Who are the people that make Copper Beech Institute what it is? Meet the silly, serious and thoughtful sides of the Institute's founder and executive director, Brandon Nappi.
My favorite time of day is … Each time of day has its own beautiful texture and energy. I've always felt a sacredness about the stillness of early morning. On most days, I wake up an hour before sunrise when my family is still sleeping. This is the time that feels most supportive for my meditation practice. After sitting, I usually enjoy my morning coffee that my wife Susan lovingly makes for me each day. I spend some time in reflection and set an intention for the day. Usually, my intention is something like: try not to take yourself so seriously today.
I started practicing mindfulness … in my mid-twenties when I was newly married. By that point, I had already spent seven years studying spirituality and theology. It was clear to me that I wanted to spend my life accompanying people as they asked themselves the deepest questions that human beings can ask like: How can I thrive and reach my potential? How can I work with pain? Is there a more graceful way of moving through life? How can I deepen my connection with myself and others?
When my wife mentioned mindfulness on our first date, I was intrigued. I began reading Thich Nhat Hanh and was touched by the simplicity of his teachings. I wondered if I could experience the kind of peace he described. At last, I had discovered a clear way of working with my suffering which had taken the form of stress, exhaustion and paralyzing self-judgment.
Like many people, I read about mindfulness long before I practiced. After nearly every book I read emphasized the role of daily practice, I decided to seek out a teacher. A jolly Christian monk and Zen sensei from St. Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts became my first teacher. At first, I flirted with practice, finding it a challenge to maintain consistency. In reality, it probably took three years before I developed a regular practice to support my life. Every day, I am astounded both by how simple the practice is and how powerful it can be to create ease, connection and acceptance.
Three things I can’t live without are … I'm aware that there are people every day who live without the many comforts that I have. I'd prefer to say, these three things I would not want to live without:
- My guitar. I play almost every day for an hour--classical and finger style. In most Zen monasteries, monks embrace an art practice as a way to bring mindfulness into daily life. I think of playing guitar as an extension of my formal practice.
- Pizza. I think this is self-explanatory.
- Hiking. Each week on Sundays, I disappear into the forest. The simplicity of a hike heals whatever angst has developed in me over the week. I walk with no agenda or desire to accomplish anything. I walk until my feet want to go back home. Life makes the most sense to me in the woods, or better said, in the woods, I give up the need to demand that life make any sense. Creatures are born and live and die. They give themselves back to the world completely.
I teach mindfulness because … I began teaching mindfulness because I wanted to be of service to others and help relieve their suffering. I continue teaching mindfulness because I realize that I learn the most about myself and life when I am teaching. So I teach in order to learn and we all learn from each other; that's how it works.
These three things I never thought I’d be doing ...
- Practicing the Japanese martial art, Ki Aikido which is akin to mindfulness in motion with someone running at you attempting to chop your head off.
- Spending more time in Excel than in Word.
- Welcoming people from around the world to Copper Beech Institute. I have been honored to welcome guests from all over the globe. What a treat to meet so many radiant souls who want be of service in the world!
I’m inspired by … people choosing to be vulnerable and share with others parts of themselves that they have been hiding.
My guilty pleasure is … food of any kind, Led Zeppelin, studying Latin, custom built guitars, the Middle Ages, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Gangster movies — except I don't feel guilty about any of these things.
The best advice I ever got was … learn how to fall down.
The most important things on my bucket list are … playing guitar publicly more often. I have some anxiety around performing with my instrument which has been a wonderful mindfulness practice.
The last thing I do at night is ... offer gratitude for the countless blessings in my life.