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“If we can reach kids and teach them mindfulness tools, then we can stop violence for the next generation”
Words of wisdom with Adam Avin, the creator of Wuf Shanti
“I think people should be collaborating more. People and companies with similar missions to make the world a better place need to work together. The Dalai Lama says that if we can scale up by collaborating and reach kids when they are young and teach them these mindfulness and social emotional learning tools, then we have a good chance of stopping violence for the next generation. People need to stop thinking of it as a competition, and understand that if we work together then we have a better chance.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Avin, who is now 14, and is the creator of Wuf Shanti, a dog character which teaches mindfulness techniques to kids, so children can live in health and wellness, peace and positivity. Through music, fun, and games, children learn yoga, meditation, and positive thinking. These techniques help children to stay physically fit, mentally less stressed, able to cope with emotions, and interact with kindness.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wanted to honor my Grandpa when he passed away, and pay forward all his mantras, such as Think Well to Be Well, our positive thinking mantra, Smile and the World Will Smile With You, our kindness mantra, and Smile and Say Thank You, our gratitude mantra. It started off with the dog character for our early learning curriculum, and now we expanded to a tween and teen curriculum (minus the dog). Our curriculum focuses on mindfulness in education, including yoga, meditation, positive thinking, diversity, inclusion, gratitude, communication, social emotional learning, peace, and kindness. It is so important to teach these tools if we really want to stop the violence and make a positive impact on the world for the next generation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
It’s hard to pick just one. Adam Levine and Maroon 5 posted about us on their social media pages, and that was pretty cool. I conduct a “Partners for Peace” interview series with pioneers in mindfulness community, was a speaker at the 2018 Mindfulness in Education Summit, founded the Kids Association for Mindfulness in Education (KAME), and co-founded and am hosting the 2019 international Mindful Kids Peace Summit. All of those things are exciting. Wuf Shanti was written about in Teaching. com, Best Self Magazine, Care for Your Mind, LA Yoga Magazine, Superfly SuperMom Blog, the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Miami Herald, Yoga Digest, The Doctor Weighs In, Sun Sentinel, Integral Yoga Magazine, and many others. Some of these publications were interviews or articles written by other people about Wuf Shanti, and some of them are articles I wrote which were published by news outlets or magazines.
The awards Wuf Shanti got are awesome too. We are a recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award and named among the “Best in Family-Friendly Media, Products, & Services.” Common Sense Media named Wuf Shanti’s Mobile App, the Yoga Fun Machine, one of the “Best Health Apps and Games for Kids.” National Parenting Product Awards (NAPPA) named Wuf Shanti “Best Product for Children” in their Health and Wellness roundup. Probably the best thing is when our Wuf Shanti mascot tours schools and children’s hospitals to share these practices with the children, and we get to see their smiles and know that we are making a difference.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Probably the funniest thing I did, when I first got certified to teach kids yoga, was fall while doing a balance pose in the mascot costume. I had to learn how to balance inside of a big dog costume. This is where my mindfulness practice and focus training helped. The kids all laughed, they thought it was part of an act, so it was all good, and I’m glad I could make them smile. Now, I’m too tall for the costume so we get other people to wear it!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Well, I think it’s cool that Wuf Shanti is cross platform with 7 books (6 fiction and 1 non-fiction), 100+ videos, and a mindful mobile app. You can see Wuf Shanti videos on local PBS stations in SFla, on the Children’s TV Network (the in-house TV station at children’s hospitals across the country and internationally), BatteryPop, Adventure To Fitness (in-school video programming), our YouTube Channel, and on the Wuf Shanti mobile app (on Apple and Android devices).
Also we tour schools and hospitals to visit the kids and teach them mindfulness, and I think this is important because science has shown that positive thinking can help the healing process.
