“Breathe together.” With Beau Henderson & Shani Brinkley

Recently, after receiving some troubling news, I got the chance to practice mindfulness. While tears streamed down my face, I repeated, “Even though this isn’t ideal. It is ok and I am ok.” Mindfulness in this moment meant that I acknowledged that I am ok. There’s nothing wrong with me, no harm done, I am […]

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Recently, after receiving some troubling news, I got the chance to practice mindfulness. While tears streamed down my face, I repeated, “Even though this isn’t ideal. It is ok and I am ok.” Mindfulness in this moment meant that I acknowledged that I am ok. There’s nothing wrong with me, no harm done, I am safe and secure. Practicing mindfulness reminded me to focus on truth of my present condition which brought me back to serenity.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shani Brinkley. Shani is a certified health and wellness coach and consultant who loves creating inspired events with her brand, Feed your Wellness. She has been a featured speaker at international travel and business events like Audacity Fest, EPICCON, and Global Success Society. While living in Abu Dhabi, she created her signature event, The Women’s F.I.T.Show.

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?

Mydaughter was 7 years old when I went to pick her up from camp. As I walked towards her, the closer I got the more contorted her face became. She was noticeably unhappy about something. “Naj, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy to see your mom?” I asked. She replied with, “Can we just go?” I asked, “Naj is everything ok?” to which she responded, “Mommy everything is ok, I just want to go. Can we go?” On the drive home, I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. Did something happen at camp? Did someone hurt my little girl? In the car, my panic consumed me and I blurted out, “Naj did something happen at camp? Why were you sad when I came?” Her reply, “Mommy…the kids were laughing at you..they were talking about how fat you are…I didn’t feel good.” My body filled up with embarrassment and guilt, my eyes began to swell up with tears. I gathered myself together and quickly switched the topic. Later at home with a moment to think about what happened, everything sank in. My 7 year old was embarrassed by me because I was overweight. This was the moment I actual felt the impact of weighing over 250 pounds had on my family. I decided I had to change. But how? Diets and exercise plans hadn’t worked before. The turmoil of being obese without hope was overwhelming. I attended “Mindfulness at mealtimes” at my local YMCA and began transforming my relationship with food. I ate slower, paused between bites and simply became present with my plate which resulted in releasing over 75 pounds.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As a single woman, I am comfortable eating meals alone. In fact, my mindfulness at meals practice prompted me to create, “Date Your Food,” workshops. “Date Your Food” means taking the time to enjoy your meals, eating slowly, lighting candles, putting on relaxing music and acting like your meal is your date. One of my clients, Kim was always on the go. She constantly ate in her car and was stressed about gaining weight. During our coaching, I encouraged her to “date her food,” even fast food. One day, Kim pulled into the drive thru at Burger King, pulled out her utensils and placemat then proceeded to “date her food,” in the Burger King parking lot. The picture was priceless! Fast food dining pulled over in a car is mindfulness in real life.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Establish strong guidelines and expectations. Be clear on what your mission is as an employer and as an entrepreneur. Celebrate staff’s victories of all sizes. Have staff take a strength assessment, and encourage projects around those qualities. Treat your staff like you want to be treated; with dignity, respect and direction.

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?

The Me I knew I Could Be by Crystal Phillips. Crystal shared her personal journey releasing over 157 pounds. She shared her story honestly and offered the systems that worked for her success. Crystal’s story made it possible for me to envision my fat release and gave me tangible, realistic strategies to help me become healthier.

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?

Mindfulness is synonymous with being present. It’s the act of consciously moving, thinking, and operating from your present state. Mindfulness helps you focus on what are you feeling and what’s happening now. It is intuitiveness and grace combined. A simple example is watching the leaves blow on a tree. Watching the leaves blow back and forth, observing the flow and not being attached to the outcome is mindfulness.

Recently, after receiving some troubling news, I got the chance to practice mindfulness. While tears streamed down my face, I repeated, “Even though this isn’t ideal. It is ok and I am ok.” Mindfulness in this moment meant that I acknowledged that I am ok. There’s nothing wrong with me, no harm done, I am safe and secure. Practicing mindfulness reminded me to focus on truth of my present condition which brought me back to serenity.

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?

The Physical Benefits; eating mindfully creates the space in your body to relax. When eating quickly your body responds with flight or fight hormones. Mindful eating aids proper food digestion.

The Mental Benefits; mindfulness focuses on the present moment. Habits that lead to worry, anxiety and depression; such as (over thinking or forecasting) are reduced.

The Emotional Benefits. mindfulness of the heart focuses on gratitude and beauty in the current moment. Mindfulness is what’s happening now. Mindfulness can lower anxiety, blood pressure and anger responses. Mindfulness focuses on the breath, creating a relaxed physical and emotional state.

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 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.

