Josephine Atluri: “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”

An affirmation is a simple statement of encouragement and support that can be said to oneself in a declarative way. When we state something positive to ourselves, the idea will take root within us and shift our mindset. Affirmations help us challenge and overcome negative thoughts and can guide us to a peaceful place. During […]

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An affirmation is a simple statement of encouragement and support that can be said to oneself in a declarative way. When we state something positive to ourselves, the idea will take root within us and shift our mindset. Affirmations help us challenge and overcome negative thoughts and can guide us to a peaceful place. During this time of uncertainty, the following affirmations are great to repeat to oneself to boost positivity and temper anxiety:

I am safe.

I am healthy.

I am strong.

I am calm.

I am loved.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josephine Atluri.

Josephine is an expert in meditation and in overcoming adversity to find joy. Josephine’s group and individual meditation sessions teach simple and practical coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety and loss to help improve the balance of mind, body and spirit through health and fertility struggles and other life challenges. As creator and host of the podcast, “Responding to Life: Living Reflectively through a Journey of Health, Fertility, and Parenthood,” Josephine highlights learnings from her thirteen-year journey of love, loss, resilience and hope to create her family of five children through IVF, adoption and surrogacy and also shares inspirations from guests who have also navigated life’s curveballs to find joy.

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?

The path to my current career as a corporate meditation teacher as well as creator and host of the podcast, “Responding to Life: Living Reflectively through a Journey of Health, Fertility, and Parenthood,” all began with my infertility journey over fifteen years ago. The desire my husband and I had to have a family led us on a path that included numerous failed IVF treatments, a pregnancy loss of twins at 17 weeks, international adoption of our son from Kazakhstan, a successful IVF pregnancy of twins, and a surrogacy pregnancy of twins to create our family of five children. This arduous and emotional journey taught me how to overcome obstacles with perseverance, resilience, and positivity and fueled my passion to help others navigate life’s challenges via my meditation training, podcast, and an upcoming book on my fertility story.

After some time staying home to raise my brood, I returned to work as a consultant in the fitness industry and coupled my culinary background to incorporate nutrition into my offerings. In my quest to achieve total wellness for myself and my clients, I realized that the missing piece was the care of the mind. Therefore, I went on to become certified as a meditation teacher at Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles and trained under the founder, Suze Yalof-Schwartz, and internationally renowned guru, davidji. Given my background in consulting, I felt compelled to focus my meditation training in the corporate environment as I could relate to the pressures, stress, and lifestyle of people in that world and could tailor my teachings to their meet needs in a relatable way.

As for my podcast, “Responding to Life: Living Reflectively through a Journey of Health, Fertility, and Parenthood,” I created it because I have always had a deep desire to share my personal fertility story as well as my lessons learned, inspirations, mindset tips and meditations for anyone who is battling infertility, stress or loss. In addition, I feature noteworthy guests who have also overcome obstacles with positivity, perseverance and mindfulness.

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

I have to admit that this moment we currently find ourselves in with the Coronavirus pandemic is quite an interesting time for me as a meditation teacher and the host of a podcast that promotes overcoming life’s challenges in a positive and mindful way. I’ve had to transition quickly from teaching in corporate offices and meditation studios to hosting meditation trainings online via Zoom and Instagram stories as people find themselves bereft of coping strategies for the surge of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and fear that has befallen us. The twist in my story is that I have had to figure out innovative ways to create a space of tranquility for my online sessions all while being quarantined in a house filled with my husband, dog, and five kids ranging in age from four years old to thirteen. Finding a quiet nook, a strong wi-fi connection and the energy to dress professionally (at least from the waist up!) has become quite a challenge these last couple weeks.

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

As a corporate meditation teacher, I have the benefit of working with employees of various companies across many different industries. From corporate banks and film companies to hospitals, the common theme that I hear from most employees when I teach meditation is that they need to learn how to manage their stress. I can see a significant improvement in the employees who continue to attend the meditation training over time. They are more relaxed and better equipped to handle challenges that come their way.

My advice to leaders of organizations would be to invest in the wellness of their employees. When a company implements a wellness program as part of their benefits, this alone is a strong message to their employees that they value their staff and their overall well-being and not just their output. Placing importance on their employee’s wellness sets the foundation for a thriving work culture because when your employees are happy, healthy, and supported, a symbiotic relationship forms between the company and its workers. Positive individuals beget positive and productive work cultures.

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 Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” By Eckhart Tolle

During my meditation teacher training program, we were given a list of highly recommended books to read as part of our continuing education. This book by Eckhart Tolle resonated with me so much because my whole life up until that point had been about getting to the next thing in life — the next goal, the next life milestone. Plus, as a former event coordinator, my forte has always been my ability to plan big and small parties, conferences, and life in general, always looking ahead and planning for what was supposed to happen. I was constantly living in the future and not appreciating the here and now. This book coupled with my meditation training at the time changed the way I lived my life because it taught me how to live and appreciate THIS moment because it is all that we really have. Ever since I read his book, I have found a new appreciation for life that has brought me pure joy and peace.

