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

Yes I Am. Vulnerable.

Putting a Face On It?

Putting a Face On It?

There are times when it might be seen as a dirty word. A sign of weakness or inability.

Yet the ability to show and share our vulnerability paves the way for establishing trust. If we think about the Trust Equation, vulnerability helps us to establish greater Intimacy by virtue of sharing or revealing something people may otherwise not know about us.

And trust is intrinsic to building relationships and connecting with others. Rom and Ori Brafman provide some great insights on how vulnerability can quite literally help us better ‘click‘ with others.

I saw this first hand recently during a workshop I facilitated with a team wanting to build better relationships with each other.  We did a simple exercise where everyone got five minutes to talk about their frustrations with the group and without interruption. To an extent the process also asked participants to share their vulnerabilities and some participants did exactly that.

What this ultimately did was pave the way for the team to have more open and frank discussions as the day went on. It helped them better understand each other and start to connect with each other a little more.

On a more personal level, my daughter is about to have a tonsillectomy. My partner and I are afraid about her having a general anaesthetic because of its implicit risks. Rationally the benefits are obvious. Emotionally it’s just plain scary.

Funnily enough when I share this fear with people, reveal my vulnerability, people always respond with kindness and support. They commonly share their own experiences in turn – from the funny to the heartbreaking.  Revealing vulnerability it seems triggers empathy and instigates reciprocity, which deepens the relationship from both sides, making it more human and more personal.

So while on the surface showing vulnerability can feel like weakness, I find myself often pondering the notion that the ability to accept and reveal our vulnerabilities is in fact a hidden strength.

Certain yoga postures can make us feel physically vulnerable, especially when held for a sustained period of time or engaged intensely or repetitively. These include positions where we lift the sternum  or breastbone and others where we externally rotate the hip joints.

What the practice asks of us in these moments is to cultivate the ability to be in a physically vulnerable position. To sit with that raw, naked vulnerability and simply experience the sensation. When we open ourselves to the experience of vulnerability we also open up the possibility of accepting and connecting more deeply with ourselves. 

These physical poses are a metaphor we can interpret quite literally.

Perhaps next time you find yourself concealing or withholding something for fear of being perceived to be weak or incapable – instead could you make a different choice? Perhaps you could share a little about that perceived fear, weakness or vulnerability with someone? You might even ask for their help?

I wonder what new possibilities and deeper connections it will open up for you.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Shifting the Needle on Mental Health

The Benefits of Yoga

The Benefits of Yoga, Sydney High School, August 2015 (M.A.D. Yoga Report)

Over the past three months we’ve been teaching a weekly yoga classes with a group of teenagers at a High School in Sydney. Students were primarily female participating in 11 weekly yoga classes based on carefully planned M.A.D. yoga sequence that included:

  • Mindset
  • Physical Postures
  • Concentration Exercises
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Relaxation
  • Mindfulness Techniques

We surveyed the students at the end of the program to gain some insights into their impressions of the effects of yoga and mindfulness practice immediately after class, but also more generally in their life and over time.

While results were overwhelmingly positive across all key factors, the areas where the practice had the most impact were unequivocal. Students who practice yoga experience very real shifts in their Emotional Self Awareness and ability to Regulate their Emotions as well as positive impacts on their overall Mental Health.

Yoga and Mindfulness are fundamentally about helping people to tune into themselves. Our results here demonstrate that yoga definitely does help young people become more aware of, and able to regulate their emotions with 77% of students reporting that at the end of their yoga practice they felt more emotionally in balance, and as a result of practicing regularly 71% reported that they were more aware of how they feel. Moreover, 77% also reported that they paid more attention to how they respond to others.

When it comes to Mental Health, the results were even more positive. At then end of their yoga practice, 94% of students reported feeling relaxed and 88% reported feeling calm. Longer-term effects on mood and outlook were also very encouraging with 65% reporting their overall outlook was more positive and 71% reporting that their overall mood was more stable. 70% felt like they had choices while 65% also reported that they could calm themselves when feeling anxious, worried or stressed as a result of practicing yoga regularly.

Not bad for just 11 yoga sessions.

Imagine what could unfold with continued practice!

M.A.D. Yoga would love to help you bring these benefits into your workplace, university or school. to find out how, why contact us today. www.madyoga.com.au

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

Pause. Reflect. Reset. Refocus.

Depositphotos_15595573_m-2015

Whoever said change was easy? It’s sure worth it though when we get to the other side.

I’ve just come to a critical juncture in a large piece of work I’ve been involved in. Like any complex project, there have been several teams, lots of people and a large number of moving parts involved.

We’re now at the end of the first phase of work. In so many ways it has been the most critical. It’s where teams form, people click – or not – and where we shape the vision and define more clearly the path for the way forward.

