DAILY MINDFULNESS: Practicing mindfulness in all aspects of our life can generate an overall feeling of gratitude. One can choose responses and be grateful for all that which we have in our life, from the sun rising each day, to the work we have, the food that nourishes us, the people we love and the home in which we are safe. Each day is a new creation and each moment a new opportunity to be grateful.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Marie Emanuelli.
Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience to welcome a mindful future. Mindful Frontiers is a center located in Taos, NM, USA that offers mindful meditation guidance and instruction to families with children; as well as parents, adults and teachers who are seeking self-care options during this time of pandemic restrictions and new world paradigm.
Semi-retired after 25 years as a classroom educator, Ms. Emanuelli’s mindfulness credentials include certificates from Mindful Schools and the 200-hour meditation leadership program at Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness. Ms. Emanuelli also participates in online meditation retreats to support and grow her personal practice.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
I grew up in the artist community of Taos, in northern New Mexico. Travel and exposure to different cultures has been a huge influence in my life, having grown up in a bilingual and multicultural family, and living in culturally and ethnically diverse regions. Over the span of my education, I studied several school years in France as well as Pakistan. My father and mother were educators and my father was also an agronomist. My husband is a Taos Pueblo native and together we have a beautiful daughter who embodies our diverse ethnic and cultural origins.
My professional background includes art and education. Prior to establishing Mindful Frontiers, I was a classroom teacher at middle, high school and university levels for 25+ years, during which I taught many subjects, including French, Graphic Design, Photography, Computer Applications and English Language Arts. Before education, I had a long career as art director, advertising, graphics and website designer as owner and art director of Emanuelli Advertising Design.
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 my life’s focus and students and teachers at my school benefited from the guidance and expertise I willingly shared. Now that I am retired from teaching (my second career) I am dedicated to the success of Mindful Frontier and its mission of welcoming a mindful future by teaching, guiding and coaching families, adults and educators through meditation and mindfulness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In July 2020 I retired from the career I’d had for over 25 years: classroom teaching. Since 2017, my dream has been to teach children and families 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 has 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, an education center that shares 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 seek higher consciousness and fuels the transformation of our society.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Resilience and Perseverance” is my life’s motto.
Everything I have accomplished in my half-century of life on Earth has come from a mindset where resilience and perseverance led to the realisation 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 infinite possibilities.
I believe continuously asking, “Why?” “Why not?” “Why not try?” are important questions to bring about personal transformation. 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.”
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
I’ve read many books that have had an impact on me. The one that relates to the subject of this interview is “Defy Gravity” by Caroline Myss. This book, which has as its central theme spirituality, is full of heartfelt wisdom. The book is divided into “Truths”. The fourth truth includes the graces of knowledge and wisdom, concepts that include equanimity and gratitude. Accepting life’s challenges and experiences with knowledge and wisdom are at the core of mindful meditation. Through meditation, I strive to recognize and accept life’s experiences with wisdom and knowledge, understanding that all is well in the present moment where reality actually happens. This is the core essence of gratitude.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Through my education center, Mindful Frontiers, I am working on several exciting projects. Mindful Frontiers’ vision is “welcoming a mindful future; one child, one family, one adult, one educator, one community; one present moment at a time” and these programs reach many levels of society.
RECIPE FOR WELLNESS: MINDFULNESS IN THE CLASSROOM is a program in which I teach mindfulness and meditation to children. During this time of remote and distance learning, I join classrooms online and share six mini-lessons that cover the basics of mindful meditation: mindfulness of breath, sound, emotions, eating, body scans and loving-kindness. Children love mindfulness! My dream is that by teaching them at a young age, the tools will be instilled in their memory so that when they really need to stressed as adolescents, they will remember learning mindful meditation and bring it back into their life. Teaching young children mindful meditation means they may also take it home to their families, which would increase the reach of the practice and bring it into the lives of more people. More information on this classroom program can be obtained by emailing [email protected]
ONLINE LIVE MEDITATION CIRCLES via Zoom. Many people are transforming themselves with new knowledge as well as joining online communities during this time of isolation and social distancing. Mindful Frontiers offers several morning meditation circles for adults and families. More information can be found at app.ubindi.com/Mindful.Frontiers When we are no longer as isolated, these meditation circles will be brought into the community as in-person, weekly sessions. Nonetheless, I believe the virtual classroom will remain for a long time to come as bridge between communities.
In keeping with teaching families and adults the benefits of mindful meditation, Mindful Frontiers has launched ONLINE MEDITATION COURSES. The first of a series is called “Exploring Mindful Meditation: Basics’’ and is offered freely. The course includes 13 lessons that take the novice or returning meditator through all the steps needed to start and continue a meditation practice. Next courses in the series are the “Essentials” and “Foundations” courses. Course descriptions and registration is available at MindfulFrontiers.thinkific.com
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person who comes to mind and for whom I am grateful is Cathy Black, director of the Lumos Center in Taos, New Mexico, USA. Cathy is a healer, a wise woman and a kindred spirit. Other than being a dear friend, she was the first and greatest supporter of Mindful Frontiers. She donated seed money to start the center and has continued to be a well of support and encouragement.
Our friendship started many years ago when she owned and operated a massage school in Taos and Santa Fe. My husband graduated from the school. When Cathy returned to Taos several years after leaving and pursuing other endeavors, we reconnected and our families have continued a loving connection. I am grateful to Cathy for all her support and encouragement as well as to be a member of her inner circle of meditation teachers.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is different from thankfulness. Gratitude is defined as the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Thankful is defined as “pleased and relieved.” (Oxford online dictionary) One can right away see a difference emerging between these terms that can aid in understanding the power of gratitude. Meditation is a practice that helps generate overall feelings of gratitude and equanimity through present-moment awareness.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
The human brain seems to have a natural tendency to remember negative experiences more than positive interactions. Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias. “Our brains are wired to scout for the bad stuff” and fixate on the threat, says psychologist and author Rick Hanson.
