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Meditation & Mental Health

with Gabriella Wright, Actress and Never Alone Co-Founder

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"The new normal"—how many times have you uttered that phrase in the past few months? It means face masks are the new seat belts. Staying home is the new going out. Toilet paper is king, and banana bread is a pretty close second. But that's just on the surface.

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Oft-overlooked is our mental wellbeing—and if not now, when we're most susceptible to worry, stress and depression, then when?

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"There's always been a stigma to the conversation," says actress Gabriella Wright, who lost her sister to suicide. "The daily state we're all in right now, it's hidden, it's behind the scenes. With COVID-19, we're all experiencing a collective grief. We're in this together. The question is, how do we create a bridge of communication that is all inclusive?"

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Wright, who recently participated in a panel for Elisabeth Rohm's Respect Talks at VB Pacific Palisades on this very subject, is doing more than asking the questions on everyone's mind. She took action.

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Enter Never Alone, a global initiative she co-founded with Deepak Chopra, social entrepreneur Poonacha Machaiah and director Michel Pascal. The goal: to reframe the conversation around mental health and become a resource, both on- and offline, on the subject—including support for loved ones left behind.

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"We need to have awareness," Wright says. "We brush our teeth, we wash our hair… We created routines for our lives that make ourselves better physically. We need to understand that mental hygiene is a normal. Let's make it more available, and accessible."

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While the movement is still in the early stages, there are plans for a digital platform as well as a film, called I Am Never Alone, which was almost completed before the pandemic brought things to a halt. And, yes, Wright plays the starring role: a mother, named Gabrielle, whose son dies from suicide. Filmed in a documentary style by Pascal, it follows her journey as she tries to understand why.

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And then there are Never Alone's community programs. This past May, mindful of quarantines still very much in place, the initiative held a virtual three-day global health mental summit featuring over 105 speakers who shared very practical tools for depression, anxiety and loneliness—you can find the resources, for free, on demand at neveralonesummit.live.

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Learn more in our one-on-one chat with the multi-hyphenate—plus, as a self-described consciousness advocate, Wright shares some tips on meditating to help you find your inner peace.

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Gabriella Wright meditating at a Buddhist retreat with her son, left, and giving a talk about Never Talk, via @ladygwright

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Q&A

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On Grief & Guilt
Once you lose someone you love, there's a big hole. All of a sudden, you're challenged into your own resilience. It's very easy to fall back into the “me, myself and I”—I am sad, I am experiencing this… It becomes a repetitive story that can possibly drive you insane. You become a victim of your own reality. When my sister died, I didn't want to go down that path. You can decide whether to drag people down or lift "them"—and "yourself"—up.
I want to live in pure potential, and lightness of being. And to not experience guilt, which is so common to many who lose a loved one to suicide and mental illness. I say thank-you to my sister for putting light on a blind spot. Of course, I didn't want her to leave and I think of her and experience her every single second of my days and nights. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I have nightmares, sometimes I sleep deeply. It doesn't matter. It's an experience. Ask yourself, what do you do with this and how do you become of service?
Ultimately, this is a human experience and we all are in this human story together called "life," we are experiencing each others pains and joys; this is the natural occurrence that we all have to go through, crowned with our own state of impermanence. The question is to how to live and experience life fully where I can be present to everyone I meet and have a light footprint on earth whilst experiencing joy and happiness, despite the chaos that we are sometimes subjected to either on an individual level or on a collective level like now 2020.

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On Never Alone & Mental Health
Mental health has been something that's been stigmatized as very private. If you have a mental health issue, you're isolated within your family, within your school, within your environment… We want to have an open chain of communication. We need to trigger empathy. Empathy leads to compassion.
With Never Alone, we want people to feel moved INTO action, to reach out and have that sense of togetherness. One thing we're creating is an app, to help people connect and create their own communities, even if small. We want everyone to feel like ambassadors of this movement. If we succeed, humanity succeeds and this goes for everything in life. If we can be triggered at an individual level to become more socially responsible for our loved ones, for strangers , for people on the other side of the planet, for people whom we shall never meet, for our close neighbors, then we have succeeded… Humanity will experience its own born love, its own born compassion, creating a path to more sustainable humanity.

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On Meditation
I've been meditating for almost 20 years now, more than half my life. To quiet the mind is the ultimate freedom. It taught me to listen to an inner voice and to let go. When you're free—of the self-doubts, emotional memories or trauma—you're able to be truly yourself and experience yourself .
Meditation is not about stopping the thoughts; it's not about controlling the thoughts. It actually doesn't matter what you're thinking. It's about being. You're not moving, physically, but everything around you is moving. You're experiencing an extended awareness—pure consciousness.
Our physical form is the tip of the iceberg of who we are; what we are is the infinite behind and between our thoughts. Meditation allows you to go "beyond" your narrative, to go beyond the human construct, to go beyond what we are told; meditation is a way to recreate ourselves and create an ever-longlasting love story with our true selves. It's an adventure that allows us to explore constantly in all ways …
I can safely say meditation saved my life. I keep rediscovering others and myself and this world with constant enchantment and wonder.

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On Meditation with the Elements
Beginners can try meditating with the elements—it's a practice grounded in connecting with nature and the physical parts of the world. For example, for the element of fire, light a candle when you meditate. Gaze at a candle and the flickering flame… You can do the same with the other elements, like running water and the wind, using them as the focal point. For earth meditation, which I do every day, I stand outside barefoot so I can connect with the earth.
Meditation you can do at any time of the day and start slowly. Maybe it’s just a three-minute one in the beginning and then you can add on minutes … Sometimes you will merge into time itself and will not even want to look at the time.
Meditation is also to fine-tune your awareness. How can I hear what others are? Not what they are saying, but how can I experience life as a presence rather than identifying with stories that are holding us back?
I also teach mantra primordial sound meditation as well—that is also a very good tool for the journey. We tune into our unique mantra, which is silently repeated in the mind's eye to experience a direct route to our greater nature.
There is so much I want to share as this has truly been my life. As a mother, meditation has also been the basis of our home, the sacred time that we can use to rediscover one another at home, or if my son is stressed we can engage with a practice together. It's subtle and never an imposition. We should never feel forced into meditation. It should be an agreement with oneself to learn more about who we are truly.

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