When the phone rings and the caller is asking for a couple hours of your time to help with a worthy cause, you have two obvious responses: yes or no.
Unless that call is from the Arizona Foundation for Women, a remarkable organization that helps women overcome obstacles, find safe sanctuary, job training and employment, and empower them to say, "Yes I can!"
Of course, I was delighted to answer the call to act as emcee at the AFW's annual Sandra Day O'Connor Luncheon, which was a sold-out event for nearly 900 guests. The foundation honors three people each year for their contributions to the welfare of women and children. This year's Lifetime Achievement honoree was Goldie Hawn, a perfect choice.
I've long admired Ms. Hawn as an Academy Award-winning actress, producer and director. I was less familiar with her work at the Hawn Foundation, which Goldie established to support research into developing ways of helping children become healthy and eager learners. The more I heard, the more I realized that this foundation may be Goldie's best work yet.
After her acceptance speech I was lucky enough to interview her for nearly half an hour about her fascinating projects. She was thought-provoking, content-rich and hilarious.
Her foundation has developed a school curriculum, MindUP, which teaches children vital social and emotional skills that empower them to manage and reduce their own stress, helping them to be happy. The evidence-based program, which is now taught in schools across five continents, combines neuroscience, positive psychology, and social and emotional learning, in tandem with mindfulness. The result is young people who are living smarter, healthier and happier lives.
Among the lessons that enhance learning, children are encouraged to:
• Learn how their brains react to emotions.
• Take daily "brain breaks" and focus on breathing.
• Practice mindful sensing -- exploring sight, taste, smell, hearing and motion.
• Consider the differences between optimism and pessimism.
• Learn to savor happiness.
• Learn perspective and how to view differing results.
• Focus on compassion and empathy.
• Discover the importance of generosity and a sense of social responsibility.
• Perform random acts of kindness.
• Engage in practical problem-solving and critical thinking.
Does this sound like a program that should be limited to children? I certainly don't think so!
She explains this whole concept in her new book, "10 Mindful Minutes," which I highly recommend. As Goldie says, "What I do know is that MindUP works for children, so its principles can work for parents too." I would extend that to all adults, including those who don't have kids.
Mindfulness, she says, is "the conscious awareness of our current thoughts, feelings and surroundings -- and accepting this awareness with openness and curiosity in a nonjudgmental way. It means focusing on non-doing, a crucial skill in these distracted times. It is more important than ever to teach ourselves and our children how to concentrate, so that we'll become aware when we've lost focus and be able to maintain our attention for longer periods of time."
This differs from thinking in which she says "we often judge each moment by what has been or what could be."
Goldie concludes her book with a "toolbox" for living a more mindful life. The helpful lists and gentle lessons make her program easy to follow and implement. She encourages readers to find 10 mindful minutes each day "to help reduce stress, renew your mind for clearer thinking, and create greater focus and connectivity with your children."
What impressed me most about Goldie's book were the personal reflections that are sprinkled throughout. She shares observations from experts, educators, parents and children who explain the positive effects of the program.
I particularly was interested in how she turned her entrepreneurial skills, which she didn't even know she had, into a powerhouse foundation helping millions of children.
When you think about it, she's been an entrepreneur all her life. She had to go out and get jobs, use her sales and marketing prowess in heavy competition with other actors, producers and directors, hire staff, and use creativity, passion and vision to do all these things. Now she's put together all these skills to establish her foundation with an impressive board of directors. That's mindfulness at its finest!
Mackay's Moral: Goldie's book and program are solid gold!