  1. Breathe. There is power in the breath. Without air you die. Breathing deeply slows down your heart rate. It shifts the focus from the anxiety of what’s happening to the stillness and calm of your own breath. My favorite breathing strategy was introduced to me by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s a 4–7–8 whoosh breathing technique. One of my clients was a classroom teacher who had a stressful job. I taught her this breathing exercise while working together. She often practiced it when she needed to regroup. It was a regular practice that her students would join in with. The whole class would ‘whoosh’ together.
  2. Give Thanks. Take a moment and have a gratitude praise break. What are you grateful for in this very moment? Think about all the blessings you have. Be grateful for breath, having the eyes to read this, the ability to access the internet, having your health, and exclaim what you’re thankful for. Giving thanks for what you have shifts your focus from what you don’t have to what your blessings are.
  3. Find the pretty. What is pretty around you? Find the beauty in your surroundings. Is there a garden nearby? Raid your closet and pull out all the pretty clothes, jewelry, shoes you love. The pretty is all around you. It’s your friends’ hearty laugh, your baby girls’ drooly smile or the perfect girlfriend selfie on your phone. The pretty is what makes you smile, the beauty that runs through your life. Find the pretty and shift your focus towards it. My pretty. My daughter and I were at a hair salon in NJ, she took one of her earplugs and placed it in my ear, we sat in the window listening to Beyonce while the sun hit our faces. The ‘pretty’ was that I flew into town unexpectedly and this simple moment was nurturing and special. It felt like bliss. Whenever I need to “find the pretty” I reflect back on the simplicity of that blissful moment with my daughter.
  4. Phone a friend. Or Facetime her. “Friends are for the good times, the bad times, that’s why I stay on your side” sang Dionne Warwick. Good friends are priceless. Good friends understand who you are and what makes you smile. Take a minute and connect with a friend, great conversations change your vibe immediately.
  5. Laugh, sing, shout and cry, repeat. Laughter has been known to heal illnesses, mend broken hearts and change the energy of a situation. There are songs written for every occasion; the rhythm, tone, and beat evoke an emotion. Play the songs that make you feel good. Spotify has a range of playlists and when you get in a vibe, it creates a playlist around your song choices. Karaoke is popular because singing your favorite song changes your physical and emotional wellbeing. When we were kids, my brothers and I would sing our hearts out to Whitney Houston’s song, “I believe the children are the future.” We practiced, perfected our best moves and had a great time. Those memories are priceless.

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?

  1. Breathe together. Put your hand over your heart, take a deep breath in, hold it for a count of 5, release the breath slowly. Repeat at least 3 times or as many as brings a sense of calm. During times of distress and anxiousness, we forget to breathe. Breathing slowly while touching your heart refocuses your attention to your breath. Breathing together demonstrates to your friend how to breathe while helping her connect to your calmness.
  2. Say, “even though this isn’t ideal, in this moment it’s ok and I am ok.” There is power in acknowledging what’s wrong, give it space then shift. I learned this phrase from Donna, the Fairy Godmother, saying it is disruptive and affirming. “In this moment it’s ok and I am ok,” reminds you that you are safe, the problem will not take you out, you are fine.
  3. Needs assessment. What do you need right now? Conduct a simple body scan. Start with your eyes; what do I see? Move to your mouth; what do I taste? Ears; what do I hear? Now scan your head and ask; what do I need? Move down from your head towards your neck and ask; what do I need? Continuing scanning your body from your shoulders, chest, arms all the way to your feet, at each interval ask; what do I need? Pausing to ask what your body needs allows you to redirect your focus on an answer.
  4. Remind her of a special moment you two had together. Friends share such special memories that bond one to the other. During the span of friendship there are a variety of stories shared. Take this moment to retell an inspirational or funny memory. Reminiscing sweet memories changes the focus from uncertainty to what was impactful and special.
  5. Stretch, walk, move, and repeat. Put your feet above your head, the blood rushing to your feet helps to rebalance your body. Stand up and hang your head down towards your feet. This stretch helps you rebalance. Shoulder shrugs, hip thrusts, reaching for the sky, and stretching move the energy around your body so that it isn’t stuck. Walking has the same effect. Moving your body helps eliminate depression and fresh air breathes life into your body. Movement shifts the focus from the pain on to expression. Doing these actions with your friend creates a deep connection and offers a great example of how to bring forth calm.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

*EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping. EFT has had transformative effects on soldiers with PTSD by first acknowledging the trauma or pain. Then tap on each of the seven meridians in the head, face, chest, and hand while reciting an affirming mantra. Tapping allows for the pain in the body to be released. While conducting a tapping “cycle” the mantra changes from acknowledgment to a positive statement such as; I release and let go.

*Sound healing. Sound healing uses vibrations created by instruments and sounds used to relax the brain and body. Instruments such as; Tibetian sound bowls, gongs, chimes, rain sticks or binaural sounds evoke a vibration to promote healing.


*Reading an inspirational story or positive message


*YouTube videos of Wayne Dyer; Louise Hay or Preston Smiles

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Life brings me only good experiences; I am open to new and wonderful changes” by Louise Hay. This quote shifts my focus on to what is working. I immediately feel supported by the Universe and surrender to what’s happening, knowing that everything happening is for my good.

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. 🙂

The Love Movement, let’s spread #selflove. You’ve met a person that shines, when you’re around her she feels like sunlight, she radiates happiness and love. She is full of self-love it oozes out. Self-love can be learned and cultivated through words, actions and consistent effort. When people feel great about themselves, they show up as loving souls and make decisions from self love. Self love spreads from one soul to another impacting the world.

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

Find me at www.feedyourwell.info

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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