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Ep 102 Adapting Meditation Through a Trauma-Sensitive Lens with Stephanie Wagner

Interview with Stephanie Wagner about practicing trauma sensitive mindfulness through meditation and her techniques to teach others how to connect with meaning and purpose.

STEPHANIE WAGNER, MA, MM, NBC-HWC, NETA-GEI
Stephanie is a board-certified health and wellness coach, meditation teacher, curriculum designer and group fitness instructor with a masters degree in Integrative Health and Well-being Coaching from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.

Stephanie has a 20+ year career working at an executive level in the world of Corporate Training and Development, where she created and taught large scale training programs in subject areas like coaching, service, and well-being.

As a coach, Stephanie employs mindfulness-based coaching techniques to help people live their best lives–with abundance, ease, and connection–by helping them understand how to leverage self-awareness and their strengths to make positive, sustainable behavior changes. She helps clients and students to cultivate awareness of the triggers and habits that drive them, to help them define strategies to make lasting behavior change.

Stephanie is inspired to bring meditation to as many people as possible and does so through her work as a trainer with Healthy Minds Innovations, a non-profit affiliated with The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison–and her work as a meditation facilitator at Tergar Meditation Community. Stephanie has been teaching meditation and co-leading meditation retreats for the past 15 years.

In addition to her work at Healthy Minds Innovations, Stephanie is on the teaching faculty for the Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching graduate program at the University of Minnesota.

Social Handles:

IG: @stephaniewagner_wellbeingcoach

FB: Stephanie Wagner, Health and Meditation Coach

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Ep 102 Adapting Meditation Through a Trauma-Sensitive Lens with Stephanie Wagner

[00:00:38] Cynthia: today we get to speak with Stephanie Wagner. She is an amazing human being that I’ve had the privilege of knowing for the last couple of years. Stephanie is a board certified health and wellness coach. A meditation teacher, curriculum designer, and group fitness instructor with a master’s degree in integrative health and wellbeing Coaching from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.

[00:01:05] Cynthia: Stephanie has a 20 plus year career working at an executive level in the world of corporate training and development where she created and taught large scale training programs in subject areas Like coaching, service and wellbeing. As a coach, Stephanie employs mindfulness-based coaching techniques to help people live their best lives with abundance, ease, and connection by helping them understand how to leverage self-awareness and their strengths to make positive sustainable behavior changes.

[00:01:36] Cynthia: She helps clients and students to cultivate awareness of the triggers and habits that drive them to help them define strategies to make lasting behavior change. Stephanie is inspired to bring meditation to as many people as possible, and does so through her work as a trainer with Healthy Minds Innovation and nonprofit.

[00:01:54] Cynthia: Affiliated with the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and her work as a meditation facilitator At Targa Meditation Community, Stephanie has been teaching meditation and co-leading meditation retreats for the past 15 years. In addition to her work at Healthy Minds Innovation, Stephanie is on the teaching faculty for the Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching graduate program at the University of Minnesota.

[00:02:20] Cynthia: And here we are with Stephanie Wagner. Hi Stephanie. How are you doing today?

[00:02:27] Stephanie: I’m doing wonderful. How are you?

[00:02:29] Cynthia: I’m doing all right. I’m so excited to talk to you because A, we’re alumni from the same master’s program and so we’ve crossed paths a couple of times now, and B, we’re talking about trauma this quarter, and I love that we were able to, Find out that you do trauma informed mindfulness as well, and that’s a part of what you offer, and it’s just so beautiful.

[00:02:58] Cynthia: I feel like the concept of trauma feels so heavy and hard, and mindfulness sounds like the counter to that, which makes so much sense that they would go together.

[00:03:10] Stephanie: Yeah, I mean it’s really a wonderful, it’s a wonderful process, but it’s also a wonderful training. I was trained in trauma sensitive mindfulness from an expert named David Tree Levin.

[00:03:21] Stephanie: He has written a book that was based on his doctoral dissertation called Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness, it’s a wonderful program. It’s very well done, and it gave me, as a meditation teacher and a coach skills to be able to help the clients and the students that I’m working with to adapt their meditation practice if they do have symptoms or traumatic symptoms that arise during their practice, which is very common.

