Acknowledge and Share Your Feelings- Allow yourself to be seen. Find an outlet where you can express your fears and anxiety in a healthy way. Whether that be to family, friends, a therapist, or a coach, find a place to express what you’re feeling so that the negative energy that those feelings create moves through you and doesn’t get repressed in your body and become toxic and further isolating and anxiety inducing.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mona Green, a speaker, life coach, and artist, who has worked with clients from all walks of life to help them become their best, authentic selves. From former Olympic athletes, Hollywood entertainers, European royalty, Navajo Youth and environmental activists in Latin America, Mona has worked with people from all diverse backgrounds. As a certified Life Coach, ELI-MP, and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, she compliments her coaching practice with an open mind, sharp intuition, a no BS attitude, and a true passion for personal development. As a speaker, she has had the opportunity to speak at the US House of Representatives, Harvard, and the US Department of State among others. She has been featured in publications from The Washington Post to Teen Vogue and was selected by the Obama Administration as a leading change-maker in the fight towards gender equality.
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?
Ifyou had to find one word to describe me it would be ‘curious’. I’m a sucker for the unknown. It has led me to life in ten different countries and in my work so that the first 12 years of my career were spent in the exploration of very different industries. I went from pharma to the World Bank, the World Bank to telecom, telecom to tech, tech to entertainment, entertainment to food manufacturing, food manufacturing to finance and then, in 2014 I went to my first Burning Man and everything changed.
After a week on the playa I came out the experience with 1) a new understanding of what was possible when people decided to buck convention, not to prove a point but to create something different and more in line with who they really are, 2) a strong desire to move back to Europe, (at the time I was living in Washington DC, spent the Burn with a camp full of French people, and had already lived in Italy) and 3) a fire in my belly to become an entrepreneur in order to make the first two happen. I had no idea what it was that I would do, I just knew that it would happen.
A week later, walking down the street I met an incredible woman who ended up being a life coach and the little sister of one of my best friends in 4th-6th grade from my years growing up in La Paz, Bolivia. She and I connected and bonded immediately and it was in our first conversation that coaching came on my radar. That happened on a Tuesday. By that Friday, I was already enrolled in my coaching program and launched my company shortly thereafter. That was almost 6 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
Coaching has captured my heart and imagination in ways none of my other jobs ever did because it presents opportunity after opportunity for me to dive into the universe that is another human being and explores. My curiosity is always online! I’m constantly learning and constantly being surprised at how much beauty and goodness can come out of people when you help them come back home to their authentic selves.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Ugh! There are many but this is one of my favorites…
When I was starting my business, I did an exercise where I looked at companies that I admired to pick up on best practices I wanted to follow and the leaders I wanted to model after. Richard Branson was one of the leaders I identified and Virgin was one of the companies that stood out for me because of its unique culture. I even put the Virgin logo on the vision board I made for Namasme and remember saying to myself that one day I would meet Richard.
Not even three years later, I found myself on Necker Island doing an underwater photoshoot with the man himself wearing a mermaid tail pretending to be a merman. (see attached picture)
How I got there?
I was invited to Necker by someone who I admire deeply, my friend and founder of Supershe, Kristina Roth. As a businesswoman, Kristina was able to do what few can… She came to this country with a laptop and a dream and in less than 10 years built and sold one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States according to Forbes. She’s bold, brilliant, and has a huge heart.
I met Kristina in Paris in 2016 just as she was beginning her new project Supershe and was looking to connect with like-minded women doing interesting things in the world. She had somehow been added to a women’s group I ran online and had expressed a desire to connect with cool women in Paris. I messaged and pointed her in the direction of an amazingly talented chef friend and she replied with a desire to connect with not just my friend, but for me as well. We met a couple of days later and during our interview, we hit it off and ended up spending the day together and having a great time. We kept in touch and as fate would have it, less than a year later, Kristina would invite me to Necker, not knowing that Richard Branson had been one of my heroes for as long as I can remember. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity and it turned out to be a spectacular trip.
For five days I was surrounded by some of the most brilliant minds from Silicon Valley, European tech, Venture Capital, Fashion, world-renowned scholars and athletes, 500 flamingos, some 40 odd sun-loving lemurs, and a very vigilant tortoise. We ate, we laughed, we danced, we sang, we were outdoors all day, and we talked about life and spirituality. We talked about the world, what is coming, and how to do our part to make it a better place.
I had the opportunity to talk to get to know Richard and observe him in his natural habitat and much to my delight was able to confirm that everything that I’d thought about him prior to our meeting was correct. He is a wonderful human being and full of life and in his 70’s keeps his staff of twenty-somethings on their toes with his energy and enthusiasm. More importantly, I noticed that he had two traits in common with everyone I met there…They didn’t take themselves too seriously (as the merman tail in the picture suggests) and were all solutions minded and forward-thinking. If something needed to be done, the question was never ‘if’ but ‘how’. That stuck with me.
