It was so lovely to be interviewed for Newcastle in the morning with Tracy McKelligott on Newcastle Live Radio!
We talked about what Mindfulness is, how I began teaching it, and what mindfulness can assist with.
Listen to the interview here or if you prefer, read the transcription below:
You’re listening to Newcastle in the morning with Tracy Mac, only on Newcastle live radio.
Well, that’s rather a serendipitous lead into our next section. Each week, we talk health and wellness. And we’ve spoken about kinesiology, we’ve also spoken about dance and the benefits that that can bring to your health, mind and body. This week, we’re going to talk mindfulness. And joining me to chat about it further is Charlotte Thaarup, from The Mindfulness Clinic. Good morning, and thanks for joining me.
My pleasure. Tracy, I always love talking about mindfulness.
I know you do. Let’s start at the very beginning. Let’s go right back. What is mindfulness?
You know, there are so many definitions, in a way, it’s a way of getting to know our minds, to not think that, that the solution to a good life is out there. But to start to get to know our inner processes, what actually happens for us, how do how does this system function so that we can start to manage it. So there’s a formal practice where we start to just sit there and we focus on the breath. And then we notice when the mind wants to wander, and then there’s informal practices, but it’s all about getting to know the mind, kind of the relaxation part is a bonus, kind of the extra bit. I suppose the thing that it is about is changing our life experience. So that, you know, when we get frustrated and traffic, we go, “Oh, why are they going so slow?” And actually, because we’ve not left a little bit early, or, you know, we get really frustrated listening to a family member we go, “Why do they waffle on or say such nonsense”, that we can kind of catch ourselves and go, “Whoa, that is what it is. I can’t change that. But what I can do is change my relationship to that.” And you can imagine how much that dials down our suffering then.
Definitely, definitely. So what are the benefits of mindfulness?
Well, really, that we suffer less, that’s probably the best way to say it. You know, we stress less. For instance, I’ve always been very anxious. And I never realised it before Mindfulness, I just thought, “No, no, no, I just need to get this and this and this done. Once that and that is sorted, then I’ll be fine.” But now I knowt hat’s a never ending thing. You know, because there’s always a paper that’s not lying exactly straight, or there’s always something that’s not done, right. The first place for mindfulness is mindfulness of the body. So we have kind of domains, you start with the body, then you look at feelings, and then thinking and then the next. But the first thing is then going, “I shall sit down, calm your, your body down”, and I use the process called Dear Body, so I just put my hand over my heart, and notice the warmth. And then I just go, “Dear body, it’s okay.” Just like you would a newborn. If a newborn is really anxious, you don’t blame it, and you don’t shake it and go “Stop it!” you go, “Dear darling, it’s okay. You rock it, right? And we’re just grown up babies, really. So we soothe it.
So it’s really, it’s about self love as well, isn’t it? And accepting what is, is?
Yeah, that’s an integral part of it. Technically speaking, if you get very strict and with the Buddhism, the mindfulness is really noticing kind of just really neutral if you like way, that’s not exactly the right term, but non judging way. Then we bring in the kindness and compassion. But I think that as mindfulness comes of age, in the West, we’re going to go, “Of course, it’s befriending, it’s holding our life experiencing love and tenderness.” Because that immediately is soothing. But also that’s the way we have influence, we have much more influence with a friend rather than when we’re treating it as an enemy,
Can prayer be a form of mindfulness?
Depending on the type of prayer. If we’re praying with aspiration, wanting something, then that’s not mindfulness, because mindfulness is always about being with what is. So if close my eyes, and I’m just with my breath, and I’m just noticing where my mind goes, then I’m always with what is. With prayer it might be, “Oh I really, really, really want to win the lottery”, let’s be flippant about it, or, “I hope somebody gets well.” I’m sitting in that wanting state. And actually mindfulness helps dial down the wanting because that’s another way of suffering. When we’re striving and wanting not to be in the present, but wanting it to be different.
And it’s very much being comfortable with yourself, isn’t it as well, being comfortable being on your own, feeling that’s okay.
Yeah, and that the difficult are okay too, you know? We shared that we both went to the same funeral last week, and I’m sure you experienced the same thing in that sharing sadness, which is, you know, it’s really rich, isn’t it? There’s beauty in that. So we’re not afraid of the difficult in mindfulness. We are willing to be with the good and the difficult that arises in these body systems, because that’s really what it is. They’re body systems. It’s not our fault what arises, but it’s our responsibility to manage it. If we’ve had a lot of trauma, you know, we’re going to have much more skewed negative thinking than somebody who has been blessed with not that, right, that’s nobody’s fault. It just is. So it’s not to be judged, it’s to be tenderly acknowledged, and then still taking responsibility for our behaviour towards others.
Do you find people find it difficult to get into a state of awareness?
