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Book Review: Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans

Best Practices for Yoga With Veterans is a must read for all yoga teachers. It offers a skillful and comprehensive approach to teaching yoga classes to veterans. Before you stop and think to yourself, “This doesn’t apply to me, because I don’t teach any veterans,” I invite you to reconsider. In 2014, the VA indicated that there were 22 million veterans in the US population. Veterans may or may not self-identify in a yoga class or elsewhere, so veterans and/or active duty military personnel may be attending your classes without you being aware that they are there. Veterans have given a lot to our country. Offering trauma sensitive yoga classes is one way that we as yoga teachers can give something back.

Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans offers clear guidelines for teaching yoga classes to veterans in a manner that is safe, effective and trauma sensitive along with excellent guidelines for self-care for the yoga teacher. The book is comprehensive and offers information related to understanding military culture, working with trauma, yoga instruction, gender specific considerations, relationship building, working with military families, and more. It is very well written and organized, thorough, and easy to comprehend.

Yoga is an excellent resource for cultivating physical, emotional and mental health, resilience and wellbeing in our veterans (and for anyone else, for that matter). Best Practices for Yoga With Veterans offers clear instruction on matters that must be considered when teaching trauma sensitive yoga classes. The book is the result of a collaboration of experts in yoga, mindfulness, meditation, veterans affairs, military culture, medicine, journalism, mental health and trauma therapy, social research, and more. A number of the contributors are veterans.

I have been working with people with trauma since the late 80s and have been working with veterans since the early 90s. When I finished reading Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans, I honestly could not think of a single consideration that this book left out! I can’t say enough great things about this outstanding resource. Please use the book as a springboard to pursue advanced training in teaching yoga to veterans. Again, this book is a must read for all yoga teachers.

Jen Johnson, MS, MS, MFA, LPC, E-RYT
mindfulness teacher. counselor. yoga teacher.

Mindfulness & Self-Compassion

One of the best kept secrets about being human is that most of our suffering is not personal. Even though much of the time we compare our insides to other people’s outsides and often conclude that everyone else is ok and we are not, it’s not personal. Most of our suffering is simply a part of our human nature. That feisty inner critic in your mind? Most of us wrestle with it until we learn skillful means for making peace with it, which is entirely possible, by the way. One of the things the mind does when we don’t give it a task to do is that it makes commentary about the present moment. The commentary is often critical, and much of the time it’s directed inward toward ourselves. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to increase grey matter in the area of the brain that relates to empathy and compassion, so just meditating regularly will grow your self-compassion, as will bringing mindful awareness to the moments in which you’re being unkind to yourself, pausing, and engaging in a merciful act of kindness toward yourself. And just in case your mind is telling you that self-compassion equals self-indulgence, it’s not true. There is a skillful way to develop self-compassion and still hold ourselves accountable.
 If your compassion does not include yourself, it’s incomplete. –Jack Kornfield


Mindful Writing for Healing half-day retreat. When we experience stressful or challenging times in our lives, it’s human nature to relive the story over and over in our mind. Often the story in our mind feels like chaos, and it’s difficult to let it go. Putting language to stressful events, shaping the events into a story and making meaning from what happened can help us to make order from the chaos and begin to heal. This workshop explores mindfulness practices to cultivate inner peace and keep us grounded while we write. It teaches mindful writing as a narrative practice for healing. The workshop is designed for non-writers and writers, beginning or experienced, who hare interested in writing for self-awareness and/or publication.
Date & Time: Saturday March 25, 2017  9am – 12pm
Location: 217 N. 5th Ave. Wilmington, NC
Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register

The Heart of Self-Compassion: Making Peace with Your Inner Critic half day retreat. Self-compassion is an attitude that anyone can learn to cultivate. Many of us struggle with negative self-talk, perfectionism, and a relentless cycle of beating up on ourselves for our struggles, which can lead to low self-esteem, increased anxiety, and even depression. Isn’t it time you let go of the old ways of relating with yourself that aren’t really working and embrace relating to yourself with kindness and compassion? Research shows that those who cultivate compassion have increased willpower and an easier time with life changes in general. In this half-day retreat, we’ll explore practices from mindfulness meditation, writing, and modern neuroscience for working with the body, breath, and mind to cultivate loving-kindness and self-compassion. Please bring a journal or notebook and a pen.
Date and Time: Saturday April 8, 2017  9am – 12pm.
Location: McKay Healing Arts   2916 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC
Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register.

Brain Injury Association of North Carolina Annual Family Conference afternoon keynote speaker. April 24, 2017. Topic: Mindfulness.  Open to the public. Register through BIANC.  Location: The Farm, Selma, NC.

Awakening the Heart to Joy half-day retreat. Joy is an innate capacity that is accessible to all of us if we learn how to cultivate it. We live in a culture in which it has become the norm to feel busy, stressed, disconnected from ourselves and others, and a sense of emotional flatness. Many of us have learned to numb emotions that we judge as “difficult,” because we feel afraid of feeling them or don’t know how to deal with them. But if we numb to anger and sadness, we also numb to joy, because we can’t selectively numb our emotions. True joy involves feeling a sense of aliveness, connection, and wellbeing and a capacity for meeting whatever arises in our lives with compassion and authenticity. During this half day retreat, we will explore practices for working with the body, breath, and mind to open the heart, meet our emotions skillfully, and cultivate joy. These practices originate from yoga, Insight meditation, and modern neuroscience.
Date & Time: Saturday June 24, 2017  9am – 12pm
Location: McKay Healing Arts   2916 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC
Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register.
I’m working on two photography projects, Ghost Trees and Penetrating Brightness, and have posted some of the work on my photography website. Both projects consist of mindful photographs. Check it out for a mindful break.

Staying Calm in the Chaos

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. –Sun Tzu

These are uncertain and chaotic times in the U.S. and globally. The creation of chaos is an age-old tactic used for distraction. While you’re busy reacting to the chaos, you may miss what comes next. Become intent on letting the chaos be your opportunity rather than an opportunity for your adversary. A calm, centered approach grounded in kindness is required in order to stand up for what you truly believe and make long term progress. Crisis is an opportunity to deepen the practices that support you best in relating with your own sensations, feelings and thoughts most skillfully. When we relate skillfully with our own sensations, feelings and thoughts, we are better able to take wise action. What practice can you do today, the next day and the day after that will heal and awaken your body, heart and mind and connect you most deeply with your own inner wisdom and wise action?



Mindfully Creating Clear Intentions


Mindfully creating clear intentions is one of the most powerful things we can do to create change in our lives. I’ve been devoted to this practice for a number of years, and it’s one of the practices that supports me in creating an intentional life. It’s easy to go through life meeting whatever demands arise day to day, putting out the fires and feel exhausted at the end of the day, wondering where the time went. It’s painful to watch the years go by and try to ignore that nagging feeling that we’re just not being who we want to be in the world or doing what we secretly dream of doing. Many years ago, I realized that life doesn’t have to be that way. Creating clear intentions takes willingness to sit with the grief of a life unlived. It takes courage to dream big, and it takes perseverance to see our intentions through. The result of that conscious effort is a life that feels more congruent with who we are and what we value, which means that we feel like we’re living in integrity, and that leads to a greater sense of peace and happiness. It really is possible to live the life that we imagine. This is one of many reasons that my life and all of my work is grounded in creating clear intentions. As we approach the holiday season and the end of the year, I encourage you to make the time to create clear intentions for your coming year. Each intentional choice you make takes you one step closer to the life you imagine.

Remember that treating ourselves with kindness and compassion is one of the most effective things that we can do to support ourselves in following through with intentions. So please treat yourselves with the same kindness and compassion with which you would treat your only child today and every day.

Sending you love and gratitude for being a part of the Everyday Mindful community and warm wishes for a peaceful holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Your intentions have more impact than your actions.
―Dabasish Mridha, MD

May all of your intentions come to fruition in 2017,

UPCOMING EVENTSMindfully Creating Intentions for the New Year  ***ONLY TWO SPOTS OPEN*** Saturday December 31, 2016 9am – 12pm in Wilmington, NC. Start your year off well with a workshop to support you in creating clear intentions for your year ahead. We’ll review what neuroscience says about willpower and creating lasting changes. We’ll use guided meditation and Mindful Writing, a contemplative practice that explores the heart and mind through deep writing. Then we’ll create an Intention Board, a creative collage with words and images, for you to take home as a visual reminder of your intentions. Make 2017 your year of lasting lifestyle changes!
Cost: $50
Registration is limited and required. Email Jen or call 910-208-0518 to register.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week course in Wilmington, NC. Free orientation Wednesday January 4, 2017 6-8pm. Class will meet Wednesdays 6-8pm January 11 – March 1, 2017 6-8pm and Saturday Feb 18 9-3pm. Participation in an MBSR course has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety and depression and increase a sense of peace, happiness and well-being. For more information click here. Registration is limited and required. Contact Jen for more information or to register. Location: McKay Healing Arts. Cost: $425.

I currently have openings for a few new coaching clients, mindfulness students and Mindful Writing for Transformation practice students. I have 2 slots open for new coaching clients and 1 slot open for individual mindfulness study and 2 slots open for Mindful Writing for Transformation online practice students. I am not taking any new psychotherapy clients at this time. Contact me for details if you’re interested. These slots go quickly these days!

Foundations of Wellbeing Program by Rick Hanson, PhD begins January 2017 (SIGN UP BY DECEMBER 23, 2016 and receive a $170 discount!!) 
I am an enthusiastic affiliate for The Foundations of Well-Being Program, a yearlong program offered by Rick Hanson, PhD, neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Hardwiring Happiness. In this guided, step-by-step program, Dr. Hanson shows you how to use the science of positive neuroplasticity to turn ordinary experiences into powerful inner strengths, including kindness toward yourself, insight into others, grit, gratitude, and self-worth. Beginning in January 2016, Rick will use the 12 Pillars of Well-Being to teach you practical, effective ways to see more of the good in your life, and grow greater calm, contentment, and confidence from the inside out.
It’s thorough, it’s deep, and it works. I have studied with Rick and highly recommend his work. If you register through one of my links, drop me a note to let me know, and you will receive a FREE copy of my e-book, 10 Ways to Wake Up Your Life. Click here for more information and to register using my affiliate link to ensure that you receive your free e-book. Just drop me an email to let me know you’ve registered.

Jen Johnson, MS, MS, MFA, LPC is a meditation teacher, personal coach, & photographer supporting people in mindfully designing their lives to align with their heart’s desire and soul’s purpose.

Practicing Mindfulness in Difficult Times


Some of the habitual patterns of the mind during difficult times include denial, anger or wanting things to be other than they are. Mindfulness practice teaches us that skillfully turning toward what is arising in this moment and acknowledging things as they are opens the door to peace. Cultivating equanimity, a profound sense of calm in the midst of the storm, may be one of the most skillful things that we can do during difficult times. The current political challenges and social tensions in the U.S. may tempt us to turn toward the near enemies of equanimity, which include withdrawal, denial, complacency, cynicism, rationalization or anger. Cultivating loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy offers a foundation upon which we can cultivate equanimity. Equanimity allows us to stay open to seeing clearly how things are. As you practice cultivating these qualities in your personal practice, you may consider practicing engaged mindfulness by taking your practice into the world and engaging with organizations and groups that embody values that are consistent with your mindfulness practice. Consider becoming a visible ally to members of marginalized groups of people who are being targeted by threats or hate crimes or who feel fearful because they are members of marginalized groups that are being targeted. Or join organizations that support and encourage compassion, equality and social and environmental justice. If you’re not sure where or how to connect, drop me an email, and I’m happy to offer some suggestions based on your interests.

When things are going well, don’t relax, and when they’re not, don’t panic. –Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.


Mindfully Creating Intentions for the New Year.  
Start your year off well as you mindfully create intentions and learn strategies for successfully following through.  We’ll use guided meditations and journaling exercises to help you clarify your intentions.  Then we’ll create an Intentions Board, a creative collage with words and images, to serve as a visual reminder of your intentions.  Make 2017 your year of lasting lifestyle changes!
Pre-registration is required and limited to 10 people.
Date & Time Saturday December 31, 2016  9am -12pm
Location: Jen’s office in downtown Wilmington. Cost: $50
Email Jen to register

