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Connection & Shared Humanity


Connection (noun)

  1. a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else

Did you know that around one-third of Australian adults are not involved in any social or community groups? This is an eye-opening statistic when we know that being part of a community can have a hugely positive effect on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Community involvement provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. It can also offer extra meaning and purpose to everyday life. Also known to lower levels of anxiety and depression, and raise self-esteem, the feeling of community can help us have a healthier mindset, improved self-worth, and greater enjoyment of life.

Lost Connections

In fact, in the book Lost Connections, author Johann Hari takes this knowing one step further, as he explores the cutting-edge science of curing people suffering from mental illness without the primary focus on medication. He uncovers the truth that many of these conditions are a result of environmental and psychological ailments. His well-researched argument is that the key to treating many of these mental health conditions is in re-establishing lost connections in our lives and that social prescriptions are a great way to help people by making them feel valued and connected.

Rather than turning to medication as the first and only port of call, Hari tells us that doctors are starting to realize the value of connection. They help people reconnect with others around them, have meaningful work, meaningful values, and give a chance for people to overcome trauma from their past.

In effect, social prescriptions reconnect the lost connections. 

Coming Home

At Cool Karma Collected, community is everything. We have seen time and time again the magic that unfolds throughout an eight-week journey with a group of strangers when holding space for each other. When giving each other permission to be whole-heartedly, exactly who they are. Coming together for just 2.5hrs each week over the course of eight weeks facilitates something truly remarkable, it fosters connection, community and shared humanity all in a safe and supportive space. Connecting to a  group of strangers, in a way we don’t often have the opportunity to – can ultimately feel like coming home. A deeply nourishing and enriching experience for everyone involved. 
 

Interested in learning more? Get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

BLOG, COURSES, MINDFULNESS

The Magic Ingredient


Sitting in a stranger-filled room, attempting to pay attention to sensations, thoughts, emotions, and breath… perhaps feeling hot, fidgety and frustrated thinking “and I’m supposed to endure this every day, for the next eight weeks…?!” To most, this may seem like a mild form of torture…

The truth is that whilst we have heard the above many times, what we also know is that our eight-week mindfulness program also offers the potential for something most of us in this crazy-busy world are craving right now; a little more ease, freedom, and a lot less stress.

And it has been proven.
Time and time again.

In fact, over the past forty years, it has been favored by almost all scientists who are interested in studying the effects of meditation on our health and happiness. The program was originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 for chronically ill people for whom conventional medicine had done all it could. In the last few years alone, hundreds of scientific studies showing its benefits have been published leading to the significant increase in awareness of Mindfulness that we have all probably been privy to. 

Why me? Why now?

Though the program started for patients with chronic pain, the scope of who it can benefit has widened to almost anyone and everyone.  We see people sign up for a number of reasons – they might be suffering from chronic stress, pain, insomnia, or simply wanting a little more presence and purpose in their lives. Whether it is executives, athletes, business owners, mums and dads,  doctors, psychologists, yogis or students, One thing they all have in common, is that each commits to show up for 2.5 hours each week, to 45 minutes of formal meditation practice each day, and to a day-long retreat held in full silence. This is no small feat for anyone, but rarely does anyone drop out. 

Whilst this may initially seem like a big commitment, the potential payout is also big. Participants of MBSR report everything from improvement in relationships, to greater stress resilience, relief from anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. 

So what is the magic ingredient?

The magic ingredient? Well… it’s the sheer number of practices in the program that makes drilling down to find the key ingredient so difficult. Is it the meditation? Is it the everyday mindfulness? Is the mindful movement? Is it the content and gentle inquiry that is delivered by the teacher? The safe and supportive environment? Or is it simply the very fact that each week people feel more and more connected with one another as they realise just how similar the inner workings of their minds really are?  

So really, it’s not just one thing. It’s a multitude of reasons that make this program so profound. Especially when it’s offered in a way that is so contextually relevant and with the potential over the eight weeks to really embed these practices into your life. 

Got questions or would like to chat more about MBSR? We would love to hear from you.

For an extensive reading list of MBSR research see here.

BLOG, MINDFULNESS

Why do we find it so difficult to trust?


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Trust is such an important attitude to cultivate in practice, and in life. But sometimes when stuck in a situation where we aren’t feeling too comfortable or happy, be it in ourselves, or our partners, the direction of our life or even the health of our bodies it can feel pretty difficult to trust the process and know that on some greater level it’s going to be ok. 

So how do we practice trust?  

Jon Kabat Zinn reminds us in the video below that we can start with something as simple as our breath because luckily the breath can take care of itself, we don’t need to tell ourselves to breathe, we can rest pretty easy at night knowing that while sleeping it is happening. We can also learn to trust in the wisdom of our bodies and what we feel; trusting that the ears can actually hear, the eyes can actually see. That the organs take care of all the things they need to, to keep us alive.

