Mindful Influence ~ Creating conscious moments

Kari Estrada

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Changing the Chaos

Chaos…It is what many of my fellow MBA students would call our end of semester “crunch time”.  I started my part-time MBA at the University of Nevada Reno in the fall of 2012.  Pursuing my degree was going to take me approximately three years.  With only a couple of semesters left, I approach my learning much differently now thanks to many of the professors and courses I have taken over the past two years.

Finding mindfulness has given me an abundance of benefits when tackling school.  This current semester has been by far the most busy.  Planning, reading, researching, organizing, and team building all played a huge roles in my learning this semester.  This is the first semester where cultivating mindfulness was a daily habit for me.  Here are a few of the benefits that I have gained:

  • Non-striving:  This has given me the ability to be fully engaged in the classroom by giving my best effort and allowing myself to be fully aware in the present moments.
  • Gratitude:  I am able to look at what is important to me and how it helps me add to my value and purpose.  Saying thank you to the individuals who have helped me with my MBA journey (family, friend, colleagues, and peers).
  • Creating Change:  My habits surrounding how I learn have improved.   I have improved my mental and physical focus and increased my concentration while eliminating distractions.

In a WSJ articleJeremy Hunter, says mindfulness is, “like upgrading human ability.  The Assistant Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University believes mindfulness should be at the center of business schools’ teaching, because it is about improving the quality of attention, and in the modern workplace, attention is the key to productivity.  This statement can also be true when talking about a students quality of attention in the classroom and when studying or researching.

Mindfulness has introduced me to more self-relefection with much less judgement and control.  I am able to communicate better and solve problems through creativity and innovation by utilizing the “beginner’s mind”.

Has mindfulness helped to change your chaos?  If so, please share your comments below.



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Money Tango

This week I wanted to address an issue that all of us deal with in one way or another…MONEY!  Since being laid off, I have been paying much more attention to our family spending habits.  I have been reading many articles and researching books to educate not only myself on money matters, but also my husband so that we can go about our money dance with the same information and knowledge.  The following is a quote that I would like to share by William A. Ward:

Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.

Listening, thinking, earning, investigating, waiting, forgiving, trying, saving, and giving all relate to mindfulness.  If we remain on autopilot, our financial habits will never change.  It is similar to any other aspect in that we need to be aware in our spending moments and look at what we consume.

Observing how we earn our money is another important factor.  Money is being earned while we are doing the job…not when we receive our paycheck.  What does an hour of working provide?  The first steps to recognizing your finances are acknowledging your income and tracking your spending.  If we are more conscious about what we earn, we can learn to be more conscious about what we spend.  Earning money should provide for living expenses and to enjoy leisures in life.

Some questions to ask how you tango with money:

  • When dealing with money do you feel anxiety?
  • Do you know your “true” debt?
  • Do you know what you made in the last 30 days?
  • Do you know what you have spent in the last 30 days?
  • Do you impulse spend?
  • Do you keep track of your spending?
  • Do you use credit cards when you can’t afford something?
  • How do you cover expenses that come up unexpectedly?

I recently listened to a webinar by Kate Northrup that asked many of these questions I had already started to ask myself.  I hope to share more with you once I read her book, Money: A Love Story.

I think that many of us need to really look at what our necessities are and what satisfies our living expenses and leisure.  Being aware of what we are actually spending day to day and developing conscious money habits will allow us to face and accept money issues and lead us to a healthy financial relationship with our money.

Do you have an financial books you can recommend that have helped you become more mindful with your money?  What steps have you taken to start your journey to financial freedom?


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Blowing Bubbles

Being a stay-at-home Mom, I have started to research various projects to do with my kids during the day.  We try and do a couple of art projects each week and they both have sports that they are involved with.  Now the the weather is nicer, we are spending much more time outside.  They see me practicing mindfulness from time to time.  I try and include them when I do Hatha Yoga or Belly Breathing to expose them to some sort of mindfulness.

I think teaching kids about awareness of themselves, others, and our surrounding environments is extremely important.  I recently read Teaching Mindfulness to Children by Karen Hooker, Psy.D. and Iris Fodor, Ph.D.  This paper discusses mindfulness and its benefits for adults then goes into detail of how to adapt mindfulness techniques with children.  It discusses the benefits a child will experience, especially surrounding awareness.  It also features mindfulness exercises that attend to the cognitive processes and how to integrate mindfulness into school curriculum.

After reading this, I started to brainstorm daily activities to do with my kids.  Here are a few concepts I am going to try. Keep in mind that my kids are pre-school age.

  • Nature Walk – We can take a walk through the neighborhood or to the park.  During our walk, I can ask them what they see around them.  On the ground, in the sky, what the weather (sun, wind, etc.) feel like to them.
  • Bug Hunt – My kids love to find bugs.  Once we find them we can count the ants, or count the spots on a lady bug.
  • Driving – During our drive, my kids have always pointed out airplanes, motorcycles, trains, or big trucks.  When they see these things, I can ask them to tell me the sounds they hear or colors they see.
  • Belly Breathing – This exercise should be kept short in time.  For 1-3 minutes we sit with our legs crossed or lay down on our backs, breathing in and out.  I ask them to put their hands on their belly and feel it go up and down.
  • Blowing Bubbles – We can blow bubbles outside.  I can ask them if they see any colors in the bubbles or if they are traveling up or across.  The other thing I can ask is what made the bubble pop.

These are just a few of the activities I am going to do with my kids to start practicing mindfulness.  Kids naturally are in the present moment and do a lot of observing.  This will also teach me to be in the moment with them.

I would love to hear more recommendations of activities for children to cultivate mindfulness?  Please share your comments below!  You can also follow me on Twitter.



A Meaningful Career

Do you love what you do?  Most of us work to provide the necessities needed to live along with having the ability to enjoy leisure activities.  In your career, do you provide value and purpose that stand behind your beliefs?  Lately, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about my career:  What type of work do I want to do?  What type of company do I want to work for?  How can I contribute my values and purpose to my career?  All of these questions came about when I was laid off last December.

I recently read this quote by Dr. Ellen Weber,  “Mindfulness fosters love for what you do – and enables you to do what you love.”  In my research about mindfulness and through my daily practice, I have read many articles about mindfulness and its benefits.  This quote has stuck with me and I think about it when researching new positions.  I am now approaching my job hunt more mindfully.  I am applying the 7 attributes, especially patience and trust.

A job search can be very challenging and trying at times.  I have to work towards keeping a positive attitude and know that it will not always be this way.  Applying patience has allowed me to examine the types of positions that I am applying for and to know that things will develop in due time.  I am trusting the process and know that the right opportunity will present itself at the right time.  Most of my positions have been accounting and finance roles.  Pursing my MBA at UNR has helped broaden my business knowledge so that I can make a smooth transition into other career roles.  My interests include areas I have prior experience in such as  project management, operations, and strategy.

The following are key elements that help in mindfully searching for a meaningful career:

  • Research the job and the companies you want to work for
  • Be honest in interviews
  • Advertise your technical skills while emphasizing your people and communication skills
  •  Show your innovation
  • Stay true to your values and drive your purpose

Through this process, I have been given the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.  This has allowed me to redefine what my purpose is and how I want to project my purpose in the world.  By applying mindfulness and being passionate, open-minded, and focused, new doors will soon be presented!

Are you in a meaningful career doing what you love?  How have you approached applying for new opportunities?

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Your Posture Can Improve Your Future

Lately, I have been paying close attention to my posture.  Most of my adult life, I have had poor posture.  I tend to go in phases as to when I practice improving my posture.  Good posture is really a discipline that many of us need to be mindful of.  Stand against a wall for three minutes.  Breath in and out…notice your posture.  Where is your head positioned?  Are your shoulders back and relaxed?  Is your core pulled inward and alert?  How far apart are your feet?  Is your weight balanced equally?  Where are your hands?

Richard Brennan, author of Change Your Posture, Change Your Life wrote:

Good posture allows the body’s healing processes to work more efficiently and effectively and helps to prevent future illness. It also aligns your body and helps your muscles, joints and ligaments to do their job as nature intended. Improving posture reduces fatigue, muscular strain and pain. Good posture also brings the body back into balance, physically, mentally and emotionally. A person who has good natural posture tends to project poise, confidence, integrity and dignity.

I truly connected with the last sentence of this quote.  I am currently searching for a job and I have had several interviews.  I am redirecting my career path a little and this sometimes leads to insecurities.  I have been reflecting on the interviews and particularly my posture.  Most of the interview I have had, I have been fairly nervous.  I think this is normal.  Looking back, posture is always the first thing that I remind myself of…Sit up straight, don’t put your elbows on the table, and most of all smile.  These may seem like small and simple things, but I need to be mindful to remain this way throughout the interview.  Body language or non-verbals are things that we tend to judge in others often.  You can tell a lot about someone just by observing how they sitting or standing.

