Connection to Self through Meditation
Mark [0:00] Hello Mary, thank you for being a guest on Heart of Connection podcast. I’m your host, Mark Randall and it’s always a pleasure to have guests on the podcast. Just by way of introduction, would you mind giving a brief introduction to yourself please for people who are listening?
Mary [0:17] Sure, really glad to chat with you again, Mark. I live in Brisbane, and I am a somatic psychotherapist. I am also a mindfulness stress reduction meditation teacher. I’ve lived in Australia for 14 years. I’ve been doing this work for about 11 years. I’ve always had an interest and have always pursued for a very long time, my late 20s meditation. I also co-lead meditation retreats, silent retreats, and the insight system and love them. We do a few of those every year. I do that with Timothea Goddard and the Mindfulness Training Institute here in Australia. Another part of my work is that I support people who are wanting to teach mindfulness and so they can really understand this process from the bottom up and how can impart this in an authentic way. I love that work as well, supporting people committed in the journey of finding more about it. for themselves personally, and then how they carry it into the world. I am an expressive arts therapist and I love sand-tray and symbol work. And that covers a part of what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years or so.
Mark [1:50] When you’re teaching up and coming mindfulness teachers, from the bottom up – are you teaching them to connect to themselves first?
Connection to the self – Meditation offers
Mary [2:03] Very much so. I see people at actually the stage where they’ve already done some preliminary training. I’m supporting them as both admissions and program advisor. I’m not actually at the training but I am kind of holding people’s hands for a year, and I speak to them as they come into it. So I do notice that it really is important that people turn up to themselves and to what their motivation is: why am I interested in bringing this to others? That in itself is a huge area of exploration because we can get very excited about something personally for ourselves, and we can often go too quickly. We can evangelize about this and want to share it with “everyone”. So it is important to keep coming back to, what motivates me? What is inside me? Kind of really connecting to themselves first otherwise it won’t be authentic when people are sitting in front of us and we’re sitting and breathing in silence with them; one can feel that.
Mark [3:13] What was your connection to meditation? What took you back there many years ago to check in with yourself?
Mary [3:23] Oh, yeah – it is a bit of a story. I’ll try to do this short version of it.
Interested in Abstract & different religions
Mary [3:32] I was always interested in the abstract unseen world as I was raised as a Catholic. I began to suspect around as a teenager that there was a lot more out there. I was really interested in other religions but wasn’t living in a context (where I grew up in America) of being able to be exposed to that diversity. I ended up going to high school on a sailing ship— my parents sent me off to a private school that travelled on a ship around Europe. I remember going port to port in Africa, Greece, all sorts of countries. I was exposed to different kinds of people, different colors, and different fates obviously. It really crafted me. So I started reading up on different religions and faiths.
Then I would say fast forward to ten years later when I ended up living in Europe. I actually left America when I was in my mid-20s, and I never went back to live there. I did my schooling and higher education and I stayed there. I quickly got “stuck” into life there, because I was working in the field of fashion and art. It was Paris and very high pressure, it was the 1980’s and I had responsibilities in that field. I was hoping for something else. I went to meditation groups, dipping in and out, did a lot of learning on my own, reading.
Connection of deva ju to Sri Lanka
Then I went on a trip to Sri Lanka, a pleasure trip. Something occurred to me, as I landed in Sri Lanka. I looked around and I thought, I know this place. And this place felt like it knew me. I then started becoming more interested and went back to my job in Paris and started delving into Buddhist practice. I went down to Plum Village for a couple of retreats there with Thich Nhat Hanh.
My own Eat, Pray, Love in 1980s
From this moment on I ended up moving, left my job and Paris, I did that kind of “Eat, Pray, Love” before the book came out. (Admittedly this type of dropping out has always existed in the world.) I moved to Sri Lanka and ended up living there, going there initially for a sabbatical year thinking, I would do a lot of practice in meditation retreat centers. and move back to France. I was going to immerse myself and try to find out: who am I, who is this person once she’s not connected to this name, and this job and this setting. I lived in a Sri Lanka village living simply, looking to connect to myself. I ended up staying there for seven years.
