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Community Spotlight: Vonnie Neufeld

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

In college, I was curious and dabbled in learning the various types at that time. One experience was so powerful it frightened me and I took a break from it. Over time, I turned to meditation during difficult and anxious times but was concerned about doing it “right” so I spent time doing guided meditations. When I moved to Austin in 2014, it was Kelly and the Quiet Mind, Open Heart community that really inspired me to go inward again and stick with it.

What inspires you to meditate?

I am inspired to meditate by my desire to connect to my “safe place,” gratitude for the wonderful life and time I am afforded here in Austin, and without question, my regular weekly practice with Kelly. I am particularly inspired by a series we did that she framed as “Stillness, Silence and Spaciousness.” That comes to me often when I am meditating and helps me feel closer to myself and “to home.”

What does your meditation practice look like?

I’d like to say it’s perfect and daily for a specific amount of time, but it’s not. It varies. I regularly practice 4-5 times per week in some form or another. When practicing for longer times, as with Kelly, I lie on the floor. For shorter times, I can sit. I use the Insight Timer with nature sounds in the background. I also use meditation as an anxiety reducer when I am at the dentist, or getting a shot at the MD, or approaching a challenging situation. Meditation paired with prayer helps my nervous system calm and feel more centered.

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

My morning routine consists of waking to greet the day, writing my gratitudes, reading and responding in writing to the reading, and then meditation before a series of routine phone calls to support others on this journey of life. Gratitude, prayer and meditation go hand in hand for me. I meditate in other situations too, even standing in line or on an airplane…anywhere I feel the need to ground myself and connect inwardly.

How is your life different because of meditation?

Meditation is one of three things that has changed my life, the others being prayer and my daily gratitudes. I find choosing gratitude daily, even moment to moment, allows me to stay connected to myself and my world especially when life is upside down. Meditation helps remind me how my silence can be a place of love, peace and growth when that upside down world seems too much. Practicing these three behaviors together also helps me chose to “PAUSE” before responding to difficult situations. My focus is more on “acting on life rather than reacting to it.” Meditation also has changed my life by connecting me to the wonderful humans in my sangha who are on similar paths and who create a safe place for me to go inward to learn and grow.

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

Continuity and consistency and changes in routine are challenges for me, especially when traveling. I am always happy to be back in my home morning routine, though and am grateful for that. Knowing I have Kelly’s class and community reassures me my nourishing routine is never very far away.

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

Community – for me, that community support turned the tide toward a deeper practice. Also, letting go of the “perfectionism idea of doing it right.” Just do it. Just sit and BREATHE.

What does your heart most long for?

Continued living in gratitude and joy and accepting and knowing that I, along with all sentient beings, am worthy of love and belonging, warts and all. Oh, and yes, please …… a trip to Africa. 🙂

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