Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do
We’ve all heard about people who’ve left successful careers to pursue work that imbues their life with much deeper meaning.
Dena Jackson is one of those people. Dena moved from public relations to become a comedian, a speaker, and a teacher of yoga.
It wasn’t until something tragic happened in my life that I felt I needed meditationDena Jackson
“When my dad got sick and passed away that was the first time someone very close to me died. At that time I got into meditation because I realized how important it was,” continues Dena. “For me it’s about being able to come into the moment and not get lost in the past or worry about the future.
“In the present moment, depression and anxiety and all those negative feelings, there is no space for them in the present moment. If you are being mindful then you don’t experience those things. So I realize that even just for a minute, I have to commit to this.”
Experiencing multiple stresses
Less than a year after Dena’s dad died, she went through a divorce and decided to leave PR to work as a comedian.
It’s about doing what you want to do and not what you think you should doDena Jackson
These changes were stressful and left Dena feeling incredibly sad and as though her life was in disarray. At the same time, they were the catalyst for some profound changes in Dena’s life.
In reality, Dena was depressed and wasn’t treating her body or mind very well. “I said to myself ‘OK, I have to figure out what I’m doing’ because I was doing comedy but I was in a really negative headspace.”
Listening to your gut feelings
Although Dena wasn’t in a great space, she listened to her gut feelings and knew that she needed to spend time alone and remove herself from a toxic environment. In that moment, she decided to go on a yoga retreat, and this accelerated her desire for change.
“I didn’t really understand yoga back then. I just thought it was like any other fitness class. While I was there I had some amazing experiences!” she explains. “I learned about meditation and what meditation was, I learned about yoga and what yoga really was. I became really fascinated with yoga and how the mind works. And it changed me.
“It was like an intensive environment and I learned how to take care of myself. So I’m always grateful to that retreat because it really changed my life. It really shifted me and put me in the direction that I needed to go in and basically since then I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation every single day.”
We can’t avoid loss and change
Today, Dena references this time in her life because “I think it’s important to let everybody know that these things happened to us. Tragedy is going to strike. It’s not going to be when anyone expects it and it’s going to be a terrible thing. I don’t wish that on anyone. But people pass away, accidents happen, anything can happen.
“Case in point, a global pandemic – these things are going to happen in our lives and if we have the proper tools – as I like to call it an emotional tool belt – my yoga practice, my meditation practice, if you have these things in place when tragedy does strike, then you will be in a much better place to handle it when it happens.”
Around the same time Dena became a certified Hatha yoga instructor after completing her training in Goa, India. Today, she speaks on meditation and mindfulness, and uses comedy to talk about these topics in a funny way, in a way audiences can digest.
Does meditation has to have a spiritual foundtation?
There are times when Dena’s practice does have a spiritual foundation. “It really depends on what meditation I’m doing. If you are using an app such as Calm or Headspace or a Sam Harris meditation, it’s definitely not a spiritual practice. So it would depend on which one I am doing. But I do incorporate spirituality into my morning practice.
Discussing the differences between mindfulness, yoga and meditation, Dena says that mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism and the Buddha. Yoga has ancient connections to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Dena believes that if you are interested in mindfulness but don’t want to tap into spirituality, you should go for it. Begin by using an app such as Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer.
Developing a practice can bring clarity and space to your daily life so that you’re not so reactive and feel calmer. In face, something as simple as meditating can actually have a profound effect on your life and health over time.
We really need to talk about mental health
Dena believes that a good practice is essential because “it’s about taking care of ourselves and looking after ourselves. Eating the right kinds of foods, getting enough sleep, all those things that we need to do for ourselves. We can’t give to others if we are empty inside or lacking inside.”
People have been talking about mental health in the west for maybe five years. That’s the level that we’re at now, so we have a long way to goDena Jackson
As an example of the progress we need to make, she says: “I could say to you In front of the group of colleagues ‘I’m just going to the gym after work’ and you wouldn’t think anything of it.
“What if I say ‘I’m going to therapy after work?’ There are lots of people who are in therapy and a lot of people who are understanding of that, but I don’t think it’s quiet at the level as taking care of our bodies is, the way that’s giving a green check mark.Taking care of what’s going on with the mind seems to be almost taboo. There is still fear around it because it’s still new.”
How creatives can benefit from mindfulness and meditation
“Jerry Seinfeld often referred to meditation as just taking time out of the day, just like charging your phone battery. Communications is a great field, but very challenging.” she notes.
Dena recommends that people in communications, marketing and, other creative disciplines create wellness schedules for themselves. Be sure to slot in times when you do kind things to your mind and body. If you can, take a walk in nature, a bike ride, or go for a run. Schedule these things at 3 p.m. or whenever you need your boost.
Dena is keen on promoting good mental and physical health, and says “If you do have a meditation practice and one that’s working for you, be sure to mention it and bring it up in conversation. “
She adds mention an app that works for you, or yoga videos such as Yoga with Adrienne. “You’re not helping the person you’re talking to, you’re contributing to conversations about mental health which I really feel applies to everybody, just like physical health.”
Books recommended by Dena:
The Yogi Code – Yogi Cameron
The Power of Now – Eckart Tolle
Practicing the Power of Now – Eckart Tolle
10 Secrets of Success – Wayne Dyer
Recovery – Russell Brand
The Shadow Effect – Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson
The Universe has Your Back – Gabrielle berstein
Super Attractor – Gabrielle Bernstein
Books recommended by Sheelagh:
The Art of Meditation – Matthieu Ricard
Meditation for Beginners – Jack Kornfield
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
Meditation is Not What You Think – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Real Happiness At Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace – Sharon Salzberg
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction To The Practice of Meditation – Thich Nhat Hanh
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron.
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