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

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

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

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

What’s in a thought?

Some playful yoga

Yoga Outdoors

Sleep has never been easy for my daughter. Now that she can communicate, she ardently asserts “I don’t like sleeping mummy. I don’t want to go to sleep. Ever”. She is afraid of sleep. And always has been. Dutifully, I’ve tried to explain the benefits of sleep and the fact that if we don’t sleep we can’t grow, function or even survive.

She has also always snored. Like a trooper. At times as loud as a full grown man. I’m not exaggerating. Even as a baby she snored. We’d raised it many times with the doctor and finally she got referred to a Specialist.

His diagnosis was instantaneous. Chronic tonsillitis accompanied by episodes of sleep apnoea. In an adult, this is manageable. In a child, it is destructive – for growth, mental acuteness and fundamental wellbeing. The verdict. Remove her tonsils within the next 6 months.

While aware of the possibility, we are uncomfortable with the idea of her having an operation. Not because of the surgery. But because of the anaesthetic. It means putting her ‘under’. Some people don’t survive that experience.

My reaction to the doctors recommendation was entirely emotional. I felt fragile and teary. But having my daughter with me meant trying to maintain an outward sense of composure. I concealed the fear for 48 hours until I had some time to sit with it. Alone. On the balcony.

I talk to myself when I have ‘me’ time. Out loud. Yes. Out loud. Call me mad, but I find it helpful to verbalise things as a way of getting them out and off my chest. So I said it. Out loud. “I’m afraid. I’m frightened of losing my daughter”. Then I cried for a while.

What an earth shattering, overwhelming and acutely painful thought.

Then I realised it was just that. Merely a thought. My reaction to a possibility. It had not come to pass. And it need not come to pass. Should I really be spending my time and energy thinking about losing my daughter? Or could I spend it cultivating a more positive outlook?

So I said to myself “She’s going to be ok. She’s going to be ok. She’s going to be ok”. It was a simple affirmation that I repeated several times and it helped take me from a place of fear to a place where I could conceive a different reality. I felt better. I found some calm and some peace.

Distress and angst is so often tied up with the story we create around something, and typically something that happened in the past or something that might happen in the future. It can be so consuming that we miss the potential for positivity in the now.

I will continue to be afraid for my daughter and what might happen as a result of the surgery. But I can choose to work on building a more positive mindset. After all, why would we agree to surgery in the first place if it didn’t offer a sound promise of helping her to sleep, to feel better, to grow and to thrive?

Happy today, to you from me.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Let Me Finish.

Presence and Listening

Presence and Listening

We had a get together with the neighbours over the weekend. The kids ate pizza and watched Toy Story while the grown ups sat out back drinking red wine and enjoying a blather. A few wines in, conversation turned to the Body Corporate and management of our building. Most of us there were, or had been, involved in the committee in some way and were all rather passionate about some aspect or other of the way our home was managed.

I found myself exuberantly bursting in about some thing or other when my neighbour Sara exclaimed, “Let me Finish”.

For a moment I was a little taken aback. Then I realised she was trying to say something, trying to be heard, and I was – whether intentional or not – talking over the top of her. I wasn’t listening.

It’s one of my worst traits. I’m one of six kids. I grew up in a chaotic household where dinnertime debates were loud, exuberant and typically he who shouted loudest got heard. While it armed me with the confidence to speak up and speak out, it left my listening skills lying largely dormant.

My colleague Tom, on the other hand, is much younger than me and far less inclined to jump in and over people in conversation. Instead he sits back. He listens quietly and with focus. Then he speaks up.

It has always floored me, just how insightful and on the mark his comments are. He doesn’t usually say that much. He doesn’t typically say it vey loudly. But what he does say always gets everyone’s attention.

Tom is my example and reminder about how important and powerful true listening can be. And while I have consciously chosen to take a leaf out of his book, the situation with my neighbour is a gentle reminder that it takes constant practice to be truly present with the person with whom you are conversing.

After all, we all want to feel heard.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Wired. Yet Switched Off.

Can we be too connected?

Can we be too connected?

How often do you check your phone?

I haven’t tried to count.  I know I would be downright ashamed.

It’s rather addictive isn’t it? This compulsive need to swipe, tap and check. We’ve conditioned ourselves to be wired. And if we are honest, we are wired pretty much all of the time, spurred on by this constant need to be connected, stay connected, remain connected.

The irony is that amidst all this ‘connectedness’ and wiring into technology we lose the most fundamental connection of all – the connection to our Selves.

The simple act of feeling our breath or sensing tension in our body or resistance in our mind becomes an almost impossible task.

I’ve often sat in a yoga class or relaxation exercise and been asked to “scan the body and notice how you feel”. In my early days of practice my mental answer to the teacher guiding such activity was rather simple; “sod off, I’m not feeling a bleedin’ thing!”

As I became more experienced though, this lack of feeling made me ask questions. Why do I find it so difficult to ‘feel’ my toes? Why is it so hard to focus my concentration on the movement of my breath in my body? What is preventing me from really feeling, really connecting, inside?

The answer is simple and it dawned on me as I stepped off the train and walked to work the other day.

We’re all just too wired. We are too connected. And ironically, the more wired we are, the more numb we become to our Selves.

Ponder it for a moment. Better still, try it. Stop whatever you are doing right now and shift all your attention to feel every nuance, sensation and bone in your left little toe. Challenging isn’t it?

So go on, do something just a little bit mad today. Switch everything off, even for a few minutes, so You can switch back on.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator