True Mindfulness

True mind·ful·ness is a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. True mindfulness is characterised mainly by acceptance of our thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. True mindfulness focuses our mind on what is being sensed moment-by-moment, rather than ruminating on the past or the future. The ‘ful’ in mindfulness means being fully present.

My all time favourite definition is from 2009 when I trained to be an ACT Therapist with Dr Russ Harris [writer of The Happiness Trap (which I highly recommend)]:

“Mindfulness is a transformative mental state of awareness which involves focusing our attention with flexibility, openness, and curiosity.”

This simple definition tells us three important things:

  1. mindfulness is a process of awareness, not thinking. It involves paying attention to our experience in this moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts. In a mindful state, we can let difficult thoughts and feelings freely flow through us, without getting all caught up in them or pushed around by them, and without getting into a struggle with them.
  2. mindfulness involves a particular attitude: one of openness and curiosity. Even if our experience in this moment is difficult, painful or unpleasant, we can be open to and curious about it instead of running from, fighting with or trying to avoid it. [eg: with alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal)]
  3. mindfulness involves flexibility of attention: the ability to consciously direct, broaden or focus attention on different aspects of experience. We can use mindfulness to ‘wake up,’ connect with ourselves and appreciate the fullness of each moment of life. We can use it to improve our self-knowledge – to learn more about how we feel, think and react. We can use it to connect deeply and intimately with the people we care about, including ourselves. And we can use it to consciously influence our own behaviour and increase our range of responses to the world we inhabit. It is the actions of living consciously – a profound way to enhance psychological resilience and increase life satisfaction.

Why not make up your own definition of mindfulness? My definition changes all the time, yours will too! Here is a couple of examples: Mindfulness is the defused, accepting, non-judgemental contact with the here and now. Mindful practice is pausing with awareness throughout the day and connecting to life and beyond with calm presence. Being mindful helps us to reflect on the mind from a different perspective, to make choice and change possible. Put simply, mindfulness is bringing awareness to the present moment with kindness!

Get started with a true mindful practice. Several times a day is best, especially when you notice that your mind is far away or notice your inner voice being negative or unhelpful. It’s not something that you make time for, it only takes a few seconds to Be Mindful… Pause… and Connect!

Yours in Awareness Always! – John Shearer MM

 

 

Mindfulness in Education Summit

Please share this important Mindfulness in Education Summit with teachers or parents with school children. The Summit features 25 experts in the field of mindfulness from researchers to authors to teachers and educators. Learn about the strategies and tools needed as well as finding a range of resources and more to help you become more mindful and help children to develop that mindfulness too! And the good news is that I am one of the speakers! Love & Gratitude Always! – John
Follow this link for further info: Mindfulness in Education Summit

True Essence of Mindfulness

This two minute clip by Jon Kabat-Zinn explains the true essence of mindfulness. The following snippet is from my mentoring service Mindful Insights:

True mind·ful·ness (2017) – A mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. True mindfulness is characterised mainly by acceptance of our thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. True mindfulness focuses our mind on what is being sensed moment-by-moment, rather than ruminating on the past or the future. The ‘ful’ in mindfulness means being fully present.

My all time favourite definition is from 2009 when I trained to be an ACT Therapist with Dr Russ Harris [writer of The Happiness Trap (which I highly recommend)]:

“Mindfulness is a transformative mental state of awareness which involves focusing our attention with flexibility, openness, and curiosity.”

This simple definition tells us three important things:

  1. mindfulness is a process of awareness, not thinking. It involves paying attention to our experience in this moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts. In a mindful state, we can let difficult thoughts and feelings freely flow through us, without getting all caught up in them or pushed around by them, and without getting into a struggle with them.
  2. mindfulness involves a particular attitude: one of openness and curiosity. Even if our experience in this moment is difficult, painful or unpleasant, we can be open to and curious about it instead of running from, fighting with or trying to avoid it. [eg: with alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal)]
  3. mindfulness involves flexibility of attention: the ability to consciously direct, broaden or focus attention on different aspects of experience. We can use mindfulness to ‘wake up,’ connect with ourselves and appreciate the fullness of each moment of life. We can use it to improve our self-knowledge – to learn more about how we feel, think and react. We can use it to connect deeply and intimately with the people we care about, including ourselves. And we can use it to consciously influence our own behaviour and increase our range of responses to the world we inhabit. It is the actions of living consciously – a profound way to enhance psychological resilience and increase life satisfaction.

