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“Getting An Upgrade” with Anne-Marie Emanuelli

Emotional well-being: without daily exercise and meditation my emotional well-being would not be as strong as it is now. Meditation is a practice that helps me accept and respond to emotional triggers. Dealing with PTSD, my emotional well-being is crucial to keeping my mental health in check. Mindful meditation is a daily discipline that brings emotional […]

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Emotional well-being: without daily exercise and meditation my emotional well-being would not be as strong as it is now. Meditation is a practice that helps me accept and respond to emotional triggers. Dealing with PTSD, my emotional well-being is crucial to keeping my mental health in check. Mindful meditation is a daily discipline that brings emotional balance to my life.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewingAnne-Marie Emanuelli.

Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience to welcome a mindful future. Mindful Frontiers is an educational 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 in classroom curriculum, mindful communication, and difficult emotions. She is currently enrolled in a 200-hour meditation leadership program at Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness as part of her professional development plan. Ms. Emanuelli also participates in online meditation retreats to support her personal practice.

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 back-story?

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.

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

Professional inspiration in my different life careers came from many sources. My family background and unique cultural influences were certainly inspirations all along the way. However, regardless of these influences, I believe I was born with an independent and resilient personality that has been my greatest catalyst. It is documented that I walked at 10 months and at 2 years old told my mother I would dress myself from then on. At six, I travelled on my own by airplane to spend 6 months with French relatives and along with many other solo travel experiences it seems that life set me up for being self-directed. While I was my own best ally, I’ve also been my worst critic. Childhood trauma and periods of self-doubt blocked some forward action, yet in the end, persistence and sheer guts always won over. Currently, and for the past 35 years, my husband and younger brother have been important influences in my life, consistently supporting me during challenging times.

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 benefitted 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 teachers through meditation and mindfulness.

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?

My mother came to the US from France in 1947, having married my dad at the end of WW2 in Casablanca, Morocco. She left the comforts of her childhood home for the adventure of a new and exciting life. As I grew up, my mother was my mentor and my role model. She overcame ethnic prejudice and gender bias to share her special talents with many people. She was curious, elegant, creative, resilient and a strong personality. These attributes were encouraged and passed on to me. She modeled individual exploration using art, intelligence and inner strength. Her support during several professional chapters of my life encouraged me to accept new adventures with creativity and curiosity.

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?

As a classroom teacher for 25 years, there have been many “mistakes” that turned into learning opportunities. As a meditation teacher, a memory I’d like to highlight is when two students who did not like doing meditation (called mindfulness practice in a school setting) complained to the Dean of Instruction that meditation didn’t relax them. They explained that when they sat quietly, focusing on their breath they felt sad, rather than relaxed. I realized that these two students had experienced significant trauma in their young lives so I sought to understand this situation better. Although the two students successfully advocated to be removed from my class, their example led me to take a “Difficult Emotions” course at MindfulSchools.org wherein trauma-informed meditation practices were explained.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Currently starting the third professional chapter of my life, I am again doing something I love! Mindful meditation fulfills a deep soul passion. I’m nurturing something I truly believe in and that has changed my life for the better. Mindful Frontiers illustrates the adage that when someone is doing what they love they aren’t really working. By teaching and coaching families with children, parents, adults and teachers in the practice of meditation, I am welcoming a mindful frontier that is crucial in our world at this time of transition. All paths in my professional life have been circuitous and adventurous and well worth the effort.

Si se puede is a phrase in Spanish that explains the advice I learned growing up in a family where there was complexity and challenges while at the same time a culture of resilience and persistence. My mother left her comfortable life in France for a new adventure in the US and despite great difficulty; she persevered and achieved independence and fulfillment, even without significant financial means.

My mother loved to learn and to share her knowledge and talents. Following in her footsteps, I have persevered in my life and am grateful to have had many rewarding experiences through determination and an open and curious mind.

My advice to young people is to realize that life is unpredictable and adventurous. No matter the challenges that life has dealt you there is always a path forward. We never stop learning so staying open and curious is key to self-actualization.

Mindful meditation is a skill that teaches this kind of awareness and I would encourage young people to try meditation as a tool for inner reflection and understanding. By reflecting on personal dreams and inner passions, I believe meditation can help young people follow their paths of self-discovery. No one knows exactly what’s in store yet with curiosity and openness, many fulfilling chapters are possible. By being curious, aware and determined, we can accept all challenges and accomplishments with joy and gratitude.

Along the way, each of us must decide what “success” means as it is different for each of us. Success is not in my personal career vocabulary and has never been a specific goal of mine. Each professional chapter in my life was filled with challenges, opportunities and fulfillment. My husband describes me to people as “a go-getter”. When I set my mind on a goal, I go for it with focus, determination and persistence. Personal success or fulfillment is when I have accomplished something I set out to achieve, no matter how small or large the project.

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?