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week class. 
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teaches meditation and gentle yoga to cultivate awareness, reduce stress and create a greater sense of peace and well-being. MBSR was created on the foundation of the ancient practice of mindfulness, which encourages being fully present in our lives with greater peace and ease. People take an MBSR course for reasons that include stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, GI distress, chronic illness, fatigue, heart disease, insomnia, and grief/loss.
Pre-registration is required and limited. 
FREE Introduction to MBSR and Orientation: Wednesday January 4, 2017 6pm – 8-m
Class Dates & Times: Wednesdays Jan 11 – March 1, 2017 6-8pm PLUS Saturday Feb 18 9am – 3pm.
Location: McKay Healing Arts, Wilmington, NC
Cost: $425
Email Jen to register

How to Reduce Post-Election Stress


  1. Minimize your exposure. Stay informed, but limit your exposure to media and social media. Don’t allow the current political climate to dominate your thoughts or consume you.
  2. Practice Awareness of Breathing Meditation. Rest your attention on the breath. When you notice that your mind has wandered, bring the attention back to the breath.
  1. Take in the good. Notice what is good and right in your life and in the world. Do what brings you joy. For every moment that you spend feeling angry, sad or scared, spend an equal amount of time cultivating joy.
  1. Spend time in nature. Go for a walk. Sit in your yard or in a local park and listen to the birds. Go for a walk on the beach or in the woods. Feel the wind on your face and the warmth of the sun on your skin.
  1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It’s ok to feel confused, sad, afraid, angry or whatever you are feeling. Let yourself feel. Write about your feelings in your journal. Connect with people who are kind, compassionate and inclusive and talk about your feelings.
  1. If you are feeling hopeless, reach out and connect. Ask for help. Talk with a friend or loved one. If you need professional help, reach out for support. If you are having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  1. Cultivate compassion. Cultivate compassion for people who are different from you and become an ally to someone from the LGBTQ, African-American, Muslim, Mexican, or Jewish communities. Speak up against harassment or intimidation of any kind.
  1. Manage your anger responsibly. A lot of anger and hate is being expressed out there right now. If it gets directed toward you, take a deep breath and walk away. Choose to not engage. Find a healthy outlet for your own anger, like talking with a trusted friend or therapist, engaging in exercise for some physical release, writing about it, or channeling it into constructive action.
  1. Channel your stress into constructive action. Join local, state and national organizations that encourage compassion and inclusiveness.
  1. Remember that everything is impermanent. Everything is impermanent, including the current state of political affairs. This, too, shall pass.

Jen Johnson is a meditation teacher, coach and Licensed Professional Counselor.

Healing Our Invisible Wounds


We all have invisible wounds as a byproduct of being human. The depth of our pain often comes as a result of the things we do to turn away from our pain. When we turn toward ourselves with kindness and care, we not only nurture the possibility for healing our invisible wounds, we also open to the possibility of learning the value of skilled self-care that includes deep listening. When we become still and quiet enough to listen to the wisdom of the body and the whispers of our inner voice, we connect with an infinite source of energy and grace. When we settle the chaos and busyness of our lives, quiet our minds with meditation, and make time and space to listen—a deep spiritual listening—we come to understand what our soul needs in order to heal.  And we pave the way for setting clear intentions for our lives and creating a life based on what matters most. Then we have the freedom in so many regards to choose how our life unfolds.

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. –Carolyn Myss

A Heartfelt Personal Message from Jen: Thanks for your patience as I took some much needed time away from writing these weekly Mindful Moments postcards that go out to my email list. I started sending out these weekly postcards in 2011. At the time I was terrified to send them out, and I seriously doubted my ability to commit to writing them every week. Committing to write weekly Mindful Moments for my email list and social media communities has been an important aspect of my mindfulness and creativity practices. Writing them for the past 5 years has provided an opportunity to practice keeping a commitment even during the weeks when my mind believed that I had nothing else to write about.

After 5 years of commitment to this weekly offering (I believe I may have skipped 5 or so weeks during that 5 years), I officially took some time off from writing it in order to reassess. My heart and soul were longing for a deeper and more personal expression of my most authentic self. I appreciate the emails and calls from those of you who have written me during the past 5 years to let me know how much this offering means to you. I plan to continue it but on a less frequent basis.

I’ve also started blogging again in a more traditional blog style, offering a more personal voice regarding things that matter most to me in this world. For those of you who used to read my Meditate Create blog on blogspot, this blog will be similar to that and will offer a more personal exploration of the intersection of spirituality, creativity and healing. Writing in this way allows me to have a more full creative expression of what feeds my heart and soul. You won’t get those posts in an email, because, after all, you didn’t sign up for that.