[00:03:48] Stephanie: And so I’m, I just feel so grateful for the program and that I’m able to bring that into my, in my teaching and my coaching.

[00:03:55] Cynthia: Amazing. And when I think of mindfulness over the years here in Minnesota, your name just comes to mind immediately. I’m like, oh yeah, mindfulness. That’s Stephanie. But I would love to hear from you directly too.

[00:04:10] Cynthia: Your story, what brought you into the world of mindfulness and specifically trauma sensitive mindfulness?

[00:04:17] Stephanie: Yeah. I came to the practice of meditation in the early two thousands because I was just dealing with an incredible amount of anxiety. So that was first and foremost. I had chronic anxiety.

[00:04:31] Stephanie: I had tried a bunch of things and everything was feeling unworkable, and I had this. Instinct that things could be better and things could be different. And my mom had been a yogi and had been dabbling in Buddhism and meditation and her adult life. And so it definitely was something that I was introduced to.

[00:04:55] Stephanie: Growing up and then also became interested in exploring. So that’s the first reason. So anxiety, which is the reason why a lot of people come to meditation, honestly. And then, the other thing was that I had just gotten into engaging in a bunch of really unhealthy behaviors. To help me soothe my anxiety.

[00:05:14] Stephanie: Like I was shopping too much. I was overspending, drinking and eating too much, and it was really impacting my body as well. I had gained 80 pounds so I had this unworkable anxiety that I was trying to soothe through the best way that I knew how, but I knew it wasn’t the right way and I thought, gosh, this, there has to be a better.

[00:05:38] Stephanie: A better way to deal with this. And so I ended up exploring meditation and just took to the practice very easily, very quickly, and have just now moved into the professional space where now I’m teaching meditation and I’m doing meditation coaching, and I also integrate, mindfulness and other practices like self-compassion into my regular health coaching clients.

[00:05:59] Stephanie: So it’s just been a really important part of my professional and my spiritual life at this point.

[00:06:05] Cynthia: Yeah. And I love that it’s something that you were familiar with, right? Something that your mom practiced, but maybe as a child or young, younger adult, you’re like, eh, like not for me. But then you, once it was time and you were like, oh, okay, I know that this tool exists.

[00:06:22] Cynthia: I just love that connection too.

[00:06:24] Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, what was really wonderful about the exploration for me is I. Went and checked out many different methods of meditation, many different traditions. I looked at sort of Zen, I looked at Terra Vaden, I, so there’re all these different kind of traditions of practice, which you may not know the labels or the names, but they have a slightly different flavor in terms of how they approach meditation.

[00:06:50] Stephanie: And I was grateful for that because I by exploring multiple. Places or multiple ways of meditating, it really allowed me to land on a set of practices and a community that really resonated with me.

[00:07:05] Cynthia: Yes. I can tell you are a seeker of knowledge.

[00:07:09] Stephanie: Definitely.

[00:07:09] Cynthia: All the, definitely all the degrees, all the things you’re doing.

[00:07:13] Cynthia: So I’m glad you were able to do that exploration. And what is it about the community you found about about mindfulness and then also trauma sensitive mindfulness that really pulled you

[00:07:25] Stephanie: Yeah. So I would say that the community that I landed on it’s called tega Meditation Community, and the approach to meditation really is that nothing is a problem.

[00:07:37] Stephanie: Many folks come to the practice of meditation thinking that they’re trying to get rid of their thoughts, or they’re trying to get rid of emotions that are problematic for them, and they end up wrestling with their inner experience, which in turn turns up the volume on their suffering. Right?

[00:07:54] Stephanie: It just, anytime you try and push something away, it like, it sort of amplifies, it amplifies what’s happening. And so in this particular way this. Part, particular approach to meditation, we’re able to actually use even our obstacles, things that we feel like our problems, like our anxiety, like our depression, even like our traumatic symptoms as a support to connect with a source of innate wellbeing that exists within us.

