Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
So inspired was I after meeting Smiling Mind General Manager Lucy Richards and her team, this quote by Margaret Mead immediately popped into my mind.
At just 26 years of age Lucy is grounded, authentic, articulate, wise beyond her years, not to mention utterly delightful. She’s one of those rare people that fills you with optimism and hope that we can make the world a better place.
Smiling Mind is a web and app-based program that provides free guided modern meditation to young people. It was co-founded by Melbourne entrepreneurs Jane Martino and James Tutton, who tasked Lucy with completing and launching the half developed app, program and website.
Two and a half years on, the app has been downloaded more than 370,000 times and is being used in more than 5,000 education settings in Australia. Impressive, huh? This is just the tip of the iceberg – the Smiling Mind vision is to have mindfulness meditation on the Australian curriculum by 2020.
It’s no mean feat, but at the rate they’re going there’s no doubt this team of go-getters has what it takes to make it happen.
Smiling Mind has been given a grant by the Victorian Government to work with Deakin University to establish an evidence base for a Smiling Mind education program in schools. It’s world first research in terms of the use of technology to deliver mindfulness meditation to young people in an education setting.
Lucy is quick to credit teachers for making Smiling Mind a hit in schools:
I’m so impressed with Australian educators, they have completely embraced mindfulness and Smiling Mind as a concept, they don’t stop talking about it. It’s been the easiest part of the organisation to grow.
It’s not just young minds that are benefitting from the Smiling Mind program. It’s also being rolled out in the workplace, with corporates like IBM who want to support employee wellbeing in the modern working environment, explains Lucy:
“We’ve been able to build some ground swell from a grass roots and community level. As a not-for-profit we are reliant upon philanthropic support from government grants and community donations, while our corporate program provides a revenue stream that complements our vision. It’s all about global education and understanding – there are parents in the workplace and people who will be parents one day.”
Proving that mindfulness isn’t limited to the workplace and the schoolyard, Cricket Australia has also implemented a tailored Smiling Mind program.
“The hardest demographic to engage is young men. We’ve partnered with Cricket Australia to support athletes at national and state level to get mental clarity around their game, and to engage young men in the community who are more likely to use the app because our cricketers are. This just goes to show how versatile mindfulness is. It helps you sleep, de-stress, focus more at work, and it helps your ability to be in the moment and perform,” Lucy says.
This is something Lucy, a former gymnast, knows all about: “As a gymnast you need to be in the moment and focused so you can perform the best you can and to flow sustainably.”
Prior to joining Smiling Mind Lucy was a facilitator for The Reach Foundation before working in online communications.
On how she manages the challenges of her role, Lucy says: “Every couple of months I hit a point where I have to grow again because Smiling Mind is growing so much, and I’m paving a path that hasn’t been paved before. Practising mindfulness is what helps me – focusing on what’s right in front of you. This has increased my capacity to manage that process effectively and I can take in so much more information and do so much more.
I truly believe that mindfulness and being present is the foundation for life. You can’t experience positive emotion, have proper conversation, take in information, or do anything unless you are in the present moment.
“Mindfulness is a tool that will make people happy. ‘Happy’ can be such a throw away word but Smiling Mind is empowering people and that’s what I love about it. It’s giving people something they can do at any moment and share with others.
I haven’t perfected it at all. That’s what I like about mindfulness and Smiling Mind as a concept. Getting distracted is completely normal. It acknowledges that us as humans are flawed, there’s stuff that’s out of our control and things will always change. Mindfulness gives you the tools to deal with that on an everyday basis.
After spending just one hour in Lucy’s company I was left with little wonder at how she’s been able to achieve so much at the outset of what will is set to be a very bright career.
There is certainly no doubt about the enormity and power of the ripple effect Lucy and her team of thoughtful, committed, smiling minds is creating in Australia and beyond. Look out world!