Get Still and Quiet — Take at least five minutes each day to sit down without your phone, computer, or internet. Just pay attention to what’s going on around you — sounds, smells, light, air.
As a part of my series about “Ho To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Brown. For over a decade, Kimberly Brown has offered classes and retreats that emphasize the power of compassion and kindness meditation to reconnect us to ourselves and others. Her teachings provide an approachable pathway to personal and collective well-being through effective and modern techniques based on traditional practices. She studies in both the Tibetan and Insight schools of Buddhism and is a certified mindfulness instructor.
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?
Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in understanding my motivations and beliefs. As an adult, this led me to train as a psychotherapist, but after several years I became disillusioned with the emphasis on diagnosis and I left the program. It seemed to me that there was nothing “wrong” with any of my clients except for what they thought about themselves. When I learned that Buddhism also holds this view, I began to study and practice it. Buddhism quickly helped me to recognize that my thoughts and beliefs are only thoughts and beliefs, and not necessarily true, and to be more open and compassionate to myself and others. So, I knew that I wanted to share Buddhist teachings and techniques with others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Nearly ten years ago, I quit a steady and lucrative job in human resources to teach meditation, and some family and friends worried that it was a foolish idea. I was a bit worried too. But so many doors opened for me unexpectedly, and I received so much support, it was as if I was on exactly the right path at the right time. What Joseph Campbell said was true: “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
And now, I have just published my first book related to this meditation career path, Steady, Calm, and Brave: 25 Practices of Resilience and Wisdom in a Crisis (Publishing with Heart; July 2020).
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Integrity, integrity, integrity. Inevitably, problems will arise, and people will make mistakes, but it’s how you handle the situation that matters. Be honest, be transparent, and don’t try to ignore a problem or deny that it’s happening.
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 great Indian teacher Shantideva’s book, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, has had a tremendous influence on my life and work. It made me realize that qualities like love, compassion, wisdom, generosity are not limited at all, and that we as humans can develop them to far greater capacity than we believe.
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 the ability to direct your attention on what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that develops this ability.
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?
Being present with what’s happening now means you’re not caught in worries about the future or memories of the past, and this is why mindfulness can result in a sense of relaxation. Emotionally, mindfulness and compassion practices can allow us to be more open to all aspects of ourselves, so we can be kinder and more patient to ourselves and others. Learning to direct your attention as you choose means being less caught in habit and conditioning, for a greater sense of freedom and ease.
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 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 during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1. Get Still and Quiet — Take at least five minutes each day to sit down without your phone, computer, or internet. Just pay attention to what’s going on around you — sounds, smells, light, air.
2. Check-In — Throughout the day, take a minute or two and silently ask yourself, “How am I right now?” A response may come in the form of words, images, and/or bodily sensations — just notice what comes up, but try not to get too caught up in a story about it. Just listen and notice without judging. (Or without judging the judgment.)
3. Practice Mindfulness Meditation — Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Anchor your attention gently on the tip of your nose, resting your awareness on the air entering and leaving your nostrils. Then bring your attention to other sensations that are happening. Notice your feet, the weight of your body on your seat, allowing sound to enter your ears, taste in your mouth. If you start planning or thinking about something, let go and choose to return your attention on your breath at the tip of your nose.
4. Offer Kindness to Yourself and Others — It’s a very frightening and unsettling time. Practice patience with yourself when you’re upset by sitting quietly and putting your hand on your heart. Then repeat this phrase silently, “May I be safe and healthy and free from fear.” Do this for a few minutes, then think of someone you love and repeat this phrase silently to them, “May you be safe and healthy and free from fear.” After a few more minutes, include everyone — yourself, friends, family, strangers, people you don’t like, and say silently, “May we be safe and healthy and free from fear.”
5. Cultivate Gratitude — A simple way to keep yourself balanced during this time is to practice gratitude. Write down three things you’re grateful for each day.
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. Don’t give advice. Learn to listen and be patient with other people instead of trying to fix their problems or tell them what to do. We’re all struggling during this time and an understanding presence is healing.
2. Show appreciation. One way to re-connect and reassure the people we care about is to remember and notice their good qualities and what we like about them, and tell them. It reminds others they are loved and valued.
3. Give people space. Everyone is going through a difficult time right now. Sometimes people need time to themselves and space to be alone — give it to them without resentment or frustration.
4. Keep yourself calm. Anxiety is contagious, and if you’re able to authentically keep a steady mind and an open heart, you’ll help others feel confident and less fearful, even during an unsettling time.
5. Try to get them away from their cellphone, computer, or television for a while. Ask them to sit quietly with you, go for a walk, or cook a meal together.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Practice mindfulness meditation every day for at least ten minutes. Be patient with yourself. Lessen the amount of time you spend on devices. Take a walk and notice the light and sounds around you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“You come with nothing and you go with nothing. Enjoy it while you have it, and when it goes, enjoy that too.” Satchidananda. This teaching revealed to me that it’s possible to be happy with the changes in life, that circumstances don’t need to be in our favor before we can learn to be open and non-rejecting of what happens in our life.
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. 🙂
My movement would require that everyone spend one twenty-four hour day per week in silence. No phones, computers, conversation, reading, or writing. Just silent contemplation, preferably outdoors.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
My website is www.meditationwithheart.com, which has more information about my meditation classes and my book Steady, Calm, and Brave. I’m on Instagram as @kimberlyjbrown, and my Facebook page is Meditation with Heart.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!