Emily Tuttle-Vartanian of Pause + Purpose: “Brains love mini tasks”

It’s also very helpful to visualize your goals in a concrete way and then work backwards to achieve them rather than staring incredulously at the enormous mountain ahead. If you want to be a business owner, figure out how much time and money it would take to pursue this and break the goal down. Brains […]

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It’s also very helpful to visualize your goals in a concrete way and then work backwards to achieve them rather than staring incredulously at the enormous mountain ahead. If you want to be a business owner, figure out how much time and money it would take to pursue this and break the goal down. Brains love mini tasks.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

Emily is an entrepreneur, publication designer, and photographer with 4 years of experience supporting non-profits in the mental health sector and 5 years of experience in business growth strategy. She is the founder of Pause + Purpose, a startup that sells easy-to-use mindfulness training resources for even the most inexperienced facilitators to expand their offerings. Her passions include normalizing self-care routines, especially for caregivers, and using her voice to bring communities together through practicing mindfulness. Emily graduated from the Drexel University accelerated MBA program. Her business has been featured in Real Simple, Yahoo!, the Hour, Shape Magazine, and more.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a tiny rural town in Vermont in the 90s. There was spotty internet and the nearest mall was 45 minutes away. We skied, snowboarded, hiked, and found imaginative ways to play inside during the long winter months.

My mom was a middle school special educator and my dad owned a small chiropractic office in town. Being around their jobs, I got an idea of what lives of service and entrepreneurship could be like. I liked that my mom got to make a big impact in her students’ lives and that my dad had so much autonomy.

There was a lot of love but also a lot of arguing in my family, which I was extremely sensitive to. I sought refuge in my creative inner world. I sang, danced, did photography, acted, wrote scripts, painted, and journaled. And throughout most of my childhood, I was deeply bonded to the same group of girlfriends. Our time together was spent writing, directing, acting, and filming our own movies, orchestrating dance parties, and creating elaborate meals that we’d sit down together and enjoy in the cafeteria (despite ridicule from our classmates!). I also spent a lot of time alone in my mom’s car, the shower, or the woods practicing what I later learned was meditation.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My formal education in mindfulness began after I had my little girl in 2018. Stuck in a constant feedback loop where I was wrapped in my daughter’s moods, fearing for her safety, and questioning my effectiveness as a mother, it had become a necessity to step back and look at my thoughts. I also felt alone in my worry and isolated in my new role. I decided to reach out to a bride I had shot through my job as a Photographer who was a Yoga and Meditation Teacher. I asked if she’d lead a small group of friends at my house in a summer series where we’d meet weekly, meditate, and discuss topics that were meaningful to us.

The goal was for each woman to find ways of identifying and staying true to her core values in this confusing, modern world. Having the support of others not only felt good, but it held us all accountable. We were all role models for each other that summer, and we came away feeling like we’d learned more in those few weeks than we had in years.

Inspired by my friends’ strength and this wonderful experience, I decided I would give this same gift to anyone who yearned for it. Everyone has roadblocks and challenges, but not everyone has a supportive group with which to practice acceptance and gratitude in the face of inevitable hardship.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Isn’t that the truth! I think of everyone who set me on this particular path, it was my prenatal fitness trainer, Alexa Ramirez, who taught me that self-care is not optional. I’d always prioritized achievement, often at the expense of my mental and physical health. Alexa showed me that wasn’t sustainable, just by openly sharing with me the way she lived her life. To see that there was another way sparked my curiosity and normalized rest and self-kindness. We all need a good example to be able to see what’s possible.

I also still remember what it was like to prioritize myself last, so I can relate to many of my customers who do the same. That’s why Pause + Purpose is a gentle entry into mindfulness.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I interview mindfulness experts quite a bit for our blog, and I always have a chuckle when I’m watching the video back and realize that I’ve used some big, fancy word incorrectly throughout. Last time it was “ephemeral.” It used to really get to me, but I figure if I use one word wrong in an otherwise interesting, dynamic interview, it’s not worth my time or my interviewee’s time to re-do it. By letting it be and seeing that the world doesn’t end, I’ve learned to let go a little of perfectionism and embrace the good-enough.

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?

In 2014, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, was the first book I had ever read that talked in detail about mindfulness and its implications. It became a jumping-off point for me as I further studied the world of meditation. The paradoxical circumstances around which I received the book have resonated with me all these years. I had a job where self-care was firmly at the bottom of the totem pole around the office. Yet my boss loved this book and showed me where to find it. The job was not for me, but I often think if I hadn’t worked there, I may never be doing what I am today.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

A quote that’s stuck with me is from that Charlie Kaufman film, Adaptation, when the flower collector is talking about his work —

“Point is, what’s so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. A certain orchid looks exactly like a certain insect, so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they’re designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live — how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can’t let anything get in your way.”

