Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine a spotlight on author Whitney Stewart and her Mindful Kids cards for the second part of a great interview! Last month, we talked about Whitney as an author; this month we’re focusing on mindfulness.
The staff at ABSW was really excited to see a demo of the card set from Barefoot Books, so we worked with the publisher to create a special event this holiday season, where we will bring Whitney to the store and actually practice some mindfulness techniques to help our patrons with holiday stress! On December 3, from 1:00-3:00 PM, come to our 65 James Street store to learn a few mindful activities for adults and children, to help make this holiday season a little less stressful.
Whitney Stewart grew up in Wayland, MA, now lives in New Orleans, and will travel far for a story. She’s trekked in a Himalayan snowstorm with Sir Edmund Hillary, interviewed the Dalai Lama in India, and visited Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. She’s worked as a puppeteer in France and has dug in former WWII battlefields in rural Poland. She is the author of travel stories, multiple children’s books, and her new mindfulness activity cards, Mindful Kids. When she is not writing or traveling, she teaches mindfulness and meditation to children.
Whitney, how did you come to being more mindful in your life? Was there an experience that made you want to be more mindful? If so, could you share that story?
I grew up in a dysfunctional family with alcoholic parents and grandparents. That was not easy, so I looked for ways to find inner peace. When I was 15, I took a yoga class. (That was back in the 1970s before yoga was popular.) My teachers helped me learn how to meditate, so I had a taste of sitting in present moment awareness. But I didn’t make time to practice much when I went off to college. I needed a teacher to help. After I went to Tibet with my mother in 1986, I returned to the USA and met a Tibetan Buddhist monk who became my teacher. I have been practicing Tibetan Buddhist meditation and mindfulness ever since.
What was one thing in your life that changed when you started doing more meditation and being more mindful?
In high school and college, I felt a great deal of stress over my school work. I studied hard and often went without sleep and good food. After I learned to meditate and started to practice mindfulness, I made my health a priority. I exercise every day. I eat a very healthy diet. I work solidly, but I take time to refresh. And I keep to a regular sleep schedule. I don’t do anything in excess.
Since we’re getting close to the hustle and bustle for the holiday season, people are even more apt to say, “I don’t have time to be mindful!” What would you say in response?
We often get stuck on the idea that mindfulness happens only on a meditation cushion or yoga mat, and that nothing else counts. But, you can practice present-moment awareness and kindness to yourself and others no matter where you are. Try mindfulness in the grocery line. Pay attention to your breathing. Pay attention to the way you speak to other people. Smile at the other shoppers. Smile at the cashiers.
Practice mindfulness while driving, eating, or wrapping holiday gifts. We are so often caught up in our head that we miss out on the moment-by-moment experience. Just stop whatever you are doing—even reading this sentence—focus on your breath and the physical sensations in your body. Allow yourself to feel grounded. Take a moment to let go of your stress and relax your resistance.
One more thought—mindful listening could be the greatest gift you give anyone this season. Put down your phone, look someone directly in the eyes, and listen fully without even planning your response. Just listen.
What’s the most surprising effect you’ve noticed about being more mindful, incorporating these simple mindful exercises into your life?
The most surprising effect is that I can laugh at myself. I catch myself wrapped up in my head, and suddenly the inner noise cracks me up! Most of us don’t simply start a mindfulness and meditation practice and wake up one day with sustained enlightened awareness. It takes a lifetime. Or two…or three.
As a reminder, you can find Whitney’s work and Mindful Kids at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, as well as her website:
And the Barefoot Books landing page:
To follow Whitney’s work, here are some links to follow:
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Whitney! We look forward to having you at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester on Sunday, December 3, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM to help us and our family learn some mindfulness techniques to make this holiday season a little less stressful!