Kerry Faherty is changing the world through mindfulness.
The dedicated practitioner was first introduced to meditation as a child by her yoga instructor mother, with chanting music as her carpool soundtrack. But it was after earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Yale and traveling to Thailand for a monastic mindfulness retreat that Faherty felt the totality of its significance.
Fascinated by how thinking affects behavior, she began studying criminal profiling at Pepperdine University’s School of Law. But that soon gave way to an interest in human rights (and eventually missions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East) and the study of trauma at the International Trauma Studies Program, affiliated with Columbia University.
Those academic and real world experiences, plus the stress of school and work, inspired her to further investigate mindfulness: she took courses at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program and The Insight Center in LA and got certified as a mindfulness teacher (for children, grades K-12) at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
Soon after, she founded The Mindful Mentors, a company that teaches individuals and institutions mindfulness techniques, visualizations and affirmations to decrease anxiety and increase clarity.
Here, Faherty shares her thoughts on how measured acceptance and the belief that we are enough can improve our lives
Live The Process: When did you first become aware of mindfulness and how is that linked to your study of psychology?
Kerry Faherty: I grew up with a mom who was a yoga teacher, so talking about meditation and yoga was a common theme. I have one too many memories of my mom forcing us to listen to chanting music on our ride to school. But it wasn’t until after college, when I spent three months in Thailand and attended a retreat at a monastery in Thailand, that the notion of mindfulness really began to resonate with me.
That being said, I’ve always been interested in the mind and how our thoughts influence our behaviors. I majored in psychology and applied to law school because I was interested in criminal profiling and wrote my senior thesis on how to assess credibility in psychopaths. But, in law school, I ended up switching my focus to human rights which segued my mindfulness career.
LTP: How did you come to found The Mindful Mentors?
KF: During law school, I started taking classes at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center as a tool to help me deal with stress. At the same time, I started traveling to places where people were living in states of conflict—Northern Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, the Thai-Burma border and Azerbaijan. I became fascinated by the idea of resilience both personally and collectively. How do people heal after trauma? How do people rebuild their lives when they have no access to justice? What is the human experience of suffering and how can we have less of it?
After law school, I began clerking for a judge. Her daughter was applying to college and struggling with performance anxiety on her SATs. The judge asked if I would teach her mindfulness and I said, yes. Before I knew it, I was teaching mindfulness routinely on the side. By the time I finished clerking, The Mindful Mentors had organically taken root. Since then, I’ve worked with students, lawyers, bankers, corporations, criminal defendants—the whole spectrum. But it’s all the same practice, the same work and the same discipline.
LTP: You are working on an upcoming book, Enoughness: The Struggle to Feel Complete as We Are. What is the biggest factor in this struggle?
KF: The irony is that we struggle to believe what we already are. Our natural, most stripped naked, most vulnerable state of being is simply enough. So the struggle comes in feeling or living this truth. And because the struggle comes with the thinking that we’re not enough, we need to bring our attention to our thoughts, to start stripping them of some of their power. Once we realize that we can’t believe everything we think, things start to get interesting. The practice of catching our thoughts, holding them in our hands and asking, “Is this true? How do I know it’s true? And can I let it go?” helps release us from habitual thinking that enslaves us and limits our true potential.
LTP: What are some personal tools that help you stay mindful?
KF: My husband and brother-in-law started a clothing company last year called, Faherty, which has grown incredibly quickly. I joined the company soon after we launched and landed in the thralls of a startup. The next book I want to write is: How Not to Freak Out: Dealing with the Craziness of Life.
I find that carving out time at some point in the day to reconnect inwardly is incredibly helpful. For me, this could mean sitting on my meditation pillow in the morning, writing in my journal or spending a couple minutes reading a book.
During the workday, when things start to pile up, the act of monotasking can be very useful in returning to the present moment. Just do one thing at a time. If I’m taking a coffee break, I’m just going to sip and enjoy the taste of the beans, the warmth of the liquid and the smell of the coffee. If I’m writing an email, I’m just going to write the email, not flip between websites. I’ll also do some simple breathing techniques. There’s an exercise called, “16 Seconds of Bliss,” in which you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. And, lastly, sometimes I silently invite in words of calm. There are days when I simply internally recite, “May I have ease” when I feel that anxiety starting to build.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
KF: Happiness to me looks like contentment; the feeling that there is nothing else I need in this moment to feel complete. It’s that feeling of fullness—of being sated in the richness in the moment.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
KF: Living the process isn’t a choice, as we’re forced to do it every day whether we like it or not. Life unfolds just as it unfolds, despite our expectations or fears or desires to have it unfold differently. The choice is: how do we let life unfold. My daily work is giving up the fight to make my day different than it is, to being okay when things don’t go my way and to practice letting go of all those thoughts that make the day much more difficult than it needs to be.
Find more information on The Mindful Mentors here.