From Chaos to Calm: Peer mentor Mardi Daley
Mardi Daley is a twenty-five year old peer support worker, researcher, advocate and community builder extraordinaire who sat down to share with me how mindfulness has supported her journey from “chaos to calm”.
Mardi grew up chronically homeless, in and out of shelters and transitional housing since she was 7 years old. But she had grit and a strong determination for a better life. With her housing situation in flux all through her school years, Mardi managed to make her school’s honour roll and get multiple scholarships for university.
She hid her housing situation from her peers through high school, explaining that “I thought I would be judged. I didn’t want to be a pity party for people … I just wanted people to treat me like a normal person.”
As she moved through university, Mardi began engaging with her recovery, living independently, working as a peer and moving from a place of surviving to thriving. It was during this time she was introduced to mindfulness, a practice she describes as “life changing.”
When Mardi discusses how mindfulness impacts her life she reflects back to a time when she found it difficult to get in touch with and identify emotions. She remembers the exact time, place and practice when she recognized the sensations in her body and their correlation to her emotions. Mindfulness has helped her discover where in the body her emotions show up and identify which emotion she is experiencing. It has helped her to learn to take a step back and observe her thoughts, emotions and sensations.
Mardi says mindfulness makes strong emotions “less surprising, you have a level of control over the outcome and it helps me know there can be an outcome that’s not a catastrophe.”
When asked “how does mindfulness help you with your current challenges?” Mardi speaks about her increased self-awareness and self-compassion. She names her busy working schedule combined with the high cost of living in Toronto to be two significant stressors. Mardi indicates that mindfulness has helped her become more aware of her levels of stress and be more attentive so stress doesn’t take over.
If the stress does become overwhelming, Mardi is able to sit down and say to herself “it is ok to feel this way, you have every right to feel this way because it is stressful.” Mardi knows being with uncomfortable feelings is difficult but has experienced the benefits of sitting through the intensity and just observing. She refers to this as “gentle awareness”.
Throughout our conversation I can hear Mardi’s ability to integrate the attitudes of patience, kindness, openness, non-judgement and curiosity to both her joys and her struggles. When asked what she would say to other youth who are curious about mindfulness she says” mindfulness takes time and practice, and while you may not like all practices, for instance I can’t stand the raisin practice, there are at least 10 other ones I am super into so it is important to stay open”.
Mardi is currently a peer mentor with the GROW program, a three-year program bringing mindfulness to over 20 youth-serving agencies. Learn more about the Grow Mindfulness for Youth project
By Christine Bilinski
The Centre for Mindfulness Studies
There are many more people we can currently help. Help us raise money so we can provide more people with access to community mindfulness programs. Meditate for mental health at Mindfulness Challenge 2019 this November 9.