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Women In Wellness: Anne-Marie Emanuelli of Mindful Frontiers On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Pay attention to the positive aspects of our life. Our brain is wired to pay more attention to negative aspects of life. This comes from when survival was human beings’ main concern. By paying attention to the positive, we move our thinking from the limbic brain (fight, flight, or freeze) to the frontal cortex which is responsible for cognitive thinking and decision-making. When we are mindful, we are using our meta-cognition and we can be more aware.

As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Marie Emanuelli of Mindful Frontiers.

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. Recently 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, educator, and community; one present moment at a time. Additionally, Anne-Marie has a history of personal wellness achievements in the area of athletics. She was a competitive swimmer in college and participated in triathlons and trail runs in the 1980s and 1990s. Currently, she stays fit by swimming, jogging, hiking, and biking on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I grew up in the multi-cultural artist community of Taos, in northern New Mexico. Travel and exposure to different cultures have been a huge influence in my life, being from a bilingual family, and living in culturally and ethnically diverse regions. When I think of “wellness”, several topics come to mind: mindfulness, mental health, and physical exercise. I have been swimming at a competitive level since I was a child. Swimming is my activity of choice for overall physical and mental health. I love swimming laps in a pool as well as open water swims which in northern New Mexico means rivers and lakes. My wellness story also includes triathlons and trail running, and athletics is how I met my husband. Even now, in my sixth decade of life, daily outdoor exercise is a top wellness priority.

Mindfulness is a wellness practice that is just as important in my life as physical exercise. It is incorporated into daily exercise by reciting mantras as I swim, walk, bike, and bring awareness to how the body feels going through the movements: feet on the ground, wind in the face, water flowing over the body.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Last year while families were isolated at home and children were engaged in remote learning, Mindful Frontiers offered a pilot program to a couple of elementary classrooms. The experience that had an important impact on my work happened in the fourth-grade class while sharing mindfulness for six weeks. All those sweet faces in small squares on the computer screen had their eyes fixed on me as I taught them about mindfulness of sound, breathing, emotional awareness, body scanning, and mindful eating. After ringing the singing bowl we’d sit silently together for a minute or so before the week’s lesson. At the end of the 6-week program, I received an email from a parent in which she wrote, “The mindfulness series you facilitated earlier this year was such a breath of fresh air and a very special part of this school year. [My daughter] got a lot out of it and I noticed a difference when her days began with you in this way. You also did such a beautiful job creating a warm and calm environment — even through a screen.” I believe this speaks for itself and shows that mindfulness is a wellness practice relevant to the life and education of children and their families.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes are simply opportunities for learning and mindfulness is about staying present in the now, not grasping on the past. The following experience taught me a lot of resilience and perseverance. Over the past 18 months, I have submitted proposals to five different grants and have yet to receive funding. These applications were in order to offer the Recipes for Wellness programs to local schools. The experience was rather disappointing and so easy to take as a personal defeat. When none of the grants came through, I spoke to a business consultant who encouraged me to make proposals directly to local schools. Being determined, I took the bull by the horn and sent out about 20 proposals to school principals. The proposals received some really supportive responses from several schools and educators. Ultimately, I was contracted by a charter school to bring Mindfulness in the Classroom to their sixty K-8 students. This experience was really enjoyable and will lead to more collaboration. The lesson? Don’t give up.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

As I previously explained, exercise and mindfulness are intertwined in my life. Although meditation is primarily about sitting still, mindfulness can be incorporated into anything we do in our daily life. My philosophy of mindfulness meditation includes the “dharma of life” and I take liberty in the definition of dharma which is traditionally used to refer to the Buddha’s teachings. I have learned that the Buddha told his followers not to believe his teachings at face value; rather to experience them in order to fully understand. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who founded Plum Village, a monastic community in southern France, has written and taught about mindfulness. His impact is widely felt outside of the monastic community as a proponent of mindfulness in daily life. According to Thay, “To be mindful is to be truly alive, present, and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car, or take our morning shower… We practice mindfulness throughout every moment of the day — not just in the meditation hall but also in the kitchen, in our rooms, and on the path leading from one place to another.” Being in harmony with life, therefore, brings wellness.

