Practice is Not a Linear Process: A Q&A with eMindful Teacher Jenny Mills

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November 22, 2021

I interviewed eMindful teacher Jenny Mills during a busy time for both of us – the week before Thanksgiving – when it seems like there’s too much to do with the days that are left before the holiday. But the beauty of speaking with a mindfulness teacher is you know you will be accepted just as you are, and today, that means Jenny’s eating an orange and I’m finishing the last hurried bites of a late lunch as we sit down together. 

And as we lightheartedly apologize to each other for our informalities, the calming energy that I feel from Jenny, just as I experience with all of the teachers, sets in and it’s completely okay.

Q: Are you based out of New Jersey? What’s your favorite thing about it?

“Actually, we recently moved to Florida, in March…Fort Lauderdale. My husband has a new job opportunity. It’s sunny every day and it is November; I have a sleeveless shirt on, and coming from New Jersey, that’s a big deal. My friends are in 27-degree weather every morning,” she says.

Q: How do you start your day?

I’ve noticed that the mindfulness teachers who have small children tend to chuckle when I ask this question.

“I have children that are 4 and 6 years old. I start my day by getting them ready for school and drinking my tea, which I switched to from coffee, and feel very happy about it,” she says. “The mornings are not as routine as I would like them to be; I would like to tell you that I wake up and do mindfulness practice, but that does not happen. But I do end my day with mindfulness and I use it intermittently throughout the day.”

Q: How long have you been practicing mindfulness and how did your journey begin?

“What’s funny is I think I was practicing as a child and didn’t know what it was. I would lay in bed at night and say things like ‘say goodnight to your toes…goodnight toes. Say goodnight to your legs…goodnight legs’ and go through the parts of my body and say goodnight to them before I fell asleep. I don’t think anyone showed me that – I just did it intuitively,” she says.

More formally, Jenny says she recalls becoming interested in mindfulness around the year 2000.

“When I first moved from high school to college, I got into yoga and that was my gateway to mindfulness and meditation. I rented VHS videos from the library and felt the Shavasana or relaxation at the end, and I felt so curious about that.”

Q: What’s your favorite mindfulness practice right now?

“I would say that the informal practice that I have been using most is ‘Stop, Breathe, Be’ and I have been doing a lot of that when I am transitioning from working to going home to my kids; I stop at the door and I practice ‘Stop, Breathe, Be.’ When I am sitting down to eat I am also practicing it…a lot of informal work to stay tethered to myself, stay in my own energy, and not take on or join the whirlwind of what’s going on around me,” she says.

Q: What eM Life programs are you teaching right now?

Mindful Dailies. I love them; I love the community and the fact that many of the same people join my session regularly and I know what they’re up to on the weekends. That’s by far my favorite; I love seeing the same people coming in and also love when there are new folks to the practice. I think it is such a special opportunity to be part of a person’s first experience. I will never forget my first mindfulness teachers and experiences, and I feel honored to be part of that for others,” she says.

Q: What’s your favorite fact about yourself?

“I know how to tap dance from my childhood days; I used to dance as a kid and I can still whip out a good backflip on a trampoline,” she says. 

Jenny shares that her work outside of eMindful is teaching SEL – Social and Emotional Learning – to K-12 teachers, and she is currently writing a book about having social and emotional confidence.

“I am a former classroom teacher, so teachers take me seriously because I have been in the trenches with them; having been there and done it. Teachers are experiencing stress levels that are only below doctors and nurses, and it’s really intense right now,” she says.

Q: What’s your advice for people who are new to mindfulness or who are curious about it?

“Learning to develop a practice is not a linear process. There are stops and starts and many, many challenges along the way, but the best thing you can do is assume your mindful body posture every day, she says.

“Everyone is looking for the magic number – how long do I need to sit to reach the benefits? How many minutes? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction, said to sit down on the cushion every day and just assume the position, and that was something I have always kept with me. It’s the frequency over the duration,” she says.

“My second piece of advice is it’s not possible to clear your mind. That is a myth. People say they can’t practice mindfulness because they can’t clear their minds, and I always have to debunk the idea that mindfulness is about having a clear mind. It’s about changing the relationship with your mind,” she says.

And for those of you who are curious if Jenny still says goodnight to her toes and legs before she falls asleep, I did ask her.

“I still love a good body scan, and I do a similar child body scan with my kids now,” she says.

Sign up for a Mindful Daily with Jenny Mills here

Written by Becky Greiner