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Are YOU becoming too busy?

When I need some holiday time I seek serenity by the sea. A range of responsibilities have brought highlights as well as challenges for me in recent months. But while responsibilities and duties (and of course the good times) are cause for planning and executing these well, when some days feel a little too busy, then I sense trouble brewing.

Trouble may mean feelings of being time-poor, the hint of uncommon restlessness, too many lists as yet unfulfilled, emails unattended, more papers than desirable waiting on the desk and occasionally, interrupted sleep. Feelings like these are normal enough in the ups and downs of life – but being too busy can lead to those ‘troubled’ feelings I’ve just outlined … and for many, of feeling just a little out of control.

To remain capable and to deal with modern living, some element of control is a necessity; but to feel out of control because of feeling controlled by external forces is certainly unhealthy and may lead to stress, anxiety, depression and illness.

So – the main pressures of today? Somehow – through transportation and technology – society has accepted the desire for instant gratification. It’s possible to achieve a great many outcomes almost instantaneously and contact is perhaps the greatest achievement of all. Being in quick or constant contact may seem to be desirable. But it brings with it a subtle demand to perform in some way. Evidence of this pressure surrounds the use of virtual skills to think, to offer ideas, opinions and knowledge; to photograph, edit, save and send; to interact and make instant decisions and feel the need to respond – even when it may be preferable not to do so – and even if neglecting to do so might mean missing out on some information, event or opportunity.

This kind of busy is a successful sales pitch. Yes, we want to succeed in life. Yes, we want to feel recognised, included and liked. But maybe this sales pitch has the power to rob people of the very self confidence that is actually craved. Rather than building confidence and a sense of self, there’s something of a universal need to compete. There’s also an inclination to judge, as well as the need to ‘have’ what others have – or perform as others do. These are the pressures that can drive some to succumb to frantic online shopping or comparing goods and concepts with those desired or possessed by others. Perhaps it’s time to revisit reality? Those others by whom we may feel judged are most likely not close or dear friends. Perhaps they (and we) are merely passing each other in virtual form without a future or very importantly, knowledge of the real person.

Could it be in this now readily accepted process, that many are losing our uniqueness within the probable ground-swell of conforming to the ideals of others? Are we losing the freedom to make personal choices? And might we be harbouring feelings of guilt or even fear if we overlook returning that message or responding immediately to social media in its many forms? Even worse, are we unwittingly allowing these pressures to create the predictable underlying and compelling advent of stress?

I asked myself these questions as I meditated by the sea. For me the sea is a reminder that all is possible in life – providing we own the physical and emotional foundation of calm. Which is why I meditate; which is why I teach others to meditate.

As always, a simple image like this gives me my answer … there is serenity to be found within and beyond all activity – providing we have the wisdom and power to access it.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
Melbourne, April 2018

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A Quiet Place

Sunshine and shadows, blue sky and a gentle breeze, green growth and a quiet place to simply be … a message of hope for this brand New Year … welcome 2018!

These warm, lazy days, holidays by the sea or among the ferns – and best of all, undisturbed city streets. January is a precious time of the year where quietness provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan this new one.

Yes, among many satisfying occurrences, most certainly we have each experienced various challenges. How did we manage these? Have we learned something new? Are we content with certain outcomes? Can we accept those things we cannot change? And what will be the future?

Quietness – within our self or beyond our self is with us right now as the new year begins. Somewhere close by for each of us there is a quiet place to sit and dream, reflect, plan, pray or even better, be simply still.

From all of us at the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre we wish you a happy, peaceful and productive New Year.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
January 2018, Melbourne

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A question of giving

And so it’s almost that magical Christmas time again and how quickly this year has flown by. I just spent a few minutes reviewing the topics I’ve blogged in December over the past five years – and what did I discover? Nothing much has changed … the world is in a slightly ‘messier’ state … Amazon has arrived in Melbourne (ho hum) and people are still feeling pressured as Christmas Day draws near.

So what good things are happening? Many might say not a lot in the big picture … and yet through the past twelve months we’ve all experienced life with its joys, sorrows, strengths and weaknesses. This makes me wonder if this year, we might consider ‘giving’ in a completely different way.

