Moving Through – The Secret to Resilience

Moving through

I’ve had an utterly disastrous week. No one major thing, just a confluence of small setbacks which, as they piled one on top of the other, have tested my resilience.

It started on Sunday night with an acerbic email from my ex which left me awake most of the night worrying about lawyers, settlements and finances. So, I started the week somewhat stressed and seriously sleep deprived.

By Tuesday I had dropped my phone in the toilet. Yes. In the toilet. And no. Don’t ask. I have no idea how. No amount of drying, waving, patting or hoping was going to bring that baby back from its shitty demise.

Needless to say, my Wednesday was consumed by the painful process of getting re-connected with the modern world.

Thursday, I got locked out of the house with no handbag, no wallet, no phone. Grrrr.

Then my date for the evening cancelled on me. Mmm. Disappointing.

By Friday I thought surely its done. What else could happen right? But no. Those little frustrations just kept rolling on in.

When I went to drop the keys back to the agent. The office was closed.

When I went to drop my shoes to get repaired. “Sorry back in 15 minutes” read the sign.

When I tried accessing my invoicing system. It was offline. Aaaaah.

By Friday night when I really did think it was all done. I poured myself a glass of wine ready to deflate and chillax. No no no. Even that was too much to ask. The glass of wine slipped through my fingers shattering into what seemed like thousands of tiny shards across the kitchen and through the hallway.

Seriously!

When things like this happen, most of the time, we deal with it and move on. It’s when lots of them come flying at us that we start to feel stretched, pushed and tested. And this week certainly has tested me –physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yet what I found, was that in each moment, when something difficult transpires, we have a choice.

When I heard my phone plonk in the toilet bowl I could have yelled and cursed the gods. Or, I could take a breath in and a breath out and calmly fish it out, quietly dry it off and go to bed hoping it will work in the morning. When it didn’t, I simply rescheduled some meetings and got it sorted out.

When my friend pulled out of Thursday night at the last minute I could have got pissy and flustered. Or I could simply course correct and zip to the markets to buy some food, drop into a yoga class and come home to make myself a lovely meal and enjoy some peace and quietude.

When the glass shattered – yes I did say F*******k! Then I took a breath in and out and quietly got down on my hands and knees and cleaned the floor.

As I did I managed to smile to myself as I recalled a conversation I’d had with a student earlier in the week. She’d been away on holidays and come home to her fridge turned off and a ton of rotten food. She was going home after our class to clear it out.

“We can approach the crappy tasks in life with a sense of annoyance and frustration or we can choose to do them with sense joy and gratitude. Go home, crank the music and clean the fridge with joy” I said.

Kneeling on the kitchen floor at a point where I could laugh or cry, it was the moment to swallow a dose of my own medicine.

So, on my hands and knees at 9pm on Friday I cleaned the kitchen floor and chose to think of all the nice things that happened throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Amy the sales assistant at Vodafone had been positively extraordinary. She went over and above to get me a phone, to set it up and even helped me with my wifi too. I walked out fully functional and completely reconnected.

On Thursday when my friend cancelled, it created an opportunity to go to a yoga class instead. I focused my practice that night entirely on my mind set. On each inhalation, a positive affirmation. Each exhalation, a deliberate letting go of the negative self-talk.

Then on Friday morning I got an unexpected phone call. Suava and I had recently been on a training program together. She called to share some good news. When she finished her story she turned around and asked me to brag about something awesome I’d done this week.

I sighed deeply. “Oh Suava, it’s been a hell of a week. I don’t think I can answer that.” Then I paused. I took a breath in and a breath out and said “Actually despite the fact it’s been such an awful week I’ve done my best to work through it. So, I’m going to pat myself on the back for remembering to breathe. For staying calm. And moving through.”

We often mistake resilience for strength. Feeling a need to stand rigid and strong in the face of the storm. Weathering it like a cliff face naked against the thrust of the ocean.

We grit our teeth and tough it out.

This is not resilience.

Over time the cliff erodes, changes shape and gets worn down. Rocks crumble and crash to the ocean floor. As mere humans, we do the same thing. Eventually we too crumble and crash.

Resilience is the ability to more readily come back to equilibrium when we feel stretched and stressed.

Rather than standing in rigid confrontation with the eye of the storm, we effortlessly bend and adapt. Move fluidly through the experience a little more like bamboo. Accepting each experience and emotion. In each moment mindfully choosing how we wish to respond.

The best tool we have available to help us do this is our breath.

Each time you stop and take a purposeful breath in and a deliberate breath out you are finding your moment of choice.

To scream and yell and fight it. To swim against the tide.

Or.

You can choose a different response.

To move through it. To swim with the tide. Accept what has happened with a calm quietude. Mindfully choosing how you will respond now. And now. And now. And now.

Knowing this too shall change.

So, when the tide flows against you, breathe in and out. Fully posses your power to make a choice and move more fluidly through the rough patches.

If you’re interested to know more, let us know. The M.A.D. team would love to help.

With love and gratitude from all of us at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Happy International Yoga Day!

The Possibilities of Yoga are Infinite

International Yoga Day is a lovely reminder of the beautiful unifying force of this ancient and enduring practice. While I am unable to participate in some of the larger celebrations today, I will be celebrating yoga in my own small ways throughout the day.

Perhaps you can find a little yoga in your day too?

MOVE & BREATHE: My day has started with a simple flowing movement practice focussed simply on breathing and moving. It’s left my heart feeling full and my gratitude flowing freely – this is the discipline of yoga, the intentional practice we engage in on a regular basis.

It doesn’t have to take long or look like some frightening pretzel-like shape. It can be as simple as standing and breathing purposefully for a few moments before you step into your morning shower.

CONNECT: As I move into my day I’ll be running a workshop with a team focussed on tapping into the power of positivity. We’ll be examining how this can help us strengthen and deepen our connections with each other, as well as our resilience – this too is yoga. While it might not look like a regular yoga class, this purposeful focus on fostering balance and cultivating certain qualities to connect with oneself and the world around us is, in many ways what yoga is all about.

FEEL: By later this afternoon I will be attending my daughter’s school assembly to see her receive a special award, heart beaming with the pride of a mother. This too is yoga. Traditionally known as Bhakti yoga, it is the conscious practice of love, service and devotion. The role of parent naturally predisposes us to those practices where we honour and nurture a love for something much bigger than ourselves and we can tap into this in all spheres of our lives.

A little yoga while scooting. Why not?

 

OBSERVE: When I sit down to dinner with my daughter and some friends tonight, we will go around the table and share something that happened during our day for which we are grateful. This too is yoga. The deliberate, mindful cultivation of conscious feeling and observation.

So next time you say something like ‘oh I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough’, I encourage you to think more broadly and deeply about what this ancient practice really can be.

You might just find you’re already a yogi.

You just didn’t know it.

Happy International Yoga Day.

With Love and Gratitude from the team at M.A.D. Mindworks.

This is a serious wake-up call

Gender Bias - an insidious force in our society

Gender Bias – an insidious force in our society

I was all psyched to tell my daughter that we were going to have the first female President of the United States. Now I have to face the reality of a misogynist, violent racist taking over the most powerful and influential office in the world – and elected by the very people he despises, dismisses and maltreats.

This is a devastating day for all women everywhere.

We must never forget how hard our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers have fought to forge out a path of equality for all of us.

This is a bitter reminder that we still have a very long way to go to attain the status of true equality. A devastating signal that unconscious gender bias is a powerful and insidious force operating at every level and in every corner of our society.

That female leaders are held to impossibly different standards to men is illustrated in this painful example today.

How could the most qualified candidate in American history lose out to the blustering incompetence of an egomaniacal reality TV star and failed businessman? The answer lies in those deeply ingrained gender biases and expectations that sees strong, capable women being torn down not just by men but by their own gender.

I hope that all self-respecting women and men take this as a serious wake-up call today and use this as a springboard to consider how we can address these deeply ingrained biases to build a better, more equitable and more positive society for everyone.

Make Your Meetings Matter.

Meetings Matter

Meetings Matter

When it comes to meeting matters, well it’s a pretty abysmal state of affairs in most organisations. Unproductive meetings have been estimated to cost the US economy around $37 billion each year with around 15% of an organisation’s collective time spent in meetings. People routinely multi-task and 22% of participates send an average of three or more emails every 30 minutes in meetings. No wonder senior executives rate more than half of the meetings they attend as ineffective.

