If we want to liberate ourselves from anxiety, stress and collective fear, we must dedicate some time to investigate what inside of us is causing this emotional response. We have been trained to believe that the reason we experience anxiety is because of our circumstances; but in reality, it is not about our circumstances or the people who make our lives miserable. It is actually, because of how much attention and power we are giving to others and the habits of judgment and blame that bring us emotional pain. Until we take the truthful way and meet fear face-to-face, we will continue swimming in a pool of misperception.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriela Jimenez.
Gabriela Jimenez has more than thirteen years of experience working with children. She began as a Montessori teacher and for the past seven years, she has been teaching mindfulness to children in schools and private homes. She trained closely with master teachers from India. She is certified as a Conscious Parenting Coach and has trained in positive psychology. Currently, she serves as the Mindfulness Coach at Centner Academy where she oversees daily breathwork and meditation with students.
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?
I was born in Costa Rica in extreme poverty. At 4 years old, I remember throwing sticks and stones at my house with feelings of deep despair and anger. I vividly recall making the decision to get myself out of poverty at all costs, mostly because I wanted an escape from feeling hopeless and alone. My life began to change when I was 7 years old when I won a contest to participate in a local TV show. Soon after, I started working in radio, and years later, I would continue to work in the entertainment industry by joining theater and doing voice-over work. When I was 19 years old, I moved to the United States. At that point, I couldn’t speak English so I felt discouraged by my inability to express myself. All the training I had in voice-overs, theater, radio and TV meant nothing for me in this country. I simply had to start all over again. That’s when I began to work as a nanny to make extra money in order to go to college to learn English. I was very determined to make money and overcome my feelings of worthlessness and despair from childhood. I immediately had a natural ability to communicate with children and a deep desire to help them. I began to work under the guidance of a great Montessori teacher. On the weekends, I would spend my time at a local church working with young kids. At the same time, I was pursuing a degree in Biology and pre-med just to make money, even though my passion was working with children. Then one night, my life completely changed when I was almost killed in a car accident. For the first time in my life, I was forced to stop, to stay home, to recuperate and to think deeply about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew that there was something greater for me to pursue. I just didn’t know how to find it. After months of recovery, I spent a year traveling the world, doing research, writing and praying. I explored many religions, including Buddhism. I began to explore meditation. I moved to Miami, Florida, and that’s when I began to follow a path of deep inner exploration by practicing meditation and silence. The power of meditation and introspection truly saved my life. I focused the next few years of my life on researching positive psychology, the study of human consciousness and mindfulness in education. I began a business to teach children life skills and mindfulness and produced workshops for parents. In 2019 I became the Mindfulness Coach at Centner Academy, a school dedicated to teaching children emotional intelligence and happiness in an environment where children can reach their true potential to succeed in life. I am deeply thankful to wake up every day and know that I am fulfilling my heart’s longing. I am thankful, happy and fulfilled to know this is not just a story, but my story, and that I was born in this lifetime to find my way to happiness and true service. I am thankful, every day, for the understanding and practice of mindfulness, which is not just a set of tools one can apply to feel better. Mindfulness is a journey of transformation, an exploration of the mind and the emotional wounds that keep us from achieving our full potential. For me, this is the road of true physical, emotional, mental and energetic healing. I am convinced that this is the road to alleviating human suffering and it is more than a passion in my life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think the most interesting story, or the biggest milestone, is when I came to the realization that children are not children. In our society and current educational system, we are trained to think that there is a hierarchy where children are below adults and teachers, and adults have all the answers so they must teach kids everything they know. We as parents or teachers carry a heavy burden from the belief that we must be knowledgeable and rational adults. We carry so much responsibility for the emotional, physical, mental and energetic process of our children. After all, we are adults. We have life experience andchildren do not. When I came to this understanding, it landed in my heart so deeply that I was finally able to see them for who they truly are. That was the first time I started to relate to them soul to soul and seeing them as equals. I stopped trying to control them, my