March 24, 2021
Like most busy parents, eMindful teacher Zeenat Potia begins her day by attending to her children’s needs. After juggling her teaching schedule with her kids’ remote learning schedules for over a year due to the pandemic, they are now transitioning back to in-person education.
Reflecting on the past year, Zeenat says, “It’s been very challenging…a lot of intense caregiving, and for them to not be in a school environment has been very difficult for them.”
But Zeenat also starts her day with a walk outside and 45 minutes of mindfulness practice, and she credits this with helping her stay grounded through it all.
“I don’t think I would have survived without my mindfulness meditation practice. It’s been a survival tool. I stand on the shoulders of 15 years of consistent practice, and that has given me tremendous gifts and fruits. These years of practice are bearing fruit in so many examples,” she says.
She added that the pandemic has also brought some of the most intense mindfulness teaching of her career.
“People have needed stability and grounding and were seeking out mindfulness. So between caregiving and doing more teaching than I have ever done, I was equipped to hold space for others and for my children as they processed their fear and anxiety in the unknowns of this time. I was also able to experience the joy of the time we did have together while everyone was home. We shared baking and laughter, and I was able to see them grow in a very up close and personal way,” she says.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you discovered mindfulness?
“Growing up in India, I grew up in a city called Mumbai where there are diverse religious practices, so I was always curious about finding what else is out there in the contemplative arts. When I moved to the U.S. for grad school, I started doing a lot of yoga practice and I was introduced to formal mindfulness here at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. Now I can see that what brought me to mindfulness was a lot of suffering and wanting to find some release from that suffering,” she says.
“I felt like I had come home, and by home I mean returning to myself and my true nature. Interestingly, it took me going thousands of miles away from my biological home and making my home in a new country to come home to myself.”
Q: What’s your favorite mindfulness practice?
“It has varied over time. In my early years, I did a lot of mindfulness with sound, and now I would say it’s awareness of breath and open, or choiceless, awareness. With choiceless awareness, you don’t have a specific anchor like breath; you allow the heart, mind, and body to rest as a warm ocean of awareness. So everything is awareness and thoughts, emotions and moods that come and go, and you see them and you let go… you don’t necessarily hook onto them.”
Q: Do you have a favorite eMindful program that you teach and why?
“Mindful Dailies – I love them. I love that people come from all over the world, and I love the sincerity that each practitioner brings. I find it fulfilling how for those 14 minutes, a community comes together and then it disperses. My hope is that people are benefiting from this practice and from mindfulness.”
Q: What’s your advice for people who are curious about mindfulness or just starting it?
“To simply begin…to try it. One of the things I love is it’s an empirical practice – it invites you to check it out for yourself, and when you try it, you will get information. It inspires you along the way,” she says. “Many people come to mindfulness from a self-help perspective, and that’s a wholesome thing, but this is a practice of how to live one’s life and how to show up in the world, and to really be open to the possibilities of what this opens you to. It’s not just a way to lose weight, or get better sleep – be curious and open to the possibilities that mindfulness offers.”
Written by Becky Greiner