“Creativity, Mindfulness, and Meditation are Sister Practices” -An Interview With Mariana Orkenyi
Growing up in Brazil with parents who practiced Spiritualism Teachings, Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher Mariana Orkenyi has forever been drawn to spiritual practices. "At our house, there was time for breathing, a prayer, and a circle, we would read parts of different books, and we would regularly talk about spirituality," she told Mindful Feminism.
As Mariana got older, she began doing some exploring of her own, dabbling in practices like breathing awareness and Kundalini yoga. She felt attracted to embodied disciplines that reinforced a mind-body connection. And when she left her home country for Mexico and then Barcelona, se regularly incorporated these into her life.
During her 20's, she got a Masters in Cultural and Arts Management, and in her words, pretty much "flowed" through this second decade of her life.
Mariana's thirties, however, coincided with a big move to Los Angeles that brought on important changes and trials. "When I moved to LA, I hit a bottom that was really hard for me," she recalled. "In this bottom, I shut down all the things I'd been doing my whole life, and I was completely disconnected, so I really had to see how I would reshape myself."
"Dry" is the expression she used to describe her arrival in this new city. "Things were not the way I wanted them to be. It was like life talking to me, and asking, ‘what are you going to do now?’ The flow I had in my twenties wasn't there anymore, and I was resenting that. I was resenting the city, the culture, I wasn't feeling accepted, I felt like I didn't fit in, and I was in that inner search for a long time."
Her comeback was a splendid one. After deciding to slowly get back into her spiritual customs, and seeing the positive benefits that meditation had on her body and mind, Mariana knew she wanted to get “really deep into it” and for "the nerd in her" as she said laughing, this meant doing a year of mantra-based meditation teacher training.
She recalled the realization that came as soon as she began to teach the practice: "I knew that I needed to get deeper tools, to understand more, because once you start to sit and meditate, once you start teaching others to meditate, a lot comes out, and for me, just sitting or repeating the mantra didn't cut it. I wanted to go deep into the behavior, and truly get the psychology of it."
This curiosity led Mariana to study mindfulness at UCLA and Contemplative Pyschotherapy at the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science. There, she got into the weeds of the subject, delving into contemplative psychotherapy, neuroscience, and "learning more about the nature of the mind, the beginning of suffering, and how we can work to get into a path of more freedom."
Consciously accepting she wanted to find her place in the new city, Mariana decided to create Communal, a space in LA for mindful gatherings, dinners, workshops, and weekly meditations. It was through this venture that she was able to meet like-minded people who were exploring similar questions in their lives.
"Very quickly after I opened Communal, I understood there was something in me that wanted to be of service, that's why I chose my career in arts and cultural management in the first place...And around that time, I became pregnant with my daughter, and this profound strength came to me. I got reconnected with my personal practice and started to open up even more. I realized this idea of service was always in me, but I just had to get a little stronger to be able to act on it."
Still today, Mariana serves creative communities as a meditation and mindfulness teacher. She's managed to craft unique connections between both worlds. "I'm very interested in how we can always be talking about creativity, mindfulness, and meditation as sister practices. When you create, you're putting yourself in a place of openness, of not knowing what the outcome is going to be, of vulnerability, so I very much enjoy being connected with the arts, and really like to integrate that into my life."
Taking advantage of the opportunity to speak candidly to Mariana, we asked if there was one thing she wished everyone knew about meditation. "I wish everyone knew that meditation is really an invitation to be curious and ask questions to ourselves. We're not just sitting there, repeating a mantra, and following a breath, we're sitting to get in contact with the body, to see what's going on, to understand what you need today, what's the story today? Meditation is about noticing. When you're meditating, you're including everything that's happening, you're crazy busy mind, your aversion to sitting quietly, your obsessive thoughts, whatever is coming up, you include it with curiosity and tenderness."
This act of getting quiet enough to notice our thoughts certainly takes courage, and for Mariana seeing others show up for themselves in that way has been the most delightful part of her work!
To learn more about Mariana's beautiful teachings, visit http://www.communal-la.com/.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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