Anne-Marie Emanuelli of Mindful Frontiers On How To Develop Mindfulness During Stressful Or Uncertain Times
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Establish a personal mindfulness 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. 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.
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.
Anne-Marie Emanuelli brings over two decades of meditation experience as Creative Director of Mindful Frontiers, an education-based meditation center in northern New Mexico. Retired after 25 years as a classroom teacher, Anne-Marie’s life path and passion are to offer guidance, instruction, and coaching on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She has been teaching meditation to students since 2016, and earned credentials from Mindful Schools, Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness, and completed an 8-week MBSR course. Anne-Marie participates in silent & guided meditation retreats to support her personal practice. Mindful Frontiers’ mission is to welcome a mindful future; one child, family, individual, and community; one present moment at a time.
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 benefited from the guidance and expertise I willingly shared. Now that I am retired from teaching my dedication 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 mindfulness and meditation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Well, let’s see… Over the past year, I applied for several grants to bring Recipes for Wellness programs into school classrooms. When none of the proposals were funded, I was pretty disappointed. Instead of letting this feel like a failure, however, I decided to send the proposal directly to school principals in my region. Many administrators and educators liked the proposal and one school contracted with me to join students from K-8 in a 6-week program called Mindfulness in the Classroom. This experience was so inspiring! Whenever I teach youth about mindfulness I feel recharged and I leave the site with a huge smile on my face. What I learned from this experience is that there is always a way to accomplish what is truly in the heart.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I believe communication is key to healthy work culture. I’ve taken several classes in mindful communication and believe that it can transform the work environment. Basically, mindful communication involves similar principles as Non-Violent Communication with the added component of mindfulness. When we have conversations with coworkers and customers, we need to first ground ourselves and our bodies, arrive with kind intentions, and listen attentively to more than just the words being expressed. There are needs and desires being expressed in these conversations that are important to healthy relationships. Separating our strategies from our needs is one of the main components of this style of communication. To learn more, I recommend Oren Jay Sofer’s book entitled “Say What You Mean
A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication.”
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?
A book that comes to mind is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. The subtitle is Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Chapter Five in this book is entitled It’s Never Too Late and I’d like to mention the following passages from pages 26 & 27.
“It is said that we can’t attain enlightenment, let alone feel contentment and joy, without seeing who we are and what we do, without seeing our patterns and our habits. This is called Maitri — developing loving-kindness and an unconditional friendship with ourselves.”
The chapter continues to explain the importance of self-awareness. Pema is a Buddhist-trained monk so much of her wisdom comes from that philosophical background. I believe we can bring Maitri into our life through mindfulness of the present moment and curiosity of our behavior patterns; surrendering fully to the present moment with compassion, acknowledgment, and nurturing. How this works is that in meditation we build the capacity to be aware of what’s going on right now in this present moment. This is when reality actually takes place. The past is over and the future is out of our control.
Pema writes that we can “practice gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal. Instead of struggling against the force of confusion, we could meet it and relax… In the middle of the worst scenario of the worst person in the world, in the midst of all the heavy dialogue with ourselves, open space is always there.”
I believe that we can handle any situation with mindfulness of what’s going on and by surrendering to it with equanimity. We do not control others or situations. We only control our own responses. We can take a breath, notice what’s going on, and then choose how to proceed with the least resistance we can muster.
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 ultimate goal of being mindful is to find peace in the here and now. Learning how to find this peace is a fabulous 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, the grief of losing a loved one, or simply to carve out a daily moment of non-doing, 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 into what is actually happening.
This practice 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 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. 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 mindfulness 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Strengthening sleep to feel your best: Incorporating gratitude practice and body scans before bed can improve your sleep and overall health. Write about what you are grateful for and then do a body scan (apps can also help with this) to release and relax.
- Embrace creativity: create things that stimulate the mind and the heart. Some ideas are: writing, learning a craft; documenting your life by 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 to understand how to help others.
- Establish a mindful meditation practice for your self-care and well-being so that you can share your experiences with friends and family. We are all feeling anxious and scared during this uncertain time. Together we can improve our mental health and shift our consciousness. Mindful meditation is accessible to everyone.
- Learn as much as you can 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, share what you have learned with others.
- Expand your mind. During this uncertain time in our world, 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. The past 2 years of living through the pandemic have isolated them from their peers and have taken a 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 lot 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 the infinity of mind explained to me 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 belief 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, family, individual, and community; 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 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.
How old can we teach children mindfulness, meditation, and contemplation of self? The very young can sit and color a mandala, walk a labyrinth or follow a finger labyrinth. Eventually, each child can learn to focus on breath, bodily sensations, internal feelings and as a result, benefit from a practice that would last a lifetime.
Lastly, I’d like to mention Families Meditate Together which is another passion of mine. Through a monthly newspaper article in The Taos News and meditation workshops, families bring mindfulness into their daily routine. The monthly article features a meditation teaching followed by a practice that families can do together. By exploring mindfulness together, families can build healthier relationships and learn healthy ways to communicate together which builds resilience to the uncertainty of life.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!