By Gabriela De Golia, based on an interview with Jennifer Estrella Vanterpool
““I am home, I have arrived.” At first I didn’t get the meaning of that statement and would simply repeat it while practicing walking meditation. But now I understand: I am my own home.”
This revelation came to Jennifer Estrella Vanterpool after becoming involved with the Copper Beech Community, a space that has itself become a spiritual home for her. As the first member of her family to practice mindfulness and to visit an organization like the Institute, she overcame a number of emotional and social barriers to find her way into this space.
“I am the first one to go out and explore mindfulness and come to a place like Copper Beech, a place that offers so much. This is mind blowing to me, and also emotional simply because I’m the first in my family to take this path. My parents don’t speak English and my siblings are teenagers (and not very interested), so it’s just me right now. But I’d like to help change that.”
Jennifer first attended a Copper Beech Institute retreat thanks to a professor from Central Connecticut State University, where she is pursuing a Master’s in School Counseling. Her academic program incorporates lessons on mindfulness and meditation, and one of her teachers organized a day-long retreat at the Institute. After some hesitation about whether or not to go, she finally decided to give it a shot.
“Ever since that retreat, I am a little bit better and stronger each day than I was the day before. I am getting closer and closer to my best self through breathing, walking meditation, and more. And I keep going back because I can see myself continuing to change in a positive way through my engagement with the Institute.”
Jennifer has found ways to incorporate her practice into many factions of her life, including her work and studies.
“I work for an agency that facilitates visits for parents and children who have been separated by the Department of Children and Families, so this can be a very emotionally demanding job. After a particularly difficult meeting, what I like to do to recharge is take a few minutes to just sit and follow my breath so my mind can settle again. And I’ve even taught mindfulness skills to some of the students I teach through my Master’s program, including body awareness and how to respond to one’s own emotions. I learned a lot myself through that process.”
In an effort to help others encounter the practices she has come to value so deeply, Jennifer is now a member of Copper Beech’s volunteer cohort.
“I love volunteering with Copper Beech. I am the oldest child and like to be the one who welcomes others, who helps out, who makes people feel comfortable. I’m not afraid to answer or ask questions and feel comfortable when others come to me with inquiries or concerns.”
When asked to highlight what keeps her coming back to retreats and to volunteer, Jennifer shared the importance of having a sense of belonging.
“It’s really the vibe of Copper Beech that keeps pulling me back. I’m picky about where I go because of how I’m going to feel and whether or not people will be nice and treat me right. At the Institute, I always feel right at home and safe, like I belong. It’s the fact that I feel welcomed that keeps drawing me back.”