Lisa actually, I think without knowing it, has helped me many times through the years based on a single statement she made when she was 15 years old and which I think on every time someone tells me I should change my weight or bust size or dye my hair or change my name in order to fit their perception of what is beautiful. When I was 15, Lisa and I were in a discussion and somehow the subject of laugh lines came up - most people think of them negatively, as wrinkles and signs of aging and death, which we should fight and hide - but 15-year-old Lisa reacted with immediate joy to the mention of laugh lines. She responded instantly, "I smile all the time because I want to have lots of laugh lines so when I am old they will show what a joyful life I have lived." I never forgot that simple statement and it has helped ground me many times.
One thing she talked about for this interview is the challenge of being with someone in so much pain that all you can offer them is your presence. There is pain, she explains, but there is also the creation of that human connection, which is what I think the beauty of film is - like with The Opposite of a Fairy Tale, taking something painful and making beautiful art out of it to share with others. Anyway, I think Lisa's insights could help you, too! So, without further ado...
Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your practice.
LISA: I am a psychotherapist and meditation teacher, and I currently have a private practice in the suburbs of Atlanta. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different therapeutic approaches over the years, but I have been repeatedly drawn back to approaches that emphasize mindfulness and self-compassion. Helping people learn how to be present with whatever is coming up of them in their experience with an attitude of openness and kindness towards oneself. These practices and teachings date back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha, but there is a growing interest in mindfulness currently in this country, and a movement toward integrating these teachings into modern psychotherapy. I also teach at a local insight meditation group, where we get together to practice meditation and discuss Buddhist teachings.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your practice and why?
LISA: I love my work. For me there is very little distinction between my work and play, and in my free time you can often find me curled up with a book about Buddhist psychology, or listening to teachings online. There is something really revolutionary about introducing this teaching to people, and it can really turn their whole worldview upside down. I remember my own feeling of excitement and energy when I first came to the practice of meditation and Buddhism, and I love seeing that in others when they first begin to have tastes of what this can offer. When you ask about challenges, what comes to mind are those times of sitting with someone who is really suffering, who is really experiencing deep pain. There are those times when all we can offer if our presence. This is the reality of what they are facing, and sitting with them in their pain has to be enough in those moments. This can be painful, but is also often an experience of human connection.
Do you have any DIY/at home stress relief practices you could share with us?
LISA: I encourage all of my clients to start a daily meditation practice at home. Even if you start with a short sitting of 10 to 20 minutes a day, people can experience real benefits.
Do you have any recommendations for people seeking either mental health counseling for stress and life balance and/or meditation practices or other ideas for generally creating balance and tranquility in life?
LISA: In finding a good therapist, the personal relationship is far more important than a person’s degree or where they went to school. I would ask friends or health care providers for recommendations, and then consider meeting with a few different therapists. If you don’t feel a connection, you don’t feel that the person is attuned and understanding of your situation and your experience, it’s fine to keep looking.
If you are interested in learning more about meditation, I also recommend finding a local group to support your practice. These teachings really do go against the stream of our busy culture, and it can be really helpful to have the support of a spiritual community in maintaining a meditation practice. There are also a lot of online resources offering guided meditation and teachings.
**Interviewer's Note: For those in the Atlanta area, Lisa works with the Roswell Meditation Center (www.roswellinsightmeditation.org) and, if you'd like to learn more, will be offering a meditation instruction on October 17, 2016. If you are reading this long after October 17, 2016, or not available on that day, but in the Atlanta area and curious, just check out the website for a variety of different offerings to help introduce you to meditation and/or help you maintain your practice!
What does the phrase "Ethical Is Beautiful Be Beautiful" mean to you and your practice, if anything?
LISA: I love this phrase. A lot of my clients have struggled with really negative messages in our culture about how we need look or how much we have to weigh to be beautiful. In remembering that Ethical is Beautiful, we are opening to an alternative worldview. Rather than chasing the latest diet or facial moisturizer promising eternal youth, we are cultivating practices of kindness and compassion, to benefit ourselves and others.
**Note: To listen to Lisa's audio, simply click on her photo, above. We left in a few "mistakes" to keep the recording genuine and heartfelt.**