Be Mindful… Pause… Connect! Yours in Awareness Always! – John

25 Quotes for Perspective

25 Quotes for Perspective

  1. “She was one of the rare ones, so effortlessly herself, and the world loved her for it.” ~ Atticus
  2. “Be daring. Be different. Be impractical. Be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers. The creatures of the commonplace. The slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
  3. “Just keep moving forward, and don’t give a shit what anybody thinks.” ~ Johnny Depp
  4. “She accepts your compliments on her face, her hair, and her body graciously and she is, indeed, beautiful. But she is only moved when you notice the beauty of her spirit.” ~ Allaisia Hanan
  5. “There is no beauty without some strangeness.” ~ Edgar Allen Poe
  6. “It is ever so beautiful to be strange. To do things differently than others. To see things in a rare light. To me, that is such a gold to carry.” ~ Christopher Poindexter
  7. “What makes you weird or different, that’s your strength.” ~ Meryl Streep
  8. “She dances to the songs in her head, speaks with the rhythm of her heart, and loves from the depths of her soul.” ~ Dean Jackson
  9. “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” ~ Aristotle
  10. “But darling, we weren’t given this wild soul just to merely exist. Our mission is to shake up this world, turn it upside down, and show our fellow humans the difference between breathing and being fully alive.” ~ Unknown
  11. “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” ~ Morticia Addams
  12. “It seems that if you’re passionate about something, it freaks people out. You’re considered bizarre or eccentric. To me, it just means you know who you are.” ~ Tim Burton
  13. “If you don’t fit in, then you’re probably doing the right thing.” ~ Unknown
  14. “Stop trying to explain yourself. People only understand things from their level of perception within the parameters of their agreement with reality.” ~ Steve Maraboli
  15. “I hope to arrive to my death late, in love, and a little drunk.” ~ Atticus
  16. “There are parts of me that will always remain untameable, messy, and reckless; but I refuse to apologize for it anymore.” ~ Kaitlin Fester
  17. “Be brave. Be wild. And stay forever hungry for art, love, knowledge, and adventure.” ~ Erin Van Vuren
  18. “I’m with the dirty mouth girls. The ones with bare feet, brilliant minds, messy hair, wild hearts, and feisty spirits. The ones who aren’t afraid to speak up and who live for doing what they’ve been told is impossible.” ~ Brooke Hampton
  19. “Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who could love the person you hide.” ~ C.S. Lewis
  20. “You’ll turn out ordinary if you’re not careful.” ~ Ann Brashares
  21. “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” ~ Frank Zappa
  22. “To be successful, your focus has to be so intense that others think you’re crazy.” ~ Kim Orlesky
  23. “I will not be another flower, picked for my beauty and left to die. I will be wild, difficult to find, and impossible to forget.” ~ Erin Van Vuren
  24. “Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” ~ Vincent van Gogh
  25. “Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

It’s all about perspective. Your greatest gift is your uniqueness.
Be Mindful… Pause… Connect! – Yours in Awareness Always! – John

Benefits of a Mindful Practice

Feedback about the Benefits of a Mindful Practice

I have been receiving excellent feedback from people who have subscribed to my Mindful Insights Mentoring Service. My favourite comment, “It’s great having only one thing to work on each week.” Some of the benefits mentioned are:

  • “Helps me reduce stress.”
  • “Helps me to be in touch with my emotions, but not ruled by them.”
  • “Helps me to be more balanced.”
  • “Helps me live a better life and enjoy the life I have.”
  • “Starts my day off right.”
  • “I feel more creative.”
  • “Helps me to focus on what’s important.”
  • “I am less reactive.”
  • “Helps me sleep better.”
  • “Greater control over my life.”
  • “More peace.”
  • “Makes me feel better mentally and physically.”
  • “Helps me focus on the good things in life.”
  • “My decision making is clearer.”