self-image, my carefully selected words, and my chronic self-monitorization. I began to learn how to guide them with real compassion and let them guide me more. I was able to switch the way I related to them, the way I presented a lesson, the way I observed them or analyzed their behavior. This transformed completely the way I related to them and they felt that. They received me from a different place, and that is truly magical. I understood that as soon as I made the shift in my own consciousness. I began to empower them, because now we were equal and I could see what they were seeing. As a result of this insight, my private sessions have also become more interesting, more creative, more relaxed, more genuine and more open. That understanding of one another is where true compassion and connection are found. It is the basis for unconditional love.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I think in any leadership role, we must enter a self-discovery journey. Those leaders who have truly walked the line of self-mastery have become beacons, instruments of inspiration, to their organizations. There is no more joyful way to create a fantastic work culture than for leaders to embody what they teach. Role models lead by example. The implementation of any technique that brings true inspiration must be felt. In my opinion the vibratory field of where one speaks from is felt by those around us. Like children, most of us can feel when someone is lying. We can feel when others are feeling sad, stressed or anxious. Oftentimes, words are not even needed for us to tap into this receptivity. This receptivity is an innate gift we all have, and it is for this reason that I strongly suggest that our leaders “stay on their own mat” and truly take on a position of accountability, so that they can clean up all self-judgment, all fear, all conditioning. It is also important that we understand that true leadership is always selfless and at the same time, in positive psychology terms, self-serving.
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?
Yes, “Letting Go” by Dr. David R. Hawkins. This book has made a huge impact in my life. It was given to me by a dear friend at the beginning of my spiritual path when I had just discovered the power of mindfulness. I spent hours reading, highlighting and taking notes from this book. I followed the steps of the “letting go process” and I became fascinated by the very effective and clear message of the author. I was introduced to this book after all the years I spent trying to “let go” of my childhood trauma. I used to think I had truly let go of all my painful childhood experiences because I was living a normal life and, overall, feeling happy. What I didn’t know was how much I had numbed and suppressed my emotional pain and how my system was still driven in part by emptiness. The success I pursued, the friends I related to, the jobs I picked and the romantic relationships I established were all affected by the emptiness inside me, and by the hypnosis, I was under of seeking safety in all relationships. I compensated by making deep attachments to material things, status, and image management. I spent years of psychotherapy and Christian counseling and tried many ways to overcome the feelings of emptiness. This book showed me a very simple and effective method. I became so focused and engaged in the life of the author and began to apply this process not just to me but to the work I did with children. It is one of the most effective and healing techniques I’ve experienced. This is a book I can recommend to anyone beginning a path of inner transformation. My invitation is to read the book and apply the method with deep focus and intentionality. You may find the diamond in the rough as I did.
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 a state of being; it’s simple and complex at the same time. All of us have experienced mindfulness in one way or another. For example, when we look at babies, especially newborns, something in us just stops. We become captivated by the softness of their being. The same thing can happen when you contemplate puppies or baby animals. Most people feel very attracted to these little beings. We admire their innocence, the playfulness, the radiance they emanate. It is effortless to just love them. It is like we enter into a space of wonder and relaxation. A similar phenomenon occurs when we begin to practice mindfulness. Many articles, research papers, and books have been specifically written about the countless benefits of meditation in our physical, emotional, mental, and energetic bodies. The state of mindfulness is a state of openness, receptivity and creative flow. Here, we feel totally in the present moment, meaning that the thoughts are there but the experience is not. We observe our thoughts (the mind) and enter a state that is beyond the physical, mental and emotional states. This is because we have five bodies. The first three bodies are physical, mental, and emotional. Most humans live in this state of consciousness. They think they are only a body. They know they have a mind with thoughts coming from the brain, and they know they experience emotions, such as love, anger, and fear. However, as one becomes more aware of surrounding energies, one begins to notice that there is also an energetic or spiritual body that everyone possesses. With this awareness, one becomes receptive to shifts in energies — one’s own as well as the energies of others and in nature.
