Marla helped her dad raise honeybees when she was a kid in Oklahoma.
She is cofounder of the new “Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness", a network of professionals in the Kansas City area who use mindfulness in their professional lives, and who offer a wide variety of practice and training opportunities.
Marla's first residential retreat with Shinzen was at Conception Abbey in Missouri in the late 1990s.
Marla Herron began learning Shinzen’s techniques 20+ years ago with her first meditation teacher, Bill Hale, who had studied with Shinzen in Topeka, Kansas in the 80s.
I still remember the first technique Bill taught me: labeling body sensations by location. I thought, "This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s insane. How in the heck can thinking about my left toe make me feel better?" But I was desperate. So, that's where it all started.
Like many people, Marla sought meditation after trying other methods for dealing with depression and anxiety. Now, she describes some of the benefits of the depth and breadth of her practice.
The fear of death, the fear that comes in life…when such intensity arises, I have many techniques to choose from. I easily see these windows of opportunity. And with each technique, there are just so many different layers to explore. At first you just use a technique to feel better, and then you go deeper and deeper into all of these layers of spiritual experience.
Having been legally blind since the age of 10, Marla describes one way equanimity has been important to her.
Since I was young when the macular degeneration happened, I was accepting and open to my experience. I just sort of grew up that way. At the same time, deepening my equanimity and working with Don't Know Mind has been very helpful—because I have this persistent delusion that if I was fully sighted, I could have been more successful. I was an overachiever and I did well in school, so much of my life was spent thinking, "Well, if I could see, I could do A, B, or C better.” Realizing these are delusions has led to a profound change with my self acceptance over the years.
And she is indeed very successful by any measure. Marla lives with her family in Kansas, where she is the Registrar at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She also leads mindfulness sessions on campus and in the community.
I offer weekly meditation sessions. Quite a few of the attendees are nurses and doctors -- who are around the pain and suffering of others all day. A year ago, we started a student organization “Mindfulness in Medicine and Healthcare”; I'm the staff advisor for that. Sometimes I’m asked to guest lecture, and, a couple times a year, I offer free half-day retreats. Basically, anytime anybody wants to talk mindfulness, most people know to come and find me. I love it. I just love it.
Most recently, Marla’s been exploring GUS, the Global Unfixated State.
At first, I had no idea what Shinzen was talking about, but I hung in there with it. Then one day, it was like, "Oh! I get it!" The portal opens, and you feel all that expansion and contraction, like arrows are impaling you throughout your body. Shinzen talks about Bernini’s statue The Ecstasy of St. Teresa…Google it, and you’ll see. That’s GUS! It’s been fascinating.
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