Mindfulness is not a cure or quick fix. It is a process that requires practice, that’s why it is called a mindful practice. The hardest thing to do when I started my practice was remembering to practice! Several people have commented how they love receiving an insight every Friday. They read over the weekend and practice throughout their week.

I have retired as a mentor with Juvenile Justice to focus on establishing Mindfulness Mentoring Institute. I devote my mornings to teaching and coaching sessions and keep my afternoons appointment free to receive phone and skype calls. Please feel welcome to call for an obligation free chat about my certificate course or mentoring service. I am available 7 days between noon & 4pm NSW time. Phone 0418 864 162

My main message: Be Mindful… Pause… Connect!
Mindfully Yours with Love, Joy & Peace Always! – John

10 Lessons from Einstein

Which is your favourite lesson from Albert?
1. Follow Your Curiosity: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
2. Perseverance is Priceless: “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
3. Focus on the Present: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
4. Imagination is Powerful: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
5. Make Mistakes: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
6. Live in the Moment: “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”
7. Create Value: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
8. Don’t Be Repetitive: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
9. Knowledge Comes From Experience: “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”
10. Learn the Rules and Then Play Better: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
Albert also said, “Intuition is the only real thing.” Intuition is a key mentoring skill. Check out my certificate course Keys to Mindfulness Mentoring. Mindfully Yours – John

Having a Hard Time Sleeping? Do Nothing!

Do you toss and turn in bed? Can’t get to sleep (or go back to sleep) no matter what you do?

I’ve been there and one thing is sure: insomnia is frustrating!

It’s also bad for your health. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. It has also been linked to changes in brain function, poor decision making, difficulty with problem solving, depression, and even suicide.

Unfortunately, many of the classic strategies for overcoming insomnia don’t work all that well. You probably know this. I bet you’ve already tried some of them.

New research suggests there may be a path forward, and it isn’t what you think…

Controlling Sleep Doesn’t Work Very Well

One reason the natural things we do to solve sleep problems aren’t very effective is that they invite you to do too much, precisely when you need to do nothing. What does that mean? Think about it this way…

Your body knows how to sleep. It should be darn good at it too … millions of years of evolution tends to work out the kinks. Get out of your own way, do nothing to wake yourself up, and voila: you sleep.

But your logical problem-solving mind is only a few hundred thousand years old … surely not more than a couple of million. We know that because our closest relatives don’t have symbolic language – the core element of our thinking processes. Your mind sure knows how to problem solve … but it is not very good at sleep because it is not very good at doing nothing.

The problem with most existing psychological sleep interventions is that they too invite you to do too much.

Let me ask you this. If you are half asleep and you start trying to solve a problem, any problem, what happens? That’s right. You wake up. Solving a problem is the brain equivalent of sprinting around the block. Hardly likely to encourage snoozing.

So what is the first thing you do when you wake up in the night and start to worry? You try to put the worries out of your mind or you try to convince yourself things aren’t as bad as all that. You treat your thoughts as problems to be solved. The problem: all that mental stuff is waking you up!

The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) community has an alternative: psychologically flexibility. Basically, that means allowing thoughts and feelings to show up, then gently attending to what helps move you in the direction you value. In that case of sleep that mean noticing the temptation to problem-solve (e.g., to push away worries and anxieties), and instead to do nothing. Your body know how to sleep. Your mind? Not so much.

Studies have shown that psychological inflexibility is a key player in sleep problems. Recent studies have also shown that training people to be more psychologically flexible helps reduce insomnia in those who have chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

So if you’re an insomniac, what’s the bottom line for you?