[00:08:22] Stephanie: So as human beings, we’re born with these beautiful qualities of awareness. Love, kindness, compassion, wisdom. And the problem is that we just live out of connection with these qualities. And so the practice of meditation is really coming back home to experience or to connect with this innate source of wellbeing that exists.

[00:08:47] Stephanie: Within you. And so this idea that I no longer had to try and block my anxiety, I no longer had to try and get rid of my anxiety. I could actually use it as an opportunity to connect with my awareness, compassion, and wisdom. So that was really the, that was. So inspiring to me that really anything in your daily life can be used as an opportunity to connect with these wonderful qualities that we’re born with.

[00:09:18] Stephanie: Yeah, that’s that said. Sometimes when. Folks experience trauma if they try and place sustained attention on something that is very triggering to them. It can send them out of balance. We call it the window of tolerance and trauma, but it sends them out of balance. And so I could see that I would have.

[00:09:42] Stephanie: Students and clients that were struggling with doing something as simple as like following the breath or bringing awareness to the sensations in the body, which are both very beneficial practices, but when you have trauma, for some, it’s not the best. Thing to do, to place that sustained attention on something that’s very I’ll use the term dysregulating, although I don’t love that, but it throws them out of, throws them out of balance basically.

[00:10:11] Stephanie: And so I wanted to be able to understand what are ways that as a teacher and as a coach, I could help them find balance. And that’s really what this program did. Knowing that. If you introduce a single practice to somebody without options, you could potentially be triggering a traumatic response in them.

[00:10:35] Stephanie: And I don’t, and I don’t wanna do that. Like I wanna be able to. Support clients and students in, in finding wellbeing. I don’t wanna, send them into this state that’s, triggering past trauma or even, P T S D. That was really the inspiration around bringing more of a trauma informed approach into my teaching at my practice.

[00:10:56] Cynthia: And so as a teacher, what is different about the way that you might facilitate someone with that trauma sensitive approach versus the average person walking in

[00:11:07] Cynthia: your door?

[00:11:08] Stephanie: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I would say the main thing is that you want to help them have a safe home base to go back to.

[00:11:20] Stephanie: You might like at the beginning of a practice have them find something either to pay attention to in the environment or if they’re able to pay attention to something in their body, something that feels like a safe home base that they can return to. And so then when you introduce a practice that might be different than the safe home base, the invitation then is that safe home base.

[00:11:44] Stephanie: Is always a place that they can come back to when, if and when they start feeling like they’re going out of balance. And so that is safety is a really important aspect of of that. I would say the other thing that I do is offer choice and so there’s really a fine line between offering a million choices and offering.

[00:12:06] Stephanie: Another choice, right? And so a way that I might do this if I’m leading a meditation is I might say something like, I’ll invite you to take a couple of slow deep breaths, if that feels good to do so. or you can just pay attention to something neutral, like the feeling of your feet on the floor. So this idea of paying attention to something that’s more neutral.

[00:12:26] Stephanie: Is also a helpful safety cue. And so giving them an option is a doorway into not feeling like they have to pay sustained attention to whatever the original prompt is. So it’s a little bit of a dance, I would say. I don’t always do it, but if I know that I’m in an environment where I’m with a client or students who have some background of trauma, if I’ve got a group that I know well, I might offer some prompts or this idea of a safe home base, but I think one of the things that I see, and I see this a lot with coaches, honestly, because in certain coaching programs like the one that we went to at the University of Minnesota, like you’re taught This practice of introducing grounding to your clients, which is a really beautiful thing.

[00:13:12] Stephanie: And there’s this kind of assumption if someone doesn’t have a background in, trauma-informed practice, or even in meditation more broadly, they’ll, they might introduce one thing to the client that could just send them out of balance at the beginning of a session, and it really is about offering a little bit of choice or a doorway out.

[00:13:35] Stephanie: For example, if you find that this practice isn’t resonating with you feel free to just drop the technique and just, allow your mind to rest for a moment and just be, you can let go of paying attention to anything. And that’s the really wonderful thing about this particular tradition of meditation that I practice as well.

