Finding Your Bliss Buddy with Anne Sussman

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I'm back with more from Anne Sussman, our resident mindfulness and meditation expert. Read on to learn about her inspiring project, Bliss Buddies, how you can be apart of it and why volunteering and giving back is so vital to her everyday life. The Project: Bliss Buddies

The “Bliss Buddy” project is something I created. In the roller coaster that is life, we all will experience sadness, sickness, and death of a loved one. No one gets away unscathed. How is it that we can find the joy in the midst of all that? There is so much to be grateful for in life--from the moment we are born we breath. Beginning there, to just be grateful for your breath, for your life, is the way to start. Before my feet hit the floor each morning I say “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. Gratitude begins and ends my day. It is true that where you put your attention, grows. It’s like watering a plant--your attention is love. When you put your attention on small moments of joy in your life, you will be amazed at how they begin to grow. Being on the lookout gives you the opportunity to see what you are looking for. This is about the steps it takes to start living that way and having more of that joy in your life.

The Acronym: N.E.W.S.

Notice- Noticing the small moments of joy is the first step to cultivating this practice. Make a choice everyday to be on the look out. Once you begin turning your attention to these small moments, you will find them almost everywhere.

Experience- What am I seeing? What am I feeling? What am I hearing, tasting, and smelling right now? Experiencing fully through all your senses, just as the moment of joy is happening, is the best way to begin. Being tuned in, present, and engaging all your senses is a great way to imprint that joyful moment into your brain and turn it into a strong memory. Being fully present is how we experience the most joy we can out of life. If you’re thinking about the past or the future, it’s impossible to live in the moment. It is only when you are dialed in to right now that you can fully experience that feeling of being in the zone.  That’s when the "Aha" moments of life become available to you. When you stay in the present more, you have more of the "Aha" moments. 

Write it down-Writing it down--keeping a journal or just a quick note helps to solidify the experience. There is a visual record of what the moment was--a way to remember it when you move on in your fast-paced life. Taking that time to just jot it somewhere helps to keep it ever present.

Share- Share it! This is the essence of the Bliss Buddy Project--taking the time to share it. Find a partner, a Bliss Buddy. Make a commitment to do this with someone for two weeks in a row. Exchange emails every day and in the subject line write, “Bliss”. Then just send a quick note - “Bliss moment today was when I walked outside, the sun shone down on my face”. That’s all there is to it! Making a commitment to doing this keeps you accountable to noticing what those moments are through out your day.

Why Bliss Buddies

I learned to meditate seven years ago. In class, my teacher talked about how she partnered up with someone to talk to them about how to notice the joyful things in life. I wanted to expand on that and decided Campowerment would be the perfect place to introduce and implement the project. I created the NEWS acronym when I brought the idea to camp. I always end my circles with an explanation of the project and charge each camper to find their own Bliss Buddy to participate with. 

Get Your Own Bliss Buddy

To be a part of this, just find a partner. It can be a friend, a sibling, even a co-worker. Anyone can be your Bliss Buddy, as long as you both commit to noticing what you are grateful for each and everyday. Then it's just a quick report by email. It can be as simple as “Starbucks got my name right!” If times are tough for you and you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, how about your light switches in your house illuminating your home every time you touch them. Or a guarantee of hot or cold running water from your faucets! We take so much for granted. Beginning to see how blessed we are helps to put the difficulties we are going through in perspective. Maybe in the midst of the worst day we have ever had we can be grateful for putting our head on a soft pillow and knowing we made it through.

Anne's Bliss Buddy

At the end of one of my circles, a camper approached me telling me she wanted to participate but didn't have a buddy. I volunteered to be her bliss buddy. We emailed every day for one month and decided we wanted to continue so we emailed once a week for the next two months. We still wanted to continue but not be tied to a schedule, just when we felt compelled to. Our relationship grew into something more--we started out as a Bliss Buddies and became more of pen pals and close friends. We still email often--she sends postcards from all of her travels. We talk about our bliss, but also the difficult things life throws at us and how to get through them. We have really been there for each other. We reconnected in person when she returned to camp a year and a half later. 

