Guess What I’m Feeling?

“I waddled into my new classroom. My legs were shaking, and I was pretty much gasping for air. I pushed myself to the front of the room. The teacher asked me a few questions, but I just couldn’t answer them. I mean I could, but the answers were swirling around my brain and I just couldn’t catch them. I pulled my hoody over my head as far as it could possibly go. I wish I could shrink down to the size of an ant or run as fast as the speed of light so I could just get out of this classroom. Even if I can’t run as fast as the speed of light, if I did run out of the classroom do you think they would even notice if I was gone?”

Written by Misha Kalesiko, aged 9, Year 4.

My daughter recited this to me last night. She wrote it in class as part of an activity they were doing around emotions and expressive writing. The task was to choose an emotion or emotions and describe or express them, but without using the actual word.

I was quite awestruck when she shared this with me. Not only was what she shared beautifully written and expressed, she had committed every word to memory.

More than this, it impacted me powerfully for two other reasons.

Just yesterday, I had been running an online workshop during which we talked about techniques to manage and express emotions, and build emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. Key to this is our ability to accurately label and express what we are feeling. The simple exercise that my daughter did in class is a wonderful way to expand our emotional vocabulary and find ways to express our emotions.

On a more deeply personal level, this moved me profoundly. What my daughter wrote was a poignant account of the feelings of an introverted child who self-identifies as shy. It is a powerful reflection of the emotional landscape she traverses when she is at school where struggles to learn.

My daughter and I are both dyslexic. We both wear corrective “blue” glasses to assist us with our perceptual processing. My daughter, since starting school has found formal learning difficult and has come home feeling dejected and down because of her perceived inabilities in the classroom.

Yet, yesterday and for the very first time, she came home, and of her own accord, announced she had something she wanted to share. She sat tall, lifted her head high, and shared her beautiful piece of writing articulately and with confidence. She proudly stated:

“What I wrote was really good Mum.”

My heart welled with pride, and a deep sense of joy, to see her finally, and independently find a place in learning where she can feel so good about herself and her abilities.

By the way … can you guess the emotions she was describing?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Puzzling Times

I’ve often mentioned my love of jigsaw puzzles. Last night my partner and I finished a 6000 piece jigsaw puzzle representing one of the greatest masterpieces of the seventeenth century, Las Meninas  painted in 1656 by Don Diego de Silva Velazquez and now housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

As we put the last piece into place, my partner and I looked at each other with a twinkle in our eyes as a soft smile spread across both our faces. We stepped back to admire and enjoy the beauty – not just of the picture in front of us – but all the countless hours of quiet attention and effort we had put into piecing it together over the past two years.

And no. It’s not perfect. Our dog chewed on two of the pieces and three others are missing. Suspected ingestion by said canine. But even these imperfections I see with pride. They form part of the story of building this thing together.

What I felt was a wonderful warm sense of achievement and pride. But it was a quiet version of these emotions. A deep, anchoring feeling of satisfaction.

This experience also illustrates the importance of something called “savouring” – the act of stepping back and really being in the moment to enjoy or relish something – whether that be the moment of completion, the sense of achievement, or appreciation of oneself or another for efforts made.

Last night my partner and I sat back and savoured in all of these senses.

We reminisced about the day I opened the box and started sorting the pieces. Something that seemed an insurmountable task at the time. We laughed about the day my partner went to Bunnings to buy the wooden board to put the puzzle one. It was so big he couldn’t fit it in the car so he had to return to the store to have it cut in half. We remembered working on passages of the puzzle where we were convinced that we didn’t have all the pieces.

We also acknowledged one another’s efforts. My partner cracked the hardest parts of the puzzle through his consistent, calm countenance. Something I simply do not posses. Without his efforts the dog would not have formed, and the large monochromatic passages where every piece appears to be the same, would never have unfolded. They are all the result of his patient persistence.

We recognised the team effort too. Because we both have different strengths that we brought to the process. While my partner saw the puzzle in terms of the form and shape of the pieces, I have an acute eye for colour and texture. My close attention to these details meant I was able to sort and organise the pieces. A laborious step essential before any placement of pieces was possible.

So it seems one small project can bring so many meaningful experiences, lessons, insights and of course, rewards and results.

I share this story today because it’s a lovely reminder of the many, varied, and small things we can do to bring calm, channel our focus, and also create some sense of stability and structure, especially when we find ourselves in particularly puzzling times.

In particular, it’s a great example of the power of defining projects and working towards goals.

When we define and then work towards a goal, no matter what that goal is, we create the opportunity for ourselves to feel a sense of progress as well as that wonderful sense of achievement that comes with completing a project, achieving a goal, or working on something in partnership with someone over a period of time.

