Welcome to this interview with Ingrid Pujol, an award-winning poet and advocate for mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Ingrid’s winning poem, “A Thank You Note,” was inspired by her contemplation of shifting perspectives and the transformative power of gratitude. As a licensed school psychologist with 15 years of experience, she understands the importance of promoting mindfulness and emotional intelligence in today’s youth.
Ingrid’s latest achievement is a dual-language children’s book, inspired by the challenges of the pandemic, which offers valuable tools for children to navigate difficult times. She believes in teaching and modeling these concepts from an early age, inviting readers to explore new ideas and engage in meaningful dialogue. Through her work, Ingrid aims to build a more mindful and emotionally intelligent society, benefiting both children and adults.
Congratulations on winning first place in the poetry contest! Can you tell us more about your winning poem, “A Thank You Note,” and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you so much. I remember being at my parents’ house in Miami for Christmas and suddenly feeling compelled to write something, but before I did so, I sat in front of my mom’s computer and searched for writing contests in Central Florida. I thought I should share my thoughts on a topic I had been contemplating. To my surprise, there was one right in my city, Orlando, called Word and Wonders. They were running the Music edition at the time. I decided to join just for the fun of it! I was pleased to participate in a contest where my two favorite art forms combined. I participated in my first writing competition when I was 9 years old, the genre was poetry; my poem was disqualified because the judges did not believe a child could have written it. I guess it took me over 30 years to overcome the feeling of disappointment that caused in me. I thought, “I’m a little older now, perhaps this time around they will believe my words!”
The inspiration behind A Thank You Note, funny enough, came from the old saying, “what came first the chicken or the egg?” It is a personal belief of mine that many things in life are easier to understand, embrace, let go of, or be ok with if we are willing and ready to shift our perspective because, in reality, not everything is what it seems. To create this effect, I chose to use the word “note,” for it can represent a note as in a printed comment or reference, or note as in a written musical symbol to indicate the duration and pitch of a tone. In the same manner, I wanted to bring attention to the following: what do we do when we have reached a new perspective?
Do we look back and ruminate over the old idea(s) we have left behind? Or do we accept the value of the experience by displaying gratitude? That was the thought process I invited the reader to in my poem. A Thank You Note talks about the birth of Music; was it a divine creation sent to humans down on earth to help them cope with feelings of sadness and despair? Or was it a human creation, with its origins in sadness and despair, lifted to the sky as a cry for help? There you have it: the transformative power of perspective.
Could you share some of the most memorable experiences or challenges you have encountered during your 15 years of working with children?
I cannot share stories or details because of HIPAA law, and the respect for privacy I owe to the many children and families I have worked with. All I can say is that I have witnessed very sad circumstances, devastating I would say. It is never easy to walk a person, let alone a child, through memories or active scenarios of abuse, neglect, terminal illnesses and all kinds of disabilities. Conversely, I have had the privilege to also witness many of those situations transmute into stories of triumph and growth. A child, when given the right tool, is capable of remarkable healing.
One person that cares, ONE solid system of support, the research shows us can dramatically increase the probability of a child overcoming trauma. That ONE pillar could be the family, a family member, school, a teacher, a peer, or a neighbor. I believe we often underestimate the impact we can have on each other. As a collective, we live in such an individualistic society that often pushes us in different directions, creating distance, empty spaces, and gaps where many are lost. That has been one of the main challenges I have faced as a mental health practitioner: helping the individual connect, not only at the physical proximity/community level but also internally.
Help them connect: the current struggle to hope; feelings of stagnation to motivation; unhealthy cope mechanisms to safe and more fulfilling behaviors. The most memorable experience is always to witness the improvement and see them become better equipped to face challenges, using strategies they come up with on their own. That is always a barometer by which we measure healing, when they start realizing how resourceful indeed they are and are able to access whatever tool the “task” at hand may require.
What led you to write a dual-language children’s book inspired by the pandemic? How do you believe it can help children during these challenging times?
The covid19 pandemic, unfortunately, was an event that history will remember for a very long time. I wrote this book, not only for the present audience, but also as a testament to the incredibly difficult challenges we faced as a society. It is a book you can pick at any age and learn something from it. It is also a book I will recommend reading more than a few times.
I purposely crafted the story in a way that it will reveal new concepts and ideas to the reader, depending on how perceptive and receptive they can be and where in their journey they are, whether that is physical, emotional or spiritual growth. Even though the story was inspired by the events during the pandemic, I did not allude to covid19. I intended the concept of “facing challenges” to be universal and not limited to a single event. A virus is not the only external threat we will fight.
Are there any personal anecdotes or experiences that influenced the content or themes of your book?
Absolutely. The muse always strikes from within, right? Yes, I was dealing with some personal situations at the moment and was trying to ground myself in order to regain my balance. It was not my first time experiencing what I was experiencing back then; however, the circumstances in which my struggle was taking place were completely different. In complete isolation, I had to reinvent what healing had meant to me in the past. The atypicality and uncertainty of the situation called for newness. I was “forced” to sort out what worked and what did not; I learned, unlearned and relearned on how to fight an external threat from within.