[00:13:51] Stephanie: one of the foundational practices is just allowing ourselves to rest. We don’t have to pay attention to anything. We don’t have to do anything. We can just be as we are completely natural, completely free.

[00:14:04] Cynthia: Beautiful. I love that. So it sounds like really what you’re doing is creating. This empowering opportunity of, choice, right?

[00:14:14] Cynthia: Yeah. There’s choice. You’re in the driver’s seat. You get to choose. You can always come back to home base. You can always choose which option is available to you, and that way people don’t feel that they’re necessarily being held and led. Yeah. But more so it’s like invitations.

[00:14:31] Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

[00:14:33] Cynthia: Beautiful. and you mentioned this window of tolerance. Can you tell us a little more about that?

[00:14:40] Stephanie: so the window of tolerance, I think might have come from the work of Dan Siegel, although I don’t know exactly if that’s true, but the window of tolerance is, you could just imagine like a box, right?

[00:14:53] Stephanie: And inside the middle of the box, there is a space where you’re optimal, you’ve got the optimal amount of energy. Motivation, you feel balanced, you feel responsive, and then you have above the box what would be considered hyper arousal. So more of that fight or flight, the heart beating, sweating, racing, thoughts, agitation, all of those things.

[00:15:17] Stephanie: And then on the bottom end of the box is hypo arousal, which is just dissociation, spaced out, checked out. And so depending upon whatever traumatic event, Someone may have gone through they may be thrown out of that state of balance where they’re in that optimal space of responsiveness and they may either be the heightened state that hyper arousal or that hypo arousal.

[00:15:44] Stephanie: Depending upon their kind of propensity and their trauma. So what we’re aiming to do is help them get back to that state of equilibrium. So this idea of a safe home base. If they’re finding that they’re being thrown out of the window of tolerance, which is definitely a concept and a very helpful model that you can introduce to people.

[00:16:08] Stephanie: And so the idea with finding a safe home base is really the idea is to help them come back into their window of tolerance, back into that state of equilibrium and balance that where they’re really in their optimal state.

[00:16:23] Cynthia: Yeah. Safe home base. It just makes me think about downward dog or child’s pose in yoga.

[00:16:30] Cynthia: Yeah, and just I feel like, teachers are taught That’s what it is, right? It’s that safe home base where if your heart rate’s going too fast, feeling some feelings like. even though the teacher’s still prompting other things, like you can go to your home base and you can just chill there.

[00:16:44] Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And just to say too, part of the process of meditation is trying to make even the most challenging things workable. And so there’s this distinction that David True Levin makes between working with and being with your adverse. Experiences. So in meditation and mindfulness, often we’re encouraged to just be with whatever is arising, right?

[00:17:12] Stephanie: So you might have a difficult, sensation in the body. You might have pain, you might have difficult thoughts, and so we’re encouraged to just be with it. And that can be very painful for some. And so the idea is to actually work with it. And part of working with it can be to dip your toe into being with the adverse experience.

[00:17:37] Stephanie: So for example I’ll just use an example of a sensation in the body. So let’s say you’ve got like a heightened state going on and you’re getting really anxious. And so you might try and just for a moment, bring awareness to the sensations in your chest, and then you might titrate meaning. Then you’re going to bring your awareness to something more neutral like sounds in the environment. Or if there is a feeling in your body that does feel more neutral, like the feeling of your seat on the chair or your back. Being supported is often a really nice thing. Or, feeling your feet on the floor.

[00:18:13] Stephanie: And so then you’re just going to find that neutral space, that neutral support, and then come back to the difficult sensation that you’re working with so that you’re tr you’re working with, trying to find your way into being with those things that are really. Unpleasant.

[00:18:34] Stephanie: So you know, it’s not that we’re trying to just not go into the difficulty because the difficulty actually sometimes provides us the biggest sources of growth. To be able to do it in a way where you’re going back and forth from feeling more safe and more balanced into just touching in with that discomfort can be a helpful way to begin to train yourself to be able to be with the discomfort.

