Honor how you feel — During these times, and especially with social media, we’re constantly being bombarded with how we should feel, how we should take actions, and what opinions we should have. Take a beat to center yourself and honor how you feel and understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurasia Mattingly.
Laurasia Mattingly is a meditation and mindfulness teacher based in Los Angeles who helps her students cultivate a deeper connection with their body and mind for an enriched overall sense of well-being. She is the author of “Meditations on Self-Love: Daily Wisdom for Healing, Acceptance, and Joy,” which features daily meditations and affirmations. She is also the founder of Sit Society, an all-access membership featuring weekly live meditations, instructional videos, and at-home exercises that cover a variety of topics, such as overcoming anxiety, finding your purpose, and living a mindful life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
As a teen, I suffered from debilitating anxiety and then depression after my mother passed in 2011. I had no healthy ways of coping, so someone recommended yoga, which eventually led me to meditation. I completed several trainings in different lineages, but Buddhism mindfulness is what resonated with me the most. I was drawn to Buddhism mainly because they acknowledge the great suffering the being human entails, and mindfulness because it is evidence-based and backed by science.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story since I started my career is probably the year that I pledged to be sober and celibate. As I dove deeper into my meditation practice after having a few years under my belt as a meditation teacher, I became very aware of what was causing me suffering. I realized dating and drinking were being used as coping mechanisms for underlying fears, insecurities, and feelings of unworthiness. My choice to be sober and celibate gave me the chance to dig deeper into myself and care for the wounds that needed healing.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Be you! In the beginning years of teaching, I cared too much about what other teachers thought of me. I’m a millennial, and meditation teachers are older and wise, so one of my biggest insecurities, when I began teaching, was “who is going to listen to this 20-something-year-old talk about life?” As I grew more confident in who I was and teaching, my age became one of my greatest strengths. I just share from my own life experiences and after every class I resonate with someone different, whether that be a fellow millennial or someone in their 70s. Individuals of all ages will come up to me after my class telling me it was just what they needed to hear.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“No Mud No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hahn is a book I have read probably 20 times and I teach from it often. I was drawn to it because it was written by one of my favorite teachers and it beautifully describes how suffering is necessary to experience joy. After losing my mother I could have easily started feeling like a victim to life, but that book showed me that through my deep suffering I was strong. The style in which it was written (short passages of wisdom) is what inspired my book “Meditations on Self-Love: Daily Wisdom for Healing, Acceptance and Joy.”
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judgment.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Increased self-awareness, deeper mind/body connection, increased compassion, and more ease. Mindfulness is scientifically proven to shrink our amygdala (the reptilian part of our brains responsible for our fight-flight and freeze response) and increase the compassion centers of our brains.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1) Honor how you feel — During these times, and especially with social media, we’re constantly being bombarded with how we should feel, how we should take actions, and what opinions we should have. Take a beat to center yourself and honor how you feel and understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.
2) Turn off the news — The news can be fuel added to the fire of anxiety. After getting my bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and initially starting a career in network news, four years ago, I decided to emulate the Dali Lama and his take on news. He says, “If I need to know something, I’ll find out.” Of course, we can’t fully escape the news when it’s all over social media, but I personally avoid turning on the TV news. This enables me to be more present in all that I do. So far, the Dali Lama is right; I haven’t turned on the news in years and have still found out everything I’ve needed to know.
3) Start a Meditation Practice — This is the first step towards deepening your mindfulness practice. Of course we can incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives, but to really strengthen that mindfulness muscle is in seated meditation. Even if it is just for five minutes, those five minutes of stillness and turning inwards will allow you to get to know yourself better than anything else.
4) Slow down — So many of us mindlessly go about our days from one task to the next without stopping to take a breath or savor the moment. For example, think of those times you’ve got into your car and arrived at the destination without even being aware of your drive, the scenery, or the traffic. Our minds are usually elsewhere, planning, worrying, trying to problems solve. In slowing down we can allow ourselves to be more present in whatever we are doing. We can notice the blue sky as we drive, the sound of the birds as we walk outside, or the smile on our friends face as they tell us a story.
5) Get outside — For me, hiking has become a form of moving meditation. It used to be boxing but now since gyms are closed, I’ve picked up hiking as my new favorite form of exercise. There is something so magical about being in nature and now there’s science to prove the positive effects nature has on our well-being. If weather permits in your area, get outside, smell the fresh air, feel the wind against your skin and listen to the sounds of the world.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
1) Practice compassion — Compassion is recognizing the suffering in another being. During this time, it’s important to realize that others are suffering deeply as well. We can offer our presence and understandings without judgment.
2) Establish boundaries/honor others’ boundaries — Boundaries are truly an act of self-love. During this time, it’s important to honor your own boundaries and the boundaries of others. Sometimes you might need to take the evening to rest and not answer your phone. Honor that. Sometimes your friends or loved ones will also need rest and may need to cancel zoom calls/FaceTime dates. Honor that.
3) Rest — Even though most of us are cooped up at home not doing much of anything, it’s important to honor when your body and mind need rest. If you feel like you need a nap, take one. If you need to take the day away from your computer, do it. We cannot fill others from an empty glass, we must fill our own first.
4) Listen without judgment — There are many different views on how we should think, feel and act right now. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion so if we have friends or family members who don’t see eye to eye with us, we can try to practice listening without judgment.
5) Find power in your aloneness — Here is a quote from my book “Meditations on Self-Love” — “Find the power in your aloneness and you’ll never be lonely…The risk to be in solitude, to become intimate with your own thoughts and feelings, to really get to know yourself is true power.” A lot of us think that a cure to loneliness is the company of others, which sometimes it is, but personally, the most valuable treatment to loneliness is finding power in your aloneness.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Start with a simple practice called “ STOP”
S — Stop what you’re doing
T — Take a Breath
O — Observe how you’re feeling (without judgment)
P — Proceed
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
This is an excerpt from my book “Meditations on Self-Love,” — “Every step you’ve taken has led you to this moment, right here and right now, look how far you’ve come.”
In the moment of my mother’s passing, I would have never thought it affected my life in a positive way. In hindsight, it was that moment in my life that led me to where I am today. Her passing led me to meditation and today her spirit leads me everywhere I go. Because of her I’ve traveled to Peru, started skiing again, and so much more.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Enforcing a mandatory self-compassion practice. It all starts with us and ripples outward. If we learned to tend to our own suffering and difficulties and cared for ourselves, we would all be more kind. As the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” If we became so kind to ourselves, especially when we suffer deeply, imagine how kind and compassionate we would be to each other.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!