From there we might begin to take a little more notice of the signs our body is telling us around feelings of being tired, anxious, overly stressed, sad, fearful and rather than talking our way out of it with our minds or finding some quick fix to feel less discomfort, maybe we can listen in and trust a little more what the experience in our body is trying to tell us?

The more we can learn to bring trust to our experience, trusting ourselves and what’s actually going on vs. trying to control it and make it better, the more we can learn to bring trust to our relationships, to other people and to the challenges we face in life so that hopefully with practice we can reside in our own ability to meet whatever comes towards us. 

To find out more about trust or the practice of mindfulness, please get in touch.

BLOG, Corporate Wellness, COURSES, MINDFULNESS

Top 5 reasons I go on Silent Retreats


Today I’m headed to Perth to undertake another 10 day silent retreat. I don’t know how I feel about it. There is anticipation, trepidation, excitement and doubt, along with numerous other emotions. As my grandmother used to say I feel like I’ve got the whole ‘kit and caboodle’ going on inside of me this morning thinking about 10 long days of sitting, mostly without guidance, completely in silence.

Whenever I tell people what I’m doing, that I’ll be handing over my phone and stopping all contact with the external world I get this shocked look. Almost everyone says “I don’t know how you do it!?! I couldn’t possibly not talk, not read, not write, not listen to music, not smile at people; you are crazy!! ”

I do think I’m crazy, my husband absolutely thinks I’m crazy- but this, this is not crazy. It’s just incredibly bloody difficult. So in case you are interested here is the top five reasons why I do this kind of thing on a regular basis

Fact #1 It’s not easy to sit in silence with your mind, in fact at times it’s down right unpleasant. But isn’t that the case with our minds most of the time anyway? In the case of a retreat it’s like the volume is turned up on high but instead of trying to find 100 different ways to avoid it or make it go away we listen. Incredible things happen when you listen deeply without trying to make something different.

Fact #2 it’s not supposed to be relaxing. I am sure I’m going to have moments of deep calm and quiet, but I will almost certainly have moments where I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs and stabbing a person next to me for breathing too loudly 😤 But again isn’t that the case with our lives most of the time anyway? We have moments of good and moments of bad it’s just that in silence and without anything to distract us we get to watch these  with a little more curiosity without trying to avoid the unpleasant or desperately cling to the nice stuff. We just watch and listen without trying to make it different.

Fact #3 Not talking and not having a phone is totally the easy part! Believe me, when everyone else is doing it too it doesn’t feel hard, in fact you get a very good understanding on retreat about just how much energy you expend each day on being polite, conscientious, friendly, happy, successful, on point, essentially good… the list goes on. I’m not saying any of these things are bad or that I don’t want to do them, but having a greater awareness of all the time and energy spent on it is powerful. There is greater discernment with awareness, which gives us choice. Yay for choice.

Fact #4 “Shit happens, things change, don’t take it so personally”. Pain is definitely going to show up over the course of the retreat, but the aim of to investigate the sensations rather than reacting to them. This goes for painful/ unpleasant mind states too. This seems counter intuitive but it really is amazing as the more I do this the less affect these states/pains seem to have over me… again this is an incredibly useful tool to develop for life. These retreats make me feel so much more equipped to meet adversity. There is less fear and a much deeper understanding of my impermanent

Fact #5 If Melbourne floods this weekend I will not know about it until December 11th. If Trump does something more stupid, if that’s possible, I will not know about it. If a volcano goes off in Bali I will not know about it. It’s actually kind of blissful. Life can feel very nice without the incessant knowing of things, and it’s will be exactly the same whether I read about it or not. So for now I am just going to sit. And as David Henry Thoreau wrote “I love a broad margin to my life” so for now I’m going to take an incredibly broad margin… I’ll see you all on the flip side.

M xo

BLOG, Corporate Wellness, MINDFULNESS

Learning how to approach social media more wisely


I am loving these modern art images by @dan_cretu. How good is this one?  I feel like he explains so well our modern dilemma with social media.

In both of my sessions yesterday and in my MBSR course last week the discussion came around to how social media impacts on us. This topic comes up so often in my sessions that I have decided it’s time to share how I feel about it.

The reality is sometimes it’s awesome. I know it’s an important way to stay connected to community and let people know what I am doing. I have a belief that it can generate business and exposure, but interestingly I still find word of mouth and genuine connection works far better. Yet more than anything, what I am learning for myself, and what I am hearing from all of my clients is that Instagram and other social media can have a pretty significant cost on our wellbeing – especially if we are dealing with it mindlessly.

