with Koren Kiener and Purposeful Living Center blogger J.C. Conway
We are SOOO happy that you are HERE. Welcome to our Part I discussion series about Mindfulness, our journey to the practices, and the benefits that we've discovered along the way. We both made the commitment to ourselves and to you that we would be transparent and authentic in what we share. With this intention, we hope to reveal an honest layer of our personal experiences so that our stories are rooted in truth and human realities. This Part I will give a glimpse to the more detailed accounts in our Part II. Our desire is that you'll enjoy our narratives, and ideally uncover supportive new learnings. Your encouraging interest is much appreciated, and we honor your curiosity. We hope that you will gather helpful insights to aid you along in your spiritual adventure, and share new Mindfulness tools and techniques within your communities!
When I first met J.C.
In the words of Koren
I saw energy. There was an excitement in him that could not be hidden, and it was infectious to those who were around him. I think my first interaction with J.C. was in a high school Freshman year art class. Sure enough he brought plenty of humor into the room, but I also remember him being friendly and nice. It is amazing how people can transform and the length of progress for which they can achieve. I was actually quite surprised upon seeing J.C.’s involvement with mindfulness practices. Through some lense of judgement back then, I got the vibe that J.C. was “too cool" and
perhaps distracted with superficial things. That could have been based on who he hung out with, his sarcasm, etc., but I think he is a living example of noticeable growth and spiritual maturity. Going back to the word energy, which I still see within J.C., I am pleased to see the life that he has created for himself. He has built a family that I can tell he truly loves, he embodies passion for what he does, and he holds value in helping people with enthusiasm. It's been inspiring to reconnect with him, and it has reminded me to never be afraid to cross paths with old contacts.
In J.C.'s words
My name is JC Conway. I am a 29 year old millennial who has spent my whole life on the west coast. Growing up, I played sports, went to good schools and had many friends. My mom and dad raised my brother and me in a typical middle-class family home. School and achievements were a high priority in the Conway household and for much of my life I enthusiastically embraced an achievement mindsetI enthusiastically embraced achievement mindset. After high school I went to the University of Nevada, Reno where I earned my undergraduate degree in marketing and later a Master of Business Administration. Today, I work in corporate America and make a good living for my beautiful wife and me.
That’s the highlight reel of my life, but as we know, life is much more complicated than a bunch of accolades and achievements. What I didn’t tell you is that I’m insecure and don’t always like what I see when I look in the mirror. Growing up in a household centered on achievement led me to believe that the only way I could be seen as valuable to others was to be the best. I spent my whole life trying to prove myself and trying to be worthy of love. No matter what I did to impress others, it wasn’t enough to keep my fear, insecurities and anxiety at bay.
As with many, my shortcomings are what led me to a path of mindfulness. I had been faking my way through life and up the corporate ladder until one day my body had enough. In the middle of a presentation I had done hundred times before, I had a severe panic attack. The attack was so bad that I had to stop the presentation and catch my breath before I could finish. Everyone in the room looked at me with concern and pity and at that moment I knew they found out my secret. I was a fraud; a fake; an imposter; someone who somehow slipped through the cracks of life but now they knew!
After my panic attacked I started to search for answers. What happened to me? I thought I was the guy who was capable of taking on any challenge and excelling. I thought to myself, “if I’m not that guy, then who am I?
These questions led me to look inside instead of outside for the first time in my life. As I continued to search for answers I realized that I had never really thought about how I wanted to show up in this world.
I soon learned that meditation and mindfulness were the best ways to learn about myself. So, with an anxious mind and a battered ego I set an intention to begin a mediation practice. At first my practice was difficult because I had no guidance, but the more I stuck with it, the more insights I gained about myself.
After a few months of meditation I wanted to see if there was more. To my delight, I discovered hundreds of books on mindfulness; books like Radical Acceptance by Tara Brock and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle completely blow my mind and changed my life.
Fast-forward to today and I have been practicing meditation for a little over 2 years. That is but a sliver of time compared to others but the inner peace and knowledge I gained through my practice are no less significant. I can tell you with absolute certainty that mediation has made me a better version of myself. In reality, it has allowed me to be who I always was without fear of failure or the desire to save face. I’m just me now. 100% authentic JC.
My mission is to share my experiences with meditation to the world. I know my story is not unique and I want to help those who are searching for answers like I did two years ago. For me, living fully is a life where I can help people and be the best version of myself. Meditation and mindfulness allow me to work on myself while helping others at the same time.
