Presence and Appreciation on Display at Friday Assembly



Hailey Yatros, the guest presenter at Friday assembly, practices what she preaches. As a motivational speaker and author, Yatros travels extensively coaching groups about the ways to be and remain present. It’s a catchword, certainly, but Yatros, is the living embodiment of the concept.

Yatros spent “a whole hour on the plane here from Michigan, “and learned everything about her seat mate – her kids, her grandkids, “their hopes and aspirations.”

It was an average conversation, according to the ethos of Mantra’s life.

“I’m obsessed with human connection and how to deepen it,” Yatros, 26, said.

To that end, Yatros took the whole-school audience in the Oct. 4 assembly through a series of anecdotes and exercises designed to increase connection, presence, and attachment to the real world – not just the version of it that exists on our cell phones.

Her own life – she was abused as a child, moved out at 17, earned her degree online, wrote her first book book at 20, all under the scrutiny of people who didn’t believe in her – brought her story home. It was the advice, the practical tips she gave, however, that left the Williston campus with tangible ways to connect and experience life, especially in what she called our modern “Insta-Snapchat world where we see everybody else doing something better.”

Yatros’ first tip was one that nearly everyone could relate to. Checking your phone in the morning.

“Stop, stop it,” she laughed.

Before our body even leaves our bed, she explained, you’re “inundated with another person’s idea of what you should be doing with your life.” She suggested instead of reaching for the phone while still under the covers, “give yourself 10 minutes to get your mind right.”

Speaking of cell phone use, Yatros said the simple physical act of looking at a phone encourages poor posture and can lead to depression and anxiety.

Yatros stepped back to reflect about her own journey. As someone who equated her self-worth with work, she said her core belief was “the more I do, the more I achieve equals the more I am worth. But that is wrong.”

“There is more to you” than work and what you do, she added. “It’s all about being present to that truth”

Yatros took the audience then through an exercise in another tip to gaining presence: Self Awareness. She had students sit straight up, feet flat on the ground, hands in lap, and pay attention to their body, their breathing, their hearts beating, what she called “orienting to the room.”

After a few more exercises in awareness and presence, Yatros left the audience with a thought to ponder, a way to appreciate everything about life, the good and the bad. She showed a slide calculating the nearly impossible scientific odds that brought everyone into this world.

“You are a miracle, a walking, living, breathing miracle,” she said, “and there’s a purpose for you here. You are beautifully made, beautifully designed, and whatever you choose to be, just know that.”


This story originally ran in The Willistonian.