Before she began practising breathing and meditation techniques with Awakening Indigenous, Jenny Morgan said she often felt consumed by feelings of pressure and anxiety.
“In my day-to-day life, I have a pretty stressful job,” said Morgan, who is currently the director of Indigenous Health at the B.C.’s Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver.
“I struggled a lot of compulsive thinking and feeling overwhelmed, with a lot of thoughts coming at me at once. One of the issues I had was emotional eating and not really feeling the toll it took on my body, and that kind of builds momentum for an unhealthy lifestyle,” she said over the phone.
Looking for a better way to cope, Morgan met Nathan Zafran in early 2016, who introduced her to conscious breathing and meditation exercises he had fine-tuned in more than 50 years of practice.
“I had done a little bit of research before I met Nathan, and did try different techniques, but for different reasons they didn’t stick,” Morgan said. “What really drew me into giving this a try was that the techniques were easy to learn and practice right away, and it became part of my lifestyle.”
Morgan is now completing her doctorate in education through the University of Western Ontario and works as a sessional instructor at the UBC School of Social Work.
With daily implementation, Morgan soon discovered how certain thoughts could trigger certain emotions from past experiences. Within the first year of practice, she said she lost 60 pounds of weight by using the techniques to help deal with emotional and trauma-based challenges, tapping into what she calls “the sound of silence.”
“It starts with just a feeling … a sense of peace in your body and mind,” she said. “As I began practising I started hearing the sound of silence, it’s a very deep stillness that you can tune into and it will get louder as you start practising the meditation. And that’s where you place your attention and just let the thoughts come and go.”
Morgan then felt driven to partner with Zafran to create Awakening Indigenous, hosting free group sessions that offer breathing, meditation and self-healing services across the greater Vancouver area. As a member of the Gitxsan Nation born in Terrace, Morgan wanted to get herself and Zafran on the road to make the group sessions more available to First Nations and smaller, rural communities, free of charge.
“We really always want to make this free and accessible for everyone. We do pay specific attention to Indigenous communities, but it’s open for anyone to attend,” she said.
In 2018, the two secured funding to organize three trips to other communities in B.C., finishing their first trip in February after they trekked from Vancouver to Prince George and Quesnel. In March, Morgan and Zafran visited Tofino and Uculet B.C. for the second stretch of their tour and embarked on their largest trip yet on May 12 — a full nine days of group sessions starting in Kitimat, then Prince Rupert, Terrace, Hazleton, Witset, Smithers, and Hagwilget.
The group sessions are usually between one to two hours in length and have participants seated in chairs in a circle while Morgan and Zafran co-facilitate. At the end, written and video guides are posted online to their website and uploaded to their YouTube channel, with a newsletter sign-up and links to social media where people can stay connected.
“These techniques can help with high-stress situations, anxiety and depression, and being in a highly stressed environment. It can have an immediate impact on almost everyone who has a group session with us,” she said
Awakening Indigenous will be in Hazelton at St. Peter’s Anglican Church on May 16 at 10 a.m., Moricetown Health Centre in Witset May 16 at 2 p.m., Smithers Public Library at 6 p.m., and on May 17 at Hagwilget Gathering Place at 2 p.m.