Do you find that your internal thoughts prevent you from enjoying particular moments or focusing on the job in hand?
In this interview, Angel Shannon introduces the mindfulness techniques you can use to stay present and in the moment and avoid letting your “internal chatter” distract you.
Angel Shannon of Seva Health Group
Website: Seva Health Group
LinkedIn: Angel V Shannon
Angel V. Shannon, MS, CRNP is a personal development keynote speaker, board-certified nurse practitioner, and founder of Seva Health and The Seva Institute. Her inspiring presentations are drawn from over two decades of clinical practice and lifetime study of integrative health and mind-body medicine. Her engaging presentations inspire listeners to break free from burnout and design the healthier lifestyle they really deserve.
In 2019, she founded the Seva Institute to bring the wisdom of ancient contemplative practices into the corporate environment, leading seminars in mindfulness-based stress reduction to help
overworked professionals develop inner resilience and embodied leadership. In addition to managing her busy clinical and coaching practice, Angel is the host of Healthy House Calls With Angel, a podcast filled with tips, tools, and strategies to live longer and live better with lifestyle medicine.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [02:02] Angel explains the mission of her work.
- [04:05] Defining the term ‘mindfulness’.
- [06:20] How to stay present in the moment.
- [09:07] What you gain by being in a mindful state.
- [11:54] The physiological effects of the fight or flight response.
- [17:38] Having the awareness to be able to enjoy your memories and then be able to return to the present.
- [22:17] Using breathing techniques to anchor yourself.
- [25:00] How to be present when walking by leaving your devices at home.
- [32:05] Why suppressing your thoughts can lead to negativity overload.
- [37:20] Using journaling and breathing to help bring you back into the present moment.
- [39:37] Learning how to stay focused on your current task.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- “The unexamined life is not worth living”, Socrates
- Pema Chodron
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
- Turning the Mind into an Ally, Sakyong Mipham
- Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Healthy Housecalls with Angel podcast
- 7 Step Guide to Radical Self-Compassion Practice
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 131: How to be more mindful at work and stop your internal chatter - with Angel Shannon of Seva Health Group
Jeremy Cline 0:00
If you're anything like me, you might have a near constant chatter of thoughts and feelings going on in the back of your head. You might go for a walk and realise that you've no idea what you've been doing for the past 15 minutes. I mean, you've got from A to B, but during that time, you've been thinking about stuff going on at work, stuff