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Living Proof

Does meditation work? The first place to look is our own lives. MARGOT SAMMURTOK talks to four people who say it’s made all the difference.

EXCERPT

Lysette Horne
Media Activist
New York City

"I speak out for people who don’t have a voice,” says Lyssette Horne, once a homeless youth in New York City and now a production coordinator with In the Life Media, which works for equality and social justice for the LGBT community by increasing visibility through media. “I’m an activist.”

Horne says her dream is to create documentaries that matter to her, “to inform people who wouldn’t otherwise know.” A passionate storyteller, she says, “I would love to teach homeless youth how to tell their story. They feel invisible. Most of these kids left home because they had no voice.”

She should know. Horne was sexually abused in the home until she was fourteen, when it stopped abruptly. She was sixteen before she told her mother, saying “that’s why I starve myself, that’s why I cut myself.” She asked for help; she wanted to go for therapy. Her mother didn’t believe her and didn’t get her help.

A second attempt to talk with her mother about the abuse she had suffered—and to come out as a lesbian— “wasn’t even acknowledged,” she says.

Robbed of her voice, and feeling invisible and suicidal, Horne made the best of a poor choice: homelessness over death. She surfed a lot of couches and worked a lot of jobs. She was a photographer, always. But she worked in yoga studios too, where she was struck by how centered and giving the people were. “It was there,” Horne says, “that I discovered my spirituality.”

She connected with the Reciprocity Foundation, a New York City agency that focuses on helping homeless youth transform their lives. The foundation offers free yoga and meditation classes to foster a mindfulness practice, part of its “whole person” approach—body, mind, spirit. “That’s where I learned to take my spirituality off the mat,” she says, “and put it into practice.”

Horne says she was taken seriously for the first time in her life. “They understood why it was important for me to use my voice and passion to express how I felt and the burdens I carried for years,” she says. “They understood what most of us needed was opportunity, and they gave us many.”

They connected her with Peter Turnley, an award-winning photojournalist and portrait photographer. Horne worked on a project with him and through him met other people in the field, developing photo credits to build her portfolio. Then Reciprocity Foundation helped her get an internship with In The Life Media. Horne can now use her voice to help others. She coproduced, cowrote, and appeared in the Emmy-nominated documentary Invisible: Diaries of New York’s Homeless Youth. She does workshops, speaking engagements, and Spoken Word performances. She mentors youth.

Horne says she meditates often and does yoga when she can, but “I like to think that my everyday life is a meditation practice. I use it in the real world. I’m using it in New York City on the train and when I’m being kind and compassionate to a coworker who may be having a bad day. Mindfulness, right?”


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