Anne-Marie Emanuelli of Mindful Frontiers: How To Develop Mindfulness During Stressful Or Uncertain Times
Reach out to young people. Youth are struggling during this uncertain time a lot more than adults realize. Children, teenagers and young adults have minds that are developing; being isolated from their peers and community is taking a significant toll on their mental health. Youth need adults around them who are healthy role models to help them understand how to embrace self-care, understand healthy media consumption, and make healthy choices. Share what you are learning and exploring with youth in your life with non-judgement and vulnerable courage.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Marie Emanuelli, creative director at Mindful Frontiers.
Anne-Marie Emanuelli brings over two decades of meditation experience as Creative Director at Mindful Frontiers. Mindful Frontiers welcomes a mindful future; one child, one family, one adult, one educator; one present-moment at a time. Mindful Frontiers offers meditation guidance through online courses, virtual meditation classes, videos and one-on-one coaching.
Semi-retired after 25 years as a classroom educator, Anne-Marie’s mindfulness teaching credentials include certificates from Mindful Schools and the 200-hour meditation leader certification program with Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness. Anne-Marie participates regularly in ongoing silent & online meditation retreats and is affiliated with the Mountain Cloud Zen Center and Rio Grande Mindfulness Institute in Santa Fe, NM.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My path to becoming a mindfulness meditation teacher began 20 years ago when I sought out alternative health modalities to heal from a physical ailment that limited my quality of life. Meditation provided the spiritual and emotional support that helped me decide to seek medical intervention. Later, while teaching, I again turned to meditation to help deal with the grief of three student suicides. Mindful meditation became the self-care that I needed and students and teachers at my school benefitted from the guidance and expertise I willingly shared. Now that I am retired from teaching (my second career) my dedicated turns to the success of Mindful Frontier and its mission of welcoming a mindful future by teaching, guiding and coaching families, adults and teachers through meditation and mindfulness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Last summer I retired from the career I’d had for over 25 years: classroom teaching. Since 2017, my dream has been to teach the life-changing practice of mindful meditation. I had decided to retire a long time before the pandemic hit and of course had no idea that the decision would be much more than a career change. As it has turned out, the pandemic fueled my passion even more and brought purpose and focus to my dream. So many people are experiencing mental health challenges during this uncertain time. I am grateful to have been able to create Mindful Frontiers, a virtual and infinite teaching space, to share mindful meditation with children, families, and adults. Years ago, I had no way of knowing that my dream would become essential to healing my community and the world. Mindful meditation is a tool to generate higher consciousness and may fuel the transformation of our society.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I would recommend that leaders read Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead” and also listen to her podcast by the same name. She advocates that effective leaders nurture a culture that accepts vulnerability and growth. Also, “leading with” rather than “leading over”.
The transformation of our society through higher consciousness requires that we let go of the controlling ego and create a work culture based on human compassion. A healthy work culture starts with all people committing to working together towards a common vision for the enlightenment of society.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One book that comes to mind is “Buddha in the Classroom” by Donna Quesada. It was given to me by a colleague when I first began exploring mindfulness in the context of teaching students. I had a personal meditation practice that dated back 20 years and had not thought about teaching others until 2016, when our school experienced the trauma of student suicides.
The book speaks to educators looking for ways to bring peace of mind to their teaching. Quesada uses Buddhist philosophy to explain challenges she encountered as a teacher. The stories fascinated and intrigued me. I knew very little about Buddhism or the historic traditions of meditation when I first read this book. I believe this book fueled my interest in bringing mindfulness into the classroom and ultimately to dream and then create Mindful Frontiers.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Mindful meditation is a life-long practice. It is a journey, not a destination.
Mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat Zinn). The enlightened purpose of being mindful is to find peace in the here and now. Learning how to find this peace is a fabulous and worthwhile journey.
Once a person learns to meditate and makes the decision to incorporate mindfulness into their life, they generally realize the benefits extend far beyond a healing practice. It becomes a state of being and a lifestyle choice.
Whether it is to get through a difficult illness, grief of losing a loved one, or simply to carve out a daily moment of relaxation, everyone can benefit from meditation.
The benefits are plentiful and scientifically proven. A few of these include the ability to stay calm during emotional experiences, to be less reactive to behaviors, to listen more carefully to conversations, and to have compassion and empathy for self and others.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Mindful meditation is present moment awareness that trains the mind and body to relax.
- Meditation quiets the mind and settles the nervous system. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a bodily system that determines how we respond to emotional experiences. It is made up of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems. These two systems are activated in times of arousal or recovery. By quieting the mind’s reactivity and calming down our attachment to emotional thoughts, we settle the fight or flight reactions of the SNS, thereby stimulating the PNS which helps our body and mind come back to homeostasis.
- Another benefit of mindfulness is self-reflection and acceptance. When we practice mindful meditation, we pay attention to our breath, sounds, body sensations and other present-moment “anchors”. In this awareness, we are able to let go of emotions that control us; watching them from the perch of a witness or observer. In this way, we are able to learn that in this present moment all is well.