No, I think that we don’t realise that we do it a lot. To be honest, it’s sort of like tripping over ourselves. I think we’ve all had moments where we go, “Oh, that’s a funny thought. Or that’s funny that I do that.” That is awareness. It will never be 100%. In the moment, you’ll have a little split second of 100%. We are primed to survive, and that will always hijack our attention, wanting to get away from the unpleasant and wanting to feel good. That runs the show, 95% of our processing will still be that. But can we open a window for a little bit more ability to be curious, to be kind and to be aware? That’s kind of what we’re doing with mindfulness.
And mindfulness is also more and more coming into business practice as well, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. It is, for many reasons, first of all, that it’s so incredibly research. So we know it works. It’s not a guessing game anymore. We used to get people to go out and play in ropes and swing over things, and then hope it translated into good teams when they came back. You know, that was just guessing. Now we know what to do. We know from neuroscience, because mindfulness is so backed up by neuroscience. First of all, it’s really evidence based, but also there’s a huge need. Our world has kind of run amok. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve coached, who are so burnt out, who are so desperate to find another way of living rather than working 60 hours a week, and that kind of thing. I think we are in desperate need environmentally, and culturally, for some changes. Mindfulness is that new way of seeing things, new way of experiencing things. So you know, you might know that we’re part of the Executive MBA at Newcastle University, doing the foundation module of mindful leadership, and all the leaders that come through that wonderful program, they go, “We couldn’t have done it without that.” That was our foundation. And that meant that we travelled okay through working, life, and studying.
How did you come to mindfulness personally?
I was looking for something for clients to be quite honest. I didn’t think that the western way, was, is good enough, the way we understand things to be. I was looking, and when I found mindfulness, I went, “Now we’re talking.” it was such a relief to see something that’s so sound and so wholesome. Then I started training psychologists in it, as part of their professional development. Very quickly, I united with a guy from the US. And in hindsight, you don’t know what you don’t know. Right? So I think if I did it now would be very different. But mindfulness is quite robust. So I think they still got something out of it. And then of course, I started my own journey. I started practising, and found that it’s really changed my life. Things happen, like in a few years ago, my son went to the optometrist, and the optometrist said, “Oh, my God, you have probably had a tumour, you have a tumour or you’ve had a stroke, go straight to the hospital.” So he goes to the hospital, and then they do a test. And they say, “We won’t know, for a couple of weeks exactly what it is.” And then of course, you know, Tracy, right, this is our greatest fear if anything happens to our children. And I could just feel it in the body, of course. And we talked about it. He was so good, because he said, “Mum, you know, from mindfulness, we know that we don’t know what what the effects are, what the situation is. So that’s not preempted. Let’s just be present with it. And then when we know, then we’ll deal with it.” And that’s what we did. So like Mark Twain said, “Many dreadful things have happened to me, a few actually occurred,” right? So there’s that being able to manage the mind so it doesn’t go down all the dark alleys by itself.
And that’s really the main benefit of mindfulness, isn’t it to get control of those thoughts and that negativity, and to try and look more positively at things.
Yeah, or just look at it as it is. It isn’t always positive, but it isn’t always negative. Look at what we call the Middle Way. I just did a talk on positive psychology sabotaging your happiness. If we only go for the positive, we only go for growth, we are kind of denying another part of life. So I think mindfulness is very much coming into reality, of seeing it how it is. In that way, mindfulness equals mental health. That’s what it is. It’s a mental health practice. It’s about resilience. It holds within it the cognitive behavioural model, it is everything to do with mental health. And then so so we coupled it then with making sure we sleep okay, making sure we exercise, etc. But you notice in mindfulness if you haven’t slept, you go, “Wow, I’m annoyed with everything. That’s interesting.” And you go, “Wow, I haven’t slept. Aha!” So it will also point us to all of these.
So if people want to go along and find out about mindfulness, how do they come to see you?
Well, they find me on my website, www.the mindfulnessclinic.com.au, we have retreats, I do coaching, I do lots of in house training. We have little events throughout the year as well, so there’s plenty of opportunity, and lots and lots of free resources on the website as well, where people can just get started with just doing 10 minutes a day or a little what we call mini moments. So there’s lots of possibilities to get started.
Your YouTube Channel in particular has the Dear Body on it.
That’s right. And it’s all included. So people can just access all these exercises and audios aimed very much at us being able to calm down because that’s the first thing that we need to be doing. And it is that side effect of mindfulness because we’re just so lost in inactivity and thought and anxiety.
We absolutely are. Thank you so much for joining us. As I’m going through this health and wellness, Mindfulness is something that everybody wants to know about, so thank you for demystifying it for us today.
My pleasure. Thank you for being curious about it.
That is Charlotte Thaarup from The Mindfulness Clinic and yeah, thoroughly recommend it. It’s a change in how you do things. But I can thoroughly recommend it. So if you’d like more details, visit themindfulnessclinic.com.au and you’ll find everything there.