Accept Your Experiences

Let’s face it. Suppressing your night time thoughts and feelings or struggling to go back to sleep just doesn’t work that well. You probably already know this. If you have sleep problems, I’m sure you’ve tried it. Has it worked for you?

Try becoming more psychologically flexible instead. Here are three techniques you can experiment with:

  1. If you can’t sleep, rest. In many cases, it’s the focus on trying to sleeping itself that keeps you from getting to sleep. By allowing yourself to simply rest and respectfully declining your mind’s invitation to problem solve, you are more likely to get to sleep more easily or fall back to sleep after you wake up.
  2. Just noticing. Worry keeping you awake? Instead of ruminating on it, just notice it. When worries arise imagine they are words written on leaves that are floating down the river. They come in, they go out. Notice them dispassionately. That is all. Add or subtract nothing.
  3. Accept your thoughts and feelings about insomnia. I don’t mean resign yourself to insomnia. I mean to be present with your reactions without grabbing at them or manipulating them. Instead of rejecting these reactions, just hold them the way you would a child. Then let your body do what it knows how to do.

These techniques are counterintuitive. That’s true. But what have you got to lose? Maybe some useless problem solving time?

The next time you are trying to get to sleep here is a better idea. Get in bed, close your eyes, and do nothing at all.

Many Thanks to Steve Hayes for this post. Steve is the founder of ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy). Dr Russ Harris brought ACT to Australia and trained me to be an ACT Therapist. ACT is very much a Mindfulness based therapy. Feel welcome to book a One-on-One session with me. Mindfully Yours as Always! – John

Mindfulness for Children

Children Together

mindfullyMAD.org

We need to teach our children how to think, not so much what to think. We need to teach children how to handle difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions as they arise. This would drastically reduce stress, anxiety and depression in later life, especially HSC time. It would also help reduce bullying and anti-social behaviour. At the same time, it would greatly increase creativity and productivity. Studies around the world clearly show that mindfulness in schools is making a huge difference. Academic performance up 15% – disciplinary instances including suspensions, detentions and bullying down by 63%. Follow this link to see what is happening worldwide.

We need your help to prepare a series of weekly mindfulness lessons for primary children. Our research is complete and we have enough material to make 36 lessons a reality (9 in each term). Each lesson will also have a note or email message to send home to encourage mindful practice with family and carers. Teachers & parents (especially home schoolers) will also benefit greatly by participating in the program.

Our goal will be fueled by your generosity. Please donate to help slow down the epidemic of depression, substance abuse and youth suicide in our communities. To show my gratitude, you will receive The Mindful Way PDF – 75 pages with 33 chapters. It teaches you what mindfulness is, what mindfulness is not and how to develop a mindful practice. It is written for older teens and above, I recommend reading one chapter per week and practice. Donate via PayPal:  https://goo.gl/H3f1Zf

If you are unable to help financially, perhaps you could share this blog. Please feel welcome to phone me on 0418 864 162 anytime for further information.

Thank You & Be Mindful! – John Shearer [Mindfulness Master & Founder of mindfullyMAD.org (mindfully Making A Difference)]

Happiness and Benefits

Click to Listen

Happy Kids

This is the 4th track on The Mindful Way CD. It is about happiness and other sound reasons to develop a mindful practice or a good reminder to keep it going! Feedback welcome. Enjoy!
The most obvious benefit of developing a mindful practice is a huge increase in happiness. Happiness becomes a bi-product of mindfulness and almost an automatic choice. Happiness isn’t a destination, an award, a goal or something you chase after, it’s the main reason why we are here – to be happy! So wake up every day with a determination to be mindful and happy, no matter what comes your way.

There are many other benefits of developing a mindful practice. I have taken note of the benefits that I have experienced since I embarked on the mindful way. These benefits have also been confirmed with feedback, from both my coaching clients and from my book Mindful Actions. My favourite feedback is hearing from people coming off meds. Mindfulness is now a proven alternative to medication. It is true that meds can help when people’s lives are out of control but honestly, most of the benefit goes to pharmaceutical companies.

