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Essential Calm

The primary purpose of our work in teaching Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT) is to help people to find within themselves, the essential calm that gives power and purpose to life. Our world today is a busy place, often cluttered, sometimes controlled beyond personal resource and many feel overwhelmed. When we ask our new clients what they hope for in coming here, the distilled responses are always located within the primary desire for calm, peace and happiness.

When psychiatrist Ainslie Meares created his concept of meditation (the Stillness Meditation Therapy of today) way back in the 1950’s, he keenly recognized those needs – calm, peace and happiness – and the way to access such desirable strengths within the self. As specialists in his work we aim to collect, nurture, distil and teach attitudes of calm; to curate and project the values of calmness in fact. And so we assist people to access their own essential calm through natural mental rest – in silence, quiet and profound stillness.

Once the commitment to stillness commences and after several intensive sessions, without doubt good progress can first be seen in each person’s face … the loss of tension, and yes, the calmer, more serene (yet livelier and happier) expression, and the clarity within their eyes. As such, these observations often lead us to test our clients’ sense of humour by suggesting that SMT can be the most wonderful form of beauty therapy, too!

When the mind rests naturally in stillness, the reactivity of stress and the symptoms of tension, anxiety and depression are relieved: the body’s own way of coping with distress, to quote Dr Meares. Gradually we see our clients begin to experience living calm, which of course means that they are moving toward their goal of becoming calm, peaceful and happier people! And then along comes confidence. Confidence leads to productivity and these lead to courage. Courage means meeting life’s challenges, reaching ambitions and dreams and being rewarded with success. Success brings contentment … and so life gets better … and better.

In short, as the days and weeks pass and new friends become regular visitors, magic happens! And while each person may not know it yet – or they may not have yet reached the personal freedom they believe they are seeking – further changes are taking place.

Now here’s an important thought! Anyone can achieve this. SMT is not a challenging system or technique to learn through action. In SMT there is no mantra, no chanting, no mindfulness, no need for breath control or the focus of background music. Stillness is about not doing anything … just simply being in profound mental rest with the outcome of experiencing deeply, one’s inherent calm.

SMT is simple, natural, and easily accessible. Sometimes though, the simplest things in life can be the most elusive. In learning to capture such simplicity, the majority may need some help in correctly finding the way.

Pauline McKinnon (C)
Melbourne, August 2018

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A calm mind and a beautiful life!

This is a really important reflection. As well as witnessing life changes taking shape with our clients, we meditation therapists consistently notice visible changes, too. When the art of ‘stillness’ is truly captured, it’s really another form of beauty therapy – men and women alike!

I’m always interested in the progress of our clients as they walk the walk of Stillness Meditation. We review this progress formally at certain times during each client’s course. But far from the formal assessment of individual progress is the appearance on people’s faces as they gradually begin to live calmly.

Very often at first meeting, the new client’s strain visibly shows. When anxious, tense, stressed or depressed, the facial features appear tight, twitchy, nervous or sad. Hands are restless. Nails may be bitten down. Legs are crossed and uncrossed and the eyes, often close to tears, are wide with apprehension. After so many years’ observing the effects of ‘stress’, it’s just not possible to miss these things.

But as the days and weeks pass and the client becomes a regular visitor, magic happens! The practice of stillness is morphing into living calm. Individuals may not know it yet but there’s a serenity appearing. ‘Stillness’ is becoming part of their life. The smile is brighter and more spontaneous. The eyes look rested. The nervous habits have vanished. Nails are growing and excessive lines are smoothing out. A kind of beauty is gradually emerging. He or she may not yet have arrived at their desired outcome – but the way there, the way of living calm, is certainly making a difference.

Calmness leads to confidence. Confidence leads to courage. Courage means facing life challenges, meeting those challenges and being rewarded with success – and then achievement … and adventure … and little by little, next comes the change that leads to contentment. And so life gets better, and better …

Meditation is the balm to soothe life and challenge and personal growth. For some, these transformations are captured surprisingly quickly. Others may take many months to have their commitment and patience rewarded. But as an observer who is also sharing the journey, it is utterly delightful to notice beauty in its many forms, gradually emerge.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
July 2018, Melbourne

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Let’s discuss anxiety again

The stories and struggles of people experiencing anxiety are becoming more and more prevalent. How interesting that this word ‘anxiety’ has become so much a part of our vernacular when not too many years ago, people believed anxiety was the domain of others – never themselves – and shied away from any anxiety related personal disclosure. I’ve written lots about anxiety in the past but I feel it’s time to raise the topic again.

