Sep 14, 2011

The Year of Living Mindfully

There's something about Lisa Ray that makes you want to look closer. Perhaps that's one reason the jade-eyed Canadian actress - well known for her roles in Water and Cooking With Stella - captivates a global audience and was recently listed as one of Canada's 50 most beautiful people. When you talk to Lisa, it doesn't take long to realize her beauty goes far beneath the surface.

Lisa has been a long-time yogini, and in early 2009, Lisa's yoga practise served her in a brand new way. She says it may have even saved her life. While in India she took a break from her hectic modeling an acting schedule and delved into Moksha Yoga teacher training in Kerala. Undertaking long days of studying and practice, she was on the mat at least twice a day.

"It was because of the training and the immersed experience we were going through, that I tuned in and realized something was amiss in my body." Lisa says her energy levels were waning and something didn't feel right. Shortly after her training she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare cancer which affects the white blood cells.

Lisa endured many months of treatment and a stem cell transplant with a grace and spirit she's known for. "I used visualisation and asana even during the most challenging days of my treatment. I also learned very quickly to treat my body with compassion."

"I believe my attitude during this period was entirely informed by my yoga and meditation practice, though not necessarily in a conscious fashion. This is the incredible thing about a consistent practice; it penetrates so deep you don't even realize the changes until you need to draw on your inner resources. It was a great testament to the fact that my practice over a decade had planted seeds."

In early 2010, after her diagnosis, Lisa was declared cancer-free, and she couldn't wait to get back on her mat. "I went back to regular practice to detoxify myself of the toxic drugs I had to take, and began to rebuild my health."

When asked to share advice for others who are on a similar journey, Lisa happily obliges. "Having cancer is stressful on so many levels. Go back to the breath at all times. From sitting in a waiting room to sitting in chemo daycare, I sat with my breath, found space within myself and was therefore able to maintain a buoyant attitude. I became a 'witness' to the entire experience. It was like a crash course in guerilla meditation."

While Lisa is feeling and looking great, her experience has encouraged her to create a little more balance in her life and learn to slow down. "I fiercely guard my space and me-time which I've never done before. And I keep searching for small antidotes to our modern pace of living: it could be as simple as taking a time-out to walk by the lake. And I don't feel compelled to answer emails immediately anymore."

Inspired to embrace new opportunities, one of Lisa's latest adventures includes opening a beautiful Moksha Yoga studio earlier this summer in Brampton with partners Paris Moghtater and Anette Mellor. In time, and with more research and study, she dreams of helping those healing from a life-threating illness through her yoga studio.

While Lisa says she's inspired by many of her teachers, including the monks she studied with in Dharamshala and Moksha co-founders Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, Lisa is an inspiration and example of triumph to countless people around the globe.

(Source: Sweat Equity Magazine - Fall 2011 / Erin Moraghan)

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