Women with Cool Jobs

Executive Director for Center for Mindfulness, Compassion & Resilience, with Dr. Nika Gueci at Arizona State University

July 26, 2023
Women with Cool Jobs
Executive Director for Center for Mindfulness, Compassion & Resilience, with Dr. Nika Gueci at Arizona State University
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Dr. Nika Gueci is the inaugural Executive Director of ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion & Resilience where the mission is “to change the world into a more compassionate and inclusive place by creating a mindful, welcoming culture of caring and belonging."

Learn about how Nika found a job that lights her up, where she can be authentically herself, and that enables her to be a leader who is nurturing, supportive, and collaborative. 

Hear how her career path includes several very diverse and different degrees, a restart and redirect, plus a super supportive friend who saw her potential. (We all need those cheerleaders in our lives!)

Nika explains what it means to be mindful and that mindfulness is a skillset; it is not related to religion and is a research-based practice. 

  • Mindfulness offers a set of tools that you can use to enhance your everyday well-being. 
  • It benefits your life as an individual, as a leader,  as part of a community, and more. 

She shares some awesome, actionable tips for adding more mindfulness to your every-day life and ways to change your habits or coping skills through being present in the moment.

In addition to being the Executive Director, she is also a Senior Fellow at ASU's Learning Enterprise that offers personal development opportunities for lifelong learners.
 
Resources


Contact Info:
Nika Gueci  - Guest
Nika@asu.edu (email)
Nika Gueci (LinkedIn)
Nika Gueci's website

Julie Berman - Host
www.womenwithcooljobs.com
@womencooljobs (Instagram)
Julie Berman (LinkedIn) 

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Speaker 1:

One of the misconceptions of mindfulness is that we need to be in a mountaintop just sitting in meditation poses, and that's what mindfulness is. But in reality, it can help us with our drive, it can help us with our leadership and it can help us to gain the kind of experience that we want to become better leaders or better at our job. And I think that that's something that is surprising when people hear those aspects linked together, because you don't really think about mindfulness as a tool for leadership or a tool for ambition.

Speaker 2:

Hey everybody, I'm Julie, and welcome to Women with Cool Jobs. Each episode will feature women with unique, trailblazing and innovative careers. We'll talk about how she got here, what life is like now and actionable steps that you can take to go on a similar path or one that's all your own. This podcast is about empowering you. It's about empowering you to dream big and to be inspired. You'll hear from incredible women in a wide variety of fields and hopefully, some that you've never heard of before Women who filled robots and roadways, firefighters, c-suite professionals surrounded by men, social media mavens, entrepreneurs and more. I'm so glad we get to go on this journey together. Hello everybody, this is Julie Berman, and welcome to another episode of Women with Cool Jobs. So, in honor of my next guest, I am going to be reading a really beautiful poem before we even get started, and this is obviously completely different if you've been a long-term listener or if you're just a new listener and this is your first episode with me. This is usually very different than how I start, but it's very much in line of the upcoming guests. So I'm gonna read you this poem called Hold, by Evelyn Brown what do I hold today? What do I hold here now. What if, instead of yesterday's stories or tomorrow's vows, what if, instead, I hold here now? What if I hold the ordinary dust as it flies by? What if I hold the stillness of space without asking why? What if I hold the blankness of time, no list or task? What if I hold the present moment, here now, without future or past? All right, so do you have any guesses about who this next guest will be? I am excited to tell you that this guest, who we're about to listen to, is the executive director of Arizona State University Center for Mindfulness, compassion and Resilience. Her name is Nika Gweci, and she is literally out to change the world in a positive way through her job. That is what she is doing at Center, as she calls it, and she has such a cool job. She's been there for almost six years, and when she talks about the idea of her job, she's talking about basically helping people become more compassionate, more self-aware, have more mindfulness. She talks about the idea of mindfulness not being related to religion, because she works at Arizona State University and ASU is a very much a research, strong, research-based organization, and so she talks about mindfulness as a skill set, as a set of tools that you can use to enhance your everyday well-being. So the idea of being more present in the moment to have awareness of yourself, have more awareness of the people around you, to have more acceptance of how life truly is, and she's teaching people all these incredible tools that they can use to benefit themselves and others. So I wanna share a few statistics related to Center and her work there before you listen to this podcast episode. So these statistics are from the first five years and it is from their report that they put together. So they have reached more than 34,000 student staff, faculty community members and stakeholders through their programming, consultations and collaborations. And when you talk about including the virtual things that they have done, they have reached over 100,000 people across 94 countries. So they also have hosted over 140 workshops and trainings, presentations and community events per year. So a huge amount of things that they are doing. Nika mentions that they have a very small staff and yet they are doing all these really beautiful things to help people understand mindfulness, what it is, how you can add more of it to your life, and not only on an individual level, but to help groups and organizations in all different places and spaces. So this was one of those conversations that I just was so happy, honestly, to find out about Nika, to learn about her path, how she got to do what she's doing. It was a really interesting path and she's really found her place, like she's really found her footing doing this incredible work. And I think that it is so powerful to see that there are ways that each of us can lead in such an incredible way, in a way that really benefits others, by being ourselves, by being authentic to who we are and what strengths we bring into the world and the things that we love to do. And Nika is like this beautiful shining light showing us that that is possible. And it's just so inspiring to me to see and I hope that it is inspiring for you as well and if you think that there is someone that you know will be inspired by this, that they will resonate with them, that they would love to have a job like this, or that they just would be interested in hearing that it exists, please definitely share it with them, because that is how more people find out about all the possibilities and the women with cool jobs in the world. All right, well, thank you so much for being here and for listening to this episode. Enjoy my conversation with Nika. All right, hello. So I'm so excited to be here today with Nika Guachi. She is the executive director of Arizona State University Center for Mindfulness, compassion and Resilience, and you have such an incredible place that you work and such a cool job, so thank you for being here, nika. Thank you. I'm so excited to be here. So I found you like sometimes I go through these I call them rabbit holes, where I'm just like searching and then I find someone, I find someone, I find someone, and so that's how I found you on LinkedIn is I was like going in this LinkedIn deep dive of a rabbit hole and somehow we had these connections and I found you and I was learning about you and learning about your job and where you work. And I just I mean as someone who went to Arizona State University, asu I this was after I went there. It's been a while now since I've been there and so I was like, wow, what an incredible like space that you've helped create and a mission that you're on. And so I wanted to read, like, as part of the description for where you work, it says that you and your coworkers, basically, are striving to change the world into a more compassionate and inclusive place by creating a mindful, welcoming culture of caring and belonging. Specifically, the wellbeing of one contributes to the wellbeing of all. I mean, that is so good Like, what a cool mission and purpose. So, as someone who is the executive director, you've been there for five years now. What is your role Like? If you could just kind of explain to us what is your role, what do you do as your job in this really cool place?

