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Finding Your Inner Goat

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #2 – FINDING YOUR INNER GOAT

October 6, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

Whenever I teach Mindfulness to children, I’m prepared for just about anything. Recently, I was guiding a group of enthusiastic 5th graders through a calming breathing exercise and after ringing the singing bowl, signaling the end of our practice, I asked the kids how the exercise made them feel. I received the usual answers… Calm! Happy! Sleepy! Tired! Happy AND Calm! And then, amidst the chorus of young voices, one boy exclaimed with exuberance – “I feel GOATED!”

I thought I had heard just about every possible answer to this question, but I admit this was a new one for me! Curious, I asked him what “goated” meant and he proceeded to tell me (with even more enthusiasm this time) that he felt “the greatest and the happiest I’ve ever felt in my whole life!”

Now, all you sports fans probably know exactly what he meant. Even the folks at Merriam-Webster know what he meant. (Side note for all you logophiles: The dictionary recently added 690 new words to its already beefy book including — you guessed it — “goated”). GOAT, it turns out, is an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time and is often used to describe football or soccer players who are considered the absolute best in the history of the sport.

So there you have it. This youngster who felt “goated” had tapped into something truly extraordinary — his ability to change his state of being simply by practicing Mindfulness. He had essentially unleashed his inner greatness and discovered a source of strength, calmness, and resilience within himself that made him feel extraordinary.

We often think of mindfulness as a practice reserved for adults seeking stress relief and inner peace. But here’s the thing – mindfulness isn’t just for grown-ups. Children, too, can benefit immensely from these simple yet profound techniques that include deep breathing, guided imagery, and maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of their thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. For children, this practice can be a superpower.

So, the next time you hear a child say they feel “goated” after a mindfulness practice, don’t be surprised. Instead, celebrate it as a beautiful reminder that they are calling upon their inner goat — their superpower — to transform their young hearts and minds into something truly magical.

As for me, I came up with my own acronym for GOAT — Go Out And Teach. And that’s just what I’m going to continue doing because that’s my superpower — helping kids navigate life’s inevitable ups and downs through the practice of mindfulness and feeling the greatest and the happiest they’ve ever felt in their whole lives.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

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Unleashing Happiness

“Unleashing Happiness” by Karen Lee Stevens

We are thrilled to introduce our new monthly blog by Founder and new Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens. Learn what inspired Karen to pursue Mindfulness and share her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

DISCOVERING MINDFULNESS- BLOG POST #1

SEPTEMBER 5, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

Not that long ago, I was running two businesses, caring for an elderly loved one and trying — quite unsuccessfully, I might add — to have some semblance of a social life. To say I was burnt out would be an understatement.

When I came down with a bout of bronchitis that was determined to stick around, I knew something had to change. My ER doctor friend, James, suggested I try Mindfulness, a form of meditation that encourages one to “pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, with curiosity and non-judgement, and notice your thoughts, feelings, surroundings, and sensations in your body.”

I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a whirl. In the beginning, I listened to guided meditations on apps like HeadSpace, Breethe, and CALM. Later, my friend, Pamela, introduced me to 10% Happier, a podcast and book by the same name created by Dan Harris, the now retired journalist for ABC News, who endured a panic attack on live television in front of millions of viewers. If meditation worked for someone as stressed out as Dan, I figured it could also work for me. Every morning, I’d press play on my iPhone, close my eyes and let the narrator’s voice wash over me.

If I’m being completely honest, some days my meditations were fantastic — enlightening even — and other days, an email message or distressed phone call could send me tumbling all the way back to the starting line. As one of my teachers would often say, “Meditation is simple, but it’s not easy.”

As I dove more deeply into the world of Mindfulness, I started noticing little changes in my overall well-being and outlook on life. Snarky texts lost their sting and aggressive drivers no longer ruffled my feathers. Friends even starting giving me gifts like crystals and t-shirts that boldly stated “Heavily Meditated.”

I felt like I was onto something and it felt expansive.

I began to wonder if I could adapt our popular ARF! read-to-a-dog program, which gives shy and reluctant readers a safe and welcoming place to practice their reading skills. This time, however, I envisioned children practicing Mindfulness with a sweet therapy dog sitting calmly nearby.

One of our smart and dedicated volunteers, Cat Smith, and I began training to become Mindfulness Instructors through Mindful Schools and MindUP for Life, the brainchild of actress Goldie Hawn. Today, Cat and I teach Mindfulness to children in elementary and middle schools and give them the tools they need to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while increasing focus and resilience. Our therapy dogs are right there beside them, adding a sense of calm and happiness to the classroom.

The classes aren’t just for children; their teachers also participate to de-stress during their busy workday and to model the desired behavior in their students.

The children affectionately call Mindfulness their “superpower.” Week by week, they eagerly embrace the lessons and breathing exercises as well as the peaceful moments with our therapy dogs. As instructors, we witness positive changes after just a few short weeks. As for me, my journey from burnout to balanced is a gentle reminder that the power to change resides within each one of us, nudging us to spend more time in the precious present moment. It’s in this place of stillness that Mindfulness — our superpower — begins to light up our lives… one breath, one gentle tail wag at a time.

Stay tuned for Karen’s next Blog Post in October!

Questions, comments? Contact her at Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

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