I Am Human - An Interview With Holistic Author Susan Verde

At Whole Beings we are always on the hunt for holistic books that teach beautiful messages to the children we teach both in-studio & online. Susan Verde’s words truly resonate with us & we fell in love with I Am Peace - A Book of Mindfulness last year. Susan has our hearts once again with the launch of her latest book I Am Human - A Book of Empathy. We believe concepts such as compassion, empathy & connectedness - are best taught to children through forms of holistic storytelling. We love how the book teaches that being human means we are ‘one of billions but unique.’ We shared the book with the children today - inspiring lots of the bigger questions & ideas. Together the children then created a ‘human’ with loose parts. Dreaming big just as the book inspires - the human became a mermaid….

‘I am human. I am a work in progress.’

How blessed we feel to have connected not only through her books but an extra special interview with the amazing woman herself…

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

~ Let’s see…My greatest joy and biggest source of “crazy” is being a single mom of 3.  I grew up in the west village of Manhattan and am so glad I did. I am a city girl at heart with a love of old school hip hop. I used to work in the music industry for Vibe Magazine. I am a reader currently obsessed with YA novels. I am a writer, a yogi, a teacher of yoga and a plant-based eater (except milk in my coffee). I strive to find balance in my life and the lives of my children. I totally embrace the idea that we are all works in progress.

What inspired you to start writing a series of holistic books for children?

~ I think the topics and messages of my books came fairly organically. I didn’t set out to write “holistic” or “wellness” related books for kids I just noticed what they were experiencing and tapped into my own childhood experiences and wrote what was true to my heart. As a former school teacher and mom, I definitely have an awareness of the stress that kids experience and the ways in which they need to be celebrated and feel empowered so perhaps that influenced the direction of my writing. Also, teaching yoga and mindfulness has allowed me to see how these “tools” can be so incredibly supportive for children of all ages.

What are your own mindfulness rituals?

~ I meditate daily. I find it incredibly helpful to practice not becoming my thoughts and feelings but rather noticing them and letting them pass. I find time to breathe deeply and engage my senses when I can.  When I am with my children I try to be “with” them fully and completely. A walk on the beach is something I do as often as I can. My “rituals” are all part of a practice…sometimes I let them slip and sometimes they are more consistent. I do my best and don’t judge myself. 

Greatest piece of advice for families and their mindfulness journey.

~ My best advice would be that mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to take long. We just have to remember to do it. The best formal practice I have found is to bring your attention to your breath. When there is a moment of stress or a moment of calm. Try putting your attention on your breath and noticing the thoughts and sensations that arise and when they do, bring your attention back to your breath. That being said, mindfulness is something you can and most likely already do when you are fully present in a moment…a conversation, a walk, even drinking a cup of coffee. It’s just paying attention to the moments in your life without judgement.

What’s your TED TALK or podcast recommendation?

~ I love Ted Talks! I have a son who suffers from OCD so I have watched many talks on that subject. My favorite is a Tedx talk by Julia Britz.

I also recommend Hardwiring Happiness from Dr. Rick Hanson.

And for sure Brene Brown! She is brilliant!

I Am Human is out now!

Learn more about the book here.

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Why Did We Create a Board? A Closer Look at our New Mindfulness Product.

Over many years we developed different ways of teaching mindfulness. First we introduced mindfulness as just words & thoughts — slowly finding that the children liked using something tangible to represent the practice. We started using crystals, gems, flowers, stones, nature, shakers, jars, bowls & whatever else presented itself in our daily routines. We realised that mindful teaching opportunities were literally everywhere & even the children came to us with ideas for our next ‘gratitude circle’. Seriously... it was such an organic evolution that unfolded right before our eyes. The children responded so wonderfully to thoughtful practices which were then affirmed & (finalisied in a way) with an act of doing. In those affirming acts of doing, using something energetically & tangibly beautiful — the mindful practices were made even more powerful.

By practicing mindfulness, gratitude, kindness & self love — the children had been wiring these practices into their minds — which then started to become part of their ‘identity’.

As Dr Joe Dispenza says nerve cells in the brain ‘fire & wire’ together. The children were literally ‘firing & wiring’ a positive & inspiring program into their brains every time they practiced. ‘Thoughts produce a biochemical reaction in the brain — which then acts like a messenger to the body, impacting how we feel.’

Mindfulness became a daily rehearsal in their mind, which over time, created the ‘feeling’ for the child. A feeling of gratitude, calm or self-love — depending on what practices were used most often.

These were the building blocks to create an innovative way for children to practice mindfulness. We wanted to include as many of the practices we believed impacted their behaviours. It needed to be visual, hand-on & honour all the feels. Children responded so well to the practices when we used ‘natural treasures’. It’s like they organically became more mindful when they could see & feel these objects. So that’s part of how the medium became a slice of nature — what we believed was the most powerful, yet easy resource for children to use. It needed to be beautifully designed, yet have a big purpose & message ingrained!

This holistic education resource is now being sent all over the world. Our hearts are blessed in the knowing that children are literally shaping their identities by using this daily. The more mindful our children become, the more whole, happy & inspired they feel. It’s our way of passing on what we know & have learnt from teaching young children mindfulness & a way we can grow the roots for social change.