Speaker 1:

Yeah so my main job is to change the world through enhanced self-awareness, compassion, mindfulness and building these skills of resilience, because I really do believe that we are each part of the larger system and when we change part of that system, then we change the entire system, and we know that so many systems right now need a lot of changing right. So we can always kind of start with ourselves, but on a day to day basis. Yeah, I've been working at center since it first started for almost six years now. Wow, and it has been a real journey these past six years, because it started as very much kind of a startup mentality because we were just getting off the ground, we were just getting started. So it was those days. It was about hiring, it was about creating the mission and the vision and all of those infrastructure challenges that come with starting something like this, and then it was a lot about programming efforts, event planning, staff development, and now it's now that it's a known entity for the most part. It's kind of like that continuance of process that we have to keep going on a day to day.

Speaker 2:

Wow, yeah, and that's really interesting. I appreciate that you sort of laid that out for us, that like you sort of went through these phases for like from beginning to where you are now almost six years in. And because of the fact that you have this mission, like I'm curious for people who are listening who are like wow, like I mean it's kind of amazing that this type of place exists first of all, but also a very large research-based university on top. Of. That is a pretty cool thing. So for you, I'd love to hear, like how do you sort of envision your role, not only within the university, but also within the community, within the world? I know like, as I was reading through the materials, that is a huge part of like what you guys are trying to do is not only just have this benefit to the specific, you know, students and staff at ASU, but also, more globally, to have this like really beautiful effect on people. So how do you like just think about that or approach that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean that's a big question and that's a great question. So ASU is a huge university, right? We have 142,000 students, 80,000, I believe, of them are in person, the rest are online. A large community within Phoenix and then different locations throughout the states and the world. So we have spaces in DC, in Hawaii, in California, so it's an enormous space to cover, and the Center for Mindfulness is two people right now. So we love that we have a huge job, but part of it is knowing of its existence, and I think that part of the reason that it made such a splash in the very beginning is because ASU is such a driven place and it is such an ambitious place, and so to elevate these ideas of mindfulness, of compassion, of self-awareness, in addition to this culture that we've gotten so used to kind of just shines a light on how important these values are within any system that you're operating in, right, even such a fast-paced one as ASU.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and how do you define mindfulness, like? Is there a specific way that you think about it?

Speaker 1:

Yes. So because ASU is a research university and because it's a public university, we really define it as the science, evidence-based practice that it is. We don't talk about it in terms of a religion just because we want to make it as accessible to people as possible. So we talk about mindfulness as a skill set, as a set of tools that people can use to enhance their everyday well-being. So it's a presence in the moment right. It's a being here Now. That's essentially what it is, and with that awareness comes a greater awareness of yourself, of the people around you, and an acceptance of the way that life truly is, versus all of the stories and the narratives that we create around life and around our experiences. So it's understanding the content of our experiences in a much deeper and broader way through mindfulness.

Speaker 2:

Wow, that was, I mean, a really amazing, I think, explanation and I think, especially given what all of us have experienced in the pandemic, just I mean, I think it's more, I guess, valuable to understand how to be mindful, and I think it's hopefully going to lead to the ability for individuals right, and people as groups and in communities, to sort of change to your point previously, like change the things that we want to change, but starting with ourselves and knowing that it actually is a really powerful tool to be able to help that. So I love that With your job, I would love to talk a little bit in more details as we go in about your everyday life and what you're working on, but before we do that, I want to go back a little bit to younger Nika and you know, like, what were you doing? How did you get here? Because, I mean, this is a really cool place. I think a lot of people maybe have thought about the idea of mindfulness or having these practices that help them in their everyday life, whether it's yoga or tai chi or something whatever. That may be taking a moment to meditate with an app, but you've actually created a career out of it, which is really pretty rad, so how did you get here, nika?

Speaker 1:

That's a. Yeah, I, this is a dream job and I am, I feel, lucky every single day to be a part of this larger mission and to have this position within the center. So, yeah, where should I? Where should I begin? I mean, that's a. That's a long journey.

Speaker 2:

Do you want to start, like, maybe with undergrad, or like at what point were you, I guess, sort of starting to implement mindfulness practices, or did you know what they even were when you were implementing them?