As mentioned in a previous question, meditation helped me through a time in my life when my quality of life was impacted by a physical ailment. I began to seek out spiritual teachers and the two who have had an impact on me are Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book “Women’s’ Bodies, Women’s’ Wisdom” and Carolyn Myss’ books, “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” and “Anatomy of Spirit.” These books and teachers resonated and impacted me because they helped me understand that I could make the right choice for my body and spirit to heal.

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

Most quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh bring me insight and guidance. Currently, “Walk as if your feet are kissing the earth” resonates with where I am in my life right now. I love mindfulness & meditation and outdoor walking is a form of movement meditation that contributes to my spiritual balance and physical health.

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

Mindful Frontiers is embarking on some exciting projects. Currently, my weekly mindfulness and yoga classes for youth 3–10 years old bring me joy and a connection to my community. These classes help families and children “stuck” at home during the pandemic find a sense of community, belonging and connection as well as a healthy activity to do together.

Other projects include piloting mindful meditation in a few elementary classrooms (currently online) as well as an online course on meditation for adults. Mindful meditation is a helpful mind-body-spirit activity that is accessible to people of all ages and provides skills to handle the stress of this uncertain time we are living together.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly.

Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Human beings are creatures of habit and like most animals, we like routines and predictability. In order to learn, we have to repeat skills over and over. As a teacher I have heard that it takes repetitions of around 20 times before something becomes a habit. If this is true, now is the time to start practicing our well-being habits.

Basically habits that bring productivity, positive behaviors, and self-realization are worth pursuing.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

As a meditation practitioner and teacher I can attest to the power of practice. In order to bring meditation into my daily routine I have had to set timers and alarms and schedule meditation in order for it to become a habit. At this point, I have a daily scheduled meditation at 7:30 each weekday morning. Most evenings I also end the day with a guided meditation using one of the mobile apps I subscribe to. This practice discipline also applies to exercise and yoga. I have to schedule it into my day in order to stick to it.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

In my opinion, to develop a habit, it must be scheduled and repeated as I explained above until it becomes a routine activity. Even though, I still schedule regular routines into my calendar. As for bad habits, I have read that we need to make them harder to achieve and even access. For example, if someone wants to stop getting lost on social media, we can delete the app on our mobile device or at least put it on a screen where it is harder to find. To break the habit of eating something unhealthy (such as candy), we either get rid of it in the house or put it somewhere that it won’t be easily accessible. The key to building a healthy habit is to make it more accessible and the contrary is the case for a habit we want to break.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Mental wellness and Spiritual connection: The practice that blends these two together in my life is mindful meditation. With over 20 years of meditation experience, the practice really took hold in 2016 when the school from which I recently retired experienced three student suicides in the span of about a year; two were just before the start of school. Needless to say, it was a very shaky start that year. Meditation came back to mind, as a way to deal with grief and it seemed my students might need this calming practice as well. For a number of years after this experience, mindful meditation became a cornerstone of my teaching practice. Students of many ages and backgrounds have shared mindful meditation together and have expressed the benefits they felt from a moment of calm body and peaceful mind.

Emotional well-being: without daily exercise and meditation my emotional well-being would not be as strong as it is now. Meditation is a practice that helps me accept and respond to emotional triggers. Dealing with PTSD, my emotional well-being is crucial to keeping my mental health in check. Mindful meditation is a daily discipline that brings emotional balance to my life.

Self-care: Daily meditation practice and physical exercise routines are the main ways I focus on self-care. Self-compassion and non-judgment are skills a person learns from mindful meditation practice. There are many types of meditation techniques and all have a self-care component that encourages being kind to oneself and finding joy or contentment in life. Bringing awareness to the body in the present moment through meditation anchors such as breath and sound or sensations allow me to take care of my emotional needs while physical exercise allows me to engage in movement, which is a vital daily need. When the weather or time of day does not permit outdoor exercise safely, yoga supplements my daily need for physical exercise.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Over the past several months of shelter-in-place and eventual social distancing, three practices and habits that have helped alter my path and outlook are mindful meditation, physical exercise, and equanimity.

Mindful Meditation is a practice of being aware of the present moment by focusing on an anchor such as the breath, body sensation or a mantra. The practices that have contributed to an improved mental attitude and positive daily path for me are Metta (loving kindness) and Karuna (compassion). These are two of the Brahma Viharas that especially benefit us during times of stress. Oftentimes we combine these together by using four mantras or phrases, whose sentiments are shared with others, all beings and ourselves. The phrases are: “May (I) you be happy; May (I) you be well, healthy, strong; May (I) you be safe, protected and free from harm; and May (I) you be free from suffering.”

Learning equanimity is a bit more challenging and as such is the most useful of habits to practice and learn. A person who goes with the flow of life shows us that the key to being happy is to stay grounded and accepting of life’s experiences. Equanimity is the trait in which a person is able to coexist with the world in a balanced, and non-reactive way.