There was not much I, or anyone else, could do without, as in its archaic literary meaning. One night while having dinner, I looked at Ellie, my mini dachshund, and it occurred to me that even though she stands so low and close to the ground, she would stand significantly taller than she appears if she were able to stand on her back legs. I thought that perhaps in order to rise above my current circumstances I first needed to ground myself in something that provided me with a sense of stability. Purpose did it for me. I made it a mission to make shareable my story of overcoming hurdles and healing. That is how the idea of my book was born.
Can you discuss the importance of promoting mindfulness and emotional intelligence in today’s youth, and how it can benefit their overall well-being?
At the heart of mindfulness is our ability to cope and act in an emotionally intelligent manner when it comes to our behaviors, the behaviors of others, our reactions, self-regulation practices and our ability to face fear and uncertainty. The only things that separate children from adults are the life experiences and the developmental piece, of course. A child IS a person already, not less, not “in the making.” Children also have dreams, hopes, expectations, and are also faced with failure, and all sorts of challenges.
Children are the individuals we are shaping into the adults of tomorrow, our society’s foundation. It is vital that we teach, guide and model for them, not only for their future role as full-grown adults, but in the role children already play; they are someone’s son or daughter, siblings, classmates, friends and neighbors. The more an individual can be aware of what they are feeling and sensing in the moment, without preconceived interpretation or judgment, the more relaxed their bodies and mind become; therefore, being on a more optimal state to make decisions, shift perspectives, and embrace change when necessary.
Of course, there are developmental factors that play into a child’s ability to achieve this, but again, a child is someone already; someone with the mental capabilities required to understand most concepts, if we, as adults, are willing to take the time and effort to present new ideas in a way they can understand. Let’s meet them at their level, instead of walking away from them because they are “just children” or “too young to understand.” We have no control over what may come crashing into a child’s life. Crises do not discriminate based on age, does it? It is my belief that we should use the relative complexity and newness of these concepts as a laboratory for a child to explore, learn and practice, and do so in an environment that is safe and supervised, before life challenges them in real-time.
How does your background as a licensed school psychologist contribute to your approach as an author and advocate for mindfulness and emotional intelligence?
As a school psychologist, I have been heavily trained in the theories and psychometrics of intellectual ability, what we know as the “intelligence quotient” (IQ). Yes, we also learn about the many different types of intelligence; however, the term of “emotional intelligence,” which is our ability to understand and manage our own emotions, and recognize and influence the emotions of those around us, is relatively new. The concept was first coined in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey (current president of Yale University) and it was later popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman.
Even though all these theories have been part of my training and practice, I often noticed that intellectual ability and emotional intelligence not always go hand in hand. I have found there is a pronounced societal pressure and expectation on many children to excel academically. The scale, however, does not look balanced; we often overlook the other side, which I believe, as a practitioner, is as important, if not more! Puzzled/Perpleja is my attempt to balance that scale by challenging a child’s intellectual and emotional curiosity.
How do you believe your book and related initiatives can contribute to building a more mindful and emotionally intelligent society?
I am inviting the ready and willing to start teaching and modeling these concepts at an earlier age. Puzzled/Perpleja is a book to be read a few times. Read it, role-play it, change scenarios, talk about the what if’s, complete the learning activities along with your child, and make the necessary adaptations to adjust Ellie’s story to your child’s developmental level; have fun with it! I can tell you this, I hid some gems in between the lines. I can guarantee that if you are intentional in your reading, you and your child will encounter something new every time you flip through the pages. Let me know what you find!
Can you share any feedback or testimonials you have received from readers or parents regarding the impact of your book on children’s understanding and growth?
I have read some very touching messages and reviews about my book. A fellow writer who wanted her sons to understand that not all was lost during the pandemic and that with a new day a new beginning is always possible. A mother of an eight-year-old girl, shared that her daughter was fascinated with the story, and most importantly, asked many questions. This little girl went on vacation overseas and Puzzle/Perpleja was the only book she packed. I must confess that I got teary-eyed. I have had adult readers reach out to me sharing their insights and what they learned. There is no greater satisfaction to an author than when you see your niche coming to life, and you say to yourself “wow, they really got it!” That alone makes all the effort worthwhile.
How do you see your work as an author and advocate evolving in the future, and what goals do you have for the broader impact of your initiatives?
I am currently working on several “small projects” (not books) where adults are meant to be the audience. My intention is to bring insight to certain topics that often challenge us. Children do not live alone, do they? We must bring the adults on board. It is a conjoint effort. Positive or negative, what touches the old touches the young. I love writing and I am enjoying the process. At the end of the day, it is not only about the intellectual side of this artistic pursuit but the emotional component as well. I am as much of a writer as I am of my own work’s reader. Once my words touch the paper, they, too, touch me.
Thank you, WomenOnTopp, for taking interest in my story and for the opportunity to share it with the world.
Found out more about Ingrid Pujol through her website: ipujolauthor.com,