For a moment, let’s forget commercialisation, the TV adverts, the champagne and cheese and partying … because really, those commodities exist for a large majority for most of the year anyway. Let’s look a little deeper, at grassroots so to speak:

  • Somehow, we were each given the gift of life!
  • Many of us have given that gift to others
  • In this country we have been privileged to receive the gift of reasonable health care
  • The same goes for food, clothing and education
  • And we have also been given the gift of reasonable freedom and safety, highly prized presents to be treasured
  • Most importantly we own the gift of our mind, that most wondrous miracle that allows us freedom of thought to be used well or otherwise
  • And so, without having to ask for it, we have the gift of questioning …

Can we pause now in the midst of all the Festive Rush to question the important things of life? Can we consider those who have no refuge, family, friends, food or support? Can we look at our own family with new vision, knowing that some individuals don’t need ‘things’ as Christmas gifts, but compassion, understanding and love? Can we give the gift of patience to those relationships we find challenging? Can we give our time to others who are lonely, afraid or ill? And can we give to ourselves as well, the gift of gentleness; the gift of self knowledge with an understanding of our beginnings and their consequent outcomes, and the gift of truly appreciating our own story?

Let’s pause and consider.

Because maybe it’s gifts such as those that just might manifest the magic of Christmas? But then again, there is no real magic in this life – there is only love – and that’s where the story of Christmas all began.

Pauline McKinnon (c) 
December 2017, Melbourne

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When anxiety gets in the way of Dr Google

There’s no doubt about it, we can learn lots from the internet. And I wouldn’t mind betting that ‘Dr Google’ gets more visits than any other site – because people always want answers to their health matters. This is good, because health matters a great deal.

Lots of clients at the SMT Centre are those who have a tendency to be more than anxious … highly sensitive people, creative thinkers with busy minds and busy lives. When you mix those qualities with prolonged web browsing in a search for symptom relief, clarification, reassurance, successful remedies or the side effects of medication it’s not surprising that a negative outcome may take place.

Those who tend to be anxious are almost always blessed with a vivid imagination – and before you know it, web based advice will lead to panic. A small new mole instantly becomes threatening; tension headaches transform to a likely brain dysfunction and generalised pain could be any dreadful disease as the mind conjures up visuals in colourful detail. Indeed, bad things can happen. However, and not surprisingly, real illness is usually coped with courageously as one of the many life challenges we all must face. But … catastrophic reactions to likely minor ailments lead to extended and unnecessary worry – reactions which won’t help the situation at all.

Thankfully in the majority of these cases, all worries can be quickly put to rest.

Also thankfully, a majority of people, anxious types or otherwise, have a good sense of humour tucked away behind their anxiety. The gentle use of humour is an excellent strategy for recognising the reaction that leads to over-reactive concern!

So what to do next time?
Relax … let go … look at the situation gently. Give Dr Google some time off and calmly visit your real doctor or health practitioner to get the facts. And remind yourself that your imagination is best put to real creative use rather than negative ruminations. Life is a journey peppered with a multitude of experiences and most of them are good experiences. Trust yourself and trust the goodness of life to provide the correct answers and the best outcomes. Yes, your health matters and includes the importance of your mental health, too. Treat your mind with kindness and your body will be more able to look after itself!
In Stillness …

Pauline McKinnon (c)
November 2017, Melbourne

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Stillness Meditation Therapy – learn it … live it … teach it?

The rise and rise of the popularity of meditation as a life skill calls for increased numbers of qualified meditation teachers. A wonderful prospect indeed as the widespread recognition of meditation as an enriching and sustaining life-skill has finally arrived!

I find it exciting and a privilege to welcome each year a new intake of enthusiastic candidates eager to train as teachers of Stillness Meditation Therapy – SMT as it’s known today. However, familiar questions arise:

“What do you offer … can I really teach this – and how is Stillness Meditation Therapy different from other methods?”

My primary objective in Teacher Training is to build strong group camaraderie alongside the essentials necessary to produce, over time, the right ‘recipe’ for students’ accreditation.

There are pre-requisites to commencement from which trainees develop a deep understanding of the theory, physiology, psychology and ethos of Stillness Meditation as a therapeutic modality. In training we explore all styles of meditation, respecting the value of each while identifying difference. This understanding involves an appreciation of the importance of natural mental rest as the primary purpose of SMT, as well as learning to let go of any kind of technique that may inadvertently disturb mental rest. Also, within the development of teaching skills comes a growing sensitivity to the paradox of stillness in the face of discomfort and how this affects life in general.

Achieving prolonged mental rest and the benefits to be gained takes time and repetition – something for teachers to be able to impart to their future students. In SMT we are helping people to literally change their mind – and in doing so, our aim is to emphasize the ultimate outcome of living calm. So prospective teachers must themselves be proficient advocates of what they teach.

To cultivate understanding of a range of human needs, within training we share the experience of each other’s unique life. Emotions, individual journeys, ideas, thoughts and feelings come into play. We discuss empathy, trust, example, insight and intuition, encouragement and guidance. We study the skills of non-verbal communication. We work particularly on the skill of calming touch, a unique feature of SMT which, when used correctly, is the essence of the SMT teacher’s role. In training we understand together how resting the mind illuminates consciousness, nurtures mindfulness and leads to a wholly better life. And most importantly, we embrace the intangible, but so very important element of the care of those we teach.