Speaker 1:

I don't think so. I think well. I think that mindfulness is something that we do naturally when we're younger. I think that we're a lot more curious and a lot more open to experiences when we're younger, as children, and so mindfulness comes pretty naturally to us. It's something that is innate in all of us. It's something that can both be learned and is inherent within us as human beings. But yeah, I guess that when I was younger, my mother got into yoga and so she was teaching me yoga, and that's how I got my foot in the door with mindfulness. I started doing yoga myself, I went to teacher training and I started integrating all of these aspects into my life. I was a smoker from the time I was 15 until the time I was 25. And I use mindfulness, without even really thinking about it, to stop smoking. One of my yoga teachers told me that in order to create change in your life you know whether it's changing your habits or starting or stopping something to look at that habit and to kind of enhance the good in your life, rather than trying to only alter that one thing that you perceive as bad. So, like a balloon, the good expands and the potentially negative just gets kind of drowned out, and so I did that. With smoking, I really started paying attention to the way that I felt after and during the time that I was smoking. I started feeling that detrimental effects, and so it took years. It took probably three or four years from beginning to end, but that was one big change that I made in my life without even really understanding that that was what I was doing through mindfulness, and so ever since then that has been a part of the skills that I try to use in my daily life, and it's led to both positive understandings of the world but also to kind of seeing what I do want to change and what aspects of myself I might not be so happy with, because mindfulness is not just about, you know, seeing the good in everything and seeing rainbows and unicorns. It's really about acceptance and seeing things for how they truly are, and so you can do that through those skills.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Yeah, that's amazing. I mean, first of all, that you were able to sort of do that for yourself unknowingly and to stop smoking, but doing it through mindfulness and just having that awareness and sort of slowly as like part of a process, almost that you didn't know that you were doing, and changing right, like changing your lifestyle, changing your habits. For you, were you doing this as like a young adult? Were you starting to do like yoga when you were an undergrad and got trained? And then, like what was your undergrad degree? And I know you are a doctor, like officially doctor? I probably should have said that, so I apologize, but you are a doctor, I'm an academic doctor, not a medical doctor. An academic doctor that still takes a lot Like that's a lot of education and a lot of hard work. That is a valuable doctor. So, with that being said, like I know, you have a lot of academics under your sort of hats that you wear in this role. What was the beginning? Like you know, like what was your undergrad and other degrees in where they related?

Speaker 1:

No, they were not related at all and I want to make very clear that this is not a linear path. This was not a linear path at all and in fact I almost flunked out of my first college try. So I started college at Manhattanville in New York, in the Westchester, and after a year and a half I had a 1.9.

Speaker 2:

GPA.

Speaker 1:

So it was either a matter of withdrawing or failing. So I withdrew and I took some time off and then I decided I want to go to Columbia University. They didn't want to take me with a 1.9 GPA, so I went to Hunter College for about a year and I got my grades up, I built up my studying habits and all of that. And then I reapplied to Columbia and I got in and I went to study Russian studies, which is actually the program that my mom graduated from as well for her graduate program, and it kind of was raised in those halls. So it was a nice historical journey for me as well. And then I wanted to get out of New York for a bit. I'm born and bred in New Yorker, so I went to New Mexico State for my master's, which I got in communication studies. And the reason that I applied to communication studies is because they were the only program that did not want a GRE and I didn't want to take the GRE, so I applied.

Speaker 2:

And I love that.

Speaker 1:

So I applied and I got a teaching assistantship. So I moved to New Mexico for a couple of years and then back to New York and then when I got the job at ASU eight or nine years ago, you know we have tuition credits that we can use as part of the benefit package and I had always wanted to get my doctorate. So I looked into the Mary Lufelton Teachers College educational leadership and innovation doctorate program that they had and I chose that one because it was really catered to working professionals. It was all adults who have had years of experience within their field and who wanted to take that extra step. So it was for people either within higher ed or within K through 12 education and I'm really glad I did that program because it gave me a kind of theoretical grounding for all of the work that I do and strategies to enact that work. So that is my educational journey, which which is full of waves and ebbs and flows.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I love also I mean, I think that's it goes to, I think, who you are the fact that, like you started school is like, ok, this is not the academic performance that is going to get me where I need to go, taking a break, like reevaluating, saying like I want to go to this epic place, you know, university, and how do I get there? Like reorganizing, calculating, figuring things out, getting there and then going on this path. That is actually quite diverse, like you know, having the Russian degree than having having the communication studies. I don't know that it would have pointed directly to you know if arrows like what you're doing now. But I also think that is so cool to highlight because it goes to show, you know, like if we really do have this tenacity and desire and grit right, that like we can get to really cool places. It may not look like what we think is the traditional air quotes here, like trajectory, trajectory, but it's also sometimes fun to not know where we're going necessarily.

Speaker 1:

It's true At the end of the day. You know, people see on my resume that I graduated from Columbia, but they don't. I don't put down that I have a 1.9 GPA from Manhattanville College too. You know, so I think that it's important to acknowledge, especially for the coming generations that are coming into the workforce, to acknowledge that it's not a straight path and you can have many twists and turns that don't necessarily reflect on who you might become.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a great point. And how did I guess, like, how did you end up getting into this position, you know, as the executive director, and this leadership role?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so when I started ASU I was the associate director for wellness and there I led the first collegiate recovery program for students who are in recovery from substance use and misuse, and that was a really great time because I was working on my dissertation as well, so I was able to kind of fuse the education and the practice of it. The center for mindfulness there were stirrings about it for about a year or so and Dr Terry Pipe she was the chief well-being officer at the time and still my mentor and good friend, and so when she put out the job posting, I didn't know her, I didn't know about the center and I had a friend, kim, who told me you should apply to this job, and she told me this three times before I applied to the job.

Speaker 2:

Wow.

Speaker 1:

I was like, ok, I'm just going to put my hat in the ring. And I did, and I got an interview and I was like they don't really want me, so I'm just going to go and I'm probably just the extra piece that they need to show that they did an equitable hiring process. So I was like, whatever, I'll go. So I was so confident because I didn't think that I had a shot anyway. So when I got the job, it was a real surprise. I love that. But it worked out. It all worked out well, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean, here you are right, Like almost six years later, they clearly made a good choice, right, they knew what they were doing hiring you. I love that story and I mean I think it goes to show also that maybe we don't give ourselves enough credit. Like Ray, like obviously your friend saw, if she was like, apply for this job, apply for this job, please apply for this job. Yes, Like she clearly saw in you that like wow, she would be a great fit. She should totally do this.