Also statistics for depression, anger, and anxiety in kids has risen so much, also have suicide and homicide in young kids, and we really need a character and program like this with everything going on in the world right now. We need to reach as many kids, parents, teachers, educators, healthcare practitioners as possible, so we can help kids deal with stress and emotions in a better way so they can grow up less depressed and anxious teenagers and happier peace loving content adults.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think it is important to breathe. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes we forget. I try to take 5 minutes every day, to meditate, breathe, center, and repeat positive mantras in my head. It seems so simple, but people just don’t do it. Training our brains is the same thing as exercising our bodies, and the more we practice, the more it will become natural. It can be done anywhere at any time, in the car, at work, while walking on the beach, etc. Also, laugh. Even if you are sad or upset, make yourself laugh. Our bodies don’t know that the laughing is fake, and our bodies think we are happy, and that helps our overall health.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I think that has to be my mom. When I told her my idea, and came to her with a drawing of the dog, she immediately supported me. It’s a challenge to have the time to do everything, especially now that I’m starting high school, and am on the golf team, and will probably have homework until midnight every night. Since I’m older now, I want to start focusing on older kids, in middle schools and high schools. There’s so much to do, so my mom is going to start helping with the Wuf Shanti little kid programs so I can work on expanding it for an older audience. There’s no dog character in the older curriculum, for example. I’m really grateful that my mom offered to help.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Well, we have the Wuf Shanti Children’s Wellness Foundation which is our non-profit and allows us to help so many more kids, and I am putting together the Mindful Kids Peace Summit which will be in February. Hopefully all middle schools and high schools will watch it on the same days at the same time. We really want to get the momentum of like a march, and get some celebrities and athletes to give motivational speeches because the kids look up to them as role models. It’s 5 days, and there’s a different theme for each day:
· DAY 1 We Are All One: Diversity, Inclusion, and Communication
· DAY 2 Living Together in Peace: Kindness and Anti-Bullying
· DAY 3 Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Kids to De-Stress and Cope with Emotions (include Yoga, Meditation, Breathing)
· DAY 4 Doing Good: Things We Can Do Together to Make the World a Better Place and Collaboration
· DAY 5 Positive Psychology and Social Emotional Learning: More Mindfulness for Kids, and how Teachers and Parents can help.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
It would have to be the 3 Wuf Shanti mantras that I mentioned before, Think Well to Be Well, our positive thinking mantra, Smile and the World Will Smile With You, our kindness mantra, and Smile and Say Thank You, our gratitude mantra. These were passed down from my Grandpa, who was a very mindful person, and now I want to share them with others.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. How much work it would be. I am in high school now, but I started when I was in middle school. I have a lot more school work now so my time is limited, and plus, I’m on the golf team, so it is harder to find time to write, visit hospitals, and conduct interviews.
2. That I would have to educate the adults. Some of the public schools think these practices are a religion. They aren’t. They are secular and for everyone and only a religion if your religion is peace, love and kindness. I think it’s starting to get better now, we just have to keep educating everyone.
3. That some kids would make fun of me for the dog costume. It was rough at first, but part of our curriculum is dealing with stress, anti-bullying, and kindness. It’s ironic that I had to deal with it, but I think it makes me stronger and better to understand the kids we’re teaching. Now I just smile and tell anyone that says something to me about all the celebrity and athlete role models that practice some form of yoga, mediation, or mindfulness every day as part of their daily routines. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Plus, thinking about all the kids we are helping, helps me too.
4. That it’s really hard to get in touch with influencers. There are so many amazing public figures that I think would want to help with the Peace Summit and care about health and wellness of kids, if I could figure out how to reach them. They have huge teams, and it is hard to know who to contact or how to contact them because they don’t exactly publish their emails or phone numbers. If I do reach them, I never know if they actually tell the public figure or not. Sometimes they do write me back, or call, and that’s really kind. We have some slotted for the Peace Summit, so I’m excited about that.
5. The politics involved in getting a show on the air on a network because there’s a lot of red tape. Wuf Shanti could be the Barney of Yoga and Mindfulness. There’s not another character out there right now like this that is cross-platform and teaches all these things. It’s frustrating because it is so relevant right now and important in the world with everything going on, and we need to reach kids when they’re young, but it’s really hard to get to decision makers at networks. It’s probably a lot easier if you know people in the industry.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think people should be collaborating more. People and companies with similar missions to make the world a better place need to work together. The Dalai Lama says that if we can scale up by collaborating and reach kids when they are young and teach them these mindfulness and social emotional learning tools, then we have a good chance of stopping violence for the next generation. People need to stop thinking of it as a competition, and understand that if we work together then we have a better chance.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
It would be awesome if everyone would follow us on social media. We just reached 100K on FB, so now we have to get more people on our instagram, twitter, and youtube. They are all @wufshanti. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel for free, and you can also download our early learning Wuf Shanti Yoga Fun Machine mindful mobile app for free on either android or apple devices. If you have a hospital or school you want us to visit, or you want to be one of our partners for peace, or you want to learn more information about the Kids Association or Peace Summit, you can email us at email@example.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for having me. Be Well,