Equanimity can be nurtured through the practice of mindful meditation. After developing basic concentration skills using meditation and letting go of our thoughts, a person gradually is able to stay present in the moment and not overreact to daily stimulus. Surely, it takes practice and patience to be equanimous and it is a trait that can be nurtured at any age.

Mindful meditation, physical exercise and equanimity are well-rounded practices that can alter the course of a person’s life towards a more balanced existence, both mentally and physically. Whether one practices these for three months or three years, the benefits are long lasting.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Physical exercise/sport: I have been exercising daily or several times a week for over 45 years. Over this time I have participated in competitive sports in college as well as triathlons and road races as an individual. At almost 60 years of age, my daily exercise session is still a mainstay. Walking, easy jogging, mountain biking, yoga and swimming are the types of exercise that I participate in. Without physical exercise, I can get pretty grumpy. For example, when I exercise outdoors, it is an active reflection time to work out personal and work-related issues as well as tuning in to my body and mind. I often literally talk to myself while exercising outdoors. There have been many imaginary conversations between others and myself in my life, be it a family member or work colleague. Luckily, I live in the country and don’t encounter many other humans on my walks and jogs! Usually, by the time I get back home, issues have been worked out and of course I feel much better.

During these past months of pandemic isolation, exercise was my sanity break. Everyday I have spent about an hour engaged in swimming, jogging, biking, walking, yoga, or calisthenics (often a mixture of these each day). Other than getting in really good physical shape, these sanity breaks provide important times of self-reflection.

Some days I listen to podcasts hosted by wise teachers whose words of wisdom and perspective helped me work through anxiety. The guests I’ve listened to have shared extremely helpful advice, knowledge and experiences. Self-discovery and personal growth are very important during this time of isolation.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Focus and wellness in my opinion go hand in hand and mindful meditation are the skills I teach and believe in.

Mental wellness, Self-compassion and Spiritual connection: The practice that blends these together is mindful meditation. With over 20 years of meditation experience, the practice really took hold in 2016 when the school from which I recently retired experienced three student suicides in the span of about a year; two were just before the start of school. Needless to say, it was a very shaky start that year. Meditation came back to mind as a way to deal with grief and it seemed my students might need this calming practice as well. For a number of years after this experience, mindful meditation became a cornerstone of my teaching practice. Students of many ages and backgrounds have shared mindful meditation together and have expressed the benefits they felt from a moment of calm body and peaceful mind.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Mindful Meditation is a practice of being aware of the present moment by focusing on an anchor such as the breath, body sensation or a mantra. The practices that have contributed to an improved mental attitude and positive daily path for me are Metta (loving kindness) and Karuna (compassion). These are two of the Brahma Viharas that especially benefit us during times of stress. Oftentimes we combine these together by using four mantras or phrases, whose sentiments are shared with others, all beings and ourselves. The phrases are: “May (I) you be happy; May (I) you be well, healthy, strong; May (I) you be safe, protected and free from harm; and May (I) you be free from suffering.”

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Anytime we engage in something that brings us pleasure and enjoyment in the present moment, flow can be experienced. For me, when I’m in a state of creative productivity I feel the flow. Whether it is during meditation, physical exercise or a work project that I’m excited about, I can feel flow when I’m focused and aware of each part of the process.

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.

Once a person starts meditating, they generally realize the benefits extend far beyond a healing practice. It becomes a state of being and a lifestyle choice.

Whether it is to get through a difficult illness, grief of losing a loved one, or simply to carve out a daily moment of non-doing, everyone can benefit from meditation.

The benefits are plentiful and scientifically proven. A few of these include the ability to stay calm during emotional experiences, to be less reactive to behaviors, to listen more carefully to conversations, and to have compassion and empathy for self and others.

There’s also the spiritual benefit of sangha that comes from practicing meditation with others, whether in a monastery or a virtual community of meditators. There’s no better time than right now to explore mindful meditation.

Mindful meditation for youth is a movement I believe would have a 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 long lasting impact. The reasons I wish to teach young people and their families meditation are:

  • to teach students about present-moment mindfulness-awareness.
  • to teach them that they aren’t judged by their thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
  • to show by example that mindfulness is a way to feel good about yourself, just as we are, in this present moment.
  • to model being happy, grateful, loved, peaceful.
  • to explain what it feels 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 y outh are ways to encourage a kinder future. I’ve had this idea for a while when contemplating future endeavors in mindfulness.

I’m curious whether teaching mindfulness-based calming practices would be a way to avoid school shootings in the future. What if one would-be gunner had learned mindfulness meditation, and if that child used meditation instead of guns to deal with stress, how many young lives would be saved?

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.

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 🙂

Barrack, Michelle Obama and family — #44 POTUS and FLOTUS

Oren Jay Sofer — meditation teacher

How can our readers further follow your work online?

web: Mindfulfrontiers.net

FB: @mindfulfrontiers

Insta: @mindfulfrontiers

LinkedIn: Anne-Marie Emanuelli

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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