For our KNESKO Visionary series, we speak with inspiring individuals who are challenging the new normal and bringing forth an innovative approach and passion to topics that matter. As we navigate these unprecedented times in society, our state of well-being and consciousness is increasingly important.
Our next Visionary, Laurasia Mattingly (@laurasiamattingly), a meditation teacher and Founder of The Sit Society based in Los Angeles, shares with us how we can utilize meditation techniques to combat stress, anxiety, depression and live an overall happier life. Laurasia shares simple tools to begin practicing mindfulness to begin our journey of acceptance and healing, in addition to meditation from her highly acclaimed new book, “Meditations for Self-Love.”
Read on for our interview with Laurasia:
- How did you start your journey with mindfulness and meditation?
It took probably what you would call my rock bottom, which forced me to begin meditation in college. I suffered from debilitating anxiety and then in my sophomore year, my mother passed. At that time in my life, being a 19-year-old college student, I didn’t really have healthy ways to cope. I turned to partying, studying, and spending time with friends so I didn’t have to be alone and feel the feelings that I needed to feel. It wasn’t until I took a meditation class that year that I started to realize, oh my gosh, there’s so much, I actually need to feel here, because the only way out was through. I finally realized the only way I was going to work through these emotions was by getting real with myself and allowing myself to feel. That was the beginning of a long journey in 2011. So here we are in 2021, and my life has changed significantly because of that.
- How has meditation transformed your journey with anxiety and depression?
I actually used to be prescribed medication when I was in my teens as the psychiatrist labeled me anxious and depressed. I thought at that time, okay, I guess this is who I’m going to have to be. I felt stressed a lot and then took pills in order to be happy. After discovering mindfulness, specifically and learning about the science behind neuroplasticity and our ability to rewire our brain. The science is really what dragged me in. Slowly but surely over time, I was able to get off the meds and I’ve been off them since 2014. So that’s seven years now. I always tell my students meditation won’t heal the anxiety, anxiety, or depression, but what it did teach me was how to meet myself in those moments that anxiety or depression arose. So instead of believing those anxious or depressive thoughts as true, I learned to meet those thoughts, those feelings in my body, and what that sensation was like with love. Over time, when those thoughts arise, I don’t let them take control of me by adding mindfulness.
- People often struggle with getting caught up in those kinds of emotions. What is an easy practice to kind get into the habit of mindfulness? Is there a little trick that you do or that you can share?
I do a helpful practice called STOP. S is for stop what you’re doing. If you’re in the middle of a traffic jam and you’re getting upset, or if you’re in the middle of replying to a really stressful email, or if you’re in the middle of visiting a family member in the hospital… STOP, and then the T stands for taking a breath. When you take a breath, O is for observe. Observe whatever feelings you’re feeling. Maybe you observe anxiety or observe frustration. Maybe you observe anger, whatever it is you, just observe. The key part of that observation is to observe without judgment. That’s what mindfulness is. Then finally, the P is for proceed with what you’re doing.
I had just launched my new meditation platform, The Sit Society. Then all of a sudden I got this email about a book opportunity. I found out this later, but they reached out to a number of different teachers and they went with me because they said I was not only speaking the wisdom, but I made it really approachable and relatable as a lot of the current teachings available are more clinical. There are many wise teachers out there whom I love, but there wasn’t a millennial or contemporary voice for meditation.
- Can you share one of your favorite meditations from your book?
This one is called Breaking Open to Life. Life is not trying to break you down. It’s trying to break you open. It’s waking you up to the full texture of life. Many of us view breaking open as something bad or scary or vulnerable, but breaking open is a sign of awakening. You are no longer walking blindly through life, but fully awake. Let life break you open, bleed out. Feel the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows life has to offer. See the beauty and your vulnerability and see the wisdom in your braking. You are getting closer to your truth. You are awake. Notice the tender parts of your heart, rather than trying to hold your heart together, allow the heart to break open and know that you are awake.