Speaker 1:

I never would have applied if it wasn't for her and I never would have it if sorry, didn't take a shot with me. So I think it's important to acknowledge all of the people who's hand you hold and who's kind of whose shoulders you lean on along the way, especially for women, I think.

Speaker 2:

For sure. Yeah, I agree. I mean, in so many interviews you know where I've talked to women, it really, and like women and men have been sort of those people who've said, think about this or do this or consider this right, and sort of shining a light on these opportunities or these areas where people might not have thought that they could have this chance at doing something and that they would be really successful doing it and saying, like, actually I believe in you, go for it, so I love that. That's just like one more amazing example of someone doing that For you. Kind of transitioning now to what you're doing now, can you give us like a peek at what is your day to day, week to week? Like Like, what kinds of maybe responsibilities you have? Who do you work with? What are your favorite things Like, what are some of the challenges?

Speaker 1:

if you can share those insights with us, yeah, so now I've taken on an additional role at ASU so my day to day looks different every single day. So I'm the director of the center, but I'm also a senior fellow at Learning Enterprise, which is the arm of the university that looks at lifelong learning. So everybody who's not a degree seeking student and I'm building out their personal development offerings there. So I do that half time and half time at Center for Mindfulness. But at Center our days look different because our philosophy is that mindfulness should never be mandatory, it should always be voluntary, and so the door is always open for whoever wants to come in and wants to do projects or workshops with us. But we never try to force anything on classes, on students. So we really have our door open and people have been walking in. So one of the latest projects that we have been working on has been with ASU Academic Enterprise Enrollment and the Pat Toman Veterans Center and several faculty through Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and her burger design. So we collaboratively created a mindfulness intervention for student veterans who are working in the field, who are ASU students, undergraduate students, and we actually just presented on that at the American College Health Association in Boston two weeks ago. So that's one project. Another project that we have worked on was with the Department of Health Services, looking at loneliness, because that is a huge epidemic. Now the Surgeon General has called for us to really acknowledge that loneliness is a big problem in the United States and the world, and so we created a curriculum on loneliness and mindfulness as a coping tool for negative effects such as loneliness, and the idea behind this curriculum is that the more compassionate you are with yourself, the more you understand yourself, the better able you can have yourself as a source of strength, as a source of support. So even when you are lonely, even when you are sad, you can have a soft landing pad within yourself to turn to. So I think we're very much project based and we respond to the emerging needs of our communities, which, sadly, there will always be a need for human support, because we have so many things that are not right, unless we're right. But yeah, so those are two of the main projects that we've been working on this past year.

Speaker 2:

Wow, yeah, I mean those both sound so impactful and I think, like for both veterans, people who served, and also, yeah, for the loneliness. I mean I think people have experienced loneliness in a way that we never expected, I think, in the past. I think of maybe older adults who are lonely because they don't have the same abilities or resources to travel outside of their home or they're in residences, and so you think of like okay, I can see how that population might have a particularly high level of loneliness. But then I think over the past two years we were all so isolated. It was just like the most sad lonely situation. And I think that having skills to fall back on, like you said, to sort of create a little bit of a cushion within ourselves, is like if I'm feeling this way, how can I be resilient? Like what can I do to sort of support myself, is like a really cool thing. And for where you work, like I know when I looked on the website it looks like you guys do group workshops and trainings Also, sometimes maybe for individuals as well, and so I'll link all those to like the website and everything on the show notes. Is there anything that you've worked on in the past six years. That you felt like was either something surprising that people may not know about in relation to mindfulness, or that maybe is the opposite of what we maybe often believe about being mindful, just something that was important to highlight, or like that we, just as a general population, may not be aware of.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that we have linked mindfulness and leadership and mindfulness and ambition, and we try to highlight that in our workshops, that it doesn't have to be one or the other. I think one of the misconceptions of mindfulness is that we need to be in a mountaintop just sitting in meditation poses, and that's what mindfulness is. But in reality, it can help us with our drive, it can help us with our leadership and it can help us to gain the kind of experience that we want to become better leaders or better at our job, and I think that that's something that is surprising when people hear those aspects linked together, because you don't really think about mindfulness as a tool for leadership or a tool for ambition, right, right, so one of our biggest workshops has been the mindfulness leadership certificate program, where we train people in mindfulness tools to enhance their communication, their relationships, their efforts. Mindfulness can give us a targeted focus for our efforts so that we're not scattered all over the place, which is helpful in leadership, yes, and the idea that we can be both peaceful and productive at the same time. It doesn't have to be a frantic pulling out my hair type of situation in order to get things done.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, actually that is a really interesting thought because I think a lot of times people think of productivity and we think of sort of speed or efficacy and not necessarily peaceful experiences or mindful experiences. So I do love that and I don't know if it's like the right word to say, but it makes me think of like oxy and oxymoron, almost, like, you know, like a paradox. Yeah, that's a probably a better word, a paradox exactly. Yeah, I know that's really interesting. I mean, and can you think because, like I would love you know if you have any like real life examples of this sort of application of for you, if you've used it as a leader or if you've seen other people use it in specific situations where you feel like someone has used mindfulness as a really effective leadership tool.

