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Lions Roar : March 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 50 Living Proof Does meditation work? The first place to look is our own lives. MARGOT SAMMURTOK talks to four people who say it’s made all the difference. Isabel Adon Social worker THE BRONX AS SHE COMMUTES to work in the Bronx, ninety minutes a day each way on public transit, Isabel Adon meditates and lis- tens to mindfulness talks on her iPad. “What I have now that I didn’t have before on the bus and the trains is the ability to be in stillness even when surrounded by craziness,” she says. “To not be reactive, but really take a look at the feelings that come up in me. It’s a whole new way of being that I didn’t have before meditating.” A decade ago, she was a mental health counselor at a school in Harlem, helping kids who were under severe stress from prob- lems at home and elsewhere. One day her supervisor invited her to a meditation retreat. “I trusted her fully, knew the kind of life she was leading—that was my gateway into my meditation, and I haven’t turned back.” Her first experience was a four-day silent retreat for people of color at the Garrison Institute, in Yonkers, New York. She was apprehensive but once there, Adon says, “It just felt so right, like I always belonged, like there was something I always knew about but didn’t know how to access. We all have buddhanature, we just have to let it unfold.” Now a social worker in an inpatient children’s psychiatric hospital, Adon never knows when her world will be rocked. The hospital, like most, is understaffed and the workers strive to do the impossible. It’s her daily meditation practice that keeps burnout at bay by helping her stay in the moment. Most children are there for six months or more. Many have been victims of physical or sexual trauma and have many agencies involved in their care. Besides their psychiatric problems, Adon says, they may be dealing with multiple other stresses in their lives, including the court system, guardian agencies, and their families. One of the things she finds helpful is using mindfulness to calm herself before taking action. “When I deal with the kids, I pause first,” she says, “because they can become assaultive and dangerous.” Substance abusers, peo- ple with HIV, homeless ado- lescents, and victims of sex- ual and domestic assault are some of the vulnerable pop- ulations Adon has worked with. She volunteers as a rape crisis advocate, work- ing in emergency rooms to support women by helping them negotiate the system, explaining their rights and what might happen. Most of all, she lets them know they’re not alone. “Meditation practice has been a transformative experience— expanding into my work, my life with my partner, my life in all aspects,” Adon says. Now she goes on retreat regularly, belongs to a people of color sangha that meets twice a month, and participates in a C2D (com- mitment to dharma) in-depth study group led by senior teachers. PHOTOSBYLYSSETTEHORNE