A Human Resource professional with more than 20 years’ corporate experience, Makeda Mckenzie is now a committed mindfulness practitioner, coach and advocate. She founded her company, the Caribbean Mindfulness Institute, in 2017 to promote mindfulness and meditation as an effective, safe, and science-backed means of reducing the effects of chronic stress in our workplaces, schools and communities.
Makeda received her mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher-training from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine (UCSD). The UCSD is widely considered to be among the preeminent thought and research leaders in the field of Mindfulness Studies. Makeda has gone on to complete further formal international qualifications in mindfulness, happiness and wellbeing, and workplace Psychology. She now provides workplace training and public workshops on mindfulness and meditation to help people beat stress and feel their best.
Here is what she told We Mag in an interview:
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome and how did you deal with it?
Even though mindfulness classes are offered in workplaces, schools, hospitals and clinics all over the world and the staple of many Fortune 500 companies like Nike, Yahoo!, Apple, and Google, not having a company locally, or even regionally, to model myself against meant that the learning curve was steep and I faced high-levels of uncertainty with virtually every decision. That’s when having the resilience, self-compassion and growth-mindset that mindfulness cultivates, came in handy. It has given me the freedom to learn, grow, make mistakes and keep going in spite of challenges. My mantra has been “take a breath (or two, or three) and keep it moving”.
Tell us something about you that people may not know.
I’ve avoided public speaking pretty much all of my life, so it’s ironic that it’s basically my job now. When I started my business, I knew I wanted to reach people where they most often face the highest levels of stress – the workplace – but I didn’t stop to think this would mean I would have to present in front of groups of sometimes hundreds of people. Being so passionate about the subject matter helps – it’s easy to talk about something you love. And my own personal mindfulness practice as a whole has helped a lot too – it has taught me how to breathe through my anxious moments, and to not believe everything I think.
What are you most grateful for?
Without a doubt, it’s my family. They have been a huge influence and source of support for me both personally and professionally and they’re my favourite people in the world.
What is something you know for sure that you wish the rest of us knew?
Stress is no joke. We kind of casually throw around the term “I’m so stressed out”, and think it’s something we can put off dealing with until another day, but over time stress has a sneaky way of building up in our bodies and limiting our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. We need to start prioritising our mental fitness in the same way we prioritise our physical fitness. “Constantly feeling stressed out and overwhelmed doesn’t have to be our “new-normal”. There are simple lifestyle tweaks you can take to start feeling better now, and time and time again, practicing mindfulness has been scientifically proven to be one of them. It is a simple skill that can potentially be life changing, and over 30 years of neuro-scientific research has shown that regular mindfulness practice can reduce the effects of stress by changing the shape and functioning of the brain for the better.
Do you have an additional point you would like to make?
People tell me all the time about all the big ways and little ways my classes have changed their personal lives and work experiences. I am so glad I persevered with my business even though at times the way forward isn’t always clear. It proves that you don’t have to be perfect, or have all the answers, to make a difference. If you’re wondering what you have to offer the world, start by paying attention to what brings you joy, what makes your heart sing, and do more of that...and share it with others if you can.