By bringing mindfulness to students, families, and individuals through classroom programs, workshops, and publications, Mindful Frontiers welcomes a mindful future, one present moment at a time. By simply paying attention to what we do every day, from sitting in meditation, walking in nature, relationships with others, and just being mindful in every moment, we nurture wellness. This is my core belief regarding the dharma of life.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My top five lifestyle tweaks are:

  1. Pay attention to the positive aspects of our life. Our brain is wired to pay more attention to negative aspects of life. This comes from when survival was human beings’ main concern. By paying attention to the positive, we move our thinking from the limbic brain (fight, flight, or freeze) to the frontal cortex which is responsible for cognitive thinking and decision-making. When we are mindful, we are using our meta-cognition and we can be more aware.
  2. Be grateful. This is really crucial to wellness. When we are grateful, we attract positivity and joy. Just by being grateful for each moment of our day — one simple thing at a time — we attract positivity.
  3. Bring empathy and compassion to all your relationships. The phrase, “just like me” is a game-changer. When we consider that others have similar needs, we can be more compassionate in our relationships. When there is a conflict we can turn it around and say, “just like me this person wants to feel accepted, loved, appreciated, etc.” and it lessens our reactivity.
  4. Notice what is happening each moment without judgment. Stop, take three deep breaths, and just notice what is going on. Doing this at random times during the day is powerful. We can then proceed with our daily activities with a clear purpose and intention.
  5. Get outside and be in nature every day. This is where mindfulness of movement comes in. Taking our mindfulness practice outside while exercising can bring so much well-being to our life. Being in nature is very nurturing and inspiring. Nature’s creatures aren’t concerned by the uncertainty of life. We can learn so much from those creatures.

Obviously what I believe would bring the most amount of wellness (physical and mental) is mindfulness. All of the tweaks I have mentioned involve being present in our daily life, connecting to our bodies and to the present moment.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

This is an interesting question. Since I’m a mindfulness teacher, I avoid looking back and prefer staying focused on the present. Nonetheless, the 5 things that come to mind are:

  1. This, too, shall pass. Everything that happens is temporary. When we are caught up in the drama of conflict, it is helpful to remember that life changes constantly and we have made it through a lot in our lives.
  2. Avoid making assumptions. Making up a story about situations isn’t helpful. Assuming that we know why others act is not helpful. It is best to simply accept that some things are not of our understanding. Acknowledging what is without reactivity is called equanimity.
  3. Avoid taking things personally. Nothing that happens is personal. When others act in ways that hurt most of the time it is not personal. We do not have control over others. We can only choose our own responses.
  4. Do your best in every moment. Every moment is a new opportunity to do our best. Our best one day may be different another day. Showing and doing what we can is all that is required of us. We are enough in every moment.
  5. Focus on the gratitude in your heart. Tuning in to the language of the heart is where we find empathy and compassion. From a place of acceptance we can be grateful for the little things in life that add up to the big things.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Of these, mental health is the topic that is most relevant in my life. What attracted me to meditation over twenty years ago was health and wellness. At the time, I was dealing with a physical ailment that was affecting my quality of life. Meditation brought me peace of mind and the space to choose what medical intervention was best. Some years later, mindfulness came back into my life as a way to get through the deep grief I was feeling from three student suicides. I decided to share mindfulness and meditation with my students to help us all deal with grief. It was so life-changing that I’ve dedicated myself now to teaching families and children how to bring mindfulness meditation into their life. Meditation and mindfulness have allowed me to accept life’s challenges and to understand my mental health in a way that makes it possible for me to have empathy for others.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Website: MindfulFrontiers.net / Instagram and Facebook: @mindfulfrontiers / Twitter: @mindfulfuture / YouTube channel / Link Tree page

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

828 Followers

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.