Stillness Meditation (SMT®) is a unique approach based in physiology. This concept was specifically created by psychiatrist Ainslie Meares to assist in health and wellbeing through the natural reduction of anxiety. In short, SMT helps people to flourish by directly accessing ‘the body’s own way of coping with distress.’ Simple … natural … profound.

And so each year I look forward to meeting new candidates within a selection consultation that may lead to broader pathways and potentially, a healthier and happier world. To become an accredited SMT teacher, please see more information on Teacher Training here.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
October 2017, Melbourne

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Personal Peace for World Peace

Established in 1981, the International Day of Peace is observed each year on 21st September.  As spring approaches, bursting with new growth, let’s make September a month of peaceful, new and positive beginnings.

From 2001 when 9/11 changed the modern world, the challenge for peace continues as we are confronted with the news each day as witness so many levels of violence occurring.

And yes, humanity has known violence throughout the ages.  But with the sophisticated technology of our time, it has come about that 21st century is witnessing at close range, extremes of violence.  These extremes are visible from the games little kids play on their iPads where the opposition is there to destroy or be destroyed, to the media of film with explicit possibilities or the terrifying footage of carnage on the evening news.  And so we are witnessing not only domestic violence but a range of levels within our entire world with a current state of dissension, aggression, power play, and human conflict at extreme levels of violence and destruction.

Then add to that the level of violence on our roads.  Angry words, coarse language, gestures, bullying and aggressive driving, blaring music, speeding out of control – all this speaks loudly of inner turmoil.  And, tragically from this level of tension, lives are taken or innocent people are seriously injured due to the pent up frustration, anger and mismanagement of emotions of others.

I’ve written before about the common lack of courtesy, discipline or respect … the inconsideration of other people, pushing through crowded streets, the expression of a self centred approach to life where the narcissistic ‘me’ factor is so apparent.  And, very importantly, where role models from media and sporting personalities to politicians take advantage of their privilege to admit to criminal and sexual misconduct, or drug and alcohol abuse and beyond.

The modern world is quickly losing more and more of the societal values that bring strength, allowing attitudes of exploitation in general to become more and more ‘the normal’.

As violence begets violence, similarly, peace begets peace.  Surely all mature adults, especially parents, have a duty to learn and teach skills for the integration of personal peace. Surely we can all begin to focus on positive example, to teach by example and to become models whose bearing teaches attitudes of response rather than reaction.  Only then, little by little, will society be enabled to meet the ups and downs of life through creative and positive ways of resolution.

The practice of meditation, its gifts, strengths and many other benefits is one powerful way to develop and maintain personal peace and ultimately, contentment.  And look at the contagious happiness that occurs when we’re more content!

So let’s build strength together by mastering the skills that nourish our own inner calm – and consequently greater personal peace.

The olive branch is a symbol of peace.   To promote world peace at this Centre we have initiated the idea of wearing or displaying a knot of olive green ribbon as a reminder that one small peaceful gesture may grow to greater strengths. Get yourself some green ribbon!  Wear a knot – or tie a strand on your front gate, the lamp-post, fly it from your car … whatever you wish – but get the message out there!

Peace begins within.  If you would like to go one step further to find your peace, our peace and ultimately world peace, make meditation a priority in your life.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
September 2017, Melbourne

 

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Revisiting resilience

Living as we do in these times of high anxiety and with not much evidence of real improvement to that situation, it seems timely to revisit the word resilience.  This is a word that entered popular vernacular a few years ago and a word that is currently quite vigorously postulated as the answer to issues surrounding mental health.  Perhaps the gaining of resilience may be part of that solution – except for a couple of important questions.  Just how is the gift of resilience gained?  And how can individuals, or society in general actually foster resilience?

For resilience is not one single commodity.  The getting of resilience, like wisdom, comes from living, observing and learning … definitely not something to be purchased in a packet from Chemist Warehouse and taken as a daily remedy.

To be resilient is to be able to respond from a place of personal strength in the face of adversity.  The challenges of life are many and plans and needs can change, even sometimes from moment to moment.  So the power of resilience begins with one simple phrase: be responsive, not reactive. Reactivity is useful in emergencies. But uncontrolled reactivity is a clear indication of lack of resilience.  Witness reactivity in everyday life:  impatience, irritability, bullying, aggression and simmering rage.  Such reactions are perhaps most visible on our roads and further, within belligerent demonstrations, domestic violence, on the sports field or in public places and it goes without saying, in racial or terror induced confrontations and their tragic outcomes.