It’s been Exciting. Frustrating. Fun. And Challenging. All in equal measure.

We’re at the crossroads now. Between talking, proposing, and planning. And mobilising, acting, and doing.

This provides an essential opportunity for reflection. Like the pause between breaths, it’s this space in between that offers the real opportunity for recalibration and transformation.

What went well?

Who did I work effectively with?

Who could I have supported more? Or interacted with more positively?

What would I do differently or better next time?

What will I take forward?

What mindsets, attitudes and behaviours will I let go?

The process of reflection asks us to adopt the role of the Observer. Someone who can step outside the situation and see it objectively and as it really is.

Without layering in explanations, stories or excuses.

Just as it is. The good. And the not so good.

Strangely enough, mindfulness and meditation ask us to play precisely this role. It provides a space where we can step out of the small self and into our true Self. In this state we can observe everything that we are with a balanced sense of abiding equilibrium and an open mind that can embrace the positive and redress the negative with impartial acceptance, compassion and without judgment.

Pause.

Reflect.

Reset.

Refocus.

It’s not always comfortable. In fact, it’s usually rather uncomfortable.

Then again, whoever said transformation was easy?

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Investing in Community

 

M.A.D. Yoga Community Classes

M.A.D. Yoga Community Classes

Community is the essence of our existence. Think about it. Whether it’s the team we work with all day, the school our children go to, or the block we live on, the connections and relationships we build over time are bigger than ourselves. And that’s community.

M.A.D. yoga is passionate about connection and community.

We are very proud to say we have raised $1,155 for McMahons Point Preschool by running yoga classes with the local community and providing our services free of charge. The preschool relies heavily on fundraising, needing around $10,000 each year to stay afloat.

It’s positively amazing what a little intent, energy and community can achieve.

What opportunities do you have to invest in your local communities?

More than money, sometimes it’s our intent, effort and willingness to connect that can really make a difference.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Letting It Go Or Building It Up?

PatternsWe all need a damn good vent now and then. Let’s face it, if we don’t get things off our chest we might literally explode. At the wrong time. With the wrong person. Besides, a good old verbal vomit is cathartic and just feels plain good.

But how often do you find yourself venting over and over.  The same story. You’ve shared it so many times you’ve got it pitch perfect and know exactly how to milk it for the most dramatic effect and best response.

We all do it. Lately I’ve caught myself rabbiting on about bad banking experiences to everyone and anyone who’ll lend me an ear – innocent bystanders caught in my crossfire and getting way more than the simple “good morning” they bargained for.

And this is where the good ol’ vent turns into something else. Rather than helping us get something off our chest, the act of repeatedly looping over and re-living an event with anyone who will listen instead solidifies and embeds that negative experience.

It enables us to cling tighter and tighter to our story eventually programming it as a permanent part of our being. This in turn shapes how we view, interact with, and respond to, new and different situations in life.

This is akin to what Cognitive Behavioural Psychologists call ‘conditioning’. The forging, reinforcement and deepening of neural pathways that shape the way we think, emote and act.

In the Philosophy of yoga it is known as ‘Samskara’. The seemingly inevitable cycle of action and reaction that forges our deep-seated patterns of thinking, behaviour and emotional response. One continually reinforces the other ultimately clouding our perception of reality. These Samskaras or patterns hold us back from being truly present, from approaching situations with equilibrium, balance and ‘fresh eyes’, and ultimately, from being in touch with our true Selves.

The good news is, that we can interrupt these seemingly inevitable cycles of acting and reacting by starting to cultivate conscious awareness and mindfulness.

The first step is to take notice of the stories we ‘tell’ ourselves about the situations and people we experience in life.

What stories are you hanging onto?

How would things shift if you changed the story? 

How would you be if you let go of the story altogether?

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

Do It Once and Well

businessman stressed by too many tasks

The Perils of Multi-Tasking.

A colleague of mine recently shared a link to a thought-provoking article by Travis Bradberry looking at How Successful People Work Less and Get More Done.

Chock full of useful insights, the one that resonated with me most profoundly was the research he referenced about the “dangers of multi-tasking”. Aside from lowering productivity, trying to juggle multiple tasks at the same time can also have a material impact on the brain.

Bradberry’s advice here – around focussing on one thing at a time – is spot on.

Working on a single task with focussed intent and energy is mindfulness in action. It can even be akin to a moving meditation.

Interestingly, research on mindfulness and meditation also shows the exact opposite effects to multi-tasking when it comes to grey matter in the brain.

Sara W. Lazar and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School have produced numerous studies that show people who practice mediation and mindfulness have more grey matter. They also have more of it in areas of the brain associated with working memory, decision making,  lateral thinking, and presence.

Perhaps it’s worth considering doing just one thing at a time.

And just do that really well.

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