What's funny is that I was asked to write something about her and I was asked about what she does for a living. I realized that after emailing for two years, I had no idea. It just never came up. We just never defined each other in that way.  Now I know she lives in Texas and is pretty high up at the company she works for, but I still have no idea what she really does. We've communicated about our lives and really built on that. We never filled in the blanks of any of that other stuff because it didn't matter. It didn't seem important. 

Meditation and the Craziness That Is Motherhood

Meditation and Mindfulness are the perfect antidote to the stress and craziness that is motherhood. Meditation is a vitamin, not an aspirin! It is something you need to incorporate each and everyday not just when you are stressed out. We know from research that after 8 weeks of regular meditation twice a day for a minimum of 20 minutes, your brain begins to change to become more responsive and less reactive. Your ability to stay present and in the moment is a way to ease the anxiety that is created by worrying about the future of “What if?” or the depression that comes from dwelling in the past.

Slowing down and enjoying the little moments, bringing an open heart to the process of parenting, and really being there for all of the messiness that is life is incredibly rich. Life is short. We don’t know when our time on this planet is up. Kids grow up so fast and the moments that you remember most are the ones that you are truly present for. Try this: Float back to a vivid, happy memory. You probably are able to see, feel, hear, possibly even smell or taste what was happening for you. That memory is so evocative, so strong because you were absolutely there, experiencing it fully, through all your senses.

On Turning 50

When I turned 50 I started asking the big questions in life. Is this all there is? Why am I here? What am I here to do? To learn? How do I even know there is a God? I went to a workshop with the brilliant Rumi Scholar, author, and founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey. He shared the three prong approach to having your own experience with the Source, the Divine, a combination of sacred study (real religious texts), sacred activism (compassion in action), and meditation. It was the perfect life recipe to answer those mystical questions I found myself asking and to have a "knowingness" of God. It  really resonated with me. I signed up for Torah classes, began volunteering at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, and started taking meditation classes. 

Giving Back

I  had already been volunteering at the food pantry for seven years when I founded Mindfulness Meeting Place.  I wanted to continue to do more, so  I decided to donate 10% of everything I earned to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges. I also ask whoever comes to class to bring a can of food with them. Did you know that you can’t buy feminine hygiene products and diapers with food stamps? You can’t buy prepared food with food stamps either. It's important to remind people that where they live, people are suffering and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s heartbreaking. These men, women, and children are very hungry.

That Aha Moment

For a while, I had to turn off the news. I got really depressed because I couldn’t help all these victims of world tragedies. But I realized I can take care of and help the people right down the street from me. When I started working at the pantry, 50 people would show up on a Wednesday morning. Now that number has grown to 200. The need is getting greater and greater.  The more you meditate the more you learn we are all interconnected--we are all energy. It’s part of me now. I can’t not help. It’s the way I am. If I could teach everyone for free I would, but I need to earn a living. So when I decided to open this business, I also decided that I would give back. 

You Can Help Too

For more information about or to make a donation to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, go here

BIO: Anne Sussman is the founder of Mindfulness Meeting Place. Anne received her certification as a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor at the McLean Meditation Institute. Anne began meditation in 2009 at a weekly class, hoping to find relief from pervasive anxiety. She believes strongly in the power of meditation, as it is the tool that changed her life from the inside out Anne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has twenty years of experience teaching Conflict Resolution skills to teachers, parents and students, as well as parenting classes to young moms at an early childhood center. Her training in Mindfulness Meditation techniques is a perfect complement to her strength as a born educator. Anne's goal is to help you live better, as she does. Read more about Anne and connect with her on Facebook.

Listen up Mommies! Mindfulness & Meditation with Anne Sussman

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I met Anne a few months ago at camp. She's an expert in mindful meditation and all-around blissful bad-ass. If you need to be more present, quiet that busy mind of yours, stop sweating the small stuff, and gain a deeper appreciation of all that you have in this life (and I think all of us moms need more of those things in our lives), she's your woman. When not rocking the circles at camp, Anne runs the Mindfulness Meeting Place where she helps individuals bring meditation into their everyday lives, just as she has. And thanks to technology, you can work with her from anywhere! Read on to learn how you too can mindfully meditate, find your bliss, and live a life of gratitude. Meet Anne!

On Becoming a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor and Expert

I teach a trademarked program called SEED: “ Simple Easy Every Day”. I received my certification as a Meditation and Mindfulness Instructor through the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona, founded by Sarah McLean, a Hay House author, and internationally known teacher. Meditation is a skill that anyone can learn. I am someone, just like you and your readers, who struggles to live in our fast-paced, often stress-filled world, and I have seen the remarkable benefits that meditating consistently brings.  My goal is to help you live better, as I do. I teach beginners and those looking to deepen their own practice.

Why Meditation

I had been suffering from pervasive anxiety for most of my life and I began meditating in 2009 at a weekly class to try to help relieve it. I found my Wednesday afternoon hour my favorite of the week. I noticed that I was calmer and happier on Wednesdays. I then started to incorporate the practice into my daily life. I now meditate twice a day, every day. I have attended extended day silent retreats as well. I live virtually anxiety free. Just like brushing my teeth, it is something I never leave the house without doing!

The Mindfulness Meeting Place

I founded Mindfulness Meeting Place to begin to bring this valuable practice out into the world. I thought the name of my company would work either as a virtual space to meet or as a brick and mortar space to teach in. I thought that the name conveyed a sense of community as well--a place to come for those interested in living mindfully. I hope to have that physical space one day in the not so distant future.

The Benefits of Meditation 

For many years there has been anecdotal evidence about the benefits of a daily meditation practice. It seemed to help but there wasn't anyway to be sure. Within the last 10-15 years, and the ability to see into the brain with new technology such as MRI’s, there is scientific proof that the practice of regular meditation has physical, psychological and emotional benefits that are measurable. Just open the paper or listen to the news lately. Study after study, by major institutions, are touting the effects of this ancient practice. It is undeniable that this is a tool that can offer greater health and well-being to those who become committed to it.

Getting Profound: “Live in Gratitude, Not in Guilt.” 

I am honored to teach Meditation and Mindfulness at Campowerment, a four day women’s empowerment retreat that is like summer camp for grown-ups! One of the many options to work with me there is attending a circle I offer called “Noticing your Bliss”. This is an opportunity to explore the idea of living a life from the perspective of Gratitude. I believe that Gratitude is the foundation for Joy and that it is a choice we have to approach life from that place. When you make a choice to be on the look out for, and notice the small moments that are joyful in each day, you can begin to live in “Gratitude, and not Guilt” . Guilt is in the past, what we wish we coulda, woulda, shoulda done. Feeling guilty or remorseful leads to being stuck. Being present, fully experiencing each moment through your senses, whether amazing or challenging, welcoming each and every experience with an open heart, and knowing there is an opportunity to learn and grow, is the way not to miss your life. It's about living mindfully, and staying in the present--being grateful for all you are blessed with. This practice creates a more joyful life.

More Ways to Work with Anne

If you live near Anne in New Jersey, you can work with her in person. And if you don't? Thank modern technology and Skype because you can work with her from anywhere. She's now offering three different packages to help you delve into the world of meditation and find your inner bliss.  For a taste, try the Awaken Package. Want more? Maybe the Shift package is a better fit. If you're like me and struggle with moderation and like to dive in to everything head first, then you want the Transform package. Find out which path is right for you.

Come back Monday morning to for part two of Anne's interview where we discuss her amazing new project, Bliss Buddies as well as the power of volunteering and giving back.

BIO: Anne Sussman is the founder of Mindfulness Meeting Place. Anne received her certification as a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor at the McLean Meditation Institute. Anne began meditation in 2009 at a weekly class, hoping to find relief from pervasive anxiety. She believes strongly in the power of meditation, as it is the tool that changed her life from the inside out. Anne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has twenty years of experience teaching Conflict Resolution skills to teachers, parents and students, as well as parenting classes to young moms at an early childhood center. Her training in Mindfulness Meditation techniques is a perfect complement to her strength as a born educator. Anne's goal is to help you live better, as she does. Read more about Anne and connect with her on Facebook.