Mindfulness is a popular buzzword these days. But what does it really mean to live mindfully? Where does this concept of mindfulness come from? I sat down with Abigail McClam, mindfulness coach, massage therapist, and owner of Lotus Healing Centre in downtown Charleston, to discuss the philosophies behind mindfulness meditation, her thoughts on health and healing, and her own personal experience with food as medicine.
Lotus Healing Centre in downtown Charleston is a calm, serene oasis at the bustling intersection at Spring Street and Ashley Avenue. Walking through the front gates of the Lotus Centre's courtyard, you immediately relax and breathe deeply. Upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful kitchen stocked with healing teas and fresh water. Abigail started Lotus Healing Centre as a place to “connect the dots.” It is a healing center for practitioners from various healing fields—yoga, physical therapy, hormone therapy, massage work, and mindfulness meditation—to work together synergistically to address the whole person in helping heal from illness, pain, or disease.
Abigail’s own journey in holistic healing and mindfulness meditation began just after college, as she had been dealing with chronic pain from childhood illness and surgery. Having managed pain all of her life through medication, Abigail’s body was weary from “masking the pain” with traditional Western medicine’s approach of prescribing drugs for ailments. “Western medicine is helpful and can get you to a certain point. But it is at the moment you choose to deal with what you are choosing not to feel that true healing is possible,” she explains. The young college graduate knew she needed to deal with the underlying issues in her body that were causing the pain, namely chronic inflammation. “The process took about two years. I went completely gluten-free and dairy-free to calm to the inflammation in my body,” McClam remembers. “The long-term use of antibiotics and pain medication had destroyed my gut, and my digestive tract needed time to heal.” Though Abigail is not gluten-intolerant and can now safely eat gluten, removing the gluten and dairy from her diet for a period of time gave her gut the rest it needed to repair itself and reverse the inflammatory cycle.
Abigail considers her childhood illness, and other difficulties that arise in life, a “wise teacher.” Illness and difficulty create what she refers to as a “pause,” a time for introspection, forcing a “learning edge.” The intolerability of the pain, and the ineffectiveness of the Western medical response to heal the root causes of the pain, forced McClam to stop seek to relearn how to live in her body.
During this time of healing and repose, Abigail studied massage therapy in Asheville, NC and learned more about mindful mediation, studying the writings of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and other meditation teachers. Her mother, who lives in Huatulco, Mexico half of each year with Abigail's father, works for Holosync, a company that produces music for mindfulness practice. Spending time with her family in Huatulco and learning from her mother's experiences, Abigail began working with a group of Mexican healers and massage therapists. Through this group of women, Abigail deepened her understanding of the body and the way the body heals. She considers Huatulco her retreat, a sanctuary in the world where she can receive as well as give, and where she learns from the ancient traditions of other cultures.
As a mindfulness meditation practitioner and teacher, Abigail is wise beyond her years. It is calming, even soothing, to be in her presence. As a healer, she seeks to teach others to “get back to embodiment, living grounded in our bodies.” She continues, “The goal is living in response to life, where there is choice and empowerment, not reaction to life, where there is impulse and less consciousness.” Describing suffering, she says, “We can learn to find options within upset. Upset, suffering, will happen. We can choose our mood and our responses. What are the facts in front of me, not the stories in my head based on my past experiences?”
To accomplish this goal of moving beyond reactivity into a life of conscious choice and freedom from destructive impulses, Abigail teaches and practices meditation. The goal in mindfulness meditation is not escaping your thoughts or changing yourself, but learning to be present with what is. Is the sun shining? How am I breathing? What are my thoughts? Is the wind cool or warm? How does my body feel—is there any pain? Listening and noticing without judgment is the core of mindfulness. Once we know what IS, we can respond with choice. We also begin to feel again.
"As people, we have many layers; we are complex.” She continues, “We are all beginners.” This gentle, nonjudgmental approach to relating to yourself, to suffering, and to the daily grind of life, an approach Abigail has used in her own healing journey, can produce real change.
For more information on classes and therapies offered by Lotus Healing Centre, visit lotuscharleston.com ,or visit them at
232-A Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403