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Calmness amidst chaos

There’s a huge irony in what we’re seeing on our screens in these pre-Christmas weeks. One moment we’re being shown horrific and explosive footage from scenes of war in the Middle East and next, some facile advertisement for the purchase of gifts for loved ones – or images of extravagant food to stock up on for Christmas.

It’s perplexing that on the one hand, extravagance to find happiness is being promoted when Christmas is supposed to celebrate the humble birth of Christ. When I see nations at war, I wonder at the perception of human kind when throughout time, spiritual leaders such as he have taught only peace. And it’s sad that the simple act of giving has morphed into yet another modern pressure.

Though meant to be a happy time, the rushing, the crowds, the repetitive ‘carols’ playing in the stores, the traffic and the urgency surrounding shopping at this time can lead to distress. Temper and impatience increases, road rage and violent acts become more prevalent; unresolved family issues rear their heads; counselors are reminded of the current problem of youth suicide and anyone prone to morbidity and anxiety may notice their symptoms mounting. Yet this Season is meant to be a celebration of the birth of one who gave His life in the name of love, justice, forgiveness and peace! Read more

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Preserving life in all formations

I’m writing this on a peaceful Sunday afternoon with the warble of magpies providing a suitable musical accompaniment to my thoughts. It’s two weeks since we returned from exploring Western Australia – the big State! And it is big – and in its vastness we were introduced to a range of extraordinary and interesting entities that capture some of the history of our planet.

Perhaps the most remarkable of these was our viewing of the stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay. These ancient marine wonders are intriguing and unique rock formations – fossils that have developed over some 3.43 billion years and indicate to palaeontologists the earliest forms of life on Earth. Though they appear inanimate, hidden within is vital growth! Sometimes described as living rocks, stromatolites are formed from microbial communities (cyanobacteria) that reside therein and continue, extraordinarily, to build them. It is believed that these communities, through the process of photosynthesis, were responsible for originally increasing the level of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere sufficiently to enable life as we know it to develop.

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Healing Anxiety

Reflections from one who is often the sufferer’s last resort!

Over almost 30 years now, I’ve sat with people, offering reassurance and gift of hope and, for many who ‘get it’, an outcome of relief from the debilitating chains of anxiety.  I can make that statement with confidence knowing that there is a world of people out there who consider themselves to have been led on the proverbial wild goose chase.  It seems there are too many ‘experts’ offering complicated treatments that bring scant results.

The cases presented here at the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre very often arrive as a last resort, when the individual’s frustration has reached boiling point.  If clients feel frustrated, then, with respect, it is somewhat exasperating to listen to stories such as these, repeated time after time: 

 “I have been everywhere, tried everything, searching for the cause of my problem.  I’m tired of trying, of doing, of relying on prescription medicine …with no sign of improvement at all.”

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Resilience

We hear a lot about ‘resilience’ these days. I think the word is often interpreted as some extraordinary toughness that is needed if we’re to survive challenges that appear in life on a regular basis.

But resilience is essentially about flexibility and the ability to “bounce back”; about being equipped to react with an element of elasticity as opposed to inflexible, rigid and uncompromising attitudes.

As it happens, Ainslie Meares encapsulated the word resilience in one of his remarkable poems circa 1980 and long before it became the catch word of the 21st century:

Some run for shelter,
The tree holds firm
And sways with the storm,
The eagle is borne higher and higher (Thoughts, 1980)

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The stillness of a garden

Yesterday was spent on retreat in a beautiful garden.

I’ve always been drawn to the garden and I always manage to include something about gardens in my books.  It’s in those places of nature, among a plethora of green that I find an embracing and very deep comfort.  Even now, in our chilly Melbourne winter, the damp air is refreshing, the breeze invigorating and the occasional raindrop, a reminder that the season is in full swing.

Of course I love open beaches, rolling hills, wide plains and intense forests – so typical of the variety of our country.  Each space holds its charm and its value.  But most of all, for me anyway, there is security and peace in the garden. Read more

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Taking Stillness into life

When the art of ‘stillness’ is truly captured, it’s really another form of beauty therapy!

I’m always interested in the progress of our clients as they walk the walk of Stillness Meditation and we review this formally at certain times during their 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. Read more

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The difference between SMT and other methods of meditation

The question is often put to me ‘what’s the difference between Stillness Meditation Therapy and other methods of meditation’?  Here are my thoughts from over 25 years’ teaching!

First, some clarification!  The concept of Stillness Meditation (SMT) is significantly different from classical meditation which primarily involves the principles of Hindu or Buddhist teachings.  SMT is a Western style of meditation and a medically based form of therapy.  It is unrelated to classical or sectarian meditation and it does not use method or technique.

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Trust yourself

For many years I’ve regularly responded by mail or email to the questions asked by people from all over the world.  Now I aim to have my blog serve a more general purpose.  So send me your questions and each month I’ll choose a topic to reply to.

This month I’m going to talk about set-backs.  By this I mean, a glitch in the progress towards anxiety relief.  One common question from those who read my books or come here for assistance is “I seem to be experiencing a set-back.  I was doing really well, I’m practicing my Stillness and now I feel I must be doing something wrong.  I don’t know who else to turn to for reassurance … and I’m losing faith in making a recovery … please help!

‘Set-backs’ when we’re undergoing change, occasionally come and go.  Maybe you are extra tired, perhaps some unpleasant event has triggered a response; maybe some old memories have surfaced – or perhaps you’ve picked up a cold or some other kind of bug.

These events are common to all people and can put extra stress on the whole ‘being’.  When these things happen of course, anxiety and one’s emotional state will also be affected, too.  This is transient anxiety.  Aim to let go of worrying about this as all people experience a rise and fall in anxiety levels from time to time.  But remember that you (me in the past) and others in a similar situation are inclined to be affected more readily in this way.  Think of it in this simple example: how easy it is to feel quite ‘down’ when the weather is dark and dreary!  Maybe not pleasant to experience – but at least you’ll know your emotions are alive and well. Read more

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PODCAST: Listen to Pauline McKinnon

Listen to Pauline McKinnon talk about Stillness Meditation Therapy  click here 

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Living Calm in a Busy World

By Pauline McKinnon

 Ease is that incredible quality
That enables us to deal equally
With disaster and success
 Ainslie Meares, M.D. Let’s Be At Ease, Posth.1987

 (Extract from Introduction – Living Calm in a Busy World by Pauline McKinnon, released December 2011) 

Life is filled with surprises – some beneficent and some less so.   Just when all seem to be cruising, challenges of one kind or another may interrupt the flow.  By contrast, when life is looking glum a doorway to lightness may serendipitously appear.

Many recognize the pace of living and the expectations within it as contributing to their inner discomfort.  Relationships decay and families are broken; confusion prevails as compelling life questions remain unanswered; while various forms of addictions and substance abuse are on the increase. Depression is an all too common diagnosis. Chronic or major illness is now frequently attributed to stress.

Stress, as these hurts are commonly recognized, is a ‘given’ in today’s world.  There is a lack of ease in living and stress is clearly something that many people are unable to manage.  Stress contributes to physical, mental and spiritual illness; and stress robs people of happiness; for happiness cannot freely exist without a healthy body.  And a healthy body cannot exist without a healthy mind. Read more