[00:18:56] Cynthia: I love that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this method of being able to just build up that stamina basically.

[00:19:05] Stephanie: Totally. Yeah. That’s exactly right. And just to say, I don’t want to make this seem like all traumatic responses are the same because they’re not, there are. Therapists and trauma informed therapists are just such an important part of healing from trauma.

[00:19:19] Stephanie: But I just think as, coaches, since we’re not in the therapeutic space necessarily, in the sense of treating a mental health disorder, or even as a meditation teacher, we just have to have skillful means to be able to meet people where they’re at. The other thing that I will say that I really love is that the teacher that I study meditation with has a very natural trauma informed lens through which he trains meditation, which is in a four step process that maybe I’ll just introduce in the event that it’s helpful.

[00:19:52] Stephanie: So the idea would be, if you’re going to bring your awareness to whatever you’re gonna use for your support. So let’s again, just use the, let’s use the breath actually as the example, because sometimes people who have traumatic responses and P T S D, like paying attention to the breath can catapult them into a panic attack or into anxiety.

[00:20:08] Stephanie: So let’s say you are trying to bring awareness to the breath, and all of a sudden you start, you notice you’re getting. Catapulted out of your window of tolerance and you’re starting to get heightened and anxious. And so then that’s the first step is you would try and work with what would be like the main practice.

[00:20:26] Stephanie: So then if you notice that you’re getting thrown out of your window of tolerance, then the second step is try. Something else. So this is again, this idea of bringing your awareness to a support that is not what is triggering to you. So it might just be that you’re paying attention to sounds in the environment that’s much more neutral.

[00:20:45] Stephanie: And if you still feel like this is not workable for you. The third step is to actually dig a little bit deeper and see if you can find what would be like the booster of the experience. So like by the booster, what I mean is there’s usually some kind of like. Intense resistance, you’re trying to push it away and you’re so wrapped up in wanting this to go away, that there is this resistance, and so you can touch in with that resistance, or there may be this intense kind of craving or desire for peace, right?

[00:21:18] Stephanie: So they’re very intertwined and so you just bring your awareness to that. And then if it’s not workable, then you take a break and you give yourself permission to take a break. So again, those four steps are main practice. Try something else, step back and see if you can see that underlying booster resistance that’s amplifying the experience and then giving yourself permission to take a break.

[00:21:43] Stephanie: And something that can be really helpful is because there can be so much energy in the body, like to go for a walk or do like a quick, intense exercise. Meditation isn’t like necessarily the, it’s going to solve all the things in the world. There are other methods, of course, that are very helpful, but it can be a very helpful support in the midst of other things like, therapy,

[00:22:05] Stephanie: exercise.

[00:22:07] Stephanie: Other self-care practices. Yeah.

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[00:23:09] Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

[00:23:10] Cynthia: Yeah. And I’ve also heard from several people, and I know I’ve experienced this myself, but how your movement can be a meditation as well, just to bring absolutely full presence and, being in your body and being aware of that can be. Really healing, or I’m sure also triggering to some people, just depending.

[00:23:31] Stephanie: Yeah I love what you’re saying because I think that often folks think about meditation as just a formal sitting practice, but in fact, meditation can take many different forms. So one form is a formal sitting practice. And then another form is an active practice, like where you’re doing some kind of light repetitive activity, like house cleaning, walking, running, that kind of thing.

[00:23:54] Stephanie: And then the third option of practice is what I would call more informal practice and daily life. And those are those short moments where you can connect with awareness, compassion, wisdom throughout your day through tying it to some kind of regular routine activity. So for example, Every time you walk to the bathroom, you might practice mindful walking.

[00:24:16] Stephanie: Every time you log on to a Zoom meeting, you might practice appreciation for all of the folks that you’re gonna be interacting with on the meeting. Or every time you take a drink of water, you pay attention to the sensation of. The water going into your throat, into your mouth.

[00:24:30] Stephanie: So these short moments of practice actually can really add up to improved wellbeing over time. So it’s not just like that. You have to practice for really long periods of time, and you don’t even have to sit you can really practice anywhere, anytime which is a really refreshing way to practice.