I often think of this quote when I’m questioning my decisions or working to accept something I can’t change. I find it very comforting to think that there’s something grand and benevolent taking place that I just can’t perceive.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Right now, I’m working with a school psychologist, a data scientist, a school district leader, and a mindfulness writer to develop the first school mindfulness program that actively cultivates strong social relationships! Our program puts student leaders in charge of facilitating meditation and discussion groups.

Our aim is to provide

  • An outlet to examine the big picture and individual purpose in a secular way
  • Science-backed mental health techniques that encourage confidence and kindness
  • A weekly self-care check-in
  • A greater sense of connection and community
  • A platform for parent involvement in the mental health of themselves and their children
  • Increased accountability to keep going
  • Meditation that can be practiced without apps and distraction

We will also be the first program that continues for students long after school is over! Very exciting.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Cultivating mental health begins with self-love. It’s impossible to sustain a self-care routine without it. When you care about your own wellbeing, the good decisions really do come naturally — like prioritizing things you love and that make you feel good.

It’s also very helpful to visualize your goals in a concrete way and then work backwards to achieve them rather than staring incredulously at the enormous mountain ahead. If you want to be a business owner, figure out how much time and money it would take to pursue this and break the goal down. Brains love mini tasks.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

A classical type of meditation called the Loving Kindness meditation is my go-to. It’s a well-established technique that involves extending love and compassion to yourself and to others. It instantly changes my perspective.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Water intake, working out, eating well, and getting enough sleep are key, but the most important habit for physical wellness is to know your “why.” When you’re intentional about your lifestyle, then you are much more likely to stick with your healthy habits. For me, my “why” is being a good friend, wife, mother, and creative. And most of all, being good to myself.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Being kind to myself is my most important intention, so that extends to my diet. I want to feel good and support my active lifestyle, but I also don’t deprive myself or beat myself up for the occasional over-indulgence. I love drinking with my friends or trying the latest dessert craze in the city with my husband. Again, it all comes back to my “why.” Even so, I have a habit of grabbing sweet food for quick comfort. I think we all have something that we use as an instant-fix, whether that be our phones, a tv show, food, or even a workout, that we do instead of addressing hard feelings.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Limiting screen time: Controlling the amount of time you spend on your phone or computer helps you tap into your inner emotional landscape. It can be too easy to lose track of time and get wrapped up in the external — what friends, celebrities, politicians, and society have been up to.

Allowing processing time for your feelings: You may feel big emotions rolling in, but it’s not always best to address them right away. Sometimes we all need a few minutes, or a few days, to step away and listen to what our feelings are truly telling us.

Honoring your feelings, good or bad: When they’re trying to tell you something, meet your feelings without shame. Fear, happiness, grief, loneliness, glee, excitement — they all have something to teach us and they all are valid.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

A regular meditation practice: Meditating even just 20 min a day has been shown to increase focus, compassion, creativity, happiness and so much more.

A good night’s sleep: Make sleep a priority. It’s necessary in giving our subconscious minds the space to process our spiritual inquiries.

Move through your day mindfully: Notice the warm water on your hands while you’re doing the dishes, or the sound of the birds while you’re driving to the grocery store. Recognize the divine even in the mundane.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

We published a guide called “Interconnection for Personal and Planetary Healing” this year. The author, Merritt Juliano, taught me that the two are inextricably intertwined — taking care of nature is taking care of yourself. We are subject to the rhythms and laws of nature, and being out in it familiarizes us with our own pacing and limitations. It is a practice in surrender and self-knowledge.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I work to empower studios and individuals all over the world to offer mindfulness gatherings for their communities. Similar to how people can move towns and find a new religious gathering-space, I want them to be able to move anywhere and instantly find their Pause + Purpose community and feel like they’re home. I want everyone to have access to the support and guidance that I’ve been lucky enough to receive.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I saw the doc, Knock Down the House, this year and felt an instant connection to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We’re around the same age and I think hers is a story that really transcends politics. She found her voice and stood her ground, despite being the unconventional choice for her position; despite so many people resisting the change. She stood up for herself fiercely but gracefully. I admire the hell out of that.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


@pauseandpurpose on Instagram


Thank you!

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