Search & Replace S02E09: Shahin Najak

How do we bring self-compassion to ourselves when that inner critic in our brain is so active? Shahin Najak opened the door to a happier life by asking herself that question. By incorporating elements of mindfulness into her life, she enhanced her relationships with her daughters. Shahin realized that her own mindfulness journey could help impact the lives of other families and is now a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Coach for parents, teachers, and caregivers. Listen to Shahin’s story on Search and Replace as she describes how to bring back the joy and connection and build better relationships using mindfulness skills proven to increase self-esteem and self-acceptance.

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:11] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if your kids tell you you’re not as happy as you think you are. I’m Joe Taylor Jr. This is Search and Replace. 

Shahin Najak made some big changes to her life because she was looking for some big results.

[00:00:28] Shahin Najak: I was married for 20 years and then got a divorce. And our, my daughters and I, we moved to another city, as did my ex, and I was – it just felt so freeing after having been in a relationship that I had not even noticed was shrinking my life. And so, all of a sudden I was free and yet there was grief attached, right?

So it was everything that I had known was gone. So I was in a new town. I had no job. The kids were in a new school, a new house. And on top of all that was stacked the grief and the loss of a relationship and of a family unit. And I was also grieving for my daughters’ loss. But then of course there was this other part of me that felt free and excited and hopeful and filled with opportunity. 

[00:01:27] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Even though Shahin was betting her future on some of these changes, she still recognized they wouldn’t make her 100% happy overnight.

[00:01:36] Shahin Najak: I thought I was happy. I was, oh yeah, I’m 80% happy. And maybe 20% still a little bit in that cyclical period of anxiety and stress and sadness and all of that. So I was in a car ride with my daughters and singing my songs and all of a sudden I said, oh, it just feels so good to be happy. And my daughter said, mum you’re about 20% happy and about 80% sad and constantly doing work. And your mind is always preoccupied with what needs to be done next. And I was flabbergasted. 

That evening. I had to take a really hard look at what I was thinking I was feeling inside and what I was projecting. And perception is reality, so that made me take stop of how I was presenting. And I found that I was inside I was happy, but I didn’t actually know to express it on the outside. 

[00:02:46] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Called out by her own kids, Shahin decided to study some techniques to help her family improve their collective happiness. 

[00:02:54] Shahin Najak: I thought I was parenting in the best way I knew how. Right. And we parent the way we’ve been parented. We teach the way we’ve been taught. So I started looking at it and I thought, I think I need something more for them. Because as they go through the challenges of this grief and loss, maybe they need something more than a parent. So I got it into my head that maybe they need a life coach. And so I should become a life coach just for them, so I would have added tools and my toolbox and I would coach them and parent them. And maybe as they get older into their teens, the coaching might serve them. 

So what happened is, I ended up learning some powerful questions that one would ask of a client, but I was asking them of myself. So in fact, the coaching was for me. And I realized that there was this piece about the brain and resilience and habitual patterns of behavior. So those three things, almost like a tripod, needed to be stable and a good foundation in order for any of us to be able to live the life that we want to live. A life of joy 

[00:04:19] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Shahin coaching program exposed her to training about mindfulness. Now, there are some conflicting studies about the impact of mindfulness and meditation on the physical structure of the brain. But most researchers agree, it’s a useful tool to reduce stress and to help treat a variety of other issues. Shahin realized that her own mindfulness journey could help impact the lives of her daughters and those of other young women. 

[00:04:47] Shahin Najak: The idea that I had in my mind was okay, great. If I do this, and I know how girls have so many issues with self-image, self-esteem, I can teach them. What happened was again, I was teaching myself. And as I started practicing, I noticed shifts in myself, my personality, my habitual patterns of behavior started changing – those conditioned patterns. And then that in turn shifted my relationship with my daughters.

And all of a sudden this relationship that I thought, oh yeah, we have such a great conversation type relationship. They tell me everything. But there was stuff underneath there that they had acquired during the marriage as well. And all of a sudden there was a shift in our relationship and I noticed that the hugs were longer, the conversations were deeper, and it has been actually quite a gift in my life. 

[00:05:55] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Today, Shahin is teaching mindfulness techniques to other parents who seek those deeper relationships. And she’s focused on answering a crucial question. 

[00:06:04] Shahin Najak: How do we bring that self-compassion to ourselves when that inner critic in our brain is so active? And we should be aware that our children have their inner critics, too. So when we’re criticizing them, that’s just one other person in their head that’s criticizing. So, bringing that awareness to it is powerful. 

And then asking the question, would I say this, would I be this critical, to a close friend? Would you say that to a friend? So why would you say it to yourself? 

[00:06:44] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That certified mindfulness meditation teacher Shahin Najak.

We’ve got links to Shahin’s courses and to other useful resources on meditation and mindfulness in our show notes and over on our website at 

Today’s episode was produced by Nicole Hubbard with help from the entire Podcast Taxi team. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:04] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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