anxiety gets in the way

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

live it

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

International Day of Peace

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


Revisit resilience

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



Beginning again

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

Stillness Meditation resolution

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.

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empower women
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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

managing the mind
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Managing the mind – our most precious possesion

Lots of information is available these days on how to improve mental health, manage our mind, control emotions, find inner peace … and so on. In a flush of interest over the past 5 years or so, the significance of mental health has become public property and, thankfully, mental health issues are at last being recognised as valid – and treatable – and certainly no longer subjects to be avoided at all costs.

Within that information the word ‘mindfulness’ has emerged as a sort of cure-all-cum-trendy practice as well as a catch word within our vernacular. The word ‘mindfulness’ is also attached to the word ‘meditation’ and so, for many uninformed people, mindfulness means meditation. Wrong!

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The birds are singing!

birdbath2Well, it was a hot Christmas Day around Melbourne and beyond and even if the weatherman hadn’t predicted that, the early morning birdsong certainly did.  How lovely are the murmurs of early morning awakening  … and the scents, the warmth rising as the sun also does … and the birds singing – chortling, and chirping, their melodic messages … darting in and out of the trees, plunging into the little birdbath (or Charlie’s drinking water!) as they scuffle and scuttle for breakfast.  Their message is clear – welcome to another day.

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The age of anxiety

This header is perhaps a harsh reminder of an uncomfortable truth so maybe it’s time to take a long look at some of the influences that currently result in the way people are managing their lives.

If levels of anxiety have indeed increased in the last twenty years, then this increase obviously correlates with our increased interest and dependence upon technology.  Yes, technology is a fabulous tool.  But technology has also become an integral part of the game of life.  Apps and games can be used efficiently or negligently.  Efficiency results in assistance and related achievement leading to satisfaction and generally good feelings.  By contrast, negligence creates disappointment, frustration and anger.  Overall, on the down side of technology, comes the expectation of fast – or even immediate – results.  As technical functionality and therefore the pace of response is rapidly rising, so are expectations – and when these are not met, along comes a sense of negligence followed by disappointment, frustration and anger. Read more