Meet Angela Caruso-Yahne, core community teacher for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM), Learn to Pause instructor for the PauseFirst for First Responders Project, retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, Training Officer at the Overland Park Fire Department, and an ordained chaplain through the Upaya Zen Center. Here is what she had to say about her mindfulness journey:
“For as long as I can remember I have felt an intrinsic need to carve out little times and spaces in my life for stillness and quiet. The challenge is that in addition to having something in my DNA that seeks to slow down and appreciate the moment, there is an inherent draw to a fast-paced life and vocations that require critical decisions to be make in split seconds. Mindfulness is what has joined those facets of my life and helped me keep things in balance. Mindfulness gives me a way to be truly present no matter if I am supporting someone in a difficult time, making life or death decisions on an emergency scene, or just enjoying the sky change colors as the sun sets. Without mindfulness, all of these opportunities could (and do) slip away from me.
I am a huge proponent of self-care. It’s not just trendy ideals of self-indulgence or self-centered “me time” that we all see promoted in commercial advertising, but the things that truly nourish us at a deep and meaningful level and serve to elevate us to live our potentials. Mindfulness is a tool that I can use to assess what I really want or need or am capable of in any moment. How do I know if I need to rest or eat? What gives me the power to choose what is best for me in stressful situations? I believe that this sort of moment to moment awareness is the gift of mindfulness.
Meditation is the tool I use to build the skill of mindfulness. This for me has been the exercise that gives me capacity for mindfulness. The more I make space in my life for meditation and deeply focused attention, the better I am able to really show up to all of the important moments and people in my life. One of the things I love about meditation is that it is what I call the “most portable” of all the self-care practices. I may not always have the time or space or equipment for a good workout or meal. My circumstance of the moment may not be that I can tell someone what is on my mind. Meditation, though, is available no matter if I have only enough time for 10 slow breaths or if I have days to silently sit or walk. Unlike my guitar which is another of my self-care tools, meditation isn’t left at home when I am at work. Meditation is just as convenient when I am deployed in a combat zone on the other side of the globe as it is when I am at a spa or retreat.
I used to read about mindfulness and meditation a lot. I used to think about it a lot. Eventually, I started practicing what I was learning and realized that no book or teacher or conversation could offer me any degree of mindfulness that I wasn’t practicing. Then I started practicing with a community and had a profound experience of these shared moments. This is what made all the difference for me. It’s something that I can’t fully explain, but meditation in community has… and still is… transforming my life and my connection with the world around me.
I am so grateful to be able to share what I have learned, and more importantly time for shared practice, with others at Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness. I am excited to see the ways that we can create a more mindful Kansas City and humanity at large.”
Angela’s interests include wellness and resiliency for people who experience stress and secondary trauma, and spiritual practices for non-religious people. With a strong belief that mindfulness can set a foundation for healing of both individuals and systems, Angela is motivated to help people discover their own spiritual paths and practices that support wellness and decrease suffering. Check out our calendar to sign up for one of Angela’s upcoming offerings.