About Valerie Brown

contact_page_04When Valerie passed the Bar exam in 1983, she had no intention of practicing mindfulness. She had two goals: make money and get out of Brooklyn (which was not the swanky place it is today).

In 1995, she attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk, poet and peace activist, and this changed her life. Stumblingly and slowly, in a process that was messy and unpredictable, she left a twenty-year career as an attorney-lobbyist, representing large nonprofits and educational institutions.

Valerie’s journey toward wholeness required engaging enduring vulnerabilities, facing fear and doubt, risking failure, asking for support, creating space for reflection and action, re-defining success, and finally letting go of a full-time job that paid the bills, but no longer aligned with her core values. In finding her ‘True North’, Valerie consistently asked herself: “What is my heart attracted to?” “What is here now?” “How shall I live this moment?”

Valerie’s commitment and passion is rooted in her belief that mindful awareness is the foundation for happiness and understanding, supporting more resilient leaders, peaceful schools, and healthier workplaces. Her inter-disciplinary background and blending career paths position her to work with a diversity of organizations and people.

Valerie holds a Juris Doctorate and Masters of Arts, and is accredited through the International Coaching Federation. She has completed several national level trainings that support her study, practice, and teaching of mindfulness. These include the Center for Courage & Renewal with educator Parker J. Palmer, the Center for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown University, and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, as well as the Ojai Foundation’s Council 1 Training. In 2003, she was ordained in the Tiep Hien Order by Thich Nhat Hanh.

As a certified Kundalini yoga teacher (with more than 500 hours of training), she engages the wisdom of the mind-body connection to support vibrant, healthy leaders and teams.

She explores the role of mindfulness in strengthening thriving leaders and building greater understanding and peace within schools in her book, The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School (Corwin Press 2015), co-authored with her friend and colleague Kirsten Olson. Valerie shares her global vision of a society that is interconnected through mindful awareness and compassionate action in her book on mindfulness, transformation, and travel, The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel (QuakerBridge Media 2012). Her essay on mindfulness and people of color appeared in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Together We Are One. A popular writer in Pendle Hill’s pamphlet series, she has authored these titles on mindfulness: The Mindful Quaker (2007), Living from the Center (2010), and Heartfulness: Renewing Heart, Mind and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond (2013).

Valerie is a Quaker and member of Solebury Monthly Meeting (PA) and is a volunteer with Right Sharing of World Resources, a Quaker micro-credit organization; Mercer Street Friends, helping families in New Jersey make the journey out of poverty; and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. When not traveling nationally or internationally to lead retreats or speak on mindfulness and leadership, she lives in a converted barn with her husband John Strachan, in the funky artist village of New Hope, PA, midway between Manhattan and Philadelphia. She firmly believes that ice cream and carousel rides will save the world!

Named one of the best courageous books of 2014 by the Center for Courage & Renewal, this book is for educational leaders who feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, and offers explicit practices to help readers avoid burnout and become the mindful, poised, effective leaders they were meant to be. Loaded with real-time encouragement with portraits of educational leaders who are incorporating mindfulness practices, like attentive breathing, mindful walking about the school building, or calming pauses in the office throughout the school day, this book is a must-have guide.

Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson. Corwin, December 2014. 344 pages.

The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel.

Not your average travel guidebook, this book explores some of the world’s great pilgrimages, destinations, and the author’s reflections on the lessons she learned from them. Read this book to discover how travel can be transformational, how to be more mindful while traveling and every day, the adventures of traveling alone, the delights of encountering new people and places, ancient pilgrimage journeys and sacred travel worldwide.

Valerie Brown. QuakerBridge Media, 2012, 152 pages. Also available from QuakerBooks.

Heartfulness: Renewing Heart, Mind, and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond Valerie

Valerie Brown guides readers toward renewal of mind, heart, and spirit by encouraging them to take time away from the busyness of their lives through retreat. Drawing on her experience as a retreatant and retreat leader, she introduces readers to opportunities for personal restoration within a variety of focused retreats. She wonders how Friends experience of expectant waiting influences the retreat process and how retreats influence expectant waiting. She encourages the “big questions”—What has meaning and purpose in my life? What am I avoiding? What brings me most alive?—and offers specific practices for retreatants to cultivate in everyday life.

Valerie Brown. Pendle Hill Pamphlet #421.

Quakers are advised to begin worship by “centering down.” This is the first step in a Friend’s intention to wait in “holy expectancy,” to be drawn by the Light into communion with God. Centering prayer is also a practice used by Christian mystics to prepare for contemplation, and “centering” describes the meditation of a Buddhist in pursuit of that deep awareness called “mindfulness.” Valerie Brown is an explorer and teacher of centering practices, a Buddhist, and an active Friend. Drawing upon her own experiences and wide studies, she describes for Friends how these various traditions can offer us a better understanding and preparedness for our precious, elusive, mysterious, and simple practice of centering into worship. Discussion questions included.

Valerie Brown, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #407. 2014.