Right Under Our Noses.

Conscious Breathing has a Powerful Impact on the Nervous System

Conscious Breathing has a Powerful Impact on the Nervous System

We have a profound and powerful tool at our disposal to approach challenges with a greater sense of equanimity.

And it is quite literally under our nose.

It is the breath.

To breathe in. To breathe out. With conscious awareness.

It’s positively inspiring to watch the response when I guide people into a deep breathing technique known as Abdominal Breathing.

Whether they are busy professionals or stressed out teens, the response is always the same. Their faces soften. Their shoulders drop a few centimetres. You can see them physically relax and mentally become very present.

You can do this anywhere at any time during the day when you need to re-set, re-focus or transition from one thing to the next.

SIT TALL: Lengthen the spine. Relax your shoulders.

STEP 1: Take 2-3 slow breaths. Breathe into the centre of your CHEST.

STEP 2: Take 2-3 more breaths. Now breathe into your RIB CAGE.

STEP 3: Take 2-3 more breaths. Then breathe into your BELLY.

BRING IT TOGETHER: Now take another 2-3 breaths. Draw each breath progressively down into the CHEST > RIBS > ABDOMEN.

When you practice this regularly you will find that you start to engage the technique automatically in challenging situations.

It’s simple. It works. And it’s right under our noses.

Have a M.A.D. day!

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

Have a Mindful Day.

Choose Your Own Path Into Mindfulness

Choose Your Own Path Into Mindfulness

Wondering where to start with all this mindfulness mumbo jumbo?

It’s really rather simple. Here’s some suggestion for fostering mindfulness in your day:

MORNING

  • Waking – take 3 slow breaths before you get out of bed.
  • Bathroom – look in the mirror and make an affirmation or set an intention for your day.

“Today I will bring positivity to all I do.”

“Today I will find humour in frustrating experiences.

”Today I am confident and in control.”

“Today I will listen with an open mind.”

“Today I will take the time to connect with those around me.”

  • Eating – tap into your senses. Take the time to sit down to eat your breakfast. Chew slowly. Pay close attention to the taste of your food and the smell of your morning tea or coffee.

WORK

  • Getting started – sit down, take 3 slow breaths before you open your computer. Repeat your affirmation for the day.
  • Emails & Calls – switch off your email alerts and even turn your phone to silent. Schedule set times to check your emails and phone so you minimise distraction and maximise focus.
  • Meetings – commit to be there early or on time today. Can you listen to others without judgment, criticism or preparing your response. Just listen.
  • Between activity – pause and take 3 slow breaths before you shift from one activity to another, one space to the next. Consciously commit to let go of what you’ve just done and commit your full attention to what you are about to do.

EVENING

  • Transition – harness your commute to switch modes from work to home. Breathe in. Consciously breath out any preoccupations, to-do’s, and negative self-talk. Visualise them dissipating with your out breath.
  • Dinner – reflect on the food you have and where it has come from. Consider all the people and processes that brought it to your table. Cultivate a sense of gratitude.
  • Wind-down – lie on the couch or in bed. Place one your hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Feel your hands rise and fall as you breathe in and out.

Mindfulness is simple. You can practice it in an endless array of ways that aligns to who you are and what’s important to you.

But it isn’t easy to switch off “doing” mode and move into “being” mode.

That takes practice.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

Just Because It Feels Good.

Just because it feels good.

Just because it feels good.

Katherine. What do you like doing? I like going to the shops. What do you like doing Katherine?

I like going to the shops too” I tell Nicole.

I like handbags. And Shoes” she says.

Oh. Me too.” I replied with a smile from ear to ear. “Who doesn’t like shoes and handbags!

Sorry. What’s your name again?” asks Nicole.

It’s Katherine.” I reply.

Oh yes. I’m sorry Katherine.” Nicole says with abject sincerity.

My Mum died Katherine. I miss my Mum Katherine. Where is my Mum? I miss my Mum” whispers Nicole.

And she must miss you.” I said, tears welling in my eyes at the thought of this innocent soul left to the vicissitudes of a world without her Mum.

I’d spent the day at The House With No Steps. As a volunteer, you help the people who work there with their daily tasks. On Tuesday it was packing Faber Castel highlighters ready for shipment to stores.

The people who work at the house with no steps are amazing. In our society we call them “people with disabilities”. The very word implies a sense of lacking, less than whole.

Yet the individuals I met last week are larger than life. They are certainly more whole than I. Lisa, Adrian, Nicole, Mark and Amber were honest, kind, thoughtful, frank, real and connected in a way that I simply can not describe.

They were fantastic conversationalists. We traversed everything from vegemite and the debunking of Tony Abbott, to the pain and heartache of losing loved ones. All in the process of sorting and packing a bunch of highlighters.

