Extending a hand -- an introduction

Since I’m new on the scene, I thought it might be nice to start off with an introduction. I’m Andrea, one of the bloggers at the Dalai Lama Center. You may have unwittingly read some of my earlier posts, but because I managed to avoid completely embarrassing myself thus far (fingers crossed) the fine folk at the DLC have allowed me to emerge from my veil of anonymity. I'm from Toronto originally, although I spent the last few years in Montreal completing a degree in English literature and psychology at McGill University. I enjoy reading, long walks on the beach, and entertaining dinner parties that involve lots of witty conversation and even more good red wine.

On a more relevant note, I’m a total contemplative education junkie. Over the years, I’ve marveled at the nexus between contemplative practice and my studies, as well as the transformational power it’s had in my everyday life. More than anything, I want to make heart-mind education my life work. I want to help children and teachers become more compassionate, resilient, and above all, happier.

In fact, I just attended an amazing Mindfulness in Education Conference and Teacher Training at the Omega Institute. I’m going to be writing a weeklong series of posts about my experience, so stay tuned. However, you may still be asking yourself, “Why is this eccentric person rambling at me? Where do they find these people?” Well, indulge me as I provide a little context.

Perhaps you’re wondering what stirred me to blog for this venerable institution. And even if you’re not, I’m going to tell you, because this post needs to be at least five hundred words. My journey to the Dalai Lama Center began in 2009, when my mom and I attended the Vancouver Peace Summit. We prefer to nerd out a bit when we do some mother-daughter bonding, because we’re cool like that. [Side note: my mom is an unreal lady and is actually far cooler than I could ever aspire to be.] At the time, I was in my second year of university, and my angsty quarter-life crisis had arrived slightly ahead of schedule.

I didn’t know who I was, or where I was going in life. I was halfway through an ill-conceived cultural studies major -- which, in retrospect, probably wasn't helping my little existentialist breakdown -- and I was feeling pretty bleak. [Another side note: if you have yet to go to college, or know someone who is about to, please never major in cultural studies unless you would like to receive a degree in outrageously pretentious dinner party chitchat. Yes, I’m exaggerating... kind of.] When I wasn’t wallowing in my perceived misery, I felt guilty and entitled for being so depressed. My mom, being the wise soul that she is, thought I could use a little perspective, and so I ditched a couple days of school to head west.

Thank goodness I did. Without getting overly sappy, I truly believe that the Peace Summit was a pivotal moment in my life. It gave me some much needed clarity, acting as the spark that illuminated my new path. I have this vivid memory of sitting in the "Educating the Heart" breakout session, totally inspired, thinking: this is what I want to do.

Fast forward a few years and a couple degree changes later, and I’m in my apartment trying to figure out some semblance of a post-graduation plan. (Which, as it so happens, is still a work in progress... I believe some refer to it as “the rest of your life.”) I’m perusing the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education website, looking into graduate school options, and I stumble upon the “Child and Adolescent Development Lab” webpage. The lab is working on a large-scale study of how mindfulness education affects the socioemotional skills and well-being of elementary school students, which is right up my alley. They’re looking for new research assistants, and although it’s a shot in the dark, I fire off my resumé.

Next thing you know, I’m moving across the country, starting work at the lab, learning all about research, and loving every minute. Also, because my boss seems to know everyone in the contemplative education scene -- brownie points if you can figure out who she is -- she connected me with her friends at the Dalai Lama Center. So now I blog for the organization that helped me figure out my passion. And as a final cosmic twist, I was looking through old Peace Summit media and realized my boss was on the panel of the "Educating the Heart" session that literally changed my life. Talk about coming full circle.

It’s trite, but true: the world works in mysterious ways. When the universe extends you its hand, sometimes you need to have a little faith that you’re on the right track and brace yourself for the ride. And really, if I’d never been turned on to heart-mind education that day in 2009, I likely wouldn’t have developed the mindful awareness to notice the signs in the first place.

So now that we’re introduced -- albeit in a totally one-sided way uncharacteristic of any introduction, ever -- it’s time to get down to business. It’s such a privilege to be involved with the Dalai Lama Center, and I’m so grateful that they’re letting me share my stories. It’s been an exhilarating ride so far! I’d love for you to join me on this blogging adventure, and perhaps some of my words will resonate with you.

I mean, I hope so. Otherwise I’m out of a job.

Next stop... Rhinebeck, New York! Stay tuned....


Andrea is a recent graduate of McGill University with a degree in English literature and psychology, and she plans to pursue graduate work in educational policy. As a yoga enthusiast with a devoted meditation practice, she is constantly amazed by the fruitful connections between contemplative practice, her studies, and her everyday life, and she hopes to never stop learning.



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