I saw this in action recently in what was unequivocally one of the most profound displays of poor meeting etiquette I have ever seen.

This marathon meeting started over an hour late. The meeting location wasn’t even firmed up or communicated until after the meeting was scheduled to start. It got completely side tracked for the first 60 or so minutes with participants bouncing around topics that were completely out of scope. Attendants popped in and out as they pleased, regularly zipping off to another meeting part way through. Most had laptops and were openly doing other things while the meeting was going on. One attendant not only flagrantly spent most of their time in their phone, they would periodically tell other attendees to check their phone too because something urgent was there they had to check. As a result the conversation kept circling back over old ground and it was incredibly difficult to move things forward.

“All care and no accountability” is how one colleague described it post the event.

I’ve worked in many places where meeting culture is dismal. Places where meetings never start on time and in spite of your best efforts, people routinely rock up completely cold, entirely unprepared for the task at hand. Inevitably large chunks of the meeting time are wasted getting everyone on the same page, primed and ready to contribute when they should have arrived ready and rearing to go.

Other organisations I work with describe themselves as having “a meeting culture”. A day of back to back meetings is considered normal and the bizarre practice of nominating people to go to a meeting in your place is common along with double booking your time. A mentality of feeling like you’re missing out if you don’t go seems to underpin much of this behaviour along with a sense that if you receive a meeting request you’re automatically obliged to accept it.

What all of this points to is an abject lack of the critical things that make meetings effective.

The not so small matter of meetings is that they really do matter. When done well – by all involved – they are dynamic forums that drive real engagement and progress around the stuff that matters most.

Meetings create the human connection that underpins the collaboration required to effectively analyse, solve, generate, and decide.

They have the potential to be powerfully productive – driving engagement, cultural change, productivity, continuous improvement and innovation.

To make them really effective we need three key things

  1. Preparation
  2. Presence
  3. Accountability

And these are precisely the things that are lacking in so many organisations and work cultures today.

The good news is that this can be easily addressed through asking three simple questions:

  1. Have you done adequate Preparation for the meeting?
  2. Are you prepared to be fully Present for the entire meeting?
  3. Do you have a real contribution to make for which you will hold yourself Accountable?

Consider the next meeting in your calendar. Unless the answer is yes to all three of these questions then I suggest you don’t go.

Then consider the next meeting invitation that pops up in your inbox. If the answer to these questions is unclear – take the time to check in and clarify with the meeting organiser.

  • What preparation are they expecting from you? (this should be specific and very clear)
  • What level of presence and engagement are they looking for from invitees? (the answer should be 100%).
  • What contribution are you expected to make? (just being there doesn’t count).

If the meeting organiser can’t answer these questions, then I suggest you decline the meeting.

In a workshop I ran recently this was a genuine revelation to all in the room. Firstly, the idea of declining a meeting was jaw dropping for most. Secondly the idea of taking ownership and calling the meeting organiser to ask these simple questions seemed rather daring. And finally the empowerment that comes with being able to decline attending a useless, ineffective, poorly planned and run meeting, was like a lightning bolt for most in the room.

Now, consider the next meeting you are about to schedule.

Can you step back and do more than generate a calendar invite? Can you take the time to Be Prepared, Be Present and Be Accountable?

Be Prepared

Be crystal clear on the intent and purpose of the meeting.

And no, let’s get this straight right now, information sharing or providing updates is not a good enough goal for a meeting.

Find a deeper reason to bring people together – one that uses their time productively, establishes real engagement, builds momentum and drives tangible outcomes.

  • Are you looking to; engage people around a new idea or change, gather inputs, assess outcomes, generate solutions or make a decision?
  • With that in mind, consider the structure that will facilitate this outcome.  What agenda or series of discussion items will achieve your aim?
  • Most importantly take the time to think through the interactions you are looking to facilitate. How will you engage people during the meeting? How do you expect them to engage with each other? What tools will support this engagement?

Foster Presence

Be clear on the mindset and energy levels required from you and your attendees throughout the meeting.