They were also open and up front. There was none of the usual social awkwardness, dilly-dallying and politics most of us usually experience at work and in life. The minute you were in their presence out came a hand and a hearty handshake followed promptly by a ready introduction and a warm welcoming smile.

I was almost bowled over by Colin at morning tea. His beaming smile and proud tenor spoke volumes as he introduced himself and exclaimed,

I’ve worked here for over thirty years!

A Scot I am” he says.

Been to the tattoo in Edinburgh.

Yeah and a lil’ol town they call Paris too” he says with a grin.

I couldn’t hep but smile. From ear to ear.

All day long.

It just felt so good working and chatting away with these lovely people who welcomed me so readily into their work place for the day. They shared their rituals, routines and tea break with me. They shared their stories, their thoughts. And they opened their hearts as we worked together throughout the day.

What struck me most was the unabashed sincerity, honesty and insight my new colleagues possessed. Adrian made a comment he later deemed inappropriate. So readily announced he was sorry if he offended. Lisa started talking about her brother who had died. So she cried a little and told us she felt sad. Nicole worried about running out of shower soap. So asked for advice about how to go and get more.

We go about our lives. And for an abundance of reasons, we add screen after screen, build wall after wall. Instead of saying sorry, we launch into an all out defensive trying to cover our butts. When our hearts ache and we feel pain, we do everything we can to numb the senses so we can get on with what’s supposedly more important. When we don’t know how to do something or which way to go, we lurch blindly instead of asking for a little help, a little advice. (Perhaps Buddha had a point when he said suffering was a matter of our own choosing).

I felt so damn good after my day at The House With No Steps. I spent a day doing a repetitive task that was inherently meditative. More importantly I spent a day with some people who interacted with me from their hearts and without the usual ‘screens’.

It was joyous, uplifting and liberating beyond words.

It felt really really good.

Yes, I know I said that already.

It felt really really really really good.

The only strange thing was at the end of the day. I was given a certificate for being a volunteer. I did nothing.

Lisa and Adrian and Nicole and Mark and Amber and Colin and all the wonderful people at The House Of Steps did all the giving.

Spending the day with them was a truly wonderful gift.

When I teach yoga to teenagers, I feel exactly the same sense of reward and joy. Their energy is electric and contagious.

When we connect positively with others, for a reason beyond ourselves, or for no reason at all, it feels absolutely fantastic! It brings buoyance and cultivates pure joy.

As we move into the school holidays and the end of Q4 for the year, we have an opportunity to pause before we launch into exams or that final spurt of productivity to hit target.

Why not re-energise with a random act of kindness?

For anyone. Anywhere. And just because it feels good!

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

Mindfulness 101.

Cultivating greater awareness in the present moment.

Cultivating greater awareness in the present moment.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn to be ‘mindful’ is to pay “attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn is the father of modern mindfulness).

Cultivating mindfulness enables you to be more focussed and fully present. And more and more people in the Business World and the Sphere of Education are starting to recognise the benefits of being mindful at work, throughout our schooling, and in all spheres of life. These include the ability to focus, listen better , regulate emotions, and make decisions, to name but a few.

The first step to cultivating mindfulness is to cultivate self-awareness. One of the simplest ways to do this is to pay attention to physical sensations in the body.

We simply observe the body. No stories. No judgment. Just feel.

Here is a basic recorded exercise to help you do this. It invites you to systematically observe the sensations you feel in different parts of your body. It comes with the added benefit of being deeply relaxing. Best of all, it only takes 10 minutes. Enjoy!

If you’re interested to find out more about how you can cultivate greater mindfulness in your place of work or study, contactus@madmindworks.com.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Reconsidering The Rule of Thumb.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

We all rely on them. In fact we all use them unconsciously every day. Heuristics are mental short cuts that enable us to ease cognitive load and make decisions more quickly. It’s the ‘rule of thumb’ that helps us to deal with whatever comes our way each day pragmatically and often quite efficiently.

The problem is when we rely on these mental short cuts all of the time and without some form of conscious and periodic check-in to confirm and test our assumptions, the pragmatism and efficiency of the ‘rule of thumb’ can be quickly overridden by the ‘Halo’ and ‘Horns’ effect.

These are cognitive biases that develop when we take an experience or series of experiences with an individual, group or type, and apply that more liberally across the board to that person, group or type as a general ‘rule of thumb’.

I think yoga is insightful and enlightening so I assume everyone who has any involvement in the yoga industry is also insightful and enlightening (the Halo effect).

Mary-Anne was late a couple of times, so I think of Mary-Anne as someone who is always late (the Horns effect).

Such perceptions are tantamount to making judgments. We apply them to situations and others, but we equally and as frequently apply them to ourselves.