Does Everything Need Measuring?

Most of you know where we stand with making a change to how education looks. So it sounds really nerdy, but when the founder of Alibaba group stated this at the World Economic Forum we got pretty excited!

At the forum Jack Ma stated -

'Education is a big challenge now. If we don’t change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble. The way we teach, the things we teach our kids, are the things from the past 200 years. It is knowledge based. And we cannot teach our kids to compete with machines — they are smarter. Teachers must stop teaching knowledge. We have to teach something unique so that a machine can never catch up with us. Values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork. Everything we teach should be different from machines. If a machine can do better you need to think about it.'

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Structures, Beliefs & 'Cultural Creatives'

Which theorist do you follow? Where do you get your ideas? Why aren’t you a day care? Our version of holistic education is fluid & evolving constantly. There isn’t a catalogue, single theory or a set structure we follow — which is so liberating after many years as people existing within those structures. We chose not to be government funded so we could honour our beliefs. Today I watched a YouTube interview with @brucelipton the ever inspiring quantum physicist, who was talking about a movement of ‘cultural creatives’. Basically we can’t fix our earth with the same beliefs that started the problems our world faces — so we have to create new ones! The beliefs we all run on were created in the first 7 years of our life, but how much has changed since then?! That’s why a movement of ‘cultural creatives’ is needed — to create new ideas for our world & look beyond current structures. We actually get so excited to think that there are many like-minded people out there & this year a quantum physicist won Australian of the year. It’s so amazing that the mainstream is recognising that ‘energy’ which is also called ‘spirit’ actually exists. We feel so inspired to create new beliefs for the generation we are educating. To teach them without limiting their thinking because of structure. Also, thank you to @mindheartconnect for sending that video out in your newsletter & being part of bridging the science & spirit gap. Here’s to all the cultural creatives out there — breaking through norms with inspired action x

Teaching Emotions. Much More Than Faces on Flash Cards.

Could teaching emotions be as simple as a deck of flash cards?...

 

It’s a common resource in an early years classroom, flash cards with happy, excited, scared, sad and angry faces on them as part of a theme on ‘emotions’. Teaching a child to identify emotions can be taught in this manner. That is totally ok. However, in our experience a child can often be confused by such a black and white teaching practice as this is just touching on what emotions really are. We once had feedback that a usually happy child had begun talking about everything that made her angry. Her mother then realised that her kindergarten was focusing on one ‘emotion’ per week. As we know all children need to learn how to identify and express their emotions in order to manage them. However, teaching a child about emotions is a MUCH deeper concept and requires gentle exposure and practices.

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Why We Shouldn't Be Afraid To let Children Be Bored

As adults a break from Instagram was a huge eye opener as to how little we allow our minds to slow down. Actually slow down. Even as someone conscious of mindfulness & slow living — I realised that I would fill a lot of the days voids & breaks scrolling or flicking between emails, apps & messages. It was purely habitual. I only truly noticed it once I had given it all up. Waiting for coffee, in a line or when you stop the car even after driving for only a little while -- what do you do — go for a scroll on Instagram to fill the blanks.

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Ending An Awe-Filled Year

‘When you’re in a state of awe, you’re in a persistent state of gratitude’. Wayne Dyer

We are in AWE of the year we have had. Seriously if someone told us what 2017 held for us last December we would have never believed them (maybe even ran away in fear)!

We are truly thankful for all we have at this present moment & what has happened to us in our biggest year yet. Our community has grown beyond belief & the holistic education movement has become real. Each & every person who attends, supports & reaches out to us, shows they believe in new thought education & that empowers us to pioneer this way of thinking. We believe in doing that our own way, a new way, I don’t even think we fully know what that means yet.. It’s intuitively driven & we too learn as we go.. Awe also means that we can’t forget to have gratitude for the challenges that pushed us to change what we ‘thought’ was the way & accept they were in fact blessings in disguise. There were times we could have just walked away & back into a classroom teaching job with a set salary. Instead we chose to listen to the whispers of the universe & trust the process. We chose to show up, even when it was really hard. We grew tired & delirious some days. But if we didn’t show up we would have never had the elation of moments like driving home from being on the live news in Brisbane, getting calls from the entire family & actually laughing so hard at ourselves -- replaying how the nerves nearly took over to the point of not being able to do it & how did our idea just become so real?... Or the moment we found out we officially had the house we manifested, we were like ‘here we go again’….!! So many funny memories that went on behind the scenes mostly to the theme of 70s ‘You Make My Dreams’ By Hall & Oates or some other gem on Spotify that summed up the mood. Not to mention the special moments we witnessed with the children – the gratitude circles, endless creative energy, the love they showed us & the time they came inside & began ‘tapping, asking each other if they ‘felt calm yet?’… We sat back & watched, while they proceeded to spread out, then lay down to ‘meditate’…. More awe. These beautiful beings have learnt so much, the practices are deep-rooted & this leaves our hearts filled with boundless love.

So we are reflecting with gratitude, taking some time to slow down, disconnect & reignite our creative energy for the new year. We will be offline until mid Jan & will have lots to share with you then. May you all have safe, loving, beautiful, blessed, awe-filled holidays. We truly LOVE you all x