Q: Igor, how was it for you to have Lower Light’s beginning be in your living room?
Igor: Tom (McConkie) and I have always shared meditation and talking about practice together. When we ended up moving in together in 2011 into this apartment, he started getting a lot of people talking to him about meditation and so they just started meeting right here. For me it was interesting because I was working on the Obama campaign as the Utah State Director and so my whole world was consumed by that. Every little bit of time was spent working. To be able to come here on Wednesday nights and not think about work and to actually have a moment with friends and community, I started understanding community organizing and what was happening around me with a greater sense of purpose. It was really a sustaining force in my life from the very beginning.
Q: How has your practice help shape your relationship?
Madi: I feel like we have similar tools that we are using to communicate or to handle something challenging, even if we aren’t great at it, we are able to come back to the same framework of presence. Even last time when you guys were going to come over for this interview and we were feeling overwhelmed with a conflict and had to cancel. It was really nice to recognize that we needed that time to dive into it and it was comforting to know that we could be honest with you guys and you would understand. I don’t know if we would have handled that situation the same way if it wasn’t for our practice.
Q: What does living in community mean to you right now?
Madi: I guess for me as I am getting older, I’ve noticed that a lot of my relationships are one dimensional, like the people I work with or family members or people who I go out with or girl friends who i’ll have occasional lunches with. I feel like living in ourcommunity, there are so many dimensions to our relationships. We can witness one another in so many different moments in our lives, not just fun friend time, but also really challenging things that are coming up. I appreciate a community that I feel so supported by and also that I feel I can support in those same ways.
Igor: I grew up moving around a lot. I went to 4 different high schools, 3 different junior highs and 4 different elementary schools. Even though we didn’t stay in one place, we ended up coming back to the Salt Lake/Holladay area. I guess I felt like this was my home. I started working in politics and noticed that most people take the itinerate political route, so they get a job on a campaign in Nebraska, get a job on a campaign in Ohio, and then they go to D.C.. It was really early on that I knew that that wasn’t at all interesting to me. I wanted to be here, in a place where I felt I had roots, in a place that I felt had a sense of what community was. That’s kind of been my focus for a while and Lower Lights has really put a fine point on what it means to support one another and to create community. It reminds me how important it is to bring my whole self to everything I do and that I need to listen to others to help encourage someone to be their whole self. I really can’t imagine living my life without that.
Q: What is a gift you have received through practice?
Igor: Something that sticks out to me is the concept of equanimity. Just giving myself radical permission to feel what is going on and acknowledge the truth of what is happening. I’ve had a lot of conflict with my family and with my mom. I remember being with her when she was in a paranoid state and feeling the kid in me getting angry and wanting things to be different than they were. I have a clear memory of repeating to myself, “equanimity” and allowing that word to be a guide to ask, “what am I feeling now?” I remember that as soon as I had done that, everything changed and I could feel myself relaxing into more space to feel. The ability to put that word into action and feel it change the situation through acceptance, lightened the intensity. That is a specific situation, but it happens much more regularly as I spend more time in community and spend more time in practice.
Madi: I can think of a lot of examples, the one I’ll talk about, which I can’t talk about without crying, is when a dear friend of mine died… I was confused and I carried a lot of guilt. We weren’t in a good place in our friendship when he died. Feeling like I’d never had the chance to reconnect with him before his passing was really hard for me. Growing up in Utah at every funeral, they are like “be happy, they are in heaven, everything is fine.” I just always have had a hard time with death because everyone around me has a certainty with death and I have felt alone in my confusion. Being in a community that could hold me in all of that and not give me any answers and encourage me to keep asking questions really changed the way I processed and am still processing his death.
Q: Is there anything left unsaid that you’d like to share?
Madi: I am feeling just so sensitive right now. I am just really aware that this is the room where we grew our sangha. I’ve done a lot of healing in this room.