Meet Mark Krassner. He’s not married and he doesn’t have any children (yet). It’s a bit surprising from first glance that Mark is the founder of a platform for women and mothers to practice meditation. To me, though, this is not surprising at all. Maternal health is not just a women’s issue. We all have a mother. We all know mothers–we work with mothers, our sisters are mothers, our friends are mothers. As a society, if we are not taking care of our women and mothers, there can be a negative effects on children, families, communities, and ultimately society.
After beginning to meditate, Mark recognized how impactful this practice could be for women and mothers. Why did his mind go there? His own mother struggled with anxiety and depression. Scroll down to read more about Mark and how he’s supporting mothers through Expectful.
Why are you the unlikely founder of a meditation platform for women and mothers? When people meet me for the first time they often raise an eyebrow, “A 34-year-old unmarried man with no children that founded a company for pregnant and new moms…what?!” You have to admit, it doesn’t exactly fit the mold. At first, I was really self-conscious about it because I felt like people were skeptical of me. Over time though I realized that when I let people in and share that my motivation for starting Expectful is my mom’s challenges with mental health, they’re usually really receptive.
When and why did you personally start to meditate? I like to say that I came to meditation on my knees. 6 years ago I was going through a challenging breakup and started practicing hoping it would help me cope with all the challenging emotions that were coming up.
What benefits did you see in your own life with this new habit? At first I wasn’t sure if it was doing anything, but 6-weeks into my practice I started to notice big changes in my reactions to things that would have typically triggered me. Looking back today, my meditation practice was the foundation for some major life transformations to the point that I feel almost unrecognizable to my old self in really positive ways.
The biggest shift for me has been a greater gap between stimulus and response. So when something comes up that would have typically gotten me upset, I find that I’m more grounded and curious vs angry or frustrated. I still have my moments though.
As a child of a mother who struggled with anxiety and depression, what do you wish more people knew from your perspective? I wish more people knew that there are amazing tools that can help with mental health challenges and that meditation is one of the best. Sitting to practice just once a day can literally change someone’s entire life, and can also help her baby have better mental, physical, and emotional health. There is compelling research out there on the topic which shows meditation can enhance baby IQ, increase immunity, reduce the chances of preterm birth, postpartum depression, and much more. We’re also conducting our own research at The University of Colorado with a group of 150 pregnant women at to see the impact meditating with Expectful can have on their pregnancy and birthing outcomes.
All that said, I think the most important thing is for there to be love in a household. Love is #1 and without it nothing else works. Much more important than meditation… but meditation can help create the circumstances in which love emerges.
What connection is there between mothers experiencing postpartum mood disorders and the impact on their children? Research shows that the children of moms who do not get treatment for PPD are more likely to have problems in school, substance abuse issues and future psychiatric illness themselves. In 2016 a US government appointed health task force recommended all pregnant and new moms be screened for signs of depression because it’s so prevalent and can have such a negative impact on their child or children. A study done on women that were at high risk for postpartum depression showed meditation reduced it’s onset significantly, which one of the reasons why the practice can be so beneficial before and after birth.
If you could shout anything from the rooftop, what would you say? Just, “Love”.
Best first step for someone wanting to start a daily meditation practice? I think the best first step is understanding what meditation is…
I say this because most people quit mediating because they mistakenly believe that if they think during meditation, they’re doing it wrong. Yet the truth is, that if you catch yourself thinking during meditation it’s actually a win.
In a given day the average person has over 50,000 thoughts, and they usually don’t even realize they’re having most of them. Yet, our thoughts have an enormous impact on how we feel and show up in the world. So suddenly when you sit to meditate and you become aware of a thought, that’s a really positive thing because you’re training yourself to be aware of something that was previously a subconscious process. Over time, this awareness of thought gives you more control over how you feel.
My meditation teacher Emily Fletcher says, “The mind thinks just like the heart beats. Just as you can’t give your heart a command to stop beating, you can’t give your mind a command to stop thinking.” So meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, it’s simply about observing them in a nonjudgmental way.