Speaker 1:

I definitely used it, and I think that when I first started at Center, the experiences are a little bit more poignant there because they were so new. Now I think mindfulness is just so much part of my life that I don't I might not notice them as much anymore, sure, but I remember in the beginning, when I started, I would always take time after getting an email that was less than desirable or a text message that was less than desirable, and saying, okay, I can, I have a choice. Now I'm at a choice point, right, which is what happens when we're aware Everything is kind of a choice point. I can respond to this email or this text message and just kind of spiral down into this radical, or I can go outside, or I can talk to a coworker, or I can just take a few minutes to breathe, or a few seconds to breathe and wait until I respond. And that has been really an important step in both my peace of mind and my leadership, because you don't make great decisions when you're feeling flustered or angry or frustrated, and I think sometimes that's a natural state of being for some people, like the more angry we get, the more frustrated we get, the more angry we will get in the future. So it's kind of breaking that cycle of frustration and anger and understanding that, especially if that person wants to egg you on or wants to engage you in something that you don't want to be engaged in, you can have a decision whether you engage or not. And that's about setting healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries isn't just saying no, it's choosing how you respond to these situations. It's choosing your communication patterns. So that's definitely one big thing that I learned in my experience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean that's like that wording, that you use the choice point and that idea that, like, even if you feel like you may not have a choice right, you actually do in that moment, if you can get yourself to take like a break and just sort of stop and be like is this really the path I want to go down? And I mean to your point, like I'm curious, you sort of mentioned this and, passing in, saying that like, sometimes the anger builds and then, like we come back to that anger, do you feel that is more of like a habit? Okay, and you're nodding, yes. And so I think, like could you touch on that? Because I think that idea of like having that awareness to first of all know that we can approach these like choice points, we can take a different course of action, but then to like understand how that anger sort of becomes a habit, like that's really interesting.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, of course, I think that sometimes we can see it easier in other people than we can see it in ourselves first. So if you think about that one friend that you have, that whenever you pick up the phone, all you hear is a barrage of negativity, right? We all have at least one person in our life that is like that. It's all complaints, it's all negativity, it's all something is wrong, right, but we often do the same thing ourselves, and the more we do it, the more our brains strengthen those pathways. So it's like walking across grass and flattening it out many, many times. It eventually creates a path so that even if you wanna go in a different direction, it's just easier to go in this direction right. So it's like you're kind of whacking the grass. Every time you have that thought. And mindfulness is that awareness of that thought, without judgment, without saying, oh, I'm such a bad person for being angry again, right. It's just the gentle like, oh, you're getting angry again, let's maybe try a different way. And after a while those other paths become just as clear as the angry path because you're using the other ones, right. So I think that those experiences are really what am I trying to say? Like you have a greater awareness of them when you're first starting to do them and they seem to take a lot longer then when your brain is already used to these things. So when I first started getting these email, text messages or whatever, interacting with people I didn't want to interact with, it would take a lot of awareness to be like okay, I am now at a choice point, like I would have to say that to myself, but now it's just kind of more automatic. It's like, oh, okay, just take a breath, go back to doing whatever you were doing, right. So it becomes the more automatic choice versus the choice that takes a lot longer the more you practice mindfulness.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, it's interesting that we're having this conversation today, because yesterday I was meeting with someone for the first time and it was someone who I like found in my rabbit holes and I got to meet. I got to meet her in person and I was like so excited and it's something you know, someone who I really admire and I think they're really cool. And so I was literally sitting there and I was realizing like I was not breathing, like I was just like you know, I was sort of like you know, cause you're excited and you're nervous and all this stuff, and I was like I'm feeling like a little bit weird and like lightheaded. I'm like I need to breathe and luckily I had that awareness. But it's so interesting because after I did, I was like really working hard to take these deep breaths. But I don't know that I've ever really been in that type of position in the recent future, because I just only started going out in the world, right, and like connecting with people in real life, whereas before I was thinking like afterwards, I was like I don't even know if I would have had the like. What do you want to say? Like the hutzpah or the guts or whatever like to sort of initiate the contact in the first place, and so it was like a very new experience. So it was just this whole lesson yesterday and awareness for me that was so interesting. It's interesting what you were saying relating back to, you know, sort of it taking a lot of time and sort of energy to focus like, oh wow, this is where I'm at, this is what I'm experiencing, you know, and so I was really mindful and aware of it. So it'll be interesting to see if it continues to happen. You know, like, as I go out in the world again and, you know, hopefully connect with more really cool women, that, like this, will probably continue and hopefully become a bit easier and I'll remember to breathe. You know, minor important detail, but I love what you're saying to the example that you shared about the grass and sort of. You know, like, if you're treading down a path over time, that that does get more of a worn down nature and that's the path that then you end up thinking is just easiest to go down. And so do you like, for someone who is, you know, not only teaching this for individuals but also for the community, in order to really inspire change in a positive way. Are there sort of guidelines or tenets that you feel like are really important when we are having these sort of new awarenesses for ourselves, in order to not judge ourselves, Because I think that's like a really hard part of actually being more aware. It's like it can go different ways. It can be like yesterday I was like, oh man, I'm not breathing. And then later, later, I realized like I should probably breathe. And then I was thinking, reflecting on the whole experience, like, oh, wow, well, good on me that I was brave enough to try this thing that I wouldn't have been able to do. But it also could have gone the flip way of like I was being like, oh, why was I, you know, thinking this woman was so cool and that made me not breathe. You know, going down this other trajectory where we're really harsh on ourselves and really like judging ourselves and that's actually, I feel, like, worse, because we're having that awareness and that mindfulness, but then we're being so mean. So how are there like guidelines or things that you suggest best practices, if you will?