The big lesson from that experience was that it’s important to surround yourself with people who push you to stretch yourself in all ways, physically, intellectually, emotionally. People who are creating their own path with courage and who are committed to something bigger than themselves. People who are curious, talented, and satisfied without being complacent. People who don’t believe in the convention because it yields conventional results. Those who understand that you’re never too small to have an impact if you have a vision and a plan, the energy to see it through, and the humility to listen and to know that regardless of how successful you are, you will forever have something to learn. Richard, Necker, and my Necker ‘familia’, without knowing it taught me how to dream bigger than I previously given myself permission to do.
I left Necker full of fire and inspired to grow the impact of Namasme. How? I wasn’t quite sure at the time. I just knew that I wanted to have a deeper and more meaningful footprint on the world and I had plenty of inspiration and references of just how possible is it to make it happen. That trip inevitably led to the creation of Namasme’s Karma Coaching Initiative and for that, I’ll be forever thankful.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
If you run a company, in one way or another you are working with humans and for humans. As such, the people your business touches need to feel seen, heard, and considered in every transaction your business conducts at all levels both internally and externally.
The best companies I’ve worked with as a coach, regardless of industry, have always put people first. Why? Because it’s better for business. From your customers to your vendors, employees, and custodians, when you make people feel like they matter, they are more willing to give you the best of themselves at whatever touchpoint you reach them… They work harder and smarter as employees are willing to be more flexible during tough times as customers, feel more ownership over their work, and become walking spokespeople for your venture.
In a nutshell, caring for people makes them feel safe and significant. When people feel safe and significant, they flourish… and as they flourish, so will your business.
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?
Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ changed my life because it taught me the power of my mind and how to practice cognitive reframing during one of the most difficult periods of my life.
When I was in my mid-twenties, my brother and I assumed full-time custody over my father who at the time was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. Needless to say, my life changed rather quickly and drastically once we brought him to the States from Colombia. I went from being a relatively carefree young adult on the fast track in her corporate career and potentially moving to the Middle East with her serious boyfriend to being alone, broke, and spending half of my time away from work all of a sudden caring (feeding, bathing, changing diapers) for someone who I deeply loved but who I also knew wasn’t going to get better. Needless to say, that was very discouraging.
Within 6 months, I had depleted my savings because he came to us with no insurance and hadn’t seen a doctor in years and I had also depleted much of my mental health. My boyfriend had also had to move back home because his father was sick and he was an only child.
To cope, I started asking the more profound existential questions and looking for deeper meaning to try to understand a situation where I felt I was drowning and there seemed to be no end in sight. It was then that I found Frankl’s work and kind of like Burning Man a couple of years later, everything changed.
Some context: Man’s Search For Meaning is the story of how Viktor Frankl essentially survived being a prisoner in Nazi Germany concentration camps through the strategic use of his mind. Reading his work made it easier for me to stay positive and to reframe what felt like an extremely limiting and frustrating situation into a beautiful opportunity to get to know myself on a deeper level and care for my father like nobody else would be able to.
Though it was to this day the hardest experience of my life, it was also the most formative one in a positive way and for that I’m grateful.
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?
A state of mindfulness is simply a state of radical presence. You are connected to the present moment in such a way that your thoughts are preoccupied only by the here and now. The future and past hold no relevance to you because you know they’re a part of your imagination and that’s it. Your self-awareness is such that you begin notice subtleties both in yourself and your environment that you may have ordinarily overlooked in your waking, auto-pilot driven life. From a feeling sense, you are in a relaxed, open, yet alert state.
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?
- Physical: You don’t carry the weight of perpetual stress in your body. As you become more mindful, your nervous system relaxes and you don’t produce as many stress-related hormones and suffer from their long-term negative effects. Among these, inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, and depression.
- Mental: As your body starts relating to your environment and subsequent stress differently through mindfulness, your mind sharpens and your creativity skyrockets. When the body is in ‘survival mode’ due to unhealthy stress management, function in the creative centers of our brain is limited and our thinking suffers. Mindfulness helps the body handle stress better and thus enables creativity to flow through a more relaxed, yet alert mind.
- Emotional: You’re not a slave to your emotions anymore. Instead, you befriend them and are able to get curious about them. Through mindfulness, you can create a pause between emotional stimulus and full emotional expression. That pause is what enables you to extract what it is that your emotions are trying to teach you about your thinking and where you can potentially shift your perspective to stay empowered. That pause is where you respond rather than react. That pause is where your true emotional freedom lies.
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 coronavirus 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 and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Develop a morning mindfulness practice- This means taking some time to cultivate presence, emotional balance, and mental clarity prior to actively engaging with your day. For me, that means meditating for 20 minutes, doing 10 minutes of breathwork, and journaling prior to even taking my phone off of airplane mode and checking email.