Fact: Social media can very easily switch on our bodies stress response

I will be the first to admit that I can get caught up in the endless/mindless scrolling of feeds or Instagram stories – I did it this morning! And what I notice, when I actually break the scroll and stop and tune in to my inner experience, is that what I am often feeling in my body is a sense of  urgency. A feeling that I am not doing enough, a comparison of myself and all the amazing people out there doing really great stuff, a sense of insufficiency and definitely a sense of separateness. Not connectedness. Wasn’t the whole point that this social media thing to bring about connectedness?!?

If I don’t catch myself quite quickly – by using helpful mindfulness techniques to notice that I am caught up in this habit – I can very quickly get to a place where I feel stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed. How crazy that a full stress reaction can occur in my body from just looking at my phone for 10 minutes?

I am not alone. I hear versions of this so often in my courses and sessions it’s as if it needs a course of its own. How about ‘101 – Installing antivirus software in our minds – a course on upgrading the software in our prehistoric brains to keep up with the ferociousness of modern technology and social media’. Stay tuned, this might be coming very soon 😉

Fact: Mindfulness might be able to help us break these habits we have formed around social media and become more resilient to it’s effect

I don’t profess to have all the answers. Yet what I have experienced with my mindfulness practice is that I have strengthened my capacity to both notice, and break, these impulsive reactions that arise when caught up in a social media binge.

I am by no means free of getting caught up, but I catch myself more and more often, and when I do, I give myself a huge dose of kindness. I practice gratitude. I put down my phone. I take some breaths. I ground myself in what’s right here now. Very quickly I realise there is no urgency, there is just me doing the very best I can with the beautiful life I have. Agh, feels better already.

Without a doubt social media is here to stay, and I want it in my life, but I definitely want to continue to learn how to play with it more wisely.

 

Corporate Wellness, COURSES, MINDFULNESS

Hey Stress, I think it’s time we redefined this relationship….


Hey Stress,
Don’t worry… we don’t need to break up, but I definitely think it’s time we redefined this relationship….

I know this might be tough to hear because you have helped me and my ancestors survive allsorts of treacherous environments, and I love you for that, but this is an important step that I need to take.

This may be confusing as I have relied on you for as long as I can remember, thinking that you were helping me to be more productive and focused. But what I am learning is this isn’t really true, when I thought you were helping me get through my busy day, you were really keeping me from being healthy. In fact, over time, all you have done is make me more anxious.

So, from today, I’m going to commit to making more space for myself, which means I am actually going to learn how to get more discerning about listening to you and what you think is a threat to me.

I am also going to learn how I can stop feeding you needless worries. There is nothing that upsets me more than seeing how much you thrive when I slip into an endless cycle of rehashing the same concerns, going over the same conversations, reliving the same painful events. This process leaves me trapped, leaves me exhausted, leaves me sleepless and does absolutely nothing to help me find solutions.

I know that you are not going to take this very well. I know you are going to continue to show me all the times that you think I need you. I know you will stalk me when I am running late or at work, or in traffic, I am sure you will show up and gloat when I am not sure of what to do next. But when this happens, I am going to be armed with and prepared to employ a whole bunch of tools I have learned. Not only will I remind myself to breathe throughout the day, but I am learning how to breathe consciously. Any time I feel you start to creep up, I will come back to the present moment like I have learned and, like it or not, if I keep doing this, you are going to have to back down.

So stress, while our relationship has been something we have both contributed to, I recognise now that it is no longer healthy, and whether you like it or not I am going to learn to get a much better handle on you. 

Sincerely,

Marijke

Want to get a handle on stress too?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a world renowned, scientifically proven program that helps you to redefine your relationship with stress. In doing so you can begin to live a life with much greater ease, health and happiness. Want to learn more? Join us on a life altering 8 week course starting Thursday September 7th at Madam Heap.  

BLOG, Corporate Wellness, EVENTS, MINDFULNESS, NEWS

Mindful in May – Be Mindful. Be the Change.


 

Mindful in May Blog‘Problems cannot be solved with the same level of awareness that created them’– Albert Einstien

I finally got around to creating a group for the Mindful in May cause today, as I did, I was alerted to two very sobering facts:

  • One in nine people on the planet struggle each day to access clean, safe drinking water; and
  • Every 20 seconds a child dies due to a contaminated water illness

I’d say this is a pretty big problem.  Yet when I hear these kinds of things, they feel overwhelming,  a solution seem out of reach and I often find myself saying what could little me do? Well… how about $30?

$30 and, like Albert said, greater awareness… Ahem.. did he perhaps mean Mindfulness?!? 

