"There are too many miracles going on to fuss."
A Moment with Awaken!
As part of our interview series with our Board of Directors, this month’s conversation was with Ashley Baptiste. Before diving into this, I want to highlight that during this conversation Ashley seamlessly shifted between answering my questions and attending to her 18th month old daughter. It was immediately evident that Ashley embodies what it means to live mindfully and I hope reading this conversation gives you a glimpse of that.
Awaken Pittsburgh: So to start, I’d love to hear how your interest in mindfulness and meditation began?
Ashley: Mindfulness specifically, I got into because of my sister. She invited me to a 31 day challenge, and I really didn’t know what it was. But, I said ‘okay I’ll give it a whack’ and they gave us a workbook of things we can do everyday. And I thought ‘Oh this is mindfulness? I’ve already been doing these things.’ They just kinda packaged it in a nicer way. That might have been around 2013, and I’ve been practicing since.
Awaken Pittsburgh: What were some of these elements of mindfulness that you had found yourself already doing?
Ashley: Just checking in with myself, and saying ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ Making sure I felt grounded in each situation. And the thing about mindfulness is it overlaps with lots of other things. So I like to do yoga and check in with my chakras with meditation... So there are different terms for it, but they are sort of this same thing of taking that deep breath, being present, zoning back in, and checking in with yourself and others. It’s been happening more at work too. And it’s important to be able to work with all these different people and different energies to focus on a goal.
Awaken Pittsburgh: Do you have any advice on how you go about bringing those tools into the sphere of relationships?
Ashley: Honestly, the biggest thing that helps me when I talk to others when we may not be on the same page is realizing this is a different version of me that I’m interacting with. So to have that compassion, to have that patience, have that grace. Because you’d want someone to do the same for you since we’re all just trying to get our point across and communicate. That was the biggest thing for me when I used to take the bus a lot. Getting on the bus you meet a lot of people and a lot of strange things would happen to me… So there’s always something going on, but having that awareness going in, it was always a breeze. Since I knew in my mind ‘this could be you. This is you, since we’re all connected. So I can’t get too angry because that’s you Ashley.’
Awaken Pittsburgh: Is that something you think you cultivated? Or is it something you always had?
Ashley: I guess I just started asking myself ‘Why?.’ If something bothered me, I would just ask myself ‘Why? Why does that matter? Why? Why’ and it always came back to self. It was my experience, something that may have happened to me. So if I’m seeing that in someone else it’s because I’m seeing my reflection, so how can I be upset?..And then becoming a mom too. I wanted to parent in a meditative state--and it’s been a breeze. People really had me scared, like, ‘It’s hard. Stack up on your sleep now. It’s gonna be crazy.’ But I feel like she’s allowed me to have so much more patience. Because she’s just learning everything knew, it makes things simpler.
Awaken Pittsburgh: It would almost seem ridiculous to get upset at them for exploring their world. But that’s what we do with other people all the time. Other people are just out being themselves and it frustrates us somehow…
Ashley: Right, right.
Awaken Pittsburgh: So this month in our Awaken Practice Community we’ve been exploring the idea of “Staying Centered in Challenging Times.” Do you have any times when you feel thrown off center and have practices to bring you back?
Ashley: You know what, if it gets really, really crazy. I pray. I would pray for that person. And I’d be really specific too. I might put a word out there, affirm it. This is what I want to be true, then so be it. And then just move on from it. Because you have to make a choice in that moment to either hold that anger or let it go. And I realized if I’m the only person hanging on to this chaos, how is that gonna get me anywhere?
Awaken Pittsburgh: What advice would you give to people who are deterred by the idea of sitting meditation? Thinking if they can’t find 10 or 20 minutes to sit then they shouldn’t practice at all.
Ashley: I mean don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself. Treat yourself to those 5 or 10 minutes. It might be doing something mindless. It’s okay. But just to have that time, any time, it could make the world of difference. We deserve it. You deserve it.
Awaken Pittsburgh: Are any specific things that you hope to get across to your daughter as she gets older?
Ashley: To be herself. That’s the most important thing. And everything isn’t going to always go as planned. But yeah, I just want her to be herself and have compassion for other people. We’re just so quick to respond and not really think that it is someone’s mother/father/brother/sister/daughter/son. And you never know what kind of day someone is having. I just want her to have that love for other people.
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