Posture is important to pay attention to while we are sitting, standing, walking, driving, working, studying, and using our smart devices.  How we carry ourselves can affect our feelings and emotions.  After all…the mind emulates the body.  Non-verbals are a huge part of communication.  Below is Ted Talk on body language by Amy Cuddy.  She conducted a study that concluded power posing or holding a posture of confidence for a couple of minutes, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain and may even have an impact on our chances for success.

Take the time to notice your posture.  Pause several times throughout your day to stop and notice how you are standing, sitting, or walking.  Make small, positive posture adjustments and observe if your mind, thoughts, and emotions make small shifts as well.

Do you think your overall posture affects your mood?  Please share your comments below!



Looking Beyond the Mirror

Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. -Stephen R. Covey

Mindfulness incorporates all four human endowments identified by Stephen R. Covey.  When I first stared meditating, I had many thoughts.  “Am I doing this right?  Has it really only been 5 minutes?  What else do I need to do today?”  These are all pretty normal.  As anything else, you need to practice meditation to help eliminate distractions.   By embracing different ways to cultivate mindfulness I am able to CHOOSE to let go of my thoughts and focus in the present moment during meditation.

In today’s growing society we are doing more than ever combined with an abundance of distractions that lead us to overthinking.  Through mindfulness, I have been able to weed out distractions and concentrate on my purpose and being.  Mindfulness is a lifestyle change that allows me to be open, honest, and compassionate with myself while taking responsibility for my actions and choices each day.  Here are some of my reflections on how my mindfulness integrates with the four human endowments:


  • SELF-AWARENESS:  Mindfulness allows me to examine who I really am, how I respond internally and externally, and what truly makes me happy.  I keep a meditation/observation journal to write in each day.  This guides me into my true self.
  • CONSCIENCE:  Mindfulness has given me the wisdom to identify with my purpose.  It gives me balance and harmony that aligns my actions and choices with my personal ethics and principles.
  • INDEPENDENT WILL:  Mindfulness has helped me to eliminate unnecessary distractions and to put my priorities first.  I hold myself accountable for my choices and allow space before responding.
  • CREATIVE IMAGINATION:  Mindfulness has increased my focus and concentration by choosing to be in the present moment.  I am innovative with ideas and envision possibilities and opportunities.  Through hard work and dedication, I can make my goals a reality.

Mindfulness has lead me to the “human freedom” that Covey discusses.  We can continue to learn and evolve as we look beyond the mirror.  Aristotle, stated, “all human beings by nature reach out for understanding.”  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Enforcing the Peace

Lately,  I have read multiple articles surrounding the Hillsboro, Oregon police department and how they are integrating mindfulness into the lives of their officers.  I decided to Google the top qualities that a police officer should possess.  Out of all of the articles that I read, the following five qualities  were the most prevailiant:

  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Problem Solving

All of these skills and abilities can be enhanced and improved through the practice of mindfulness.  Police officers in early training are taught to be nonjudgemental in all situations, which is a key element in mindfulness.  Cheri Maples, co-founder for the Center for Mindfulness and Justice believes that mindfulness can be used as a tool for officers to cope with stress, trauma, and emotions.  The following is a great quote from Cheri on changing organizational culture:

“The first and most important thing I have found in changing an organizational culture from within is understanding that it doesn’t have to come from the top down. What you stand for personally is important, because inner integrity is infinite. And you can do it!”

 Mindfulness starts within each individual.  Police officers have a higher chance for divorce, alcoholism, and suicide over other professions.  To help address these issues and improve coping mechanisms, Richard Goerling, former Lieutenant for the Hillsboro Police Department started to research how to improve communication and emotional intelligence.  When researching these topics to help educate officers, he came across the practice of mindfulness.  Cultivating mindfulness leads to greater awareness and increases empathy.  It helps regulate psychological and biological responses to stress and improves cognitive performance.  Officers can embrace and further develop their abilities with mindful driving, mindful listening, and mindful problem solving.  Goerling is striving to fundamentally improve the overall wellness of law enforcement across the U.S. and to improve citizen and officer relationships.

Mindfulness can help to enforce the peace with law enforcement by building community and reducing overall risk with the following benefits:

  • Build Resiliency
  • Preventative Mental/Physical Health Care
  • Improve Focus
  • Find the Calm
  • Relax
  • Be in the Present Moment

If you are in law enforcement, would you be open to learning more about mindfulness?  If you are not in law enforcement, how do you think your industry could benefit from mindfulness?  Please share your comments below.