[00:24:46] Cynthia: Yeah. And such a great introduction to people who might be intimidated by the idea of a sitting meditation practice. And it actually makes me wonder, cuz I’m sure you’ve come across this people who have high anxiety or maybe a really deeply entrenched experience of trauma in their past, and someone is like a, you should try mindfulness, you should try meditation.

[00:25:10] Cynthia: And they might roll their eye or they scoff. What would you say to those people who feel like meditation? No, this is, yeah. I, that’s not gonna work for me.

[00:25:18] Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. I guess I would say a couple of things. I always encourage people to just check it out and see what they think, like, why don’t you just experiment with it and see if this might be something that might support you.

[00:25:29] Stephanie: Approaching with an attitude of curiosity. I would also just say, did you know that, Meditation can take many different forms, and in fact it can just be a very short moment where you’re just, paying attention to, taking three deep breaths every time you, walk out the door to go to your car, whatever it is.

[00:25:46] Stephanie: There are a lot of different ways to practice, so I think the attitude of curiosity. Normalizing that all meditation doesn’t look the same. And in fact, there’s science that points to the benefits of practicing meditation in less than five minutes a day. There was a study that was done during the pandemic by a scientist named Matt Hirschberg who works at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

[00:26:11] Stephanie: And he took a cohort of teachers and going through a program that’s called the Foundations Program of the Healthy Minds Program app, which I do work for healthy Minds Innovations. And so we, we have this free app. And so he basically looked at the use of the app over this four weeks and what was incredible is that through practicing less than five minutes a day, they saw.

[00:26:39] Stephanie: Sustained results three months later, reduction of anxiety and depression. Improved feelings of wellbeing cognitive distancing, which just means like this ability to step back and see your thoughts and emotions rather than being wrapped up in them. was a really inspiring study because I think that we often, as human beings have this.

[00:27:02] Stephanie: Pie in the sky idea of what our wellbeing practices need to look like. And meditation of course is. One of those areas where you might think that you need to practice 20 minutes a day or 30 minutes a day in order to experience the benefits. But this particular study pointed to the benefits of practicing for less than five minutes a day.

[00:27:22] Stephanie: So my question is always, do you have five minutes today to tend to your mental wellbeing? Just curious. And of course a hundred percent of people say yes, of course they do.

[00:27:35] Cynthia: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:27:36] Cynthia: Oh my goodness. I love that. I didn’t realize there was that study done. Cuz I, gosh, there’s also that quote, if you don’t have time to sit for meditation for, 30 minutes, then sit for an hour or two hours, or whatever that quote is.

[00:27:50] Cynthia: Yeah. And so there’s this idea that, oh, if you are too busy, then that means you need to. Sit and meditate more. Yeah. Which is like a cool philosophy, but maybe isn’t realistic to a lot of people.

[00:28:03] Stephanie: No.

[00:28:03] Stephanie: Oh my gosh. I work with so many folks who are working, who have children. They’ve got really engaged lives.

[00:28:12] Stephanie: I think we really just have to check our expectations for ourselves, and we can have goals, like we can have goals that we wanna practice that much, but especially when people are first starting to meditate. I encourage them to start small. Another area that I’m trained in is in the work of BJ Fogg, who’s a social scientist and researcher at Stanford University.

[00:28:31] Stephanie: And he wrote the book Tiny Habits. And so he’s got this philosophy around cultivating small habits in order to get towards your bigger goal. And so that’s absolutely what I recommend. It’s like start with what you feel like is the baseline smallest amount. That you’re gonna be able to consistently do, The consistency is important because we as human beings wanna feel a sense of success. We wanna feel like we’ve done a good job. And so if we set this goal that’s too high and then we never fulfill it, we feel bad and then we give up. Whereas if you set something, a small goal that you can attain easily and start initiating that habit.

[00:29:13] Stephanie: What you’ll find is that you will grow exponentially faster through being able to just increase through time by harnessing this capacity to feel rewarded and successful in your accomplishment.

