Encouraging “Mindful Meditation” as a mechanism for change
Welcome to our May Agent for Change feature. The purpose of this blog series is to bring a little inspiration into our lives. Each month we feature an interview with everyday people creating big changes in their little corner of the world. The goal of these stories is to spark a passion, help you set a goal, or move past some frustration as you work to be an Agent for Change in your own system.
This month we feature Lori Volpe, who encourages the practice of meditation to not just alleviate stress or frustration, but to initiate change in the way we connect to each other and the planet.
SCH: What is a typical day as an “Agent for Change” like for you?
Lori: My days usually include meditation, yoga, preparing for classes, reading, writing curriculum and teaching. Also, the inevitable responding to emails, texts and phone calls.
SCH: How did you get involved with meditation and yoga?
Lori: I’ve had a lifelong interest in meditation and yoga. But during my time as an environmental activist, I turned to it more regularly to help alleviate stress and frustration. The more I practiced, the more I came to view meditation and yoga as powerful mechanisms for inner and outer change.
Meditation helps one work with the mind and one’s habitual patterns of reactivity. When we become familiar with our own mind and become aware of our own struggles, we begin to feel compassion for others – we’re all in the same boat. We start to recognize the interconnectedness of all beings. As our mind changes and as we cultivate compassion, we naturally become sensitive to other living beings and the planet.
SCH: What are some of the biggest challenges or barriers that you’ve faced? How have you dealt with them?
Lori: Anxiety in general and the special discomfort of speaking in front of groups is the biggest challenge I’ve faced. Learning to tolerate unpleasant emotions – a component of mindfulness training – is what empowered me to move beyond what I thought were my limits.
Mindfulness changes the brain. My work allows me to see firsthand the big changes in the lives of people who participate in an 8-week Mindfulness Stress Management Course – less reactivity, more compassion, more sensitivity and awareness. There is a considerable amount of research to support my personal observations.
SCH: Dream Big! If you had no constraints, what would you like to see happen in five years?
Lori: Mindfulness continues to spread as more and more people are discovering its benefits. I believe that if more schools (from elementary on up), workplaces, organizations, medical facilities, etc. make this practice available, we will begin to see a cultural shift in perspective from “I” to “we”. As hearts soften, we will see a greater interest in alleviating suffering in this world, including the suffering that comes from failing to properly care for the environment that sustains us all.
SCH: It’s important an Agent for Change stay inspired too. Tell us about an experience you’ve had recently that really energized or moved you.
Lori: I am always moved when I hear people talk about what has changed for them at the end of an 8-week mindfulness program. But I was also energized by the recent SCH Climate Program. It is easy to get discouraged in this political climate, so to see that many people come to learn about climate change, and to hear the speakers – obviously passionate about the work they’re doing – was inspiring.
SCH: How have you connected with SCH in your Agent for Change role? What ideas do you have about how we might work together in the future?
Lori: I was asked to lead the closing meditation for the SCH Climate Program. From my years as an environmental activist, I know that the work can involve frustration and disappointment. I believe that learning how to be compassionate towards oneself as well as to others is important to preventing burn-out. I would be happy to participate in future events to help support SCH in the positive work that is being done on behalf of us all.