There is research that shows a more critical, even negative mindset and grounded energy is better for assessing and analytical tasks while a more optimistic, open mindset and higher energy is great for idea generation, innovation and solution generation.

  • What time of day will be conducive to the required mindset and energy?
  • How will you shape and influence the energy in the room through your presence and facilitation?

The trend of sending emails while in meetings is on the rise. Yet we know from the research that multi-tasking simply doesn’t work – attention is split, things get missed and neither task gets done well.

  • With this in mind, what will you do to ensure you are fully present during the meeting?
  • What will you do to invite your attendees to be fully present during the meeting?
  • Do you need to give them a few minutes to settle in?
  • Should you establish some explicit expectations around phone use and call out multi tasking?
  • Is it worth checking-in at the start to see what’s on people’s minds so you get a clear picture of what’s pre-occupying people and may detract from the meeting or derail it altogether?

Drive Accountability

One of the greatest misconceptions out there is that the only person responsible for the success of a meeting is the person who organises it.

It’s all care and no accountability right? Sure I’ll accept your meeting invite. Sure, I think I need to be across that area. But it’s your meeting in the end. I’ll attend. I won’t do any preparation. I’ll rock in late. I’ll check my phone and send emails while I’m there. I might throw out the odd question. Then I’ll leave and bounce off to the next meeting.

No. No. No. No. No.

The sooner we can get everyone in a mindset where we are all accountable for the success of a meeting the better.

You might organise, chair and facilitate the meeting. But I am accountable for my part in that meeting. I come prepared and ready to contribute. I am present and focussed and attend fully to my colleagues during the interaction. I make a meaningful and positive contribution to the interaction and am accountable for my role in generating and driving an outcome.

With this in mind, when organising a meeting consider:

  • Who is equipped to help you analyse, solve, generate ideas, and make decisions? Focus on the movers and shakers who make things happen. Leave the rest.
  • What is the specific contribution to you want them to make? Be clear on this and make sure they are too, and well before the meeting.
  • What preparation do they need to do to be able to make a real and meaningful contribution? Make it clear that coming prepared and primed is a non negotiable and essential to whatever analysing, solving, generating or deciding you’re doing in the meeting. Be comfortable to call it out when people rock in cold and unprepared  – even cancel or postpone the meeting if that makes your point.
  • How will you hold people accountable to come prepared, be present and be accountable for making a meaningful contribution?

If you can’t answer these questions about your own meeting, then I suggest you cancel out of the calendar invite and go and do some more thinking before you schedule an hour of 5 or 10 people’s time.

Meeting matters can be awfully frustrating.  But meetings really do matter. So why not make them engaging forums where everyone brings their best, connects with each other and is primed to make a meaningful contribution. The meeting might just be more productive too.

For more insights into how to make your meetings matter, contact us as M.A.D. Mindworks.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madmindworks.com

katherine.mair@madmindworks.com

For related sources see:

https://hbr.org/2014/05/your-scarcest-resource

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/common-meeting-mistakes-2014-11

Lessons in Mindfulness from a 5-year-old.

Finding the fun

Finding the fun

My favourite days are the ones when I’m in charge of getting my daughter ready for school. She’s five and this is her first year at school. I love the mornings with her for a glorious raft of reasons. But there is one reason that has struck me quite powerfully in our change of routine this year.

It is simply this. Children it seems, are instinctively mindful.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (the father of modern western mindfulness) says that Mindfulness means paying attention is a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

From a Psychological perspective, it is seen as the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience … an orientation that is characterised by curiosity, openness and acceptance.

Children are naturally inclined to be present. As I prepare my little girl for the school day, she reminds me of this in so many ways.

Eat slowly. Remember to chew your food.

Meal times with children can be painful. My daughter takes a terribly long time to eat her breakfast. I often find myself getting impatient and telling her to “hurry up”.

Then I remember how often I scoff my meals back, barely tasting them, because I’m in such a rush to get on with doing things.

One of the simplest mindfulness practices we can do is to pay attention to the experience of eating. Sit down. Eat slowly. Chew the food.

Take the time to savour the smell, the taste, the feeling of the food in your stomach.

This connects us to our bodies, enables us to receive feedback when we are feeling satiated and keeps us anchored in the present moment.