[00:29:26] Cynthia: Just building that momentum.

[00:29:28] Stephanie: Yep. Absolutely.

[00:29:30] Cynthia: I love it. For people who maybe are interested in learning more about meditation, what are some tools and resources that are available that you know of?

[00:29:43] Stephanie: Yeah. So let me just start maybe with my meditation community. So I’m with Tegar, T E R G A R. And there are local communities all over the place. I don’t know if your listeners are only in Minneapolis, but if you’ve got outside listeners in other areas, there are many local communities around the world that meet usually weekly or biweekly or even monthly to practice together.

[00:30:07] Stephanie: And so you can go on to terga r.org and look up a weekly group. There’s also a really wonderful event that I’m super excited about that’s called the Anytime Anywhere meditation Premier. That is a program that’s happening online and in person in Scotland. I wish I were gonna be in Scotland, but I will be online.

[00:30:27] Stephanie: That’s happening June 30th through July 2nd, and this event is intended to be a very accessible introduction to meditation. With an emphasis on practicing in daily life and an emphasis on this idea of taking adversity and transforming it into support to come back to this innate wellbeing that exists within us.

[00:30:50] Stephanie: And there are going to be a lot of Really cool speakers like Matoo Ricard, who is a a French monk who’s just very well known in the meditation space. Dr. Richard Davidson, who’s a neuroscientist at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin Madison. And so there’s gonna be these panel discussions with these experts in their particular areas that will, where I think we’re gonna learn a lot, not only about their personal journey, but just being able to like glean some insight and some wisdom from their personal ex.

[00:31:20] Stephanie: Experiences. And so I’m excited because I’m a guide, meaning like I’m a supporting teacher for that program. I’m also gonna be moderating the panel discussion in the Americas. So the last thing that I would mention is that I do work for Healthy Minds Innovations, which is a nonprofit. And we are affiliated with a research institution, the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

[00:31:42] Stephanie: And so basically what we do at Healthy Minds Innovations is we translate the scientific insights coming out of the decades of neuroscience, and we translate them into tools to help people both cultivate and we measure wellbeing. So this is all just to say, we have a free meditation app that has no paywall at all.

[00:32:00] Stephanie: You can just start and it’s a step-by-step training program. For the mind in four different pillars of wellbeing and these pillars of wellbeing are awareness. Connection, insight, and purpose. And these pillars actually come from a convergence of different themes in for example, Asian meditative traditions, the world of psychology, Greco-Roman philosophy, the world’s wisdom traditions.

[00:32:30] Stephanie: the skills that we teach in the app, in this program the science backs them to being beneficial to wellbeing, but they’re also trainable. There’s research that just shows that it affects certain brain regions. Yeah. And we also have an outwork program as well for organizations that might wanna bring in he healthy minds at work, but those would be the.

[00:32:49] Stephanie: Four different things I would say.

[00:32:52] Cynthia: So plenty of resources out there.

[00:32:55] Stephanie: You can also find me and seek me out if you’re interested in coaching or something like, or bringing me in to do a training for your organization.

[00:33:01] Cynthia: But yeah. Yeah, cuz you have your business, inner fire.

[00:33:04] Stephanie: I do, yeah. Inner fire health and wellbeing coaching.

[00:33:06] Stephanie: Yeah, I do. I do work a lot with folks on Their meditation practice. And what that means is like really how do you take the things that you’re using and that you’re learning in your formal meditation practice, and how do you bring those into your daily life? Like how can you apply awareness? How can you apply self-compassion?

[00:33:24] Stephanie: So that’s one area that I work in. And then I also just work with other folks and just more broadly, the integrative health and wellbeing space. I work a lot with. Folks who are transitioning, meaning moving maybe into retirement or moving into a different phase of their professional career or have this desire to, connect with meaning and purpose in their lives.

[00:33:43] Stephanie: So I do a lot of different things in my practice, but those are just a few.

[00:33:47] Cynthia: Yeah, just one of many things that Stephanie Wagner’s got on her plate.