$30. The cost of a yoga class, and perhaps a bottle of water because you left your $40 water canister at home.

$30. The cost of giving one person on our planet clean drinking water for the rest of their life… I feel I need to repeat this here:

For the rest of their life…. and again, just in case it didn’t quite sink in:

FOR THE REST OF THIER LIFE!!!!

I spent $30 on misschu’s rice paper rolls and pho home delivery last night, it was 2 hours late, at about the 90 minute mark, both hungry and hangry, I thought it was the end of the world. $30. Water. For. The. Rest. Of. Their. Life. Hmmm.

You guys already join me in practicing Mindfulness in the yoga studios and meditation centres of melbourne, you sit with me in Mindfulness Courses and Silent retreats, you join me in your work places and you connect with me at Mindfulness Seminars across the globe.As friends and family you endure my endless talk of how Mindfulness will change the world, how it changed my world.

So I wonder, could you please join me in May so that we can raise awareness and help create the solution, perhaps even help change the world? You can do so by heading to my fundraising page and either choosing to:

1) Join me – lets do it together. I’ll send extra meditations, tips for practice and moral support to assist along the way.

Or

2) Sponsor me – Read all about it. Come May I will be gallivanting around the Croatian and Italian country side, sponsor me and you’ll receive blogs about my mindfulness efforts while traveling overseas.

*** by doing either of these two things you will be in the running to win a CKC Mindfulness Course with me to the Value of $695 or a Silent Weekend Retreat to the Value of $595.

Another Great man, and ex lawyer like me 😉 said:

We must become the change we want to see in the world’ – Ghandi.

So. $30. Water. Life. Be Mindful. Be the Change.

BLOG, Corporate Wellness, MINDFULNESS

Saying goodbye to a much loved corporate client


goodbye corporate
Today I finished my last class with a much loved corporate. After almost 2.5 years I feel so much gratitude to the many students that attended these classes, but I also carry a deep sadness about its end. I keep asking myself ‘how can a corporate program with this much engagement and no cost to the business, other than the use of a space for 2-3 hours a week, be cancelled?’ It just makes no sense to me.

Over the time I have spent with this corporate I have seen well over 150 students – visiting their offices at least 2 times a week sometimes more. I worked with them through huge company changes, redundancies, out of work injuries, preparations for pregnancies and weddings and also through the general stresses of finding a good work/life balance.

The program was grassroots. The company didn’t pay a cent, but the students didn’t mind. It was something that was theirs, and they were proud of it. They turned up on their mat every Tuesday night and Thursday lunch always ready to work and always willing to let go. As far as corporate wellness programs go this one was an incredible success:

  • Strong numbers (sometimes 60 a term)
  • High engagement
  • Huge and continued benefits to the employees both mentally and physically with each end of term survey revealing more impressive stats on increased ease and flexibility in the body, a lessening of stress, greater clarity and calm in the work place, more strength, even improved sleep.

4 weeks ago the students were told there would be no more yoga. Period. They gallantly battled to keep their program running. They negotiated later start times, tried to find alternative spaces, sent petitions to Head of HR and the CEO. Last week the program was cancelled for reasons of potential liability in the case of an injury – at this point the students offered to sign and indemnity form, but sadly, nothing, changed the outcome.

This brings us today. When I had to say good-bye to my dedicated students. Tears in my eyes and heaviness in my heart about the misunderstandings that some corporates still have about wellness programs such as yoga. More bluntly, they should be seen less like an add on, and more like and indispensable necessity that allows employees opportunities to find quietness – physical and mental ease – in an increasingly chaotic world, both inside of the work place and outside of it.

I know this was not an act of malice, but it was a decision made without full understanding of the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Our industry clearly has much more work to do. Which is why I now make it one of my life missions to ensure that every single company in Australia is equipped with the evidenced based research, the facts and figures of how these wellness programs benefit not only their employees, but the entire business, right down to the bottom line. After that – the decision is in their capable and knowledgable hands.

To my tremendously loyal students – your enthusiasm and discipline is what gives me the greatest of hope. Keep practicing. I will see you soon.

MINDFULNESS

If only our stress response could be a little more judicious


There you are, first day back from a relaxing holiday where you didn’t even take your work phone. You’ve opened Outlook and hundreds of emails begin to flash before your eyes. Your heart starts beating a little faster, you break out in a mild sweat, your shoulders tense and your jaw starts to clench.

All of a sudden you think “I should have just taken the stupid phone with me…” and your heart races faster again. You think, “what a waste of time that holiday was, here I am, 5 minutes in and I’m already stressed!” You try and recapture that last beach walk where you recited the affirmation that the stresses of work would not rule your life and firmly tell yourself not to be stressed.

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