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?

Going back to one of my favorite books that I just mentioned, “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” this idea of “mindfulness” was the core teaching of the book. The state of being mindful is essentially an awareness of the present moment. We can be mindful of our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies, our surroundings, and our actions. When we are being mindful, we are appreciating the here and now for everything that it is in that moment and not what it was or what it will be in the future.

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?

When mindfulness is defined it sounds so simple — just being aware of the present moment. Aren’t we already doing that naturally? Oftentimes, the answer to this question is “no” as we’ve become accustomed to multitasking as a preferred way of life. When we are doing so many things at once, we are unable to witness what is fully happening in a given moment. Yet, when we start to practice being mindful, we begin to reap in the benefits physically, mentally, and emotionally simply because we have tapped into our awareness.

When we are mindful of our bodies, we begin to notice where we are holding on to areas of tension. We can then employ many strategies to help us ease tension in the body such as stretching and meditation. When we are mindful of our thoughts and emotions, we can better understand why we are feeling a certain way about a situation, about another person or about ourselves. In turn, we become more aware of our actions and responses to life in relation to our thoughts and emotions and can operate from a higher level of consciousness.

Lastly, when we are mindful of our surroundings or an experience we are having, we can fully soak in the joy and beauty of that moment thereby shifting our mindset to one of positivity and gratitude. Imagine being able to stare at a flower and simply enjoy its exquisiteness without thinking of anything else at that point. Or envision the ability to stop in your tracks and witness the unadulterated joy of your child experiencing life. These examples of mindfulness flood our bodies and minds with positivity, boosting our mental and emotional health which in turn can affect our physical bodies because we are not flooding it with dangerous stress hormones.

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.

The uncertainty surrounding this unprecedented pandemic underscores our intrinsic need for control in our lives. Thebeauty of mindfulness is that when we embrace the present moment we are learning to let go of everything else outside of the here and now that we cannot control. Practicing this acceptance of the present moment is what begets serenity. The following five steps are ways to cultivate a mindset of mindfulness that will allow peace to flourish within your being.

(1) Witness your breath

Although we are constantly breathing, the power of our breath is greatly underrated. By slowing down your inhale and exhale, you can instantly relax your mind and body. When you take the next step of witnessing how your breath is moving in and out of your body causing your chest to rise and fall, you then progress to a mindful state. By noticing your breath as it moves through your body, you are tuning in to the present moment and letting go of all the other emotions and thoughts that were flooding your mind.

(2) Scan your body for tension

Body-scanning helps us tune in to sensations, bring awareness, stay present and let go of stress. Simply working from one end of your body to the other end, focus on various body parts and notice if you are holding on to any tension, Then use the power of your exhale to imagine you are releasing that tension from your body (with a focus on the areas that are most tense). Continue working your way to the other parts of your body, releasing tension at every juncture. Stress can manifest itself physically oftentimes unbeknownst to us which is why scanning one’s body for stress is a great way to be mindful and propagate tranquility.

(3) Incorporate affirmations into your daily routine

An affirmation is a simple statement of encouragement and support that can be said to oneself in a declarative way. When we state something positive to ourselves, the idea will take root within us and shift our mindset. Affirmations help us challenge and overcome negative thoughts and can guide us to a peaceful place. During this time of uncertainty, the following affirmations are great to repeat to oneself to boost positivity and temper anxiety:

I am safe.

I am healthy.

I am strong.

I am calm.

I am loved.

(4) Practice one moment of pure joy each day

Practice the gift of the present moment by witnessing one thing each day in its full splendor. It can be something as simple as looking at a tree and appreciating its beauty in that given moment. The awareness and appreciation you feel in that present moment will translate into a feeling of pure joy. Over time and with practice you will find it easier to step into mindful moments in all aspects of your life.

(5) Let go of negativity and call in positivity

To reach a state of serenity, we need to find the courage to let go of our negative thoughts and cultivate positivity. Similar to an affirmation, by telling ourselves that we are releasing a negative thought like fear and instead channeling bravery, we are sending a message to our minds that we are focusing on positivity. It is very possible to find the positive side of every emotion — fear into courage, hate into love, discouragement into motivation. Tuning into our emotions in the present moment is a way to tap into a mindful mindset to create meaningful change.

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?

As a meditation teacher who is also the mother to five children, I have to be the source of strength, calm, and security for my kids who have each found this situation stressful in their own ways. In order to support them, I found the following five steps to be an effective way to provide comfort during this unnerving period.