Speaker 1:

Yes, well, yes, there are. There's a couple of things, and first I just want to say that I'm so glad that you are doing this and that you are taking these chances, even if you know you can't breathe sometimes. I'm having a great time, so I'm really thankful that you're doing this. So, yeah, you know, you bring up really good points and about judgment, and I think that that's a fallback for a lot of us and I think that that's just human nature, right, we put judgments on things in order to categorize them and to make life kind of simpler and easier for ourselves. And that is one thing that mindfulness can teach us is that we are judging. We have a lot of. We have what is it Like? 50, 60,000 thoughts a day and 75% of them are negative towards us, right? And so if you think about the just the gravity of those numbers and how judgmental we are to ourselves, we can see why maybe we have confidence issues or are lonely or you know all of these things. And it's interesting because one of the scales, one of the survey instruments that we often use to measure mindfulness in a self-reported way, is called the mindfulness attention awareness scale, the mass. And we often do it in a pre and post way, so before the mindfulness training or intervention workshop and then afterwards. And we often find that people's levels, self-reported levels of mindfulness go down after they've had mindfulness training because they see how unaware they were before. Wow, so they think, as they're becoming more mindful, they think they're less mindful because they see how unmindful they were in the past. Wow, and so that's another paradox that we see a lot of yeah. So the more aware you are, the more aware you may become that you maybe were not at your best self before. And you asked about tenants and kind of foundations, and there are, there's something called the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness. So these are the attitudes and the ways of thinking as you're going into mindfulness practice. One of them is patience, for example. So patience with yourself, with others, just this, allowing things to unfold in their own time and understanding that as we begin our practice and as we deepen it over time, our thinking might change, and to be patient with that, because the way that we feel now may not be the way that we feel in the future. Another one of them is non-judging. So, as we have these judgmental thoughts, label them as what they are and then allow them to kind of go, because the more that we judge, the more that we will judge right, just the same thing as anger. So it's a gentle nudging ourselves away from that judgment, away from that negativity, and that is yeah, and that's one of the things that mindfulness can teach us.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, those are really powerful and I think, to your point, the patience is something you know that, like I know I personally practicing, because sometimes I'm like I notice I think, like you know, since I started this podcast, it's really interesting. I started the podcast literally the process for podcasting right before we had the shutdown for the pandemic, so it's this weird sort of confluence of things happening in my own life, things happening in the world that then created this like a sort of situation where I just I think I became a lot more mindful. I also did like a really cool program and when I signed up I didn't realize like a lot of it had to do with sort of thinking about your thinking or like how you approach things. And so, through all of this sort of combined, I think I approach the way I go about things, the way I think about things and life, just in a very different way than you know, even a few years ago. But sometimes I get really impatient with, like either the process of being aware, like to your point at the very beginning, is, you know it has like the bonus of sort of bringing about. You know like, oh well, the stories we tell ourselves, like are these actually the truths or is it just like my truth that I assigned for myself Versus the sort of also noticing, like the negative, the negative pieces of like I didn't do so good in this area, like I could probably step that up a notch and it would serve me well, you know. So, with that being said, like it in having to have the patience, having to sort of have that understanding that this is a process that takes time, that is not just something that's like instantaneously you're gonna get and you're gonna be great at. What is your like advice or your thoughts on, like how we can all be a little bit more mindful in our everyday lives in a way that would serve us, because I think, like for me, I've done better and in some instances it's certainly harder, like especially with my children, you know, like in those moments that get heated and you've told them something like 15 times, you know it's like to keep that mindfulness. Or for people who are like maybe in a work environment that is really stressful or there's like high stakes going on or so much uncertainty now in the world, if you have any suggestions for how can people sort of practice mindfulness in a way that allows them to be patient with themselves, but also that will serve them yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I'm thinking of one of the things that we talk about in some of our trainings, and it has to do with mindful communication. And mindful communication can be not just with others, but with ourselves too, and so when we think about how we talk to ourselves, or whether we should tell somebody something, we think about three questions Is this true, is this kind, is this necessary, is this true, is this kind? And I think that we can put the mirror back to ourselves when we're talking to ourselves and say the same thing Is this true, is this kind, is this necessary? And I think that those three questions can save people a lot of headaches. I'm thinking especially you brought up children, maybe in family situations where there are perhaps less boundaries than at work, or with friends figuring out why we're talking that's another acronym weight. Why am I talking? Thinking about these questions, like am I talking just to hear myself speak? Am I talking to fill up space, or am I talking because it's actually contributing to this conversation, or contributing to my wellbeing or somebody else's wellbeing? And I also would like to make the point that mindfulness isn't always nice. Right, it's kind, but it doesn't have to always be nice. So when we're faced with situations of unfairness, of inequity, of injustice, then it is our job to stand up to them and it's not an aspect of mindfulness to turn away from those. So mindfulness is not kind of a bandaid, it's not a smoothing over of things that are wrong or things that are negative. It's an awareness of them, to have that focus for our efforts and to figure out what we can do. So it can be an intentional tool to activate that kind of change that we want to see in the world. Whether it's dismantling systems of oppression or writing wrongs or even talking to ourselves in a kinder way, that awareness really is the first step.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, that's powerful, Like, I think, to your point. I love that it can be sort of the foundation for so many things that should and need to change and that, like, oftentimes we see all these things on the news and it's so on one point, it's like it's triggering, like on one side, but then it's like how many times can we see something on the news and be like how can I help? I have no idea, I'm just one person and yet this is a really interesting flip on that, saying like actually you can start with you and there's something you can do and like you start by being mindful, you start by, like, having these moments of awareness.

