Gabriella Wright appears on our video call and instantly exudes warmth and tenderness. At her home in California, wearing a white button-down, her hair loose and long, Wright settles in with a green juice and greets me just the same as the first time we spoke—with kindness, joy, and a sparkle in her eyes.
It’s not because Wright hasn’t experienced hardships, she has. It is her experiences that led her to an enthusiasm for life, a love for humanity, and a passion for mental health advocacy.
Wright experienced the benefits of meditation after a traumatic experience at 18. “And what that did was, I realized the day and the night of my existence. And when I realized that I was alive. But I was living with these living scars, these wounds that nobody could see... So it felt that a very severe separation was happening and I needed to find the root of that suffering other than ‘Yes, something happened,’ but how do we get rid of the root?” Wright says.
She moved across the globe to New Zealand hoping to experience a release, yearning for freedom from being imprisoned in her mind. “It was a trigger to find a solution,” she says. After reading an advertisement in a New Zealand newspaper that declared ‘free your mind, body, and spirit,’ Wright made a phone call. The woman who answered that call told her to come to a local open-air shopping center, where they met for daily meditation outside on a patch of grass.
Despite feeling uncertain, she showed up. Wright found a man seated by a tree in lotus pose. who gestured for her to join him. So she sat, and she felt a shift. “Already, it made my awareness shift. And I didn't have to tell my story. I didn't have to say who I was,” she says. Wright went every day for three months.
Experiencing the Whole Self
“When you tune into your innate capacity to experience the whole self, you merge with the reality that you see, and you heal the separation. So that is, I suppose the journey, I didn't want to feel separated from anything,” Wright says.
After experiencing her own freedom from suffering through meditation, Wright immersed herself in the teachings of the Tibetan teachers she had met and supported their humanitarian initiatives as well, traveling the world and helping to set up charities and raise awareness.
“When the heart opens into compassionate action… you really dive into what it is to be alive. What is that life that you want to lead? And it's way better to lead a life of loving action, you know, than to just sit with sadness forever. Because it's good to sit for a while, but don't sit too long,” she says.
The Power of Meditation
Now an actor, humanitarian, explorer, and mental health advocate, Wright is dedicated to exploring life, consciousness, and the roots of suffering so that we can find liberation. A meditation practitioner for over 20 years, Wright shares that “I can really say that meditation saved my life because it anchored my whole life. It gave me my purpose, it gave me my everything,”
Meditation’s biggest gift? The space it opens up in life off the cushion. “Once you embed meditation, not as a practice, as a way of living, as a way of being, then you experience that space everywhere you go. And for me, meditation was just that incredible magic. A touchstone to a new reality. And it never stops giving and it's exciting because it takes you on journeys of incredible feats and adventures into experiencing your own self through humanity.”
Wright says meditation is the reason she became a humanitarian because it guided her to turn her care for the world into action. She describes herself as a human explorer, by which she means observing the presence of people in your life through mindful awareness and deep listening.
“You realize that everyone has an experience of some sort, that is related to an incomplete or a non-connectedness and a deep sense of separation or fear,” Wright says. “For me, that was, the essential pathway in who I am today is to always be in the state of deep listening through loving presence.”
Creating Bridges of Communication
Wright’s journey to becoming an advocate for mental health and researching mental well-being tools came through an experience with her younger sister Paulette who experienced a mental health crisis at 21. With support, she made it through. Seven years later, Paulette experienced another crisis, and she didn’t survive. “That was the hidden world of one's mental health. So you can hide how you truly feel and your experience of reality, and the truth is, we never know what is in the mind of the other,” she says.
Wright expresses that her mental health advocacy comes from a deep need to create bridges of communication that allow folks to access helpful tools that allow us to explore how we can heal the existential separateness that we feel, and tune into our union with one another.