Accept it. You just can’t rush some things.

The school bell goes at 9.10am. My daughter gets up around 7.30am and we aim to leave the house by about 8.45am each morning.

All she needs to do is eat her breakfast, clean her teeth and get dressed in her school uniform. In between of course, she mucks about an awful lot – playing, goofing and looking for distractions.

Then there are the delay tactics. “I need to go to the bathroom” is a desperate plea I regularly hear just as we are about to step out the front door.

“You’ve just been!” I say through gritted teeth, but she insists she must go again.

So in we go. Again.

You can’t stop another person from peeing. And you can’t make them poo faster. Its one of those things that is simply beyond our control.

Now you can go and get all frantic and bang your head against the wall. Of course you can. I’ve taken that approach many times.

The alternative, I discovered, was much better.

Just accept it.

Cultivating acceptance of something as it is without overlaying stories, defences or rationale, is a key aspect of mindfulness practice.

Slow down. Notice what’s right in front of you.

We are fortunate to be able to walk to school each day. For an adult the walk is about eight minutes. For little legs it takes about twenty or more.

The pace varies and there are regular stops along the way. Every tree, bush, flower and blade of grass have their own fascination. Even the dead leaves on the floor have a story.

I feel my frustration mount as my daughter stops yet again to carefully examine a dead bug or admire yet another pink flower. “We’ve got to get to school!” I hear myself exclaim in complete and utter exasperation.

Then I remember, yes the bug is intriguing, yes the flower is beautiful. Yes, pause for a moment. Look. Notice. Take the time to really see what’s in front of you.

Children are very good at seeing. They are beautiful little reminders to be present so we can see what’s right in front of us.

You never know what you might notice or how that might change your day, your perspective, even your life.

Meander a little. Linear is boring.

To get to school we turn right out our front gate and walk straight up the hill. It really is that simple. Yet if you traced the path my daughter and I take, it would look like a squiggly, zig-zagging, circuitous, backtracking kind of path.

My usual approach to walking is rather determined. I step quickly. With purpose. After all, I’m going somewhere.

Children on the other hand seem to have a few natural speeds. Flat out running, skipping, hopping, jumping on one leg, or very extremely incredibly painfully slow walking. Whatever their speed, they are enjoying the experience of moving, of being in their bodies and connecting with their surroundings.

It takes concerted effort on my part to switch off my auto-pilot walking pace and step outside my determined mindset so desirous to get somewhere.

In fact, walking at my daughters pace is mentally uncomfortable for me.

But as I notice this tendency of mine, I’m fostering awareness of my doing mode and how dominant my linear left brain can be. From that place of awareness, I can start to flex into my being mode and switch on my right brain a little more.

Smile. Find the fun.

Since having a child I have realised just how serious I can be. The way I walk is rather characteristic of the way I approach many things in my life. I am dominantly left brain and very linear and structured in the way I work.

My tendency is to approach the walk to school as a functional task. A process of getting my daughter from a to b so she can start her school day.

But the walk to school is my favourite part of the day. It has become this because I have chosen to resist the urge to make it purely functional.

It’s an opportunity to be really present. To feel the sun on my face and the air on my skin, to observe the changing seasons, to connect with my daughter.

It’s also a time in my day where I can be childlike and have fun. It’s not uncommon for my daughter and I to be garden fairies flitting our way to school, magically zapping every plant we pass. Yes. Every single one.

And its really good fun.

Listen. Profound insights emerge in mundane moments.

It’s not uncommon for my mind to wander when I walk my daughter to school. I spend a lot of time in my head. It’s one of the reasons why I love practicing yoga and mindfulness so much – it helps me switch off the monkey mind and find some peace and quiet inside.

In spite of my best intentions, my mind still wanders off at times. The problem with this isn’t the wandering per se, rather it’s the fact that when I let my mind wander, when I drop into my head, I’m no longer present with my little girl. I’m no longer listening to her.

One thing that I have discovered about children is that they are not calculated in their communication like adults can be. If they have something important to say, they don’t plan how and when they will deliver the news. They just blurt it out when it comes to mind. This could be on the toilet, just before they go into class, or in between rather banal banter about the weekly visit to the library.

