I often refer to the practice of mindfulness as a Mindfulness Journey of returning to oneself, not because I believe that we need a major change in life or because we have drifted and deviated from the right path (whatever that may be), but because very often we are not aware of what is happening within us, how we breathe, how we think, how we feel, how others influence us, how we impact others, how we speak, what we eat, where we are in life, and where we want to be… This return to oneself does not happen in a single mindfulness workshop or through a single meditation; sometimes, this journey can last for years. However, it all begins with mindfulness—our conscious attention and willingness to look within ourselves.
My Mindfulness Journey
My name is Vesna Laković, and I admit that it is extremely uncomfortable for me to write this text about myself because my job is such that I am constantly focused on others. And if we are being honest, my nature, character, and many patterns of behavior and ways of thinking have long been such that I was constantly focused on other people—on their needs, feelings, words… That’s why mindfulness was so challenging for me, and that’s why I decided to engage in mindfulness—to get to know a person a little better, a person whom I seem to have neglected by focusing on everyone else. That’s why I defined my first experience with mindfulness as a return to myself.
I encountered mindfulness in 2014 at a workshop that my sister gave me as a gift for my 25th birthday. I didn’t know where I was going or what to expect, and I’ll disappoint you—it didn’t fundamentally change me, nor did a new version of myself emerge that day. Quite the opposite, actually. I had a headache from the meditations, and it seemed like everyone at the workshop was so profound and serene, while I felt like a crazy extrovert who simply wasn’t cut out for such things. But still, something did happen, something changed within me. A restlessness emerged, an awareness that maybe some things I was doing in life, the ways I reacted, behaved, thought, and the quality of my relationships, were not as great and wonderful as I had previously thought. There is one characteristic that I believe will always be a part of me, and that is curiosity. So, it can be said that curiosity led me to mindfulness.
That curiosity led me to further explore this practice—reading, meditating—and a year later, to attend a training to become a facilitator. I initially went to the training to work on myself and deepen my experience in this practice. My plan was to live in the Emirates with my then-boyfriend after the training and make mindfulness a part of my life and practice, without teaching or guiding others in it. However, a change of plans and staying in Serbia prompted me to occasionally hold mindfulness workshops and trainings until I found another job. That idea lasted much shorter than I had thought. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur or be one of the first people in our region to spread a new story or direction. I struggled with myself for a long time,wondering if that was the path I wanted to take. Over time, I received other job offers that, to my own surprise, I declined.
Why a Mindfulness Trainer and Not a “Real” Educator
Even though many people told me that there wouldn’t be interested individuals, that people wouldn’t care, and that I should find a normal job in a school and be a “real” educator (whatever that means), another one of my traits emerged—probably my adventurous spirit (many years later, I realized that it was actually my courage)—to engage in something that was not popular at all at the time and to do it completely on my own. From learning about social media, establishing a company, creating programs, translating, logistics, and who knows what else, my adventure began. In the meantime, I learned about numerous directions of mindfulness—mindfulness with children, youth, conscious self-compassion, conscious leadership… I traveled to Thailand, worked there as a facilitator and advisor for a while. I met my current partner, went through some difficult and significant life transitions, and changed not only as a trainer but also as a person. What has accompanied me all these years is mindfulness and the constant return to myself. Sometimes, these returns were painful and difficult, requiring deep self-reflection, examining my relationships and fears, making changes, and making decisions.
The reason why I didn’t change my decision and move into other professional fields is precisely people. All those who came and went through programs, workshops, encounters, trainings—all those who kept returning, bringing their children, husbands, friends, wives—who came once, then again, and again—who said they felt lighter, that they could finally say to themselves that it’s okay even if everything isn’t perfect, that it’s okay even when they’re not okay, who made significant life decisions, whose lives changed for the better…
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