One begins to understand that there is a state of calmness of the mind, the calmness of the physical parasympathetic response of the nervous system, and a calmness of the emotional rollercoaster. One is able to enter the state of what some call, the observer. This witness consciousness, or mindfulness state-of-being, is the energy field that is interconnective with all of life. It is a state of magic, wonder, and of no time! As one becomes aware of this field, when one first enters it, the sensation is like being in a familiar space but also a very different one from what we are used to. The reason is that human conditioning is bound to body awareness, and we haven’t been taught as children, or even as adults, how to recognize this space. Actually, children are always in this space. It is the adults that pull them out of this awareness; and so, as we grow up, we become less mindful, more preoccupied with what will happen tomorrow, with performance and with how others see or think of us, mistakenly taking witness consciousness into body consciousness to fit in with the tribe and to please our parents. The consciousness of a human being is then bound to the incredible capacities of the mind to survive, to create coping strategies to ensure they’re loved and accepted and safe. This is the origin of our misperception. When we finally disentangle from this perception, it is like we have woken up! The great masters have talked about the process of waking up. At first, it appears to only be a theory, a universal story told by all of them. It is not until one is able to experience it that it becomes true.
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?
Benefit #1: No more problems
Problem solving is a strategy, a state of being. It becomes a reality because we believe in “problems.” When we are very little, we name things. This is the beginning of language development and our understanding. We also begin to associate those words with emotions. That is the beginning of the development of our emotional style. We create an impression in our memory about the meaning of words and the feeling that we associate with particular words. Often, during childhood development, we start facing “problems.” We tense our muscles, our heart rate elevates, and our breathing accelerates. We experience a sympathetic response from our nervous system saying we are in fear or in danger. These can be settled or gross responses. We adopt the belief systems of our parents, teachers and those around us. When we buy into a belief system that says, “problems are painful, problems are part of my life, I have many problems, etc.,” we begin to identify with those ideas, and we experience those ideas. So, as one becomes more mindful, one will examine the mind, the belief systems that one has taken ownership of, and the effect of those belief systems in one’s life.
Therefore, the number one benefit would be, no more problems! It doesn’t mean that all the money, success, friends and lovers one could want will become readily available. It means that problems will be understood for what they really are. One will not suffer from problems anymore or feel their effect on the physical, mental and emotional body. There will be a feeling of being more grounded when making decisions, more peace, more clarity in moments of crisis and fear.
Benefit #2: Happiness
Happiness studies and positive psychology explore why some people are happier than others despite their socio-economic background or the state of their health. From research and own experience, I see happiness as a state of being. One can say that mindfulness equals happiness. Or mindfulness equals being happier. If happiness is something we all can access, then how come some people are able to master this art and others are not? My answer is, happiness is a choice we make moment to moment. The more open and receptive we are, like children, the easier it becomes for us to experience the mental, physical and emotional benefits of positive emotions. The brain secretes more hormones, such as oxytocin and pheromones. Our muscles regenerate faster and we even age more slowly. The cells of our bodies are pure intelligence. They function better when there is more oxygen to carry nutrients in the bloodstream. Thus, when we can master our state of mind, we put our system in a happier state in the process. The body relaxes, we become more aware of our surroundings, and our survival mechanisms will respond automatically when we are in real danger. Overall, one can say that happiness is the direct result of a mindful state of being.