Our brain is by function and development a very “old” organ. What I mean by that is what psychologists refer to as the “reptilian brain”. The part of our brain that is the oldest or least developed is the amygdala. This inner area of the brain is responsible for the fight, flight, freeze reactions to our emotional experiences. This part of the brain was very important when we were hunter-gatherers because we needed to be ever vigilant of threats to our survival.
As humans have evolved, this part of the brain has remained essentially undeveloped. On the other hand, the largest part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, has evolved and continues to develop. The cerebral cortex is responsible for many higher-order brain functions such as perception, sensation, memory, and interpretation. Meditation and mindfulness stimulate this area of the brain as well as the parasympathetic nervous system that originates in the craniosacral region or the brainstem and is responsible for relaxation.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Actually, I wouldn’t say that it is intuitive. Many people don’t find being grateful, or feeling kindness or compassion easy things to do. Gratitude is actually a bit elusive unless practiced intentionally.
Since being grateful is showing appreciation with kindness it is a deeper response to life experiences. “Gratitude is an emotion expressing an appreciation for what one has as opposed to what one wants”, according to Psychology Today.
Mindful meditation is a practice in which we bring our attention to the present-moment using awareness anchors such as the breath, sound, body sensations as well as mantras or intentions. One of these intentions can be to feel gratitude in the present moment while meditating. The more one welcomes feelings of gratitude, the more comfortable the practice will become. Over time, one may notice a change as the heart fills with kindness and appreciation (i.e. gratitude).
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Using mindful meditation as the vehicle for generating gratitude is what I recommend for improve mental wellness.
Mindful meditation is a life-long practice. Life is a journey, not a destination and meditation’s ultimate goal is to enjoy peace in the here and now. Incorporating gratitude intentions into mindful meditation is one of the practices I teach. There are many others and they can all incorporate gratitude in one way or another.
Gratitude can help improve mental wellness because of the kindness and compassion that it generates as well as the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. As a person with PTSD, it is my personal experience that mindful meditation has greatly improved my mental health. Although I have been practicing meditation for over 20 years, I can attest to its benefits being felt in just a few meditation sessions. All it takes is commitment to wellbeing and practice and to start now, where you are.
Once a person learns to meditate and makes the decision to incorporate mindfulness into their life, they generally realize that it becomes a state of being and a lifestyle choice.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what is “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
The practice I am advocating is mindful meditation. Each of these ways involves using mindfulness to allow gratitude into our life.
- DAILY MEDITATION: During sitting meditation one can recite these mantras, “gratitude permeates my being” and “may others enjoy gratitude in their life” as anchors of present-moment awareness. With each in-breath, silently recite the first mantra and with the out-breath, recite the second mantra.
- GRATITUDE REFLECTION: Before falling asleep at night, reflecting or writing about one or two things for which someone is grateful. This can be one sentence, a paragraph or a page. The reflection can be filled with anything for which you are grateful.
- SETTING INTENTIONS: Upon waking, set a gratitude intention for the day. For example, “may self-kindness fuel gratitude throughout my day”. This is similar to a mantra and can be incorporated into a waking meditation practice.
- EXPERIENCE GRATITUDE IN UNEXPECTED MOMENTS: When an uncomfortable encounter happens, use mindfulness and a deep breath to choose where to focus the attention. For example, when a co-worker complains or criticizes, we might consider being grateful that we have the freedom to pause, breathe and choose to respond to the encounter.
- DAILY MINDFULNESS: Practicing mindfulness in all aspects of our life can generate an overall feeling of gratitude. One can choose responses and be grateful for all that which we have in our life, from the sun rising each day, to the work we have, the food that nourishes us, the people we love and the home in which we are safe. Each day is a new creation and each moment a new opportunity to be grateful.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
The practice that has helped me deal with PTSD and emotional triggers is called RAIN. It is a mindfulness practice that was introduced by Michele McDonald, a senior Buddhist teacher, and popularized and taught by Dr. Tara Brach, a well-respected meditation teacher, author and psychotherapist.
From Tara Brach’s website, “The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion using the following four steps:
RECOGNIZE what is happening (roots of understanding);
ALLOW the experience to be there, just as it is (grounds of love);
INVESTIGATE with interest and care (deepens understanding);
NURTURE with self-compassion (awakens self-love).
After the RAIN (realizing freedom from narrow identity)”
I encourage those who would like to investigate the RAIN practice further to read Tara’s book, “Radial Compassion”. RAIN can be used as a stand-alone meditation or a process of moving through the steps whenever challenging feelings arise.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
There are so many resources that I can recommend so I’d like to refer your readers to my website resources page at MindfulFrontiers.net.
On Mindful Frontiers’ resources page are listings of podcasts, apps, books, further websites to help learn about and incorporate mindful meditation into a daily routine. The benefits are tremendous and freely available.
Podcasts I regularly listen to are Brené Brown’s Unlocking US, Dan Harris’ Ten Percent Happier and Kristin Tippett’s On Being.
Teachers I follow and learn from are Thich Nhat Hanh, Tara Brach, Oren Jay Sofer, Caroline Myss, Sensei Tetsudo Murphy, and Cathy Black.
Apps I use include Calm, Ten Percent Happier, Plum Village
I am also involved with the online meditation center Be. Meditation.
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 great 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 teach young people and their families meditation are:
- to teach present-moment mindfulness-awareness.
- to teach that we aren’t judged by our thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
- to show by example that mindfulness is a way to generate self-compassion and gratitude.
- to explain what it feels and looks 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 methat 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.
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