Watch Season 2 Episode 4 of Conscious Business Leaders TV featuring guest Shelley Pernot as she speaks on “Demystifying Mindfulness.”
Excerpt from Demystifying Mindfulness
Indigo: Let’s first start with the concept of “Demystifying,” why do we need to demystify mindfulness?
Shelley: It’s a great question and if you are anything like me 7 or 8 years ago, and if you heard the term, “Mindfulness,” I can only imagine what that would have evoked in me at that time. But it’s typically visions of that levitating monk, and somebody looking very zenned out.
Indigo: Like my background.
Shelley: Like what’s going on with your background right now. I can kind of see that actually. It’s like a Buddha or something?
Indigo: Floating in the sky over Hawaii! [laughter]
Shelley: Exactly! It’s like levitating. [laughter]
And so, I poke a bit of fun at it, frankly. But often that’s what people think it is, and they have that vision in their head ingrained somewhere in there. Maybe they read too many books or watched too many movies or whatever it was, but they got ingrained that picture of a levitating monk, and that’s what mindfulness is. And because that’s what it is [they think] “I am not a monk; I’m never gonna be that zenned out or blissed out. I can’t do this. I’m a normal person; I go to work; I have kids; I have a busy life; I have a job and I don’t have time for mindfulness. That’s like people in a monastery, right?”
Indigo: Actually, You know it’s interesting even in places like Tibet, the average person doesn’t meditate. That’s what the monks and nuns do.
Shelley: Absolutely. That is so true actually. I’m actually gonna be travelling there for the first time in October later on this year. I’ll have to get back to you and let you know what I find. But I doubt it will be this guy sitting on the streets meditating; that’s just not how it works. So I find that when I start introducing this topic to people, I have to spend some time demystifying it. Bringing it down a bit, because it’s often been so esoteric for people that it’s really inaccessible. And the bottom line is that it’s not. So when I talk about mindfulness and I try to explain what it is to somebody, I actually ask people to think about a dog track. Have you ever been to a dog track?
Indigo: Well, horse. I don’t know about dog, but I can remember horse…
Shelley: Okay, we’ll go with horse, because it’s a similar kind of concept. So you’re at the track. You could kind of imagine that you are there. You bought your tickets. You are getting ready to see the horses or the dogs start to go. So they parade them through. You know how they do that first, so you can get a look at them. And then they put them in the stalls. And then… if you’re at a dog track… I’m not so sure if the horse track is the same, but if you’re at a dog track, there’s this little mechanical thing that is supposed to represents a rabbit (that doesn’t really look like a rabbit but to the dogs, I guess it does) and that starts going. Then the dogs start running. So the dogs chase the rabbit around the track and around the track and around the track they go; and they never catch the rabbit.
So even when the race is done, let’s say you have your winning dog and you’re all excited about that, they still haven’t got the rabbit. And no matter how many times they race around that track, they never catch the rabbit. That’s the metaphor that I use for how we live our lives.
We’re always chasing something else in the future. Kind of like that dog, chasing that mechanical rabbit around the track. And we never get there. It’s that constant… “oh, it’s the next e-mail that I need to be sending; it’s the next phone call I need to be taking. So I’m not really concentrating on you if you are in a moment let’s say that I’m really thinking about the next thing that I have to do after our conversation.” That’s how we live. We’re never really here!
Indigo: So the benefit of bringing meditation even into a work environment is so that in that work environment people are able to be more fully present as themselves … bring all of themselves, all of their focus, all of their attention?
Shelley: Absolutely. And meditation is something we can definitely talk about.
For me, meditation is one way of practicing mindfulness. I think it often gets described as mindfulness, which I think is interesting. But for me, mindfulness is really a mindset. It’s really learning to be and practicing focusing your awareness in the present moment. It’s the practice of focusing your awareness in the present moment.
So it’s not about being there in the future where you are not, and it’s not about being there in the past, because quite often we spent a lot of time in the past too. Worrying about things that happened, wishing maybe they had gone differently, so we spend a lot of time there as well, replaying things in our mind. So mindfulness is a mindset whereby you focus on the present moment, and the present moment only. It’s being as supposed to doing. So right now I’m having this conversation with you, and there’s nowhere that I would rather be, because I love this topic too. Ad so I can’t even think about anything else except for this conversation I’m having with you right now, that’s mindfulness!
Indigo: You remind me of something. Earlier today I was out walking the dog, and it’s beautiful here. It looks like it’s really beautiful where you are too, even though it’s February.
Shelley: The sun is streaming through, and my face is like a halo. [laughter from both]
Indigo: Great moment to be present for, right? Yet, I noticed that my mind was drifting to other things. Then I brought myself back my just noticing my feet touching the ground. Then suddenly I was able to really enjoy where I was again. But one thing I noted is how wonderful it is to be at this time in my life where I spend more time noticing where I am than being lost in the past or future. Because I confess, I spent my 20’s regretting the past, and worrying about the future. There were very few moments that I was actually present for.
Shelley: Congratulations that you’ve been on that journey, right? Because only if you had experienced that could you really appreciate where you are right now. Right? Thank you for sharing that, Indigo. The truth of the matter is that that is how 99.9% of us live our lives. We are either focused on the past, worried about things that had happened, or focus on the future.
I teach yoga as well. It’s the one things I do, often in my spare time, as a hobby. And I often share that with students because when it gets time to get to a posture called savasana. I’m sure if you ever done yoga, you probably experienced that. You’re lying flat on your back and you’re just completely lying like a dead corpse. That’s actually what it means, it means corpse pose or dead body pose. And normally in the kind of yoga I teach, because I do a type of hot yoga, by the time we get to the savasana, people are like so tired and that they just fall into it. But quite often what I notice as a teacher, people can’t even lay still even then. You know, because the whole point of savasana is just focusing on the present moment. It’s not about being anywhere else, but people start fidgeting. Everyone takes that moment to want to jump out of the room and go to the bathroom, or blow their nose, or I need to refill my water bottle at that point in time. Because sometimes it’s difficult for us to really sit there and just be in the present moment with ourselves. So yeah, it’s fascinating.
Indigo: So, kind of bringing it around to the question that we started with… there’s so much benefit then to just being able to be mindful that we don’t want it to be associated with this sort of mystical religious kind of a thing, because then some people turn off to it, and they think it’s not for them.
Shelley: Yeah, absolutely.
Indigo: But what you’re describing to me is not something religious, it’s just being fully human.
Shelley: It is being fully human!… It’s being. And I love the fact that you used the word “being,” because we’re human beings. Our lives are about doing, and we are rewarded for that. How many things can I tick off my list today? And this is not to say that mindfulness is about not doing anything, because it can often make you more productive and more focused. So it’s not about sitting there blissed out, zenned out all day long not doing anything, but it’s about being present where you are.
It’s when these things that … I really feel like the best way to get people to think about this is to share some stories or anecdotes, because this is really something to be experienced. For me, when I talk about mindfulness, when I explain it to folks, because I teach a course on it with the University of Texas, I talk about being in the zone. What are those moments that you have, because presumably you’ve got some as well, when you’re really 100% in the zone–when you’re there– and it feels like time just slows down and stops?
That’s really when you start to become mindful. And so it has nothing to do with spirituality, and it has nothing to do with religion, necessarily. It could… depending on how you view it, but it’s not necessarily connected to that. It’s just about the human experience, and as you said, “Truly being!”
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