Is your mindful practice fully developed? A sure sign is a deep desire to help others. If this sounds like you, I invite you to have a look at my Keys to Mindfulness Mentoring certificate course. It involves three one-on-one sessions with me personally, either live or via video link. The sessions are at least one month apart, go at your own pace. I have made this course as affordable as possible, only AU$250 (Approx EUR160 or US$180)

Mindfully Yours with Love, Joy & Peace Always! – John Shearer

Mindful Leadership in the Workplace

Is there a Role for Mindful Leadership in the Workplace?

Leadership can be a place of great loneliness. Reaching a position of leadership can enslave a person, causing them to work unsustainable hours at the expense of family, friends and self. They may even lose sight of their original purpose and ideals as they get caught up in the ‘doing’ of the tasks at hand, focusing on achieving outcomes and performance.

Learning some strategies for emotional resilience, such as Mindfulness, can free a leader from this treadmill as well as enhancing many great leadership qualities. Mindfulness is the art of learning to ‘just be’ and as Jon Kabat Zinn says, it can allow one to reclaim their position as a ‘human being’, not just a ‘human doing’.

Mindfulness is often described as paying attention without judgment. It’s the capacity to remain grounded in present moment awareness as opposed to being caught up in the stories we create with our thoughts. For a leader this is a vital quality but one that may seem to contradict their training.

Our society puts great value on thinking about things critically and in many professions including science, education, finance and law, the capacity to be judgmental is a prized quality. Of course, there is a place for this. But too often our judgments and criticisms invade our personal interactions, preventing us from hearing clearly what is being said and from taking on board valuable non-verbal queues. We’re too busy thinking of our next answer or refutation to listen.

Communication Problem

 

A Mindful leader is attentive and observant, connected with the people s/he leads. And importantly, this connection comes from a place that is sincere and heartfelt. This is often described as ‘authentic leadership’. Mindful listening requires a high level of attentiveness and in turn, this allows the development of a deeper connection, one that permits possibilities to emerge. Mindfulness opens us to solutions that may be less obvious when struggling with a stressed, problem-focused frame of mind.

The reason for this is not just philosophical but physiological. It has to do with the way our bodies and brains have evolved to deal with stress. When we are stressed our heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase. We secrete stress hormones that prepare our bodies to run or to defend our territory. Humans have evolved in this way because the caveman who stopped to consider the magnificence of the oncoming tiger instead of fleeing would become its dinner and not pass on his genes. The genes that survived belonged to individuals who instinctively ran or fought back in the face of danger. They reacted to the problem rather than thinking about it, and this rapid unthinking reaction is an essential survival quality when life is threatened.

Not Listening

In the business world our lives are rarely in danger, but it may feel that way because of workplace pressures. And our body reacts in the same way as it did when the tiger came bounding out of the bushes. As we curb the inclination to fight or flee, blood pressure rises and stress hormones become toxic, potentially causing stress-related illness. The result is frequently reactivity and a problem-focused mindset.

Our natural relaxation response is engaged when we practice mindfulness and this opens and broadens the mind to consider alternative solutions and responses. Creativity and lateral thinking are enhanced.

Mindfulness trains the mind to slow down and see the spaces in our lives, the spaces where we can take the time to consider our responses thoughtfully instead of reactively. It develops within us the capacity to be present and observant; to listen deeply, authentically, and truly see what’s happening both for ourselves and for others. It encourages us to let go of the stories, habits and views we hold on to and identify with, considering others’ viewpoints with open acceptance. And it teaches us to be open and non-judgmental of both good and bad experiences with equanimity and courage, even with preparedness to express vulnerability.

This mindset not only increases ones emotional resilience in the face of difficulty, but also builds a more authentic leadership style.

Many Thanks to Judith Lissing at Mind Coaching Australia for this post. Judith is an excellent Mindfulness Mentor based in Rosebay, Sydney, NSW   Be Mindful!