Jenée Johnson to speak during ‘illuminate’ series
Jenée Johnson, a trailblazer in the mindfulness movement, will be featured as part of Hospice of Santa Barbara’s “illuminate” speaker series Wednesday.
Her virtual talk, which is set for 6 p.m., is titled “Joy and Pain: The Art of Flourishing in Unprecedented Times.”
Since 2017, Ms. Johnson has spearheaded an effort to blend mindfulness and public health practices through her work with the Trauma Informed Systems of Care Initiative in San Francisco. Within her role, Ms. Johnson supports the more than 9,000 staff persons within the San Francisco Department of Public Health by teaching mindfulness practices and application.
She is also the founder of “Right Within Experience,” a mindfulness program that will launch this fall for black front line community service workers to “reclaim humanity, joy and well-being,” Ms. Johnson said.
Mindfulness means “being able to be present in mind, body, and surroundings and holding that with an attitude of kindness and curiosity,” Ms. Johnson told the News-Press.
“People who are mindful not only cope with stress better but they also have better immune system response,” Ms. Johnson said. “They also are better able to tone down triggers and reactivity and generate from a place of response. Mindfulness is the runway into emotional intelligence, and that is a skill set we need to get anything done.”
The benefits of mindfulness can even be seen during unprecedented and seemingly insufferable circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the course of the last year, Ms. Johnson’s colleagues within San Francisco’s Department of Public Health were thrown to the front lines of an overwhelming crisis.
All of the masking, distancing, anxiety, depression and fear had significant impacts on mental and physical health, but also allowed for lots of reflection, Ms. Johnson said.
“This work gives us an opportunity to acknowledge what has happened and then to resource ourselves and to know that human suffering is universal and so is joy,” she said. “They’re like two sides to the same coin.”
She continued, “Though we are experiencing really challenging times in an unprecedented way, there are things that we can do to support ourselves, and that’s what my work does. It turns our attention to how we take ourselves off the battlefield and turn it into a field opportunity.”
Ms. Johnson will be bringing her experience of mindfulness to Wednesday’s event by teaching attendees a simple “HeartMath” practice.
This method, which uses heart-focused breathing, helps to renew emotions and create a state of coherence. Coherence, as defined by Ms. Johnson, is when “the mind, emotions and body are all working in sync,” and it uses breathing to establish balance.
Through the event, Ms. Johnson said she hopes people will be able to reclaim joy in their lives during a time that’s been a challenge for many. Even during tough circumstances, Ms. Johnson said one of the keys to mindfulness is remembering that there is always a reason for gratitude.
“I absolutely turn people to gratitude because it’s a great perspective,” Ms. Johnson said. “No matter how low we feel, there is always something we can be grateful for. A cool sip of water, a warm cup of tea … if you begin to stockpile these experiences of taking in the good, you uplift your sense of optimism and hopefulness, and it gives you the energy that you need, to do the things that are there for you to do as we are patiently moving through these challenging times.”
Wednesday’s event is free to the public, but requires registration. For more information and registration, visit hospiceofsb.org/hsbseries.