Living Longer In Sri Lanka
Mark [6:28] Seven years in Sri Lanka, doing meditation regularly in that process?
Mary [6:35] The first two years were more intense in meditation and I focused on that. Then to stay there I had to generate income. So I ended up working in another field, setting up small boutique hotels from old buildings, old beautiful colonial buildings. I ended up with a partner who was on the same wavelength as I was that time. He was an ex- Buddhist monk – having been a monk for twenty-five years (that’s a whole other story). We ended up wanting to stay for several years. So we found work to do in hospitality and creating environments for people where if travelers would come through, they could enjoy the quiet. Not retreat- like in a spiritual retreat, but just quieter.
Connection to myself in several ways
Mark [6:41] When you – how do you connect to yourself now that you’re not in that intense process? Do you keep a regular meditation practice going to increase the connexion to yourself, or deepen the connection to yourself?
Mary [7:49] I think there are several ways. I do the practice. I have various other things that I do. I would say that there’s some formal practice but there’s informal practice, as well. I find that’s actually been very interesting. By that, I mean, I feel quite connected when I’m working with people.. actually. When I have clients, psychotherapy clients, and I’m sitting being with them and witnessing what they’re thinking about or what they are moving through. I find that is a deep connecting practice because I’m having really to stay in my body quite strongly, to be able to go hold a space. So that for me is a spiritual practice, I really felt very grounded through that work. So there’s the formal meditation, but I think that this is a meditation, sitting with someone and witnessing some kind of transformation and unburdening, that’s happening.
Connection in the presence of others
Mark [8:56] When you’re sitting with someone, are you sitting in there – sitting in the energy of that space?
What is the experience of energy?
Mary [9:04] Yeah, what do you mean by energy?
Mark [9:07] Oh, just that “felt’ – when we embody, we connect to our feelings, our emotions, the energy running around. I just call it energy running around our bodies. It’s like that – it’s sort of like an intuitive sense. I don’t know whether that’s the right word. When you’re – it that – how would you describe that connection?
Mary [9:33] Yeah, it’s a good question. It feels, feels very – kind of – holding – actually now that you’ve mentioned it.
Connection to protected loving space
Mary [9:44] It feels like a very protected and loving space is what it feels like. It feels like an unconditionally loving space of – myself being a secure base and a safe haven. You know, there’s that saying, from secure attachment. So, I feel like I’m the secure base and the safe haven and there’s this intentionality already around that.
Mary [10:21] But also deep love I’d have to say. I really… it’s impossible for me to work with someone, and great to be fruitful and not have a great deep love for that person. Of course, you know, I love I mean, big “L” love.
Mary [10:41] Love and respect for the human being – quite magical really.
Connection to a Flow State – It’s the “in-between”
Mark [10:46] Is it like – do you experience that love sort of flowing in the room? It is sort of holding the space of the room? It’s a pretty powerful connection?
Mary [10:59] It is. It is something, that’s between. That’s the important thing I think. It’s not in me, and it’s not in the other person. It’s the “in- between”.
Mark [11:11] Yes, that between? It doesn’t get – does that get talked about much?
Mary [11:21] I don’t know. I think it’s – Yeah, I think that’s what relationship is I – isn’t it? It’s not me and it’s not you.
What’s between us – this other thing.
Mary [11:32] What’s between us. This other thing. This third thing, which is this dynamic. Actually the mind, right? So I really liked this definition of – this idea of the mind is, it’s not what the brain is doing, it’s relational. It’s happening between us right now, as we speak – that’s our mind – ta verb. I think that’s what’s happening – is that really – if we really talked about what mindf- ull- ness is, that, to me, it’s just a verb of what’s happening. Also between us, right? So, if we’re doing individual practice, and that’s what happens when people are learning to meditate in the beginning to go on a spiritual journey. I think it feels to me that’s what happening – there are these parts of themselves that are starting to get to know each other and be with each other, inside of oneself. That developing a relationship with my inner self – powerful.I think it feels to me that’s what happening – there are these parts of themselves that are starting to get to know each other and be with each other, inside of oneself. Click To Tweet
Mark [11:34] It is powerful. That in between that you’re talking about. Does that then get shared through to friends? Is that the same – is it a similar relationship? Or is it a different type of in between when it’s in relationships to friends, rather than people you work with?