Some of my daughters most important stories have been shared as she’s scooting down the hill after school. They’ve always popped out of nowhere completely un prompted and without warning.

What strikes me most in these moments is the realisation that if I wasn’t paying attention, I would have completely missed her story.

So when I realise my mind has wandered, I remind my self gently to come back to the moment, to listen to my little girl. After all, you never know what sorts of gems will emerge.

Happy walking.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madmindworks.com

katherine.mair@madmindworks.com

For related sources see:

S.R. Bishop, M. Lau, S. Shapiro, L. Carlson, N.D. Anderson, J. Carmody and G Devans, Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition, 2004

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever Your Go, There You Are, 2005

Application or Instant Gratification

Application Gratification.

The incessant drive for instant results

The incessant drive for instant results

When we go to school, we’re encouraged to apply ourselves. After all learning happens through practice, exploration and application. When a student applies him or herself, they uncover their potential, hone their skills, build their abilities and experience achievement.

For this we praise and celebrate them.

In equal measure however, we shake our heads when we see our youth so driven by instant gratification.

Fast food, fast friends, fast media all create an immediacy that is easy to like, yet hard to detach from.

When fuelled too much, it fosters destructive behaviours and poor physical and mental health.

My daughter will never know, nor tolerate, television as I knew it when growing up. As a child who has grown up with iPads, Netfilx and iView, she has zero tolerance for adverts and knows there are gadgets and apps that enable her to watch what she wants when she wants. Television has no appeal. Why on earth would she wait for a set day of the week or time in the day to view her favourite show when she can view it now.

Much about the way we all operate facilitates and reinforces this. I don’t have to wait to get to the computer to check or manage emails, they’re right here on my phone. Too busy to make dinner tonight, easy, hop online and place an order and it will be there when you get home. Wondering what Jo’s been up to lately, simply check her Facebook feed.

So while we desire and praise application, much of our way of being rewards and reinforces instant gratification.

This same dichotomy permeates the workplace.

I’ve had countless conversations with clients who struggle with the demand to be agile, responsive, flexible, do more with less, fail fast and grow even faster. Everything is urgent. It’s necessary and its needed now.

At the same time we want engaged workforces – teams with deep expertise, applied capability, and positive attitudes and behaviours who contribute meaningfully to a dynamic culture, build great places to work, and help us become great organisations to deal with.

The inherent tension between responding to the multifaceted pressures of market forces, shareholder demands, customer needs and team dynamics leaves many of us feeling pulled in all directions, energetically depleted and mentally frazzled.

Like instant gratification, an emphasis on urgency and instant results has its destructive side. Driving a rate and pace of work that is fundamentally unsustainable, it critically undermines longer-term culture shifts and can reduce engagement initiatives to mere lip service.

Engagement and culture take time to build. They require clear vision, alignment, ongoing reinforcement and application of the behaviours and ideals we say we value. It takes practice and patience as the journey unfolds, connections form and something bigger than any one individual evolves.

The benefits of a longer-term focus and sustained application are clear. Yet finding ways to foster this is the eternal conundrum, especially in environments where instant results, instant gratification, have become the norm.

Operating in an industry where reactivity is common, pace is frantic and expectations are high, the team at one of M.A.D.’s clients walk this tightrope daily. Since commencing weekly Work and Wellbeing sessions with us in October, they’re realising the benefits of slowing down.

Right from the get go they found our 30-minute sessions each week helped them to energise and focus. Over time they have reported greater individual self-awareness and better teamwork and collaboration.

This is exciting. Sustained application of some simple practices over a period of time enables people to better deal with the daily demands of a hectic workplace. Such practices better equip them to respond flexibly while staying focussed on what’s most important.

So while the juggling act doesn’t necessarily change, our engagement with it does.

When we take a relatively small amount of time each week to apply ourselves to a practice of quietude and patience, our ability to move more effortlessly from one state to another, self regulate, and channel our energy to where it matters most improves exponentially.

Interestingly, application helps us to be more discerning when it comes to instant gratification.

Perhaps its worth slowing down in order to speed up. To find out how, contact us at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madmindworks.com

katherine.mair@madmindworks.com

Change the Cycle.

Reflect. Plan. Do.

Reflect. Plan. Do.

As the year kicks into gear, the tension between planning and doing can leave us feeling a little torn. For many of us planning can feel exacting and tedious. The desire to just get on with things can present an overpowering and irresistible urge.

Planning can seem like its bogging us down, chaining us to the desk or holding us hostage to long boring meetings when the real action is out there building stuff, creating things, interacting with clients or working with our colleagues and students.

Herein lies trap #1 – JUST DO IT: We decide this planning stuff is just too dull, too difficult, too dry and decide taking action is best. So we dive in headfirst.

The problem is we failed to read the sign that said “caution, shallow water and dangerous rocks”.

Planning is positively fundamental to driving outcomes. As my Dad said to me, loosely quoting Benjamin Franklin, “Without a plan, you plan to fail.

Plain and simple, the time spent planning up front saves us that big headache down the track.

Yet herein lies trap #2 – PLAN THEN DO: This time we did read the sign. We decide to sit back and do the planning. We get together, we brainstorm, we talk. We’re all aligned at the start of the year.

Then we tick the box, file the plan and get on with things.

In spite of our best intentions, all the rara and inspirational talk, we default straight back to doing. Consumed with immediate and apparently urgent demands, we quickly become the hostage of reactivity, short-term focus and largely tactical activity.

Many of us fall into one of these two traps:

1) JUST DO – The analogy I like to draw here is that its akin to being stuck in our reptilian brain, working on autopilot, mindlessly getting on with things, ticking boxes and largely getting nowhere.

2) PLAN THEN DO – While our intentions are good and we aim to move into a state of more focussed activity, we ultimately get pulled back into just reacting to things. Symbolically, it’s the emotive limbic system that’s in the drivers seat here, pulling us left and right, lurching us here and there depending on who’s demanding most or screaming loudest.

The missing link in the planning cycle is REFLECTION.

It is in the state of reflection where we can more fully tap into a space where we can sit with a concept, objective or challenge. This is the space where our higher order capabilities of creativity, abstract thinking and problem solving can kick into gear. It’s akin to our human brain, the cortex, which when active, enables us to come up with new ideas, draw connections, make decisions and find clarity.

The mindfulness that comes with regular reflection cultivates skilful self-regulation and focussed action rather than unthinking reactivity.

Perhaps its time to change the cycle? Injecting a regular practice of focussed reflection into the cycle of planning and doing will help keep our plans alive and turn them into a dynamic guide that keeps us on track.

Like a lighthouse, it is the beacon on the hill, always there guiding the way, keeping us calm and focussed no matter how stormy, rough and rocky the waters get.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

Start Now.

Now is the time.

Now is the time.

In the wake of the New Year there has been much written about resolutions. Setting them. Not setting them. Questioning the fundamental concept of ‘new’. Exploring the unacceptable.

We’re all different. So it makes sense we all have a different take on the transition from one year to the next. It’s tenor. It’s meaning. Or lack thereof.

What resonated for me as I experienced the setting of 2015 and the dawn of 2016 was simple.

Now.

I read a beautiful book while on holidays  – The Art of Attention by Elena Bower and Erica Jago. Strangely enough and unbeknownst to me I had rented the beach house of the artist who had taken many of the photos in the book. I was fortunate to stumble across a copy in his bookshelf.

Aside from the wonderful sequences, the book revealed some lovely ideas through the use of quotations.

This is the one that has stayed with me.

 “We make a mistake when we wait for heaven, wait for enlightenment, wait for change. It is not going to happen in the future. It is happening. It is within our experience. Now is the time. (Peter Rhodes).

It was one of those light bulb moments that felt more like a thunderbolt. When I read these simple few words. Yes. Of course. The future is happening now.

All of a sudden it seemed silly to plan to be something down the track. Couldn’t I just be that now? It seemed pure madness to tell myself I will do that one day. If it was important, why not make the first step? Start now.

This notion of Now resonated so strongly with me. Choosing to make each moment really count.

So instead of wasting a bunch of moments abstracting about what I want to be or do, I’ve decided to keep Now firmly in perspective.

Each moment a valuable one.

And when this moment is embraced fully.

And this one.

