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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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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