(1) Take care of yourself first

There’s a reason we always hear this adage during times of calamity. We cannot provide adequate and restorative assistance to those around us if we are not well ourselves. Especially in close quarters of quarantine, our energy will be felt by those around us and will affect them. Thus, it is especially important during these times to make sure you are kind to yourself and have taken care of your emotional and physical needs so you can be the best version of yourself for the people who depend on you.

(2) Offer a safe space for them to share and be heard

Allow the people in your life an opportunity to share how they are feeling and know that they are being heard without projecting your own issues. Sometimes, all a person needs is the ability to offload the heavy baggage of their stress and emotions and know that they will not be judged. Children, especially, take comfort in knowing they have a person they can trust to care for their basic needs as well as their emotional needs.

(3) Connect with those around you

In the age of social distancing, we can get caught up with being so distant that we start to disconnect with others which breeds feelings of loneliness and sadness. In spite of the physical distance that we must maintain, it is now more imperative for us to connect with others in meaningful ways to stay tethered to the joys of life. If you are in the same household with loved ones, take the time to do something with the people in your home each day. If you are not in the same household, it’s time to get creative with technology to maintain those connections.

(4) Practice gratitude

We can pivot our mindset from negativity to positivity by practicing gratitude. When we call to mind things and people we are grateful for, we invite joy into our being which replaces the heaviness of anxiety and fear. Invite those around you to share what they are grateful for that day when you notice they are in a funk.

(5) Bring them into a mindful moment

As you practice your mindfulness every day, share this moment with those around you who need to pivot from their state of negativity. When you take in the beauty of something in the present moment, rather than experiencing it within, share it out loud to the people who need an emotional boost. Joy is infectious.

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

To learn to become more mindful in everyday life, I would suggest practicing meditation. My first foray into meditation was through a meditation app. A friend of mine insisted I try out meditation via the app but I was hesitant because like so many of my first time students I didn’t think I could do it since my mind was constantly racing with thoughts and to-do lists. Thankfully, however, I gave it a try and this is how I began meditating.

The thought of starting to meditate when you’ve never tried it before can be very intimidating. People have the misconception that they have to stop their thoughts in order to meditate properly. This notion is completely untrue as we have between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts flowing through our mind in a given day. The object of one’s meditation practice isn’t to stop thoughts from occurring, but rather to allow the thoughts to ebb and flow out of the mind and return back to your breath to ground you into the present moment. You can start meditating just a few minutes each day and gradually build up your practice. By meditating, you will learn how to live mindfully in everyday life outside of your meditation sessions.

I offer free monthly meditation video downloads via my wellness newsletter as well as weekly 15 minute live stream meditations via Zoom every Wednesday in April at 1:30 pm PST. During this time of extreme isolation and stress, I share practical tips including tools to help ground yourself, reduce tension and tune into your body with simple breathing techniques, body scanning and affirmations. I am always available for online individual, group and corporate meditation sessions during this pandemic.

Another way I share examples of how to live life in a more mindful manner is via my podcast, “Responding to Life.” In each episode, I discuss a strategy on how to approach life in a reflective and positive way. Past topics have included leading with love to find courage, choosing your mood, the power of the pivot, and cultivating a warrior mindset.

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

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu

I discovered this quote during my meditation teacher training readings and as I progressed in my meditation abilities, this quote unfolded in my own life which resulted in a radically freeing experience. What did this Chinese philosopher mean by this seemingly cryptic quote? We all have preconceived notions of ourselves whether or not they are based in reality. These ideas of self can oftentimes be very negative, limiting or untrue. Yet, time after time we hold on to these ideas because we are fearful of letting go and challenging ourselves. In addition, sometimes we don’t have the tools to sit in the present moment, to just be and allow all the thoughts to float away so we can experience who we really are in the now. When I took this quote to heart, I finally let go of the grip of my insecurities and embraced my passion to help others overcome adversity and achieve joy.

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. 🙂

I would start a gratitude movement because the simple act of being grateful for things and people in your life shifts a person’s mindset and thus, their life towards a path of positivity and joy. Every night when I put my older three kids to bed, I ask them to share three things that are grateful for. In fact, I end my podcast interviews with the same question of gratitude. Whenever people share something they are thankful for in their day or in their life, there is always a smile on their face and in their voice and undoubtedly in their hearts. Our mindset affects every aspect of our life and emotional wellbeing which affects how we feel in our bodies and how we interact with the world around us. When we tap into joy via gratitude, our happiness is infectious and carries over to others.

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

Please visit me at my website where you will find links to my podcast, “Responding to Life,” my inspirational Instagram account, and an invitation to join my growing wellness community. To help you tap into your inner calm, join me every Wednesday in April for a complimentary fifteen-minute guided live stream meditation at 1:30 pm PST via Zoom. To get the link to the Zoom meeting as well as receive access to free monthly meditation-videos via my monthly wellness newsletter, simply enter your email address upon visiting my website.

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

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