Special Spotlight is dedicated to young, Black individuals who are working in professional careers, living out their dreams, or making a positive impact in the world. Black excellence isn’t limited to being a celebrity. Black excellence is you, your friends, and neighbors. Let’s celebrate us!
Tiara Cash, 28, is a native of Memphis, Tennessee and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Tiara currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from the University of West Florida with an associate degree in 2011. From there, she completed her bachelor’s degree in exercise and wellness from Arizona State University. In 2015, she received her master’s degree in kinesiology from Western Illinois University. Tiara is currently the Senior Program Coordinator at the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, & Resilience at Arizona State University. The center’s vision is to “Create an academic “Culture of Caring” by advancing mindfulness and compassion practices at ASU and the community to nurture purpose, focus, resilience and connection. A fun fact about Tiara, she’s performed in 3 operas!
Talk about what you do as Senior Program Coordinator for the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, and Resilience. As the Sr. Program Coordinator for the Center my role is very dynamic. I have the charge to create a more resilient student-body by being a practitioner of mindfulness – teaching students, faculty, staff, and community the skills of mindful practice and mindful work. Co-currently I am in charge of logistics for all programming including workshops, training, retreats, and conferences. My two specialty areas that I have been given the role of expanding here at ASU include Student-Athlete training and facilitating mindful discussions with marginalized populations with a more specific focus on social justice.
How did you become interested in this role? I think the role actually became interested in me (lol)! It’s crazy because when I found the job posting, I couldn’t imagine how all of my life’s passions were to be included in this one job. But that’s exactly the truth! I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation since I was about 10 years old and have always dreamed of working in the University setting. Growing up with a mother as a head coach at a university I saw her impact on the population and knew that was my future career path. Fast forward to my undergraduate and graduate studies and thesis work I saw a need of resilience training in student-athletes and specifically people of color within that group. Now years later I am able to combine my personal practice with my love for higher education and my areas of research into one fun and absolutely amazing position!
What is mindfulness? Simply, mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with intention.
Why is it important for Black people to understand mindfulness? Quite frankly, we have more to deal with in this life than most others – always having to be mindful of our presence everywhere we go. In discussing mindfulness with people of color and especially black people I like to say we already have this skill imbedded in us. Our parents have taught most of us from a young age to remember in certain spaces our voices, our dress, our demeanor, and even more realistically our color. Now to create a positive practice from this rooted thought process, the charge is to switch the skill of practicing this for other’s comfort and gain (so focusing on being mindful “outward”) to turning inward and tapping into our own feelings, emotions, and where we stand in this life. This practice of mindfulness gives us the opportunity to know ourselves more deeply, which in turn can help us navigate certain spaces with more self-love and confidence in our own morals and values. It is also fantastic in helping relieve stress and brining more joy to our lives!
What are some challenges and triumphs that come with your line of work? I think the biggest challenge that we see in this line of work is the misconception of secular mindfulness and its benefits. I, personally, came to mindfulness and meditation on a spiritual path. So, honoring the traditions and cultures that have used these skills through a base of divinity is is very important to me. The work that we do with the Center is more-so a secular interpretation of that, rooted in researched skill-based learning. Though it doesn’t happen often, we have had to the aforementioned to skeptics. But, the triumphs that come with that is the expanse of knowledge to the person who is asking and a better understanding on our end of how we can create more open dialogue about this topic. My more personal answer to this question would be the non-visibility of people of color in the mindfulness community. There have been many times where I’ve been the only person of color in the room, not to mention the only black woman. It is important to me that others see that WE do this and that mindfulness is a practice that benefits all human beings. I try my best to be a model and representation for that.
Since you’ve been on this journey for yourself, what has been your experience? You know, I like to tell my story because I feel like it shows another more relatable side of this journey in spirituality and self-realization. Candidly – being mindful doesn’t stop the trials and tribulations of life. It didn’t stop my disease, it didn’t stop my homelessness, it didn’t stop harassment or physical pain. But, it DID help me to navigate those hardships with more ease and come out the other side more self-aware. Without the practice I simply would not be here to share this work with you and I definitely wouldn’t be able to articulate now how those situations made me stronger, more resilient and an even more reliant on my own power.
How receptive are your students to the notion of peace and mindfulness? VERY receptive. I think that we (millennials) have been searching for something to help ease a lot of stress and pain for a while, especially with the current state of the world. Mindfulness is low cost and is directly related to self-help but also influences the compassion and resilience of others. Here at ASU, the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, & Resilience also works very hard to create programming that is directly centric to whatever population we are serving. So, our student services at Center are definitely student run and student driven, which helps create a more relatable curriculum.
Do you see yourself working in this line of higher education long term or do you have other career goals? If you have other goals, how will you take what you’ve been doing in this role to your next position? I definitely see myself working in higher education long term. As mentioned before, since I was a child working in a University setting has been the goal. I will say that I hope to expand my career outside of the higher education sector with the trainings and backgrounds that I now possess and am working more to possess by creating programs for retiring student-athletes and trainings for marginalized and oppressed communities throughout the united states, and hopefully, the world.
Anything else you want readers to know? I am always hoping to hear from others to connect and engage more through mindfulness. I’m SO here to answer any questions and hear comments that folks might be having regarding this subject! If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about mindfulness or resilience I would love to stay connected through email or can be added on Instagram!
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Facebook: Tiara A. Cash