Speaker 1:

And that will show you what you actually can do, because there's a lot that we just don't have access to, that we just can't control right. But this will show us what we actually can do, and so I'll just give you an example of that. Before COVID and before everything, I've always loved animals, and so the state of animal welfare in the world has always just been brushing to me. It's something that feels so overwhelming that I can't even make a dent in it. But as I became more mindful, I became more targeted. And so I started fostering dogs right, because that's one thing that I can do, and so it's not going to change the state of animal rights or anything like that, but it's gonna help a couple of dogs and that's what I can do, and that's really all I can do and that's enough. So if you take that, for whatever aspect of the world you're looking to change or looking to alter, it can be something very simple, but if it's something that you can do and that you have access to do, then that's a sense of autonomy that you might not have otherwise.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's such a good point and I think it also shows that, like there's the small actions are an impact right, like you're leaving an impact and you're helping those specific creatures, like you're helping them live a better life. I really like that and I appreciate that example as something sort of like taking a larger issue and then figuring out how can someone take an individual action, because I think that is such a huge thing. And going back to even what you were talking about was asking the questions for people, for individuals, saying, like, is this true, is this kind, is this necessary? And sort of asking ourselves I think those are some great questions to ask, like just to give ourselves like a little bit of almost like an objective viewpoint sometimes, because it can be so hard to step away and have that. So those are some great questions For you because it's sort of shifting a little bit because you do work with so many different types of individuals and people in the community for your job. Like, do you feel like you focus more in this job on individuals? Do you feel like you focus more on a community level because of the fact that you're part of a, you know, larger organization? Where do you feel like, as in this role in particular, you have a focus, and how does that also play into the fact that you are in a leadership role?

Speaker 1:

Great questions. So again, I think it depends on the project, where I'm focusing on the individual or communities. But I think that we've gotten used to thinking that we need to do everything ourselves and that we need to hold ourselves up and we need to support ourselves. But whenever I do trainings within community, like within workspaces without classrooms, people can also be accountable to other people for how they act and how they communicate right. So if we create a more mindful community, then we can kind of hold each other up and have each other be accountable for the wellbeing of the whole rather than just the individual, and I think that it can start anywhere. Really, I think it can start at the broader community level, or I think it can start at the individual level. But when we have a community that is more supportive of, let's say, mindfulness and wellbeing habits, then the more likely we are to engage in those habits versus working against the system. So we can, we can do either one, but if we have a supportive community it's just a lot easier to engage in both full habits.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean that makes a lot of sense because it's like people will understand first of all what you're even doing and there will sort of be that level of like. Okay, I respect that you are working on this and also like having patients for other people who are going through this process, for like for people who are listening and they're like wow, I would love to get into your type of job or just something within you know sort of the mindfulness space, like, can you speak to? What kinds of opportunities are out there? Are there any for people who are interested in this space? And like, particularly if there are other, you know, maybe universities or educational institutions who have something like this, like I was so amazed that ASU had it, but I'm curious, like, does this exist anywhere else?

Speaker 1:

It does. It exists in several other universities. So the first one is the Center for Mindfulness in Massachusetts, out of their medical center, and that's been in existence for 40 years. There are centers for wellbeing or mindfulness all across the states, and so I think that in higher ed there's opportunity, and outside of higher ed there's opportunity as well. This wellness industry personal development is supposed to reach $67 billion in the next couple of years, like it's a huge industry. So if there is an interest, then I would recommend having a science-backed, evidence-based approach to whatever you're doing, because I think that that's very important to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Speaker 2:

And are there organizations that you belong to or like, even Facebook groups or things on LinkedIn, that people can search to sort of get ideas for what kinds of jobs and careers might exist within the wellness space?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Inside Higher Ed is a good resource. The Chronicle is a good resource. Jeff Seligno writes about higher ed a lot and I think that he's a thought leader in that space.

Speaker 2:

Can you spell his name, if you happen to remember?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, jeff, g-e-f-f Seligno, s-e-l-h-e-n-o.

Speaker 2:

Okay, thank you. Yeah, those are great resources Because, yeah, like I always try to have places where people like, if they're like, oh, this sounds so great, I never thought of this like path, as a career option, how can people kind of continue to do more research and find out about it? And for people who are interested specifically in doing something that's similar to what you're doing, like working with the community, you sort of like teaching, because you guys do so many really neat workshops and even events that you guys have had, like, how do people find out about them? Is the best way to go on your website? Are there other places that you guys are posting?

Speaker 1:

or, pretty prevalently, we have a Facebook and a LinkedIn, so if you just search for ASU Center for Mindfulness, there's both, and I think that there's an Instagram too, but I don't have anything to do with that.

Speaker 2:

Sure, it's hard to do everything right, it's hard to do everything, yes, awesome, okay. Well, I appreciate that, and if people would wanna reach out to you, could they do that? And if so, where?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, sure, it's nika at ASUedu. Busy my email and I also have a website, nikaquachiicom. Okay awesome.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, and I will link to your website as well so people can find that in the show notes. So, nika, this was such a great conversation. I love like what you're doing. I mean, I think it's such a cool thing not only to be part of like a huge university system, but also just to share these kinds of tools, really in resources, with the world that actually has such like a profound impact, not only on an individual level, but for communities and the world as a whole. I know that, like when I was reading through, you guys had some crazy statistics about having reached like 100,000 people across the world through like all the different virtual offerings and then actual in-person offerings. So that was really amazing. And the last point I wanted to touch on because we hadn't yet and if you have time I would love to Is, just like there is also, you know, like a blog post that you had on your website and it was specific sort of to speaking to who you were as a person, as a woman, and just like your work experience, and so you talked about in this entry. Like now, I'm incredibly fortunate to have a career that aligns with the qualities that I value, but I wasted so much effort trying to conform to invented standards. It took time to fully embrace the idea that I could lead from a place of natural strength rather than masquerading as someone else. Self reflection took my story out of other people's hands and back into my own and I loved reading this and I shared this with you, like in a previous chat that we had, just so I could kind of even understand what your job was in general before we recorded. But I love this because I thought that was, I mean, like that thought is so powerful and I feel like some of it actually totally relates to that awareness right, just that fact of being aware. But there's also this sort of broader theme here, in that you were essentially you were describing these different ways that you were trying to change what you were doing and how you were acting, because you were seeing these other examples of like what quote maybe traditional leadership looks like, or like what perhaps was traditionally expected in these roles and positions. And yet here you are now in this really cool leadership role, and so I wanted to just touch on that before we ended, because I think the fact that you are in a leadership role within a large institution now I know like you've been asked to do this other position as well, for I believe you said like the hopefully I'm not gonna get it wrong the senior fellowship and so also another leadership role. So I'm curious, like how has it felt and does it feel to step into something and really like be authentically you, and how has that allowed you to be a better leader?

