by Garrett Heaney
I met Devon Byers through my day job at Hunger Mountain Coop. Via social media, I took notice earlier this year when I read that she had successfully practiced a daily meditation routine, consecutively, for 300 days, and a couple months later that she had meditated every day for a complete year. I expressed interest in interviewing Byers this spring and we finally got around to talking last month, just as she was returning home from a meditation retreat offered through Kripalu.
On Meditation with Byers:
Garrett Heaney: When were you originally drawn towards meditation? What was it about the practice that attracted you initially? Any early influences?
Byers: I was not remotely interested in the practice of meditation when I was introduced to yoga in 2000. I fell in love with the movement practice of yoga asana and considered the meditation piece as something for older people that liked to be still — so — I basically avoided meditation until 2012 when I began an intensive three year training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy.
My teacher would start each class with a guided meditation that directly related to the specific anatomy and topic we would be studying that day. It was during one of these guided meditations that I had a stunning experience that opened me up and I experienced an altered state of being. Boom — mind blown open — curiosity piqued. Diving deeper into my training I quickly learned that a huge aspect of this healing modality required being able to sit and listen deeply to the way the human body functions and thrives. I realized that meditation would be a helpful tool for me as a practitioner — so I sought out local classes to see what it was all about.
Heaney: Fairly recently you reached a milestone of meditating daily for a full year — how has daily meditation benefited your mind and how you experience your daily life?
Byers: In 2013 my marriage came undone. It took about a year before my husband and I were brave enough to take the time and separate because we had two small children and kept trying to put the family first, which was causing more harm than good. After my husband moved out, I found myself with a ridiculous amount of free time I’d never had before and when the kids would be with him, I felt lost and had no idea where to begin healing. About this time, my best friend mentioned how impressed she was that her sister would get up in the morning and, before her feet hit the ground, she would sit and meditate for 20 minutes. This struck me as a good place to start taking care of myself — so I did it.
The trick was — I had only ever experienced guided meditations in classroom settings and had absolutely no experience with meditation all on my own — so I quite literally just sat still and watched myself. I was stunned to feel and see the fluctuations of my feelings and my mind. I passed it off as part of the grieving process and simply let it all be what it was — and what it was was amazing! After the first month I noticed a pattern — that my thoughts and feelings would rise up and after the usual cycles of tears and letting go, I would fall into these quiet, expansive, yet very rich places, that felt like a sweet space to be, and then the busy thoughts would return, and then glide away — much like the ocean tides. I challenged myself to 90 days of meditation to see what would happen next. Twenty minutes, first thing upon rising, staying curious about what would arise. I did not always enjoy the feelings, sensations or stories that would arise! I came up against all kinds of feelings (grief, anger, joy, excitement — the full spectrum), and I was never perfectly still, nor did I have the serene space with the lovely cushions, and I could not even kind of ‘sit’ in lotus position. I stopped trying to shame myself into what I thought the ‘right’ way to meditate. I was motivated to continue because, no matter what rose up in a sitting, when I would finish each meditation, I found myself far more clear and grounded than when I had begun.
Heaney: So physically, mentally, spiritually … were you able to note any changes or progress throughout the course of the year? Any major shifts, breakthroughs or transformations to report on?
Byers: Every meditation feels like a gift I’ve given myself — even the challenging sessions where I spend most of my time in release-repair-review rhythms. The sessions where I spend time rinsing out fear or old traumas from my system are not always graceful or easy — but they are the sessions that have opened my heart up more and more to receive the love and beauty around me. I am far more alive in my sensory experiences. I am more available to my husband and children because I have taken the time to care for myself and let go of all the residue of old patterns and stories. I am far more grounded and present with the clients I serve in my private practice. I have more ideas and energy and creativity. I love myself. I wouldn’t have been able to say that before I committed to my meditation practice.
Heaney: You have a business in town called Breath & Bone, tell us a little about that. What are your main services and where can we find you?
Byers: At Breath & Bone I offer private sessions in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, a powerful healing art in which gentle, non-invasive contact is made with the bones of the cranium, spine and sacrum to release restrictions compromising the flow of health within your whole being. Breath & Bone is located at 7 Main St. in Montpelier. Appointments can be scheduled online at www.breath-bone.com.
Garrett Heaney is an author and artist in Montpelier. His work can be seen at http://ahny.us.