- Make sure you get your DOSE of feel-good neurotransmitters- Balancing our brain and body chemistry is an integral part of empowering ourselves and improving our experience of life. Examples for how to get your DOSE:
– Dopamine: eat almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish.
– Oxytocin: give a gift, share a meal (even if it is over FaceTime)
– Serotonin: spend at least 10–15 mins in the sun
– Endorphins: exercise
3. Dive in…to yourself- We seek external stimulus, connection, safety, and validation from external sources when we haven’t been able to create those things for ourselves. One of the most impactful things that we can do to create a general sense of wellbeing regardless of what is happening in the world is to clean, cultivate, strengthen, our inner landscape. Start reading, watching, and listening to material that instead of helping you ‘check out’, enables you to “check-in”. Knowledge is power and the more you know about yourself, the stronger you’ll feel.
4. Eat better- Stress causes inflammation in the body as a natural response. Prolonged inflammation leads to/is correlated with a host of undesirable long term conditions like depression. Other than our environments, one of the principal ways that our bodies get inflamed is through our choice of nourishment. The bad news? The standard American diet is practically designed to make us and keep us inflamed since it’s full of sugar and processed ingredients that inflame us, tax our body’s elimination systems, and immunity. The good news? We can control what we eat and we can literally eat our way out of at least this one form inflammation and its consequences.
5. Acknowledge and Share Your Feelings- Allow yourself to be seen. Find an outlet where you can express your fears and anxiety in a healthy way. Whether that be to family, friends, a therapist, or a coach, find a place to express what you’re feeling so that the negative energy that those feelings create moves through you and doesn’t get repressed in your body and become toxic and further isolating and anxiety inducing.
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?
- Check-in with yourself first and take inventory of what you can offer- See where you stand emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially before trying to help others. What can you realistically offer? You don’t do anybody any favors by offering to help someone when you aren’t in a position to do so effectively and without resentment.
- Create a safe space for sharing- make sure the person you are wanting to support feels safe in discussing their feelings and fears with you by practicing active listening and reserving judgment.
- Ask- Rather than assume that we know what people need, it’s always best to ask how we can best be of service to them. From personal experience, people’s answers may surprise you and they will appreciate the considerate nature of your question.
- Use the resource that is your imagination proactively to co-create solutions together- If you’ve followed steps 1–3, you’re in a great position to start crafting a different narrative with the person you are trying to help about what is happening and what is possible. You both feel seen, you both feel safe, and you have a clear idea of what is needed… time to put your creativity to good use to come up with ways to channel your attention and resources positively!
- Follow-Up- check in on the people you are supporting often. We feel truly held when there is a pulse in our communication. Remember, the brain learns through repetition so checking in with regularity reinforces the message of caring that you’re trying to convey to the person you’re supporting.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
- Look for ways that you can incorporate meditation into your life- For those new to the practice, starting with guided meditations may be the way to go. There are countless resources online or available through apps on our phones that help you get started. Some examples: Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation series and Calm
- Harness the power of the breath- take an online breathwork course or practice mindful breathing for 10 minutes a day and notice that not only do you start feeling calmer immediately after a session, but you will also progressively feel more serene the longer you practice.
- Read books to help you re-contextualize your life experience and lighten your load- Books like ‘The Four Agreements’, ‘The Power of Now’, and ‘Untethered Soul’ can be HUGE allies in anyone’s personal development path.
- Cultivate a daily gratitude practice- finding time to not just notice but to actively acknowledge the things that are working in your life trains your brain to be on the lookout for them in your daily life. This alone can be instrumental in creating a general sense of well being.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
‘You can’t think outside the box when thinking is the box’
On the most basic of levels, we are undefinable because we are constantly evolving. There simply are no boxes unless we create them!
A lot of my work deals in the mental realm but if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the last 6 years as a coach it’s that thinking alone doesn’t change people’s lives. You can’t just think your way out of a life you’ve unconsciously eaten, breathed, intuited, thought, and acted your way into. This means that those components all have to be a part of creating the new human you want to become. Tapping incredibly powerful yet less appreciated forms of intelligence like those found in our bodies, intuition, and nature is ESSENTIAL for us to truly be whole because they help us anchor what we ‘know’ on a cellular level.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement to bring mindfulness and service as activism to primary school curriculums. It’s important to empower children to be emotionally balanced in a world that encourages the complete opposite. It’s essential that they learn how much power and responsibility they really have over their experience before they fall into the social programming traps that have led us to create a world that only really functions properly for a few at the expense of the many.
It’s also important to teach kids the importance of the proverbial ‘village’… not as a ‘nice’ thing but as a very NECESSARY but also a fun way of living. Community service is a beautiful way of initiating that conversation.