the suffering with as much wisdom, skill, whatever I got.

– Ram Dass

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Community Spotlight: Kirk Miller

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

I discovered meditation out of that empty place where so many awakenings are born….that place called rock bottom. That was the place where I found myself after finally reaching the “American Dream.” In the course of one year, I lost it all, job, family, beautiful home, almost my life. From that place of complete brokenness, I rented a one room apartment overlooking a tranquil river, bought a nice chair, faced it out over the water and began being silent and writing and meditating. I decided I was not leaving there until I found peace.

What inspires you to meditate?

The taste of stillness that I have found. The quietness.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I have started waking up and simply sitting in silence for 30 minutes. Usually, after breakfast I consistently do my meditation practice. Throughout the day and my life I find meditation in writing, being out on a trail, being on my paddleboard on the water, yoga most days, tai chi and qigong practices. Although I have found nothing to compare with playing at a park with a five year-old.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Being part of Dakini’s Teacher Training program has certainly supported my practices. Being a very unscheduled, artistic personality, setting a morning practice at the same time each day has enabled me to develop a consistency, like brushing my teeth. I now also meditate 30 minutes to an hour prior to sleep, which bookends a day of life in the world.

How is your life different because of meditation?

Meditation increasingly has helped me develop a calm, spaciousness around myself within the world. Most things do not phase me anymore and I attribute this to meditation. Friends and family have found me to be a more calming presence than the person I was a decade ago. Meditation has also taken me much deeper into myself, which at times can be very painful. But I become aware that this part of me would have been buried there had I not taken time to acknowledge it and sit with it. I think these are the deeper waters.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I have a very busy and active “monkey mind” like so many other people. Some days my active mind wins the day. However, it is with the consistency of meditation daily over long periods of time that I begin to notice and become aware of a greater change taking place.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

My greatest encouragement would be to commit to yourself the gift of consistently sticking with it for at least 30 days. Even if you can only sit for 5 minutes at the same time each day for 30 days, something will have happened and you will long for more. Everyone has an active mind. Do not let that deter you in the beginning from sticking with the practice.

What does your heart most long for?

My heart longs for others to find freedom from deep suffering. Once you have witnessed this up close and personally, you will be forever changed. You will know what Buddhism refers to as the “quivering heart” of compassion. To know this suffering exists on some level for so many is a suffering that I long for others to be freed from. I am learning that this freedom can only begin for others as I begin to free myself from my own suffering. Meditation has offered this path to freedom.

Kirk is offering two opportunities in May to take his series “Mind Like Water,” one locally in Austin at Meditation Bar, and one online through Mind Oasis

meditate with kirk on mind oasis

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