You can visit the blog whenever you like at or you can create a free account on Feedly or Bloglovin and follow my posts there. I’ve got follow buttons for each of those services in the sidebar on the blog now to make it easier for you. I’ll also be posting these blogs on my social media sites, so please connect with me there if you haven’t already (see social media buttons in the  right sidebar of this postcard).

For those of you who have asked what I’m working on these days, I’m working on a book proposal about how we can all heal from invisible wounds that is a culmination of my life’s work and practices that have been most healing for me and my coaching and therapy clients. I’m creating a  photographic body of work on the bald cypress trees of the Cape Fear River.

I’ve also been awarded another grant for 2017 from the North Carolina Humanities Council to offer writing and photography workshops for veterans for my Invisible Wounds of War project. The Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County will play a more prominent role in the 2017 programming and will host the exhibit of the writing and photographs in their ACES gallery in October and November 2017.

I’m opening up 5 spots for new meditation students and coaching clients outside of Wilmington who want to work with me by phone or Skype.  Mindfulness coaching is a great way to reduce stress and to live more intentionally, commit to your self care, and finally commit to the goals pertaining to your wellbeing that you’ve been thinking about getting around to.  Drop me an email if you want to chat about working with me.

I hope you’re enjoying autumn as much as I am.


Monday’s Inspiration


A few things that are inspiring me this week:

Hojicha green tea

The sound of rain

Pastel colors of sunset over the ocean

My favorite Retro51 fountain pen (discontinued but plenty others to choose from)

My Mamiya 645AF camera

Fuji 400H color negative film

Mary Oliver’s Felicity

Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Weekend additions to my native plant garden—anise hyssop, threadleaf coreopsis, cardinal flower and wild indigo.

Vegan black bean and sweet potato salad

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith on Spotify


Hope you all have a great week. What’s inspiring you this week?




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Being with Difficult Emotions


Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.    –Kris Carr

Feeling states tend to come and go. When we learn to meet difficult emotional states skillfully, we may minimize their tendency to overshadow everything. It’s not the events in our lives that cause our suffering but our reaction to those events. The way to begin skillfully relating with emotions is to practice bringing awareness to emotional states. Try checking in several times each day and noticing the state of the heart or emotional body. Inquire within, “What am I feeling?” and see if you can name the feeling. Naming the feeling activates an area of the brain that begins to calm you. Then inquire, “Where am I feeling it in the body?” Scan the body to try and identify where this feeling state is expressing in the body. Next inquire, “What is the quality of the sensations?” Is there tightness? Throbbing? Heat? Coolness? Now try to rest the attention on the sensations in the body and notice whether they increase in intensity, decrease or remain the same. When the mind wanders to evaluative thinking about the feeling or situation, see if you can gently bring the attention back to being with the sensations. Feelings are like waves—they rise, swell, crest and fall. Try to ride the waves of emotions rather than becoming entangled in them, and notice what happens.



Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week class will be offered on Thursday mornings from 9am – 11am. There will be a free orientation/information session on Thursday September 1, 2016 from 9 – 11am, and the class will be offered Thursdays September 8 – October 27, 2016 9-11am with a day of mindfulness on Saturday October 22 from 9am – 3pm. Participating in an MBSR class has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and pain and to increase a sense of peace, happiness and well-being.
Cost is $425. Payment plans are available. Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register. 

Nourishing the Soul


If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul, life ceases to have meaning. –Marion Woodman

When was the last time you did something to nourish your soul? Sometimes the soul needs a long walk along the shore, through the woods, by a river, or through a park. Sometimes it needs to see blue sky, clouds and trees and to hear birds sing. Sometimes it needs to create—to paint, write, make photographs, create pottery, make something with yarn or fabric, cook or arrange space. Take a few moments today to check in on the state of your soul. Ask what it needs in order to feel replenished. Commit to doing that thing, and notice what happens.



Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week class will be offered on Thursday mornings from 9am – 11am. There will be a free orientation/information session on Thursday September 1, 2016 from 9 – 11am, and the class will be offered Thursdays September 8 – October 27, 2016 9-11am with a day of mindfulness on Saturday October 22 from 9am – 3pm. Participating in an MBSR class has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and pain and to increase a sense of peace, happiness and well-being. 

Cost is $425. Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register.