It’s always important to remember that anxiety, is in reality fear, our natural defence mechanism. However anxiety unmanaged can cause huge distress, becoming symptomatic in two ways:

  • Stress-induced anxiety is the reaction that happens when challenging life problems give cause to worry. This is when sleepless nights, feelings of overwhelm, high tension levels, increased blood pressure, headaches and palpitations lead the individual to seek ways to calm down. Usually anxiety symptoms at that level do eventually calm down as the stress related problem is resolved and so people are restored to ‘normal’ and continue to get on with their lives.
  • But acute, chronic anxiety is another matter. This is when people experience all the above symptoms plus many more such as hyper-vigilance, panic attacks, avoidance, phobias, obsessions and compulsions, eating disorders, fear and terror, self-harm and depression – and potentially a diagnosis of mental illness. Like a flow on from stress-induced anxiety, this is the level of anxiety that occurs when challenging life issues set the ball rolling but leave deeper, concealed or denied existential issues still unresolved: the lack of personal fulfilment, unrelenting loss and grief, a faulty relationship, a negative self image and so on … intangible issues that may need careful investigation. This kind of anxiety is life limiting at the very least and at worst, a huge personal burden to carry.

In all this, it’s evident that relief from anxiety remains confusing to many and unquestionably an area in need of support within the community.

So what to do? When anxiety at either level is diagnosed or otherwise identified it may be thought that relief can be found in the same way the flu can be dealt with. But anxiety is far deeper than contagion! Anxiety is part of human existence, part of our life experience and hopefully, part of learning to grow. So it can be really helpful as a starting point, to begin to accept that some level of anxiety helps keep us safe.

Next – and most importantly – is to find a way to reduce the intensity of surrounding feelings and symptoms. Nervous tension is the primary force behind insistent symptoms and as it reduces, the unpleasant symptoms decrease. Tension is like an acceleration of activity within the nervous system – with no idea of how to apply the metaphorical brake! Tension is usually a habit developed in a bid to cope with the ups and downs of living. And of course, tense families produce tense progeny and on it goes until someone breaks the cycle. To successfully reduce nervous tension takes understanding, recognition and assistance from another who has the skills to impart effective change. Hypnotherapy, therapeutic meditation sessions or reputable relaxation classes are the premier ways to be assisted in reducing nervous tension.

And finally, best of all in the end, is the development of a positive attitude and the courage to begin to discover and truly know oneself – the dark side as well as the bright side – through self exploration or the guidance of a mentor or therapist.

I’m reminded now of a lovely story that I recently heard from one of my clients. Accompanied by a few tears Kay recalled how her much loved Grandma had passed away at 96 following a fall while dancing! And so we talked about the happy spirit of this lady and within some other anecdotes, Kay reflected on further memorable moments. “Sometimes I’d phone Grandma and find her a little bit overwhelmed by day to day events but her attitude was always amazing. She was ever an inspiration but perhaps her most often repeated words if I happened to call at a difficult time were the enthusiastic “I’m having a terrible day – but I’m having a wonderful life!”

That is an attitude we could all do well to cultivate, too. Life can be challenging but it’s ultimately rewarding.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
May 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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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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Where have goodness and kindness disappeared to?

I used to look forward to reading the morning paper over breakfast, an easy, informative and recreational start to the day.  But things have changed.  The paper I used to enjoy has lost its noble restraint.  Now in tabloid form with too much colour this paper is filled with dramatic and revealing photographs ranging from local football angst to the horrors of war in other lands.

Words that carry foreboding abound:  threat, arms, step up, deal, break trust, fixation, jailed, extremists, fears, detainees, activist, deceptive, banned, militant, nude, fails, suspended, victim, forces, abuse, blasts, ice, famine, serious, split … and more. Read more