“Our mental health is like the last secret, it's like the last frontier. Everyone has, at some point, experienced some extreme sense of mental unease... And so no one is spared, which is interesting because that means that we're all coming from a similar place, we just don't know how to communicate it,” Wright says.
The Journey of Never Alone
Wright’s commitment to mental health advocacy led her to help others build their own mental hygiene toolkits as the co-founder of Never Alone, the mental well-being and suicide prevention initiative of The Chopra Foundation. “Mental hygiene, from the lens that I'm lending to it, is really the tools of self-awareness. So creating strong distinctions in your perception of reality. How do you perceive reality so that what you are experiencing right now does not define who you are?” Wright says.
“Mental hygiene allows you to create a gap from what the pain, the anxiety, the stress, whatever your mental unease, it allows you to create a gap from that realm that you think you are defined by, and that is haunting you that is weighing on you, that you're experiencing in a short fuse circuit. It allows you to create a gap between that and who you truly are. And within that gap, over time, it will expand.”
“You will be able to know what you really need at that point. If you feel, ‘well, this might be too overwhelming, I might need an intervention right now, I might need something that will help me jump over this hurdle that I need right now, that might be a mental health therapist or a community of likeminded people,’ you know, you might need an extra thing. But Mental Hygiene allows you to know that you need that extra thing.”
Along with Never Alone co-founder Poonacha Machaiah and Deepak Chopra, founder of The Chopra Foundation, Wright has worked on several initiatives to share mental health tools globally, in addition to a number of creative media projects, including the Michel Pascal documentary-style feature film I Am Never Alone about suicide prevention and recovery, the Never Alone Artist Series, featuring intimate mental well-being conversations with artists, and the Never Alone app, which connects users to a community of people and resources for mental and emotional well-being.
However, one of Never Alone’s primary initiatives is PiWi, an AI emotional chatbot that offers weekly check-ins with users and resiliency tools, as well as serving as a connection to a mental health support and intervention crisis line and providing 24/7 counseling access for individuals.
The inspiration behind PiWi is very personal for Wright. PiWi is the nickname of Wright’s late younger sister, who died by suicide, whom Wright likes to think is helping from beyond. It also is the very fitting acronym for “People Interacting With Intention”—in its first year PiWi supported 16 million text message exchanges and 6 million minutes conversations with therapists. Additionally, 10,000 high-risk individuals were detected and PiWi intervened in just over 6,000 suicide ideation deescalations.
This is why Wright feels so clearly that mental health is at the center of our well-being. It’s why her meditations for the Chopra App are focused on supporting individuals seeking a pathway to freedom from suffering, and looking for ways to build their own mental well-being toolkits.
Creating Your Mental Space
In Wright’s meditation program on the Chopra App, Your Mental Well-being Toolkit, she explores the meaning of accessing mental space and offers a series of powerful meditations: the Never Alone Meditation, a Mirror of Relationships practice, and Loving Presence Meditation.
“From this program, you can expect to create a deeper relationship with yourself. You can expect to generate from your source of being a deeper understanding, and a more compassionate view of the people and surroundings around your life. You can expect that you have a deep insight into the nature of reality. And those that deep insight can be the basis of your transformation,” Wright says.
Finding Nurturing and Ease
How can we find nurturing and ease during times when we may feel isolated and lonely? “I think the strongest thing during these times is to deeply know, and it's a distinction, but deeply know you're not alone,” Wright says.
“We're all really experiencing this, at many different levels of awareness… we're all experiencing a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It's okay to feel helpless and hopeless. But where you will find your strength is in the experience of your own self, finding that just taking a moment and sitting and listening, because there is so much love, and so much presence in your being that you can tap into immediately.”
“It's so incredible that we have that, it's immediate. So even if you don't have a like-minded community around you physically, even if you don't want to talk to your husband, you don't want to talk to your children, there is that presence there… you just take five seconds. And you just experience it. And in those five seconds, you can experience the eternity of love, the loving presence that you are, that you forgot that you were.”