They are screens or barriers, the layers we fold into and over a person, situation, and ourselves. They drive the stories, explanations, and justifications we feel compelled to tell about our circumstances. They add weight and gravitas, but also bring burden, preoccupation, even suffering.

In the end, these judgments prevent us from taking a situation or interaction on its individual merits and seeing someone or something as it really is. Including ourselves.

According to Yogic Philosophy, when we engage in this process of applying a ‘rule of thumb’, of making and projecting our judgments, we are essentially giving expression to the Ego and open the way for wrong understanding. We are fundamentally confusing our perceptions, projections, fears, beliefs and attachments (or expressions of our Ego) with the more stable and enduring essence of our true nature.

In the end it prevents us from coming to a circumstance with equilibrium – being able to enjoy the good for what it is and without desire for yet more, but also being able to accept the not so good with an equal sense of abiding non-attachment.

Every now and then, when I take a long walk I do a simple exercise. I simply become aware of the thoughts racing through my mind and notice how many judgments I am making – of myself, how I compare to those walking by, of others, what they’re wearing, or how they’re acting …

It’s an excellent exercise in mindfulness. Simply becoming aware of the judgments we are making in each moment all of the time.

And the wonderful thing is, once we become aware of these judgments, we are now empowered with the opportunity to re-assess the assumptions, patterns, or heuristics that drive them and re-consider whether they are really making things easier or if we are simply creating our own preoccupations, angst and suffering.

Next time you go for a walk, you might consider the judgments ruling your state of mind.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Instant Re-boot

Reboot and RefocusDo you regularly find yourself running from meeting to meeting? Do you feel like you lurch from task to task, request to request, as you toil through yet another manic day?

This simple technique can be used anywhere, anytime to re-boot, reset and refocus.

It takes just a few seconds. Literally.

INHALE – straighten your spine (whether sitting or standing)

EXHALE – drop your chin to your chest

INHALE – lift your chin AND the corners of your mouth (yes, smile!)

EXHALE – pause and observe the shift in your energy.

– Amy Weintraub devised this practice. Thank you Amy –

Research shows that smiling or laughing increases dopamine, seratonin and other feel good chemicals in the brain. It doesn’t matter whether the smile is real or contrived. Either way it will shift your mood and help you re-set ready to handle the next meeting, request or task on your to-do list with renewed energy, focus and positivity.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Phone Free Day

Phones

Can you switch it off for an hour today?

What? A day without the phone! Impossible.

This absurd idea occurred to me as I caught myself compulsively checking my phone – as though something new had arrived since the last time I’d checked, oh just a few seconds earlier.

It took a week before I could even attempt this daring feat and I’m proud to say I got through the better part of Sunday without my phone.

And it was easier than I thought. I found a refreshing sense of intellectual peace. To be perfectly honest, I also felt liberated from that compulsive checking for emails and Facebook likes or LinkedIn.

And guess what. Turns out I didn’t miss anything. At all.

I’m going to try doing it every Sunday.

May be you can find an opportunity to turn off the chatter. It could be as simple as switching off for an hour somewhere in your day to tap into what really counts and make space for what matters most.

Happy Phone Free Day.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Motivate with Mind-Body Connect

Take 5 minutes at the beginning or end of your day to complete this simple practice. Click this link to Motivate with this simple Mind-Body Connect Sequence.Practice Anywhere. Anytime.

 

 

Extend the Exhale

One of the simplest techniques to induce a state of calm quietude is to extend the exhalation. This is a great way to wind down at the end of a busy day or prepare for sleep. Enjoy this audio relaxation written and recorded by Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator.

The Infinite Beauty of Om, Painting by Katherine Mair

The Infinite Beauty of Om, Painting by Katherine Mair

Embracing the Banal

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Wayne Dyer

The Potential of Mindfulness

You’ve never seen anything like it. It really was awful. I’d been putting off dealing with it but there’s only so long you can let your four year old get around with an enormous clump of knotty hair engulfing her head.

I had no idea where to start. So I simply sat and started. Fortunately I’ve recently devised a pain free approach to getting the knots out. It involves painstakingly and gently teasing the hair apart quite literally a strand at a time.

It took almost an hour. Surprisingly, instead of it being a dreadful ordeal, I found myself completely present and entirely focused on this single banal task. Working through one strand at a time, each strand in turn took my full attention.

This is what people call Mindfulness. To be fully present with whatever you are doing and experiencing it in a state of non-judgement. Strangely enough it is the banal tasks that can lead us to this state.

Try it. Pay close and purposeful attention to what you’re doing, one step at a time, and each step in turn – whether you’re stepping into the shower, brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, hanging the washing, putting the rubbish out, or walking to the bus stop.

It might seem a bit mad to honour the banalities of life, but you might just find a little more balance if you do.

Enjoy.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator