This summer, students are invited to explore the power of mindfulness with Rajiah Williams Leong, Mindfulness Facilitator and Faculty in the SPS Enterprise Risk Management program. Initiated by the program in Fall 2020 in response to the pandemic, ERM Mindfulness is an online program designed with positive psychology insights and neuroscience research to help participants to experience the present moment with increased acceptance, nurturing curiosity, and promoting collaboration. She discusses how her background in storytelling, diversity initiatives, and mindfulness led her to found a mindfulness consultancy.
Tell us about your career path, and what led you to founding Hygge Hooga.
Initially interested in a career in journalism, I interned at CNN while at Barnard College, and then worked in advertising after graduating before joining HBO Documentary Films. While at HBO I had opportunities to work in multiple departments and travel internationally helping to make HBO original programming available in over 150 countries. And 10 years later when I left for a chance to relocate to California, I realized my most meaningful experiences happened outside of my actual job - and were found in volunteer roles with the Employee Relations group organizing leadership development and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.
Once I returned to the East Coast and began teaching the Strategic Communications for Risk Professionals course in the Enterprise Risk Management program at SPS, my background in storytelling was able to merge with my background in mindfulness. Many of the communication techniques we were teaching are rooted in mindfulness and with the COVID-19 outbreak the timing was right to share more tools and create a sense of community with the Mindfulness seminars.
Although I grew up meditating as a child, my formal training at the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) inspired me to help spread more compassion in communities and organizations, by founding Hygge Hooga, a mindfulness consultancy with plans to also offer yoga therapy later this year.
What is mindfulness and why is it important for our graduate students and/or working professionals?
Mindfulness is paying attention, with full acceptance and compassion at any given moment – and is especially relevant during a challenge – and especially during a pandemic. While we all use basic communications skills, new research and insights into neuroscience and positive psychology provide practical tools for managing difficult emotions in order to gain clarity, self-compassion, and the creativity to find a new solution.
Do attendees need to have completed the first few workshops to attend following sessions? How should they prepare for the workshops?
The sessions are open to everyone! At the beginning of each session we review the definition of mindfulness, and also place this definition in the context of the specific session. As the sessions are open to Columbia University students, alumni, faculty, and administrators (everyone!) they are made for a diverse audience including first time meditators as well as for those more experienced with mindfulness training.