And this one.

We find ourselves treading a mindful path that is fulfilling Now.

And Now.

And Now

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

http://www.madyoga.com.au

Rest in Unlikely Places.

Rest in Unlikely Places

Rest in Unlikely Places

It was a crazy morning. Not so much what was going on outside. But inside. Mind racing. A terribly anxious feeling in my gut. That awful, free floating, up in the air kind.

I’d had several hectic weeks and a to-do list that felt completely overwhelming.

But this was my day with my daughter. No work schedule at all. It seems it’s always when we stop that the lurgies rise up and release a rebellion in the mind.

By the time I’d bundled my daughter in the car to head off to the dentist I was frazzled. Add traffic and the need to find a toilet stop in the middle of it all, well, I was running late and completely frantic.

We were late for her appointment. Then we were late for my appointment.

Then something completely unexpected happened.

As I reclined into the dentist chair a warm calm descended.

One doesn’t customarily associate the dentist with relaxation. Yet here I was, mouth stretched unnaturally open, a woman probing my teeth with ominously sharp silver instruments, and I was utterly at peace.

I started practicing a specific breathing technique at the dentist some years ago now. It all started when I’d had a bad adrenal reaction to a needle. From then on, whenever I was in the chair and especially when I was to have a needle, I would work hard to stay with my breath to keep myself calm.

It’s a soft sounding breath – known to yogis as ujjayi or victorious breath – and aptly named so because by focusing on gently constricting the throat to make a soft sound with the breath, we are able to conquer the mind and create some distance between ourselves and our incessant thoughts.

Initially I had to put in conscious focus and effort to breath like this when I went to the dentist. Over time and with practice, it became easier to do. Then, as I realized recently, at some point it kicks in automatically.

Neural plasticity is truly miraculous*. With a little focused attention and effort, we can change old patterns and forge new, healthier connections in our minds.

This is precisely what happened to me. Without any conscious thought or effort at all, the minute I hit the dentist chair, I started the victorious breath.

And that’s exactly what it was – a total annihilator of anxious thoughts and conqueror of the racing mind. The rest of the day unfolded with a more easy-going mindset and in a far more relaxed way than it had begun.

All thanks to a little mindful breathing.

With silly season in full swing and as we run from one social engagement to another, lurch from one appointment to the next, race through to-do lists and shopping lists, perhaps you can find a few moments to pause and steady your breath.

You never know, you might just find a moments rest in the most unlikely of places.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

*For more information on the power of neural plasticity refer to Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself.

Finding the Laugh.

“Everything is Impermanent. When we realise this we can begin to laugh at ourselves.”

My daughter came home from pre-school and said; “I have to start eating sandwiches. Big girls eat sandwiches and you have to get used to them.” Over lunch, she’d told her Pre-School Director she didn’t like sandwiches and this was how she had responded.

My husband is a coeliac. We have a largely gluten free diet. So there is a very practical reason why my daughter doesn’t get sandwiches. Very few, if any, gluten free breads make nice sangers. So she gets a bunch of other stuff for lunch, often leftovers, and always nutritious food we know she likes.

When I raised the sandwich topic with the Director the next day however, things didn’t go so well.

I had wanted to clarify that we don’t eat sandwiches because we follow an alternate diet.

She was preoccupied, on the other hand, with telling me they don’t heat lunches.

We were talking completely at odds.

The whole conversation and how it had unfolded – or unravelled – bothered me for hours afterwards.

Then I remembered something a teacher and colleague said to me in a meditation session. Everything is impermanent. When we realise this we can begin to laugh at ourselves and lighten the burden of the situations we encounter in life. 

So I found a way to laugh at the absurdity and intensity of the sandwich conversation and remember; lunch is just lunch. It’s my job to offer my child good nutritious food. It’s her choice whether she eats it.

Ironically the festive season can also bring with it a similar absurdity and intensity. Whether that be the mad rush to wrap everything up as the year closes out, dealing with packed calendars or interacting with family, friends and colleagues.

As we embark on the festive season, and when we encounter those absurd and intense moments with each other, perhaps there is some room to find a little lightness and enough space to laugh at ourselves.

Wishing you some lightness and laughter today and right throughout the festive season.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au