[00:33:53] Stephanie: Yeah. I’m I would say I’m a highly inspired individual and I also just really love what I’m doing, so there’s no, yeah.

[00:34:00] Cynthia: Yeah. And how would you say that your personal meditation practice supports you in all the things you do?

[00:34:07] Stephanie: I would say that it, oh my gosh, there, that is just like the, that is a huge question because there’s a lot there for me. So I think first it gives me incredible inspiration knowing that the experiential understanding that comes from training the mind. It just ripples out into every nook and cranny of my life.

[00:34:30] Stephanie: So it helps me be more generous, more patient, more kind, more compassionate. It gives me incredible capacity to do a lot of things that I wanna do. So I would say it just feels really nourishing, very inspiring. And then, I also have just seen the benefits over time in terms of what. Is often referred to as like self-regulation, meaning I can see very quickly when I’m having a response to something like, let’s say a client says something in a session that I’m having an inner response to, like rather than going down the train of believing or getting what is called experientially fused with that, it’s like you become very overwhelmed by that ex.

[00:35:12] Stephanie: Experience, I can actually just tune in and see what’s happening and I can make a more thoughtful response of how I want to respond versus react. And it’s also been incredibly beneficial for my own anxiety. I will say I did have this expectation, like when I first started, that it was gonna make my anxiety go away, which it didn’t.

[00:35:32] Stephanie: But I would say the long haul, I now don’t experience meditation as a chronic state like I did before. I have what I would call normal situationally appropriate anxiety. If I’m giving a big talk or a high stakes presentation or something that’s certainly moments where I do feel, I have that healthy kind of sense of.

[00:35:53] Stephanie: Upliftment and motivation to do the thing. But yeah I think it’s just, it really is one of the most important things in my life and I just have seen such incredible benefit in my own life that I want to bring this to as many people that are interested as possible. And so I do that, both through my work at Healthy Minds and my work as a facilitator with the Tergar meditation community.

[00:36:16] Cynthia: Wouldn’t this world just be completely healed if everyone just took five minutes a day to meditate?

[00:36:22] Stephanie: Yeah.

[00:36:23] Stephanie: It really would be just a completely different world. Honestly. I just think when you are able to see how deeply interconnected we are. When we’re able to actually see that on some level, everyone is just like you and is just like me.

[00:36:40] Stephanie: We all have fundamental things in common. We want to be happy, we want to be free from suffering and pain and hardship. And so when you can get beyond the superficial surface level of differences, we can begin to see there’s this kind of common humanity that we can tap into, which is very in.

[00:36:59] Stephanie: Inspiring and very helpful in terms of connecting with others and relating to the world around you. It’s just amazing.

[00:37:08] Cynthia: Meditation. It’s magic.

[00:37:11] Stephanie: It’s certainly been very I love it, of course, but yeah.

[00:37:15] Cynthia: If there’s one takeaway that you’d hope listeners walk away from this conversation with, what would you hope that is?

[00:37:23] Stephanie: I would say that even our most challenging experiences can be used as an opportunity to connect with this innate source of wellbeing that exists within us, our awareness. Compassion and wisdom and that, if you for some reason feel like you have a barrier in your practice to being able to meditate, that there are methods that can help you.

[00:37:46] Stephanie: Finding that safety, that safe home base, titrating, in and out of the difficult experience. So I would say those are two takeaways. I can’t just do one. I’m sorry.

[00:37:59] Cynthia: Beautiful. Oh thank you so much for your time and all the work that you’re doing. Stephanie, you’re just, you’re making this world a better place and I’m so grateful we got to have this time together.

[00:38:12] Stephanie: Yes.

[00:38:12] Stephanie: Thank you so much. It was so wonderful to speak with you.

[00:38:16] Thank you so much for listening to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. Did you learn something new? Did you feel that spark of hope and excitement for what is possible? Because so much is possible. Tell us about it. In a review on Apple Podcast, not only would we absolutely love hearing from you, but these reviews help our ratings and help other curious minds like you find this resource.

[00:38:41] We are always better together. Thank you again and see you next time.

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