This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens. Please check back weekly for new posts.
Writer, Meditation Teacher
Where were you born?
New York City. My mom likes to tell the story about when she went into labor and made my dad drive her into Manhattan (from Long Island) during a blizzard, just so that she could give birth to me at Beth Israel Hospital.
Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve been living in Astoria since December 2013.
How did you get involved in mindfulness?
In high school I went through a difficult time–family illness, my own health issues, and you know, being in high school. My art teacher gave me a book about meditation and said he thought it would be helpful. So I tried it. It WAS helpful. It gave me a way to experience some stability within myself and the health of my body and mind, and it was a time of the day that was just for me. It felt like a way of caring for myself. It still feels that way, though now for me my meditation practice has become more about caring both for myself and for others. I study and practice at the Interdependence Project, and did their teacher training program as well as the training program at UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
As a writer, I’ve gotten so much from my meditation practice: ways of working with self doubt, self criticism, and distraction; embodied writing–connecting with emotion in the body as a way of engaging with memory; ways of deepening writing through opening the senses; investigating my emotions and thoughts. I’m primarily a nonfiction writer and write a lot of personal essays, so having a deeper understanding of myself and how I’m engaging with the world benefits my writing.
What do you love most about Queens?
The people I’ve connected with in the neighborhood. I’ve made some great friends here. It’s a very creative and generous community.
Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Sometimes when I just get of the subway and start walking down 30th Avenue, I’ll get kind of lost in thought. It’s the same street I always walk down, the stores are familiar so my attention wanders to planning dinner or the emails I need to write. Then I turn south onto my street, and suddenly there’s this expanse of sky opening above the apartment buildings. And as soon as I see that–the color of the sky, the shapes of clouds–the mental chatter settles down, and I just feel happy that I’m walking home.
Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
The Astoria Bookshop. Lexi has made that space so inviting and wonderful. I’m kind of in awe of her.
The Astoria First Presbyterian Church and Art House Astoria. Pastor Thia at Astoria First is a really inspiring person, and the church offers some beautiful community events. Art House Astoria puts on some great shows and artist salons, they get very creative with their programs.
The Noguchi Museum. My boyfriend Kris and I sort of started dating there. But don’t everyone go rushing there. Kris likes it because it’s quiet. Astoria Coffee. I like their tea selection, and it’s a good place to get work done. But don’t everyone go rushing there. I like it because it’s quiet.
I organize Mindful Astoria, and we meet every Wednesday night somewhere in the neighborhood for guided meditation and discussion. On Saturday April 11th, I’m co-leading a daylong meditation retreat at Astoria First with my friend Paul Sireci. I also have several 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses starting in a few weeks. Writing-wise, I’m working on a travel memoir about my obsession with a 19th century Irish playwright, as well as a collection of personal essays. And probably a writing-related meditation event this summer with Mission to (dit)Mars, so stay tuned for that!