Mindfulness guru shares tips for peacefully navigating
the new year
By Joyce Reingold
As we dip our toes into this fresh new year, may we collectively resolve to forgo resolutions. So put down the pad and pencil, dear reader. Delete that list from your smartphone. It’s 2020 already. Time for a fresh approach.
And who better to show us a new way than Barb Schmidt, the Boca Raton-based mindfulness practitioner, teacher and author of the international bestseller The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness. As 2019 came galloping to a close, she stopped to share some thoughts on how to more peacefully and harmoniously navigate the new year.
“About five years ago, my daughter Michelle Maros, who runs Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life with me, said: ‘Mom, you know what I like instead of resolutions?
“‘I like setting an intention word that is kind of my guiding star, or my true north, or my highest ideal for the year.’ And I have found that to be magical,” Schmidt said.
“Resolutions are usually external things: I’m going to exercise every day. I’m going to go on a diet. Where, if you choose a word, it comes from the inside. It’s like I’m sitting with myself in quiet, just for a minute or two, and asking, what do I really, really want?
“So, I love that because I believe strongly in all of the work that I do, that we can really live our most successful, happy lives by living them from the inside out, not directed from the outside in.”
In 2019, Schmidt chose truth as her intention word.
“I wanted to make sure that I was in alignment with my truth, even if it was hard, even if it sometimes felt like I was making choices that weren’t necessarily in alignment and I had to regroup and go back and say: Wait a minute. This didn’t quite work. Let me start over again. It kept me on track and kept me in a place where I really wanted to be.”
For 2020, she has selected trustworthy. “Life can be difficult, chaotic and stressful, and at the same time I have found that we truly can trust the process of life. It’s a great paradox, however, because our power comes from doing our best knowing that we can’t predict what will happen.
“Through all of life’s difficulties, I’m always uplifted by the truth that we can absolutely handle things better than expected — and trustworthy reminds me of this.”
Schmidt and Maros are kicking off 2020 with two popular local events that reinforce the mission of their nonprofit organization Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life: “Furthering inner peace and wellness by educating and inspiring individuals and creating community through mindfulness practices, online resources and programs.”
Schmidt, who is also known for her philanthropic work, will lead a four-part meditation study group, beginning Jan. 14, as part of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life’s wellness series at Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute.
Since Schmidt and the institute launched the series in April 2016, “we have welcomed nearly 4,000 people into our workshops and reached hundreds of hospital patients through our in-house television network,” said Maureen Mann, the institute’s executive director.
Dr. Patricia Anastasio, a physician with Advanced Pediatrics of Boca, says the Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life programs have been transformational, reducing her stress and fatigue. “I now recommend mindfulness training to all of my friends and colleagues as the most important resource for reducing anxiety and preventing burnout,” she said.
On Jan. 28, Maria Shriver, TV journalist, author and founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, will join Maros and Schmidt in an evening of conversation at Mindful Boca 2020, at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University.
“I am over the moon, unbelievably excited to be bringing her in,” said Schmidt.
A practitioner of mindfulness and meditation for more than 30 years, Schmidt has been on more than 100 retreats and studied with teachers around the world from Deepak Chopra to the Dalai Lama.
“All of our work in January will focus around, how do we begin the year? … 2020 is going to be, I believe, an incredibly stressful, chaotic year with it being an election year,” Schmidt said. “We’ll be focusing a lot on what … are some of the really simple things that you can do to stay grounded, to relieve your anxiety and stress and not allow all of the chaos and the noise that’s going to happen in 2020 to take you down a rabbit hole of anxiety or stress or worry.”
Untethering from technology is one key strategy. Most of us know we should do this more often, but as Schmidt asked the audience in her 2015 TEDx talk, “When was the last time you did nothing?”
Putting electronics aside is a practice Schmidt strongly encourages in her presentations to high school students.
“The biggest thing that I teach them is that in the morning, when you first wake up, before you pick up your phone, stay in bed for a minute or two and close your eyes and just breathe. And then follow the same routine to close out the day. Don’t take your phone to bed with you. … Close your eyes before you go to sleep and … name one thing that went really well for you in your day. There’s always something that went well. Find it and name it. And then close your eyes and go to sleep,” she said.
“When you can disconnect from technology and disconnect from the external world, even for a minute or two, it realigns your brain. It realigns your ability to be able to manage and nourish your nervous system.”
The students tell her it’s hard to do, but it’s working. “They’re seeing the results of the break, between feeling anxiety and stress and noticing, Wow, I feel a little bit calm in this moment,” Schmidt said. “And … just knowing, I really only need to do that for one minute. And when you try it you see that one minute is pretty powerful.”
Schmidt says research shows that spending just 14 minutes — or 1% of each day — in mindfulness can help transform the other 99%. “Just taking a break is the most powerful thing we can do,” she said.
“It truly is just finding that space throughout the day where I can be with me for a second here, for a minute there and just notice: What am I feeling? What do I want? What is happening for me in this moment? Where am I getting off track? The word brings it back. …
“Mindfulness meditation — just sitting with oneself for no matter how long — is a great way to let that word kind of come back into focus.”
Why not give it a try? But no need to call it a resolution.
If You Go
What: Mindful Boca 2020: An Evening With Maria Shriver
When: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28
Where: Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University
Cost: $125, orchestra seating; $100, mezzanine.
Registration is required; visit www.pmpl.eventbrite.com.
What: Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life Wellness Series: Meditation Study Group
When: 6-8 p.m. Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 10 and April 7
Where: Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital
Cost: $150. To register, visit www.pmpl.eventbrite.com.
Joyce Reingold writes about health and healthy living. Her intention word for 2020 is joy. Share yours, and column ideas, with firstname.lastname@example.org.