My hope is that you ask questions, seek answers and look within yourself because you already are, that which you seek.
when I first met Koren
In the words of J.C.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Koren is “sweet”. I can remember our first year in high school together and even then, I could tell that Koren had a kind and gentle soul. Koren was always nice to people back in those days and I have no doubt that she continues to treat people in the same way. With four years of high school together you get to know someone and although Koren and I were never close I can tell you from firsthand experience she lives with a kind soul. Back in high school I didn’t always treat people very well.
I was somewhat of a bully because I was so insecure. Koren never judged me though. We had several classes together and she was always willing to help. I suspect maybe she knew back then that I was lashing out because of insecurity not because I was a bad dude. It’s amazing how times flies and I haven’t seen Koren in years, but I’m not the least bit surprised to see the path that she has chosen for herself. Based on what I experienced in high school, no wonder Koren has made it her mission to help others and improve their lives!
In Koren's words
“People who are courageous still have fear. Move towards the fear, instead of away from it. Find comfort in the present moment, instead of fear for something that hasn’t happened” - Jill Satterfield
What I didn’t know then and what I know now is that mindfulness has been an integral part of my life in some form or another. Within some of my earlier years, I was highly engaged in the arts. In my former ballet days, I was taught concentration of the body through precise alignment techniques and the breath. My piano training instructed me to employ finesse in how I played the keys. My love of drawing prompted me to dedicate awareness to the quality of colors, shading, texture, etc. To name a few of my initial life passions, all of these disciplines taught me another valuable lesson...
how to be present and stay anchored in the moment.
readiness to face the challenges
As we all eventually discover, life has this way of shaking us up and forcing us to really look at ourselves. Though various experiences within my life exposed me to challenges with anxiety, it wasn’t until around age 24 that this condition became glaringly clear. Not only was I in an abusive relationship and later found out that my partner was mentally ill, but I was having frequent panic attacks and scenes of intense mental, emotional, and physical anxiety. It wasn’t just the anxiety that spun a web of troubles for me, but it was the anger and depression that usually became the after effects. I remember feeling hopeless in my inabilities to cope with my own personal hardships, in addition to the damaged relationship that was further keeping me fearful. I turned to what made the most sense to me at the time… YOGA.
When I participated in my first yoga teacher training, I had no other choice in my mind but to say yes to the full experience. What I was feeling at that time felt so raw, real, intense… I needed to find a way through the layers of pain. What I didn’t realize then, was that my consistent practice was gradually breaking me open and forcing me to listen. Showing up for myself in that environment was asking me to sit with what was uncomfortable, observe it, and welcome it into my awareness. Hidden in this experience, my path towards healing began.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I was officially introduced to Mindfulness practices. I enrolled in another wellness-based training with Vaijra Yoga and Meditation teacher Jill Satterfield. During a time when I was struggling with a painful health issue, I was awakened to new healing methods - mindfulness, meditation, and embodiment practices. “When you notice your mind is drifting into the past or future, kindly bring it back to the present moment.” I remember our teacher guiding us through these types of directional insights, but why did it feel so difficult to accomplish? While my body was alive, breathing, and situated in the present moment, I found that my mind was bouncing around in the land of the past, future, and anywhere but in my bodily awareness. I instantly became more curious and invested in what these new tools could offer me. With the supposed promise in mind that these practices could help to alleviate my hypochondriac tendencies and daily anxiety triggers, I decided to jump right in and experiment for myself.
a larger vision
What I didn’t know then and what I know now is that mindfulness is in everything, anywhere, and at anytime. I attribute much of my initial applications of Mindfulness to be a key element in my personal growth and evolution. This devotion to living more compassionately and presently has truly encouraged me to live to my fullest potential. I am further inspired to continue along this spiritual path in creating the best version of myself. It has opened my eyes to the hope that we do not have to live imprisoned by our own suffering. It has illuminated the gift that by being present we remember to be grateful. It has empowered me to realize that it is our choice to craft our experiences through engaged awareness. Committed to leading a more mindfully centered life, this way of being has influenced me to help others in this liberation.
Presently working in both Corporate America and as my own business creator of Koren Kiener Yoga, my vision is to integrate these Mindfulness practices into my diverse environments. I strive to be a teacher and lead through example. I want more people to become familiar with the positive and healing impacts of Mindful living. It is my larger goal to one day lead Mindfulness workshops and seminars within organizational and company cultures. In addition, I intend to pursue my path as a yoga, mindfulness, and meditation teacher. I aspire to reach populations both large and small, and would love to someday be hosted as a TED or TEDx speaker. I hope to increasingly build community with those who are interested in this path. I wish to serve as life coach and mentor to those seeking more in-depth self-study. With an additional love of writing, I plan to more actively pursue this hobby through blogging and other mediums. And with some closing words...
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” - Rumi