Deepening Stillness: An Interview with Landra Eliopoulos
We sat down with WITHIN teacher Landra Eliopoulos to find out how she got started meditating, and get her thoughts on how (and why) to practice mindfulness. Here’s what she shared with us.
How did you get started with meditation?
I entered my meditation practice through the door of yoga. I connected to the movement and the flow of the asana. However, sitting still, going inward and being present with my breath and my thoughts was a foreign concept. As the years went on, I began to soak in and crave the few moments of meditation at the beginning of class and at the end in savasana.
The few moments of silence and stillness became my refuge. It was where I found peace, ease and a creative flow.
Interested to know and learn more, I attended a few local guided meditations sessions and regularly listened to Deepak Chopra's chakra meditations. I was hungry to find a teacher with wisdom, who has been living the path of meditation. It was serendipitous that I found my teacher Jill Satterfield, who has 35 years of experience. After meeting her in person, I knew she was the one I was looking for. I signed up and completed my 200-hour embodied mindfulness meditation training, attending retreats and teaching ever since.
What led you to begin teaching meditation?
I didn't enter the training to teach. My goal was to deepen my practice, learn and embrace Buddhist philosophy & psychology, and integrate these lessons practically to my life.
Like most people that seek out embodiment practices, I was searching for a way to reduce suffering. I had experienced heartbreak, death of loved ones, stress and anxiety in my life.
Roshi Joan Halifax once shared a quote: "we have to stop treating trauma like a gift and see if for what it is, a given part of the human experience." This practice has helped me work through so many emotions. As a result, it has deepened my love and relationship with myself, and equipped me with tools. I gradually became drawn to sharing it with my community. I see it as a service and an honor to teach others. Teaching keeps me honest and anchored in my own practice.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting started with meditation?
Yes, you CAN meditate. Yes, you ARE doing it right. Set aside expectations, judgement, the need to grasp for results, or have to know how long you need to meditate to get "x" result — as challenging as it may be. Be curious and playful. Be open to the experience. At the same time be gentle with yourself.
This is a practice, it’s not about perfection.
It's a practice in faith and patience and investing in what can't be easily measured or seen. It can be felt, and will lead you to the peace and ease that you may seek.
Going on meditation retreats is often described as a key part of deepening practice. What have you experienced on retreat?
All retreats have been challenging and rewarding. There are always those special moments where my thinking mind's volume turns down and I am truly living that moment, in my body and heart. Retreats are sacred — you spend days practicing, eating and co-existing with people for a set time without communication (including eye contact), and yet the human connection and energy can be felt. There is also time spent in nature, which I find to be so nourishing for my soul. I've had moments of awe taking in a star-filled sky, and feeling the energy of giant redwood trees.
I go through a roller coaster of emotions in a single retreat. To be honest, there is anticipation and excitement even a week prior in preparation.
The first few days I am usually met with a bit of resistance, at times discomfort, then a wave of relief and letting go arrives, and from there it ebbs and flows.
For me, retreats create space for my body to communicate what I may not have been listening to or ignoring. It creates space for me to practice living in the present moment and process past experiences at a deeper level (i.e. enter more "roller-coaster city"). During my last retreat, I was surprised at deeper layers of sadness that came to the surface, about an experience that I "thought" I had worked through. I find silence and stillness are great teachers, even though I don't always like what they have to say. And yet the experience builds a deeper connection within.
What’s your favorite way to incorporate mindfulness into your day?
I talk about this practice all the time with my students. Mindful walking around the city is effective — putting away technology and fully engaging your senses within the environment. Taking in sights, sounds, smells, and slowing your walking pace to feel your feet touching the ground. Making a point to make eye contact with strangers, smile and really notice your environment. It’s interesting to see people's reaction and response, as well as experience what emotions run through your body.
In a single walk, one can experience overwhelming joy witnessing true humanity and turn the corner to meet heartbreak or discomfort.
The practice is to remain open to that moment, let it flow through you, feeling what you feel, and noticing what you notice.
What do you love about teaching at WITHIN?
The connections I get to build with students. The feedback and learning that I receive from students on what they are working through and what brings them to the practice.
I leave every session feeling inspired.
Oftentimes in class, someone will share a struggle they are facing or a difficult emotion. It is brave, it is inspiring, and a reminder to us all that we are seeking tools to reduce our suffering. It bonds us as a community and reminds me that we are not alone in our pain, loss, anxiety, stress or loneliness.