Speaker 1:

It feels very free to be allowed to show those strengths as strengths and not as weaknesses, not as something to hold down but rather to prop up, and I have been given this amazing opportunity to have a role that nurtures those strengths that are traditionally understood as feminine strengths, so they're maybe not as emulated as they should be, and I can go off on a whole nother podcast about why that is but it feels very free and it also feels like I need to show that it is possible to other people who have these types of skills of not just being driven and focused and ambitious, but also to be nurturing and to be supportive of other people and to be collaborative. I think it's important to show that there can be so many different types of leaders, as not just only one person that gets to be a leader, and I think that sometimes the thinking that only one person gets to be a leader has led to so much burnout and frustration and bad behavior, frankly, in so many different areas. So it's very freeing and, of course, empowering and it feels like I can be myself.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it do. You feel like it's allowed you to do even more and sort of reach these places that you may not have considered before, because you are playing to your strengths, like it's something that you're doing in a way that's really meaningful to you, but also I'm imagining that you're really good at doing because that's part of what you'd like to do as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it does allow you to have a deeper impact, I think, because your efforts are going into the direction you want them to go into, right? If you think back to when you were in school and I wasn't good at math, but I was good at English, but I spent so much time learning how to do math instead of learning how to write better, right? But imagine if I spent the time that I spent doing calculus into my writing ability. It would be just completely, it would be a different story. Yeah, you know. So, instead of instead of working on your weaknesses, which we all have we all have areas of challenge and we should, all you know, acknowledge those and if we need those for our job, and we should probably work on them, Right. So, yeah, that's the disclaimer. But when we work to our strengths, I think we can really just have a deeper impact, have a deeper focus.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that's so true. I mean, I think that, like, yeah, it is interesting to think about, like in school and in other places work or what have you like why we focus so much on fixing the things that are actually not innately fun or interesting, or like that we dread doing and we just put so much emphasis on, like perfecting them and getting better, instead of thinking about, like, wow, what really makes me happy, Like what do I love doing and could just keep doing forever and ever, and I'm naturally really good at that why don't I work on that and become excellent at that? Like, I mean, it's such a good question and I think that the fact that you are in this position, able to place your strengths in that it does feel more innately like who you are and the fact that you are able to lead in this different way that is how you show up and lead. You know versus like what that that traditional version of that cookie cutter leader look like in the past is really important to point out and like why I wanted to make sure we got that in before we ended, because I think there's so many different types of leaders and that the more women that I speak to who are leaders in these different areas, the more the conversations like we hit on this idea of I'm doing something that feels really authentic to me and leading in a different way than maybe I saw in the past, that didn't look like the typical leader for whatever this industry was, but yet like it's a powerful example of. Just because things were done a certain way before does not mean that we can't do things differently and that, especially as women if there haven't been women in all these leadership roles that it doesn't mean that we can't be leaders. It means that we maybe lead in a different way. That exactly that was not as prevalent or as much seen in the past. Exactly.

Speaker 1:

And it's kind of unshaming yourself from all of these messages that we've all been bombarded with since we were children. You know, do this, don't do that, do this, do that, and it's a stepping away from that and that feels incredibly authentic.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I am just really glad that, like, we've at least gotten to this point in our culture, in time also, where we are, as women, starting to see like we can step out of these traditional things and really lean into what are our strengths. So that's so cool that you found this position, that you're able to do that, and that it's it's led, you know, also having a really cool job. So I want to wrap up with, of course, my favorite question that I always ask everybody, and so I'm going to ask you now. So, to enter conversation, will you please share a sentence that uses verbiage or jargon from your field and then please translate it so it's understandable to us.

Speaker 1:

Sure. So one of the terms that we throw around a lot is MBSR, which stands for mindfulness based stress reduction, and it is the gold standard of mindfulness training that was developed out of the Center for mindfulness in Massachusetts 40 years ago. So we throw it around a lot because we're all trained in it and we all have backing in it. It's a science backed way to practice mindfulness. But it might not be something that somebody would really understand if we just said, oh, we're doing this MBSR, she's got a history of MBSR training or whatever.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that Well, and I think that's such a great example because it's like such a standard in your field, but yet I've never heard about it. So I think that's really interesting. That's like why I love these examples, because there are so many things that are just like part and parcel to each individual, like niche and career, but yet, like so many of us, have never heard of it if you're not in that world. So it's always just like really cool to hear some of the details about, like what it's like and day in your shoes. So, all right, well, thank you so much, nika. It has been so much fun, you know, learning about what you do, learning about also like the idea of just mindfulness and how it can be something that can create change. So I am so excited to have you on and we'll put so many of the links that we mentioned in the notes, but again, thank you for being on. Women with Cool Jobs. Thank you, julie. This was wonderful. Lastly, do you have ideas for future shows or do you know any rock star women with cool jobs? I would love to hear from you. You can email me at Julie, at womenwithcooljobscom, or you can find me on Instagram at womencooljobs. Again, that's womencooljobs. Thank you so much for listening and have an incredible day.

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Mindfulness and Changing Systems
The Power of Mindfulness in Leadership
Break Anger Cycle With Mindfulness
The Power of Mindfulness and Patience
Mindful Communication, Community, and Creating Change
Exploring Careers in the Wellness Space
Working to Your Strengths