This year's BC Mindfulness Summit has a great lineup of presenters, each offering wisdom and practical skills for participants to use in their everyday lives. We recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Jackie Gay to ask a few questions about her professions, interests and more.
Jackie Gay is a writer, sailor and graduate of ‘Awake in the Wild’ nature meditation teacher training. She has published two novels, a biography and numerous short stories; and has sailed for both adventure and competition. She works as an Activity & Rehabilitation Co-ordinator running pyscho-social activities for people with severe and persistent mental health challenges. She aims to extend nature-based mindfulness practices and principles into healthcare as well as offering classes for people with disabilities and other under-served communities. She loves to sail, swim, write short stories and poetry, grow food, and steward the beautiful local ecosystem she is fortunate to live within, the traditional lands and waterways of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, Vancouver Island.
How did you become interested in mindfulness?
My journey to mindfulness was an unusual one. In 1994 I lost my left leg in an accident in Cameroon, West Africa. I had learned to sail as a child and, in a story too long to tell here, I found my way into Paralympic sailing, first for GBR and then, after marrying a Canadian, for Canada. During my campaign for Rio 2016 I realised that I needed a way to settle my mind in order to sail well - boats are like horses, they respond to your mood, and people generally sail best if they are 'in the moment' rather than focusing on (for example) results. So I started to meditate and took the practice with me when I travelled - there are many docks, lakesides and shorelines around the world where I have sat!
After Rio I knew that I wanted to explore the practice further, so took a MBSR course with Patricia Galaczy (also a facilitator for the summit). The magic moment for me was during the daylong silent retreat, I fully expected to find it torturous and downright weird, but I absolutely loved it, and promised myself I would do a full silent retreat some day. In 2018 I went to Spirit Rock for a week’s retreat taught by Mark Coleman, who developed the 'Awake in the Wild' nature-based meditation practice, and I knew I had found my home.
What do you like about teaching?
Sharing the teachings and tools. Knowing the potential they have for opening the windows and doors of hearts and minds, it is a huge privilege.
My proudest professional moment is…
Well I would be lying if I pretended it was anything but the podium in Rio...
What do you enjoy doing on a sunny weekend in Victoria?
Go sailing! When the sun is out and you're out on the ocean surrounded by shining mountains it is pure joy. I also love to go on adventures with my dog, Zephyr. When skipping through the woods he is the Brahmaviharas personified. The Brahmaviharas are the 'four immeasurables' in Buddhist practice: Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (empathetic joy) & Upekkha (equanimity).
Which talent would you most like to have?
I am embarrassed that I never learned to speak any languages apart from English very well. I am in awe of those folks who speak 3 or 4 languages fluently and fascinated by how that might affect thoughts, dreams, ways of connecting. Which language expresses love the best? Which one would you use for giving directions?
Which famous person (from any time period) would you like to have dinner with?
I would love to meet a monk or nun with a lifelong meditation practice, someone born into a tradition, whose presence or essence is undeniable. I would just sit and soak in what I could. Maybe eat some rice or make tea!
The BC Mindfulness Summit is a weekend educational event for community members and professionals to develop and enrich their personal and professional mindfulness practices. It is developed in partnership with the British Columbia Association for Living Mindfully (BCALM).