- Finally, and maybe the most important benefit of mindful meditation is our relationship to equanimity. Through the act of observing what is in the present moment, using kindness and non-judgment, we realize that reality only happens in the here and now. We can accept, acknowledge and allow ourselves and our world through the lens of equanimity.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Establish a personal mindful meditation practice. Seek out meditation guidance and start practicing daily with short meditation sessions, increasing a minute or two each week until you can sit in mindful meditation for 15 minutes a day. From there, you can keep building on this practice until you are ready to attend an extended silent meditation retreat. These are invaluable for personal healing. There are many excellent meditation apps that can help kick-start a personal mindfulness practice. Mindful Frontiers offers virtual meditation circles, online courses, video guidance as well as one-on-one coaching and resources for the new ad seasoned meditator.
- Being of service to family or community: Find something you can do to help your family or community raise their consciousness towards positivity and love. Serving others is a healthy way to find peace and purpose in life. Volunteering in a non-profit or donating used clothing to charity are just a start.
- Physical movement or exercise: Move your body daily! Walking, hiking, jogging, biking, swimming, yoga, etc. This time can also be a form of mindful meditation, self-care and self-reflection. While exercising, we can practice awareness of our body, muscles, breathing, sounds, environment.
- Strengthening sleep to feel your best: Incorporating gratitude practice and body scans before bed can improve sleep quality and overall health. Write about what you are grateful for in a journal and do a body scan (apps can also help with this) to release and relax before going to sleep will enhance physical and spiritual wellness.
- Embrace creativity: create things that stimulate the mind and heart. Some ideas are: writing, learning a craft; documenting your life through drawing or scrapbooking; cooking and baking for your family and friends. These are some creative ways to bring mindfulness into daily activities. The pleasure of creating cannot be overstated.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- “Put your oxygen mask on first” before helping others. What this means is that in order to be in a healthy space to offer support to others, we need to feel good ourselves. Self-care is crucial. Learning how to handle our own anxiety will help us understand how to help others.
- Establish a mindful meditation practice for your well-being and share your experiences with friends and family. We are all feeling anxious during this uncertain time. Together we can improve our mental health and shift our consciousness. Mindful meditation is accessible to everyone.
- Learn about different kinds of meditation. From loving-kindness and compassion, Insight (vipassana) meditation, Zen Buddhism, to contemplative spiritual practices. From a place of knowledge and wisdom, we can more effectively share with others.
- Expand your mind. During this transformative time in our collective consciousness, the more we expand our knowledge and wisdom, the better off we will all be. Read inspiring books and listen to podcasts and teachings and enjoy the confidence and empowerment that comes from an expanding awareness.
- Reach out to young people. Youth are struggling during this uncertain time a lot more than adults realize. Children, teenagers and young adults have minds that are developing; being isolated from their peers and community is taking a significant toll on their mental health. Youth need adults around them who are healthy role models to help them understand how to embrace self-care, understand healthy media consumption, and make healthy choices. Share what you are learning and exploring with youth in your life with non-judgment and vulnerable courage.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Incorporating mindful meditation into your life is a worthy endeavor. Simply wishing to be more mindful and serene is a blind resolution unless we take action. It takes guidance and commitment to establish a mindful meditation practice and is well worth the effort. Mindfulness is a lifestyle choice that has life-long benefits.
There are a plethora of resources available:
- meditation apps are a good place to start
- many meditation centers offer online retreats and teachings
- Mindful Frontiers offers online meditation courses, virtual meditation guidance, video instruction, and one-on-one coaching (see links)
- Commit to self-care: healthy eating, meditation, exercise, good sleep are the foundation of a healthy life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Resilience and Perseverance” is my life’s motto.
Recently, I heard Simon Sinek (The Infinite Game) speak about “the infinite mindset versus the finite mindset.” The concept of infinity of mind explained why resilience and perseverance are so important in my life.
Everything I have accomplished in my half-century of life on Earth has come from an infinite mindset wherein resilience and perseverance led to the realization of many dreams. From a young age all the way to the present moment, all that I have accomplished has been because of determination and believing in the existence of infinite possibilities.
How did I do this? I believe it was by continuously asking, “Why?” “Why not?” “Why not try?” From physical healing to mental healing to professional accomplishments, resilience and perseverance have been the cornerstone of infinite possibilities.
And the vision of Mindful Frontiers also illustrates an infinite mindset: “Welcoming a mindful future; one child, one family, one adult, one educator; one present moment at a time.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Mindful meditation for youth is a movement I believe would have a positive impact on our world. By teaching families with young children the benefits of meditation and present moment awareness I believe the tools/skills learned and incorporated into their daily life would have a long-lasting impact. The reasons I wish to teach young people and their families meditation are:
- to teach students about present-moment mindfulness-awareness.
- to teach them that they aren’t judged by their thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
- to show by example that mindfulness is a way to feel good about yourself, just as we are, in this present moment.
- to model being happy, grateful, loved, peaceful.
- to explain what it feels like to be confident yet relaxed.
The Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” This quote reminded me that teaching mindful meditation and compassionate awareness to youth are ways to encourage a kinder future. I’ve had this idea for a while when contemplating future endeavors in mindfulness.
I’m curious whether teaching mindfulness-based calming practices would be a way to avoid school shootings in the future. What if one would-be gunner had learned mindfulness meditation, and if that child used meditation instead of guns to deal with stress, how many young lives would be saved?
How old is “old enough” to teach children mindfulness, meditation, contemplation of self in the moment? Surely, the very young can sit and color a mandala, walk a labyrinth and follow a finger labyrinth. Eventually, each child could learn to focus on breath, bodily sensations, internal feelings and as a result, benefit from a practice that would last a lifetime.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
LinkedIn: Anne-Marie Emanuelli
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!