Mary [12:56] I think there’s all different kind of ‘in-between’ . ?
Mary [12:59] Kind of think of it as – how we are with the postman…
Mary [13:06] How we are with our animal or partners. It’s always there, kind of – the thing that is always there.
The ‘in-between’ is always there – but am I aware of it?
Mark [13:17] When it’s not there, how do you notice that? What happens to you, when it’s not there?
Mary [13:24] Well, I think it is always there – my experience for myself is it is always there. How much am I? What is in that in between? Do you see what I mean? Am I aware of it? Or am I on autopilot? Of course, there’s always a time we’re not paying attention to every bit – it doesn’t work every moment – too intense. How much am I here – in this moment, really, sensing that,. A lovely way to practice this. I do this-this is a practice that I enjoy doing. If I’m out shopping, I’m really enjoying the day just looking at somebody in the eye when I’m a checkout counter or passing them or on the road to the supermarket or something. It’s not in that weird way of staring people down. Just sensing – this is another person and then there is a smile that might happen or a knowing, sensing of something. It is very enriching and ah—-feels so alive. Wonderful.
Mark [14:32] That eye contact is really important. It’s that old cliche, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” I am wondering whether we do get a sense of that “in between” that space, that connection to that other person – through that – the connection with our eyes.
We are seen and heard
Mary [14:55] We so want to feel seen and heard. It doesn’t have to be in that very intense 1-1 way – that when we see a therapist or with people, you know well. Often people say to me, oh, I want to have more relationships, but I don’t know how I am going to meet people?. I say there are already people in your life, you see them all the time – passing them day to day. You see them at the carwash, you see them walking the dog. These are all beings. You are having a relationship with them as you pass by them. This is available to us, to actually have that much.
Mark [15:34] Are we becoming disconnected from people as a society?
Is there a connect or disconnect with technology?
Mary [15:39] I don’t know, what do you think?
Mark [15:44] I was sitting on the train coming back from Melbourne yesterday. I watched a lot of people just connected to their device and through their device, they’re obviously connected to whatever they’re watching, whether it be people. The sense for me as I was watching it, I was observing it and the experience I had – was wondering what how open to subliminal messages people are through those devices. Are they being mindful on their devices? Is that another way that they have found to connect?
Are people looking for connection through technology?
Mary [16:29] Well, that’s interesting. I have the same thing, I take the bus around Brisbane when I have to go to town. Even people waiting in line like there’s a lot of heads looking down into little things that are in the palm of their hands. But I was thinking they’re trying to have a connection. They’re looking for connection through something – through that device that they’re reading somebody’s comment on social media or something. So we’re all seeking connexion is for are we seeking it places that are actually going to feed us? Are we doing a little bit of that or is that the totality of our connection?
Mark [17:11] Also, is that connection through social media – a safer connection for people nowadays?
Mary [17:21] Yes. Maybe that’s part of it – it’s safer. You mean less risk, is that what you mean?
Connections and disconnection may facilitate emotional hurts
Mark [17:33] When we make a connection, well I call it – when we not necessarily – there are variations to the friendships we have. When we have intimate connections with friends, we can experience disconnection, there can be emotional pain in that disconnection and that’s not safe, or people don’t feel safe in that. I am wondering generally as a society rather than, – we all carry the wounds there, the first arrow wounds so to speak in there. I’m wondering whether that’s a part of that process nowadays?
Mary [18:19] Maybe, that could be. And at the same time, while you might be at a safe distance you’re also not getting the juiciness of an actual live, face to face to someone, putting a hand on a shoulder in real life. There’s a real longing for that.
