Mindful Reflections with Crystal McCreary

Crystal McCreary will be visiting in November to host a workshop on Mindful LivinG so we interviewed her to give you a little insight into her life and the vision behind her work.

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1. What influenced you to start teaching yoga and meditation?

Rolf Gates. He was my first African American yoga teacher and was the teacher manager of a new studio in Union Square in New York City. I found him just after I had arrived from California. He was a God send and I felt he was the first teacher I ever had who truly saw me as a student and human being. After a short time of practicing with him, he insisted that I learn to teach yoga, though I had been quite reluctant to year’s prior, fearing that having to teach others would impact my own ability to enjoy personal practice as truly personal time VS. time I'd spend thinking about the well-being of others. Teaching meditation came later, and I began to see its importance as an explicit practice when I began teaching kids yoga. With children and adolescents I needed deep restorative practices and contemplative practices to refill my well keep me grounded amidst their naturally active developmental state and all the huge emotional and social needs my kids presented in class. A second yoga teacher some years later named Jason Ray Brown who was also a Buddhist taught a way of meditating that truly resonated with me to support my own welling during that very stressful period of my first few years of returning to the school classroom as a yoga and mindfulness teacher.

2. What keeps you motivated to do this work?

The revelatory nature of watching people tap their own bodies, mind, and hearts as well as their communities as resources for well-being despite some of the most challenging circumstances. I get to watch people's miraculous transformations day in and day out. And this is powerfully motivating.

3. For an absolute beginner, how would you describe Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the full spectrum of your life experience. That's it. And it is deceptively simple. Sharon Salzberg tells us that it is the remembering to do it that is hard, but not the doing it. The mind is like an excitable puppy that is constantly getting distracted by things, and because of this tendency, we end up missing the magical unfolding of life before us. Mindfulness trains the mind to bear witness, moment to moment to all that life brings. And what a gift that is! The mindfulness practices we'll do during the workshop will offer tools to support one's capacity to make your mind an ally, rather than be dragged around by emotions or tossed about by the mind's whimsical distractions.

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4. What if I think my mind is too busy to practice meditation, what can I do?

There is no rule written in stone that says people with busy minds are failures at meditation. In fact, quite the contrary must be true because most people do have very busy minds, yet still practice meditation. Mindfulness is about paying attention to what is happening, by encouraging your mind with gentleness to observe whatever is the point of focus, a basketball, your walking feet, your food as you chew, your speech. Just about any activity can become a mindfulness practice when you observe it with a sense of curiosity, kindness and breath . By noticing, we create the space to choose where we might want to put our attention, and in that moment of space, there might even be a little lightness or peace, but a busy mind is actually the perfect place to start a mindfulness practice because it offers to much explore and work with.

5. For your upcoming workshop in Grenada, Cultivating a Mindful Life: Mindfulness Meditation 101, what do you hope people walk away with?

Community. Connection to themselves, others and the environment around them. Simple, accessible practices that can be built into one's daily schedule and routines for self-care that don't require a long break in the day, but rather a few short minutes of time.

6. What else do you have planned for your upcoming trip to Grenada (opportunity to let people know you are bringing a group down on retreat) and what other excited events do you have planned for the future?

I am very excited to be bringing my very first retreat group from the U.S. to beloved Grenada to True Blue Bay Resort and Spa from November 8-13! I love this island so much and I'm just happy to be able to share it with so many friends and students who want an authentic Caribbean experience. We will also have daily yoga in the morning (and some evenings) during that stretch, and I'm happy to offer an affordable drop-in rate for anyone who cares to join us for class! I also have a retreat coming up next April in Tulum called Embodied Love: A Transformational Yoga Retreat for people of color. I am really looking forward to holding space for the healing, rejuvenation and resiliency building of my brown and black brothers and sisters. Check out my website retreats page for more details.

Check out photos from Crystal’s past workshops at Spice Harmony yoga