We are living in puzzling times amidst a pandemic with no easy end in sight. There are few tangibles to give us concrete answers to navigating what are truly unprecedented events for us in our local communities, and as global citizens.

What my puzzle reminds me of, is the importance of finding things to focus on and creating projects to build towards, in spite of the difficulties that surround us.

By creating our own tangible goals and objectives – no matter how small – we are establishing the opportunity to put in place more concrete, actionable strategies that can help us to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity around us. This also helps to anchor, ground and calms us.

When we identify things that we can focus on and work towards, quietly putting each puzzle piece in its place one at a time, we find ourselves moving forward too, one step at a time.

Strangely enough a picture begins to emerge. One that we’ve created. Our own story.

What picture are you creating?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

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.

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.

The Proliferation of the List

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Drawing Connections

There are a lot of lists flying about these days. The top 30 ways to better manage time. The top 20 things great leaders do. The top 15 things you should never do. And the list goes on.

How on earth are we supposed to remember twenty things?  Can there really be a top twenty? Doesn’t that seem like a lot? Was the author simply unable to decide in the end what really was most important?

We make lists for all sorts of reasons. For the groceries, to pack for a trip or note our key to-do’s for the day. I’m definitely a list-maker. I probably couldn’t function if I didn’t make lists of all things I had to get done. My brain simply can’t hold all that information. And in all honesty I don’t want that junk rattling around in there.

Lists are essentially functional tools. They remember for us so we don’t have to remember all those little things we need to buy or pack or do.

And herein lies the problem. When we apply the list approach to richer, more complex information or experiences that we genuinely want to process and assimilate into our psyche, then long lists simply don’t work. No one remembers them.

Our brains aren’t wired to remember a long list of things (without extensive training that is). Most of us mere humans are limited to holding between five and nine items in short term memory (Miller). In other words those who are good will retain nine, those not so good retain 5 and the average is 7. Actually even 7 seems like a lot of hard work.

What we really remember best are relationships – the connections that link items together in more meaningful ways (Minto). These linkages help us and others get to the heart of a subject, draw out its theme or essence. They also help us to assimilate more of the important detail.

We exist in a world where we are bombarded with data and information. It screams at us from televisions, tablets, mobile phones, laptops, billboards, shopping malls, buses, bosses, train stations, airports, and every corner of our existence.

It’s so noisy.

Lists are helpful here. They help us get through the day by shutting out some of the noise.

Yet those days where we lurch from task to task mechanically working though a long list until we get to the end of the day feel laborious, unrelenting and unrewarding.

What makes something memorable are the connections we make. What makes it meaningful is a sense of connecting what we do with our purpose, our essence. When we do this the rest of the detail falls more effortlessly into place. 

This is true for a complex subject around which you want to engage others or simply our every day experience.

It starts with the connection we make to ourselves. What are we aiming to do? What are we really trying to say or share? How does that link to our purpose?

It unfolds with the connection we make to the subject itself. Can we be fully present with the moment and the task at hand and give it our full and undivided attention and positive intention? Can we take the time to reflect on the detail so we can identify the themes we want to draw out or linkages we want to make?

It deepens with the connections we make to others. Can we set our ego aside and go and ask for help or input? Can we commit to taking feedback on board without resistance or resentment? Can we genuinely engage with and explore perspectives different to our own and without judgment?

So next time something you’re working on starts to look like a long list;

Pause.

Take a few slow breaths.

Then ask yourself, is the subject important to you?

If it is, try instead to draw connections between the details, distil the essence and share something more lasting, meaningful and memorable for you and your audience.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

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

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

The Power of Intention

The act of articulation is where your idea takes on substance and form

The act of articulation is where your idea takes on substance and form

Sex and the City writer Julie Rottenberg recently published an article on LinkedIn about the road she took to her dream job – an interesting story about going from ‘wanting’ to ‘becoming’ what she wanted.

What struck me most in her story was her description of a pivotal moment of articulation – stating out loud exactly what she wanted.

I have had similar moments through my life where a vague idea moved beyond mere desire to take real shape at the point of saying it out loud. This is pivotal to the process of ‘becoming’ – taking something from concept to reality – because it is in the act of articulation where your idea takes on substance and form. Stating something out loud gives birth to your intention and releases it into the world. It brings with it resolve and enables you to more clearly see and feel what you want be.

In yoga setting an intention is pivotal to the practice. It takes the experience beyond simply moving though various exercises into a powerful practice where we anchor the energy we generate to something more substantial and more concrete.

It’s just one of the elements of a yoga practice that makes a difference in people’s lives and it does so because it harnesses the power of the mind and energy of the body to articulate and bring to fruition a single focused idea.

It is the power of positive thinking in action. What’s your intention today?

Go in, be M.A.D. Say it out loud. Make it real.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator