I never thought I’d be one to want to sit down and just listen to the sound of my breath, but now here I am doing it every single day. My idea of being mindful was chain smoking cigarettes, drinking until I didn’t know my name and then wrapping that order up with a side of almost any drug I could get my hands on. These days I’ve traded all that in for some yoga, working out and meditation with an extra side of meditation.

Meditation was a key player in saving my life. It created an intersection for three things to come together: courage, mindfulness and gratitude.

My story starts with a tough childhood. My parents tried doing their best with what they had but it didn’t work out the best for me as a kid. My mom was a drunk, addicted to drugs, and would often leave at night to go out and party. I wasn’t even a teenager yet when this was going on so I learned early on how to somewhat take care of myself. When she wasn’t in jail, I was living with her (which wasn’t often). When she was in jail, I was with my dad. My dad was never really around either. He’d leave to work at 6am and wouldn’t come home until after 6pm. I remember being in the 3rd grade and having to lock myself in the house until he got home. For a while I lived with my step mom while my dad worked in Texas. Same situation; no one was involved in my life as a parent, so I did the best I could for myself.

My mom being in and out of prison all the time meant I was being tossed back and forth between her and my dad. I never really went to school much because of this so it created a string of learning issues for me. By the time I was 16, she was locked up for a good while. I was forced to come out to my dad because of a letter I received that he saw and I’ll just say he didn’t take it so well. So I left “home” and started living on my own, which is when the drugs and the drinking took over. I was in so much pain from my childhood, that it helped to mask all of that. I had been sexually and mentally abused and had no one to talk to about it. To be honest, I had so much shame around it felt as if this was just the way my life was supposed to be.

Fast forward to age 25, when I’m living in San Diego, California and managing a bar. I was a professional alcoholic and drug user by now–I had it down to a science. I had a partner that passed away from AIDS and it completely destroyed me. So, I did what I knew best: I went out and got loaded on anything I could get my hands on. I was out on a bender for about 3 days and don’t remember most of it until I came to in my kitchen. My roommate was shaking me to get me to come to; I had taken all the plates in the house and started smashing them. I completely broke down.

We agreed that in order to live there I would have to do something to get my life in order. She’d suggested that I start going to yoga at the new studio that had opened up. I had tried yoga a bit before but never took it seriously. That’s when things started to change. I started dedicating the time to get out of my head for a bit. Yoga, as a moving meditation, started giving me permission to slow down. I ended up taking some time off drinking and decided to move to San Francisco up north to change my life.

When I got to San Francisco, I fell right back into my old patterns and started hitting the bottle really hard. One day I woke up hungover and depressed because it all felt so similar. I could feel myself spiraling down again. I felt as if my life was supposed to be full of pain and hurt, that nothing good was supposed to happen in my life. I decided to dive back into yoga because it had made me feel better before. That’s where meditation really came into play. I was taking classes and hearing the messages. I picked up a book on meditation and started a small home practice. Then it became a regular thing.

I started noticing the difference right away. I was able to see thing more clearly. I was able to not be so reactive. My life was changing and it was all because I was more connected to myself. Back in my partying days life was so tough that I tried to kill myself. I had nothing else to live for, or so I thought. I felt like all the terrible things that happened to me were my fault. Meditation gave me permission to stop and not get caught up on all those thoughts, specifically the negative self-talk. It transformed my life in allowing me to take some space and become the person I am today.

Today I have the courage to show up exactly as I am, faults and all. I get to show up and not judge myself. I have never felt more connected to my body on an every second basis. I can really listen in and see what happening. And because I make the time to think about the things I am grateful for, there is so much more joy and happiness in my life.

I sat with this random idea of meditation and yoga and how important they are to me. Recently I got injured and my physical practice has had to take a break. In light of that, my sitting practice has been going strong. It motivated me to create this challenge and get people inspired to be in the NOW. If you’ve been meditating for year, or never have before, this challenge is open to you. Meditation was a key player in saving my life because it gave me courage, mindfulness and gratitude to show up as I do. I hope you’ll meet me at this intersection and join the challenge. Looking forward to 10 days together, sharing our breath.

+++ Join us LIVE on Monday, March 19th at 9am PST via Instagram (@dannipomplun) as we kick start the challenge! And get your meditation downloads via MoveWith here. And we’ll have a Facebook group going to keep the motivation alive. RSVP + invite your friends.

See you on the mat. Much love and good vibes.