People are experiencing loneliness
May [18:46] There is a lot of loneliness around that, too. So, I’m not a Luddite thinking that all social media is bad. But It will be interesting to see, in another fifteen years, when there’s a generation for whom that’s their thing, what occurs. It is interesting, people were on the bus the other day and I had a similar experience as you, as people were looking down onto devices. I thought, let me see if anybody happens to look around seeing there was one person not doing that. If I happen to catch somebody’s eye – not looking for it, just letting it happen. There was one person who looked up, and we looked at each other, and we both had kind of this smile because we realized we were maybe the only two people on the bus. You know, it’s just like this knowing and we had this little yumm (connection). And not judgemental either. I thought that was really ‘filling my cup’. My emotional cup was filled from that small thing. And I’m guessing that person’s cup was filled in a way that your cup might not be filled by seeing a “like” on your post.
Oh, the word ‘Human Connection’
Mark [20:08] Either that physical that (laughter) I was going to use the word ‘human connection’
Mary [20:15] It’s called ‘human connection’ (laughter).
Mary [20:22] Yes there is this “thing”, in person, not mediated by a screen and they actually have these things called ‘eyes’. They actually (laughter), you know… let’s try to remember this. Let’s post this on Wikipedia so that people can remember what this is. (laughter)
Mark [20:44] I felt really – when I said the word when it came out of my mouth, oh “really”? Sort of getting like that and how much are we searching? How much are people searching for that connection?
Connection is innate Human need – we search for it and need it
Mary [20:59] That’s human. Humans want that. That is one of our basic needs. We go out for exploration. We mix with the world, we want to enjoy things with people (and also do things on our own and feel our efficacy in that.)
And we need to come in, to look for protection, delight and comfort, and all those things. So that’s the circle. I love the Circle of Security work exploring and teaching that with parents. In the Circle, parents are tending to the child’s need to go out in the world and come back in; and go out and come back in.
Connection to our Tribe
Mark [21:47] The coming back in is a connection to that sense of tribe or community – be it family unit. There’s a belonging there. There’s a sense of belonging a connection…
Mary [22:00] Coming in for safety and to be seen and security.
Mary [22:09] We do need it. So, I don’t know – I wonder if, in social media, people are connecting with their tribe. They are, but it’s just a certain kind of connection that’s all. Maybe not,… I don’t know how much heart is in that.
Mark [22:27] It’d be really good in research down the track, wouldn’t it? To sort of measure the differences. Maybe in the next 15 years – that generation – that’s their benchmark of connection. Whereas ours because we’re a bit of an older generation ours is a different version of the connection. Do they still meet the same need?
Connections what will time tell us – next offspring
Mary [22:50] Yes, we’ll see. I think where ‘the rubber hits the road’ is when people have their own offspring -right? In that offspring – we see deeply humans need to be seen and delighted and watched. They need it in an important way that we know. Our deep wounds are someone not being there for us or being there for us in a very overbearing way or an ignoring way, avoidant way. So, it’ll be interesting when the next offspring come. We generally parent how we were parented. Unless we take on this challenge to earn a secure inner attachment.
Mark [23:43] I am just mindful of time, can I just then invite you to look at your connection to beyond your sense of self. Beyond other – your friends in your community? How do you connect to the “All That Is” – the greater universe per se? (Silence).
Mark [24:11] Is that a walk in nature? Is it sitting down the beach?
Connection to Nature as we are from nature
Mary [24:20] I think definitely nature. I’m sitting here in my office right now I’m looking at a tree and a hanging basket. I think that I need something in nature because we come from nature. We come from the earth. So I think nature is definitely a big part of it.
Mary [24:42] Kind of beyond ideas. I think also – movement is part of it. There’s something about moving the body. Just being in a sense of movement, which is– in the being mode – I think that’s part of it.
Mark [25:00] When you’re in nature, what do you notice happens to Mary when she is immersed in nature?