Self control and self respect are closely related to resilience and so indeed is self-discipline – an unpopular word these days – yet without discipline life can quickly slip into non-resilient chaos.

As products of the parents, siblings, relatives, teachers and mentors who impressed early life, much will have been learned.  But perhaps a true recognition of the real self is absentMaybe there is a lack of personal confidence which in turn creates feelings of fear?  Maybe jealousy, resentment and anger are constant emotional companions?  Maybe the fear of failure is far too present? Perhaps loss in its many forms and its accompanying grief has coloured life to a point of helpless overwhelm?  Or at times of stress or illness or anxiety there is no ability to recover because there is simply no energy in reserve.  And of course self-talk, most likely sprung from the child-self, can be so negative that the adult self-image is tainted which in turn, can damage respect for others.  These reactions and more may need some amendment if resilience is to be gained.

Since the gift of resilience means the ability to accept and to persevere despite the odds, that means building mental as well as physical stamina.  A resilient person demonstrates calm control, emotional elasticity and a level of orderliness.  These qualities can be gained through a range of mind strengthening skills such as the practice of meditation.   Sound mentoring is also advisable to help nurture positive attitudes of hope, gratitude and humour, as well as the development of a happy work-life balance.   Like personalised building blocks, these ideas and more assist the maturing process until one day, suddenly the life-raft of resilience truly becomes apparent!

Pauline McKinnon (c)
July, Melbourne 2017

 

 

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New beginnings

This month I’m happy to draw your attention to our new website.  Based on our flyer, our designer has used colours and images that we hope will welcome all visitors and provide clear and detailed information.  As our site sets out who we are, what we do and how we love to help lots of people find peace of mind, we invite you to share this information with others so that, in many cases, people may begin to truly live a new life. Read more

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Remember your New Year resolution?

Oh yes … that New Year Resolution!  Well, with all the best intentions, it’s the New Year’s resolution (or maybe more than one), that’s often overlooked once the celebratory season is over.  And now it’s April already!

What’s the point of a “New Year Resolution”?   A resolution is really a determined promise to oneself to put in place some matter of importance that may facilitate change.  Very often the promise is to the self – especially following a period of indulgence over the Christmas and New Year season.  Quite possibly, and in keeping with the emphasis on eating correctly according to our body’s needs, one likely resolution may well be to change one’s diet.  And then of course the matter of fitness presents itself as another good idea to implement … and that may bring to mind the need for regular health checks, or gym membership or a Yoga course and so on.  The possibilities for potential resolution are endless and very often the most important goal can be left behind, forgotten completely within the melee of daily living as the year pushes on.

Read more

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Empower a woman, empower a nation

This commanding slogan used on the website of the United Nations for Women brings the promise of all that can be achieved for the world when the contributions of women are fully recognised, valued and properly employed.

We may find humour in women’s ability to multi-task. Yet there is little doubt that women are those who have the capability to work their way through a range of obstacles within whatever challenge may cross their path.
Women are intuitive by nature. Intuition is power and can be the best guide in making decisions with good judgment.
Women are reflective, owning a gift that provides the wisdom of experience. Mistakes made in the past will not escape the memory of a reflective woman.
Women are compassionate. As nurturers, like the lioness and her cubs, a woman will protect those dear to her – at family level and far beyond.
Women become familiar with the responsibility of many roles very early in life. This is where the juggling really begins. The balls are in the air as life roles unfold: juggling parental behaviour, siblings, friendships, relationships, various attachments, colleagues and the wider world beyond.
Women possess immense internal strength. Even at her most vulnerable, a woman’s strength can provide the determination and tenacity needed to hold together; to move forward and to rise up again despite the odds.
As the saying goes, you never know what you can do until you try – in other words, you never know what you can do until the challenge presents itself. Challenges can be chosen or thrown upon us! Those we choose are easier to meet because we have the desire to fulfil them. But the unexpected challenges – disappointment, plans in disarray, illness, financial strain, loss, grief and more … these are the challenges that women will work their way through until some resolution occurs.
All that being said the slogan presented by the UN is a fitting reminder that worlds can change when women are empowered and respected. Too bad Hillary didn’t quite break that glass ceiling … but there’s still the future with a wealth of potential and anything is possible.
My grandmother used to say: a woman’s work is never done. I think she meant housework! But times have changed Nanna and a woman’s role in the world has vastly expanded. So now we can and surely will successfully apply our strengths and talents to the urgent call for a better world.

Pauline McKinnon ©
Melbourne, March 2017