Benefit #3: Safety
Safety is often discussed in schools, during crisis, wars, or pandemics. Safety with capital S is a state of being. It is important to make the distinction that we are not only our bodies when we talk about safety. If we think we are only the body then we will practice social distancing, we will take lots of vitamins, eat healthy, exercise, and do whatever is necessary to keep our bodies healthy. If we understand we are the emotional body, we try to keep ourselves as far as possible from danger. But this also includes emotional danger. Feelings of safety in the child come from nurturing. If a child feels a sense of safety from the mother providing food, the child’s physical safety is not at risk. However, if parents neglect the child emotionally, the child’s emotional response is one of feeling unsafe. Emotional neglect is more common than we think. It can be very damaging to a child’s well-being. Because most of us are not born to parents who are unconditionally loving, and who have transcended all feelings of uncertainty and fear, not feeling safe is a natural response. As grown-ups when we face a serious crisis, our automatic response and survival mechanisms kick in to keep us away from danger but practicing mindfulness can truly help us cross the bridge to safety. True safety resides in unconditional love as feelings of complete security, nurturing, power, strength, resilience, ownership and connection. True safety is experienced in the physical, emotional, mental and energetic body. One cannot feel fully safe if one believes oneself to be separate from love, from others, or from the universe. A real sense of safety comes from interconnection, and in order to get there the system must be in balance. Therefore, the practice of mindfulness can guarantee this fundamental safety. One cannot address safety by only addressing the body and not the mind. If we really want to be and feel safe during difficult times, we must practice mindfulness.
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.
Step #1: Start Your Day with an Intention
The first step is starting with an intention. The intention is verbalizing what we want. For example, today I choose to feel safe. What we intend will manifest. If we make short intentions at the beginning of each day, we can tell our bodies how we are going to feel and treat others. If we create rituals to create positive affirmations for ourselves or for our families, we dictate the power of our mental and emotional bodies and can gain mastery over our emotional process. Intentions are powerful words we choose to create an atmosphere of empowerment over our own lives every morning. Through intention, we create a habit of speaking positively to ourselves. In order for it to be truly affirmative, it must be a prayer that connects you to something, to your own mind, or to your own power. For example, every morning I make intentions for my day, for my meetings, for the people I will talk to on the phone, for those I will interact with in my Zoom meetings. I intentionally create self-belief energy to be grounded and to feel safe even in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
Step #2: Practice Breathing Techniques When You Feel Anxiety
The power of breath and breathwork is an incredible tool to bring calm and to help activate the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Simple breathing techniques can be practiced each day and only take a few minutes. All you need is your body and a bit of an adventurous spirit to practice and experience the amazing benefits of these techniques. One example of a breathing technique is to take sharp inhales and sharp exhales through your nose for 10 to 15 breaths. Then pause and visualize a light in the middle of your chest. Emotions are processed in the chest, the emotional center of our being. Bringing attention to the emotion you are experiencing and allowing it to simply pass through can bring a quick balance back to your relaxation response.
Step #3: When You Notice Negative Thoughts and Fear, Move Toward Gratitude
It is very healing to put yourself in the energy of gratitude. The science behind it is basically that energy follows attention, so if we focus on how bad, wrong and problematic our life is, energy will follow that and all of our bodies (physical, emotional, mental and energetic bodies) will be stuck in what is heavy and difficult. But if we instead focus on what is positive and going well in our lives, our bodies secrete a “love cocktail,” as studies have shown. This is similar to what a mother feels during the fourth trimester or symbiotic period after given birth. Our brains constantly secrete hormones related to happiness, and the neurochemistry of the brain changes. We know this from the latest studies of neuroplasticity and its association with meditation techniques and the secretion of dopamine and endorphins that create a pleasure response in the body. If we focus on what we are grateful for, the automatic feelings of gratitude bring peaceful, pleasant and joyful emotions. We can also prepare ourselves for challenges ahead with gratitude. This is a profound technique to prepare your emotional responses and lower your reactivity.
Step # 4: Do a Little Investigation at the End of the Day
At the end of the day, or when you have some time to relax, take out your journal and explore: how many times did you feel triggered today? How many times were you grateful? What feelings are familiar or what are familiar tendencies when you get frustrated or annoyed? How do you react when there is fear? How do you project that fear onto others?
Exploring our patterns, emotional responses, and habits is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those around us. It’s a direct route to self-love and sovereignty.
If we want to liberate ourselves from anxiety, stress and collective fear, we must dedicate some time to investigate what inside of us is causing this emotional response. We have been trained to believe that the reason we experience anxiety is because of our circumstances; but in reality, it is not about our circumstances or the people who make our lives miserable. It is actually, because of how much attention and power we are giving to others and the habits of judgment and blame that bring us emotional pain. Until we take the truthful way and meet fear face-to-face (inside our bodies), we will continue swimming in a pool of misperception. We will be under the hypnosis of collective manipulation. If we truly want to heal and release everything that is painful in our current family dynamics, we must explore the origin of our emotional pain. I always like to give parents the example of a big tree. If we only focus on the branches or perhaps the trunk, but we never allow ourselves to really contemplate the tree deeply, then we miss the most important part — the roots buried underneath the dirt. Similar to our own process, we must dig and see what is underneath the surface and get to the roots of our conditioning. This is the way to become stronger and more powerful. After all, only a tree with strong roots can withstand the storm!
Step #5: Put Yourself in “Time In”
This is a very important step we must do every day. Instead of putting someone on “time out,” put them on “time in.” This is your time to cater to and deal with yourself in order to feel happy, joyful, serene, powerful and complete. We must practice that which brings us in tune to our natural abilities. Meaning, we must practice what we love every day, even if it’s only for five or three minutes. However long it is, we must do something that connects us to what we truly enjoy every single day. It could be something you have always wanted to do or something you pretended to play as a little kid. You must choose wisely. It has to be something deeper than just distracting ourselves. Perhaps you dream of being a Broadway actor. Pretend that you are an actor in a Broadway play for those five minutes. This is not just pretend play. This is how we connect to the natural abilities that we possess and regain power and confidence over them. Whatever natural ability or desired dream you had and never fully fulfilled; you must explore it while you’re in “time in.” This is a great technique to ease the fear of doing what you love to do. It is also very healing because often we are the only thing standing between our dreams and our success. Using imagination, creativity and a sense of wonder like children do, will link us back to those effortless gifts we might be hiding.
Although it may seem like we have a lot more time on our hands in these days of social isolation, the reality is that time remains the same. We are simply allocating these hours to something else. It is in our hands to use this time wisely and purposefully. Many of us might be in deep fear of choosing a different career path, losing our income, or losing our patience with our children running around. Whatever the situation may be, it is common for stress and anxiety to surface, for our fears of survival to kick in and for emotional withdrawal from those we love. In order to avoid this, we must use some tools to keep ourselves anchored and rooted like the tree. We must take sobering steps that can truly transform our lives and our ways of relating to others. This might be a great time to explore our relationship with money, or our relationship to work, with ourselves and with all of life. Seeing this time as a time of real transformation, not just individually but collectively, can bring nuance to our life’s journey and true healing to those around us. What appears to be our current state of isolation and collective fear, can become the doorway to freedom.
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?
I suggest doing the exercises above with your family or loved ones, but only if you know for certain they will be receptive to this. Often, the best way to support those around us is to transform ourselves first. Although we currently find ourselves in very special circumstances, times of crisis call for us to use our creativity to inspire others and bring hope and love.
Step #1: Tell Them Why You Love Them
Sit in front of those you love and care about and face-to-face tell them why you love them and admire them. If you are apart from them (i.e. social distancing due to COVID-19), call them. You can also sit in meditation with them in mind and send them love. The feelings of love will create a fundamental sense of safety and connection, not only helping you feel safer but also helping others feel safe as well.
Step #2: Include Them in Your Intentions
Sit down in meditation with those you love. They don’t have to be physically in front of you. Bring them into your awareness and wish feelings of safety, peace, joy, clarity and connection for them. All of these feelings will be sent to them, but you will also feel the positive effect of sending good intentions to others. Intentions are powerful ways to direct energy and attention to those who are in need. It has also a powerful clearing effect on our energy field.
Step #3: Projections of Safety
We can utilize the system of projections. We are constantly projecting unto others. Most of the time, this is unconscious. We can use these projections positively and with awareness. We can think of those we love as healthy. Holding others in safety-consciousness is one way we can send others the strength we believe they possess, even if they don’t believe it themselves. They will feel supported by your decision to look at them as able, capable and powerful enough to overcome any kind of fear or struggle.
Step #4: Don’t Feed into the Struggle
Seeing our family members suffer can be hurtful and challenging. We often want to save them so that their suffering stops as soon as possible. But first, explore how you would be helping them by trying to save them. When others around us are in victimhood dynamics (complaining, scared, blaming others, or in fear), we can take one of two positions. We can listen to them and agree with them, which by default will bring us down to their vibration where we can possibly end up feeling as bad as they do. Another option is to listen to them and not enter their state of mind. We can only develop this by observing our own contraction as we talk to them. If we feel the contraction and see ourselves biting into their wavelength, we can visualize a beam of light in our chest and focus on our heart center. We can still participate in the conversation and not let the other’s emotional state influence ours. This is very powerful because as we become more grounded in this practice, others will feel the pull of our energy field. They will feel more supported this way than if we were to agree with them and meet them at their vibration. You can also visualize a light connecting your heart to theirs as you have a conversation with them.
Step #5: Get Curious
Ask questions such as, “how can I best support you during this time? How can I use my abilities to serve you at this moment? Tell me what you would like for me to do to bring you healing?”
Sometimes asking others what they need is a simple and profound way to show them we care about them. It is a way for us to find out from them how they want to be cared for and supported. It’s a simple and practical technique we can use with our families or loved ones. You will often find that when you ask these kinds of questions, your intentions can be felt and that, in itself, is healing and uplifting.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“This too shall pass” by Rumi.
Rumi is my favorite poet. He has been a source of inspiration on my path of inner- exploration. Many of his quotes are with me daily. But this quote is by far the one that most resonates with my journey. In moments of great sorrow and difficulty, this quote has come to remind me that suffering is not forever, that it is only temporary discomfort. It reminds me that everything shall pass and that I will see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have had moments in my life where I have felt such deep despair that the wounds of the past have come to haunt me and brought me to my knees. It has been only through prayer for clarity and freedom that I have heard the silent calling of the poet Rumi. His words have come to meet me, and his energy has vibrantly prevailed in my life, reminding me of the seeds of mindfulness — to be present in the eternal now and to always be reminded of the constant flow of life. This brings a sense of wholeness to my experience.
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 movement to reinvent education on the other side of fear.
It would be a movement focused on bringing human consciousness and mindfulness to every school, every home, every parent and every child. I would ask governments to promote that every child from birth to at least 6 years of age be taught only emotional intelligence. The profound impact this would bring to the life of those children is yet to be seen. Imagine what would happen if we were to dedicate ourselves, our parenting and our teaching to help ourselves and our children learn how to manage their emotions, how to manage their energies, how to use creativity and inspiration to guide their decision-making. I would encourage communities, activists and the richest people on the planet to invest in studies of consciousness. I would create a real school of life for children. Here, they will start their days with gratitude, with intention, with breathing exercises and with daily meditation. Every day, they will explore how they feel and why. They will learn about their parent’s fears and strategies, they will learn about family karma and how to free themselves from those invisible ties. They will learn other ways to relate to fear, to money, to danger, to problems, and to love. They will become proficient at overcoming emotional challenges in life. I would help them learn and understand that they are traveling souls and that their little bodies don’t determine their worth. I would let them sing and play and be without expectations. I would let them run freely in nature. I would let them get their hands dirty, plant trees and grow food from the ground. Not one day would be quite the same. There would be no clocks in my school, and everyone would contribute to a living breathing curriculum of peace. The only request in my curriculum would be self-love. To find the most powerful, effective and creative ways to exercise self-love would be their task.
This movement is my dream. A dream of unconditional love and based on the way of the Tao, the way of peeling the layers of conditioning from day to day. The children here will learn what most of us wished to learn at 3, 4 or 5 years of age: how to find happiness and contentment amidst chaos, how to feel safe and complete in the middle of a pandemic, how to feel held and supported, loved and validated by those around us.
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