My Connection to the Sense of All Living Things
Mary [25:15] Hmm. I think what happens I kind of have this sense of All Living Things. I think without paying attention, I think of living and everything else is inanimate somehow – because it was just surrounded by inanimate things. So I think in nature, it feels like all the sudden I feel kind of a sense of awe – ‘oh right.’ : ’m just living walking thing but all these other things are living, there’s so much more of them than me, I’m actually really tiny I’m a speck. That helps me have this sense of connecting to other things quite strongly.
Mark [26:00] Do you notice – does it help with mindfulness?
Its mindfulness – awareness of attention
Mary [26:05] I think it doesn’t help with mindfulness because I think it is mindfulness – part of paying attention.I think it doesn’t help with mindfulness because I think it is mindfulness – part of paying attention. Click To Tweet
Mark [26:11] Good comeback, I really – that’s right.
Mary [26:14] Mindfulness isn’t a thing. It’s not a thing that we work on. Mindfulness is awareness, a kind of awareness. If we just use shorthand for mindfulness, it’s awareness. It is a true awareness of clearly seeing how something is. Or seeing not the un-clarity, seeing through our filters that’s mindfulness too. It is noticing there is a filter. So things don’t help with it because it’s not a thing, it’s just awareness.
Connection to Awareness feel there’s more truth
Mark [26:49] The more you have that awareness, what do you experience happens in your body and in yourself?
Mary [26:57] I think some truth. Feels to me like there’s some – yeah, I think the truth. The truth isn’t always. There’s a glorious quote, “The truth will set you free – but first it will piss you off.”
Mark [27:20] Sometimes it can hurt yes.
Mary [27:21] Yeah, but it’s so alive right because there’s some kind of knowing. And like, oh right – that’s what’s going on for me. Whether it love or aversion and that’s real.
Connection to freedom in the knowing
Mark [27:39] Is there a freedom in that knowing?
Mary [27:43] I feel there is. It’s not the only thing. Knowing is not the only thing because then we want to do something with that, right. We can’t go anywhere without that. Another quote, James Arthur Baldwin let me see if I can get this right – something about change – Do you know that quote?
Mary [28:04] Do you know who James Baldwin is?
Mary [28:10] Yeah, amazing guy from the sixties – James Baldwin.
Mary [28:15] He said something like, “Not everything that’s faced, can be changed – but nothing can be changed that isn’t faced.” If I haven’t misquoted him. So that is the power of awareness. You might call it – ‘mindful awareness’. About facing something and knowing something, so then something else can happen.
My Advice to young people is open to self-acceptance
Mark [28:54] If you were to give some advice to a young woman walking her journey behind yours, or a young man walking his journey behind yours. What would that piece of advice be to them regarding the Heart of Connection to self, others and All That Is?
Mary [29:25] This is very generic advice, and this, of course, is coming out of the prism of my childhood and adulthood. I would say to open to and explore self-acceptance. Make self-acceptance as your North Star rather than self-esteem.I would say to open to and explore self-acceptance. Make self-acceptance as your North Star rather than self-esteem. Click To Tweet
Mark [29:57] That’s lovely advice – self-acceptance, self-awareness? Is there anything else Mary, that you would like to share – in the concluding moments of the conversation?
Mary [30:18] Nothing that I can think of. It’s been really enjoyable. I think I’ll go away with some questions today. I’ll go away with some thoughts right now and we’ll finish.
Mark [30:37] It’s a lovely opportunity to sit with people and have this conversation. There’s always after conversations finish – it’s like there’s a number of questions that drop into my consciousness. I wish I had asked that. Or there’s are so many threads that you could follow. I want to try and keep the timeline down so people can listen to it whilst they are driving. Mary, thank you very much for the opportunity to have this conversation.
Mary [31:08] My pleasure, Mark,
Mark [31:10] I look forward to and I look forward to furthering training with you in the coming years.
Mary [31:18] See you on the retreat I hope.
Mark [31:20] I’ll be heading up to Sydney on Saturday, so the teacher training so I’m really looking forward to that.
Mary [31:29] It going to be fantastic. We must connect after that. I’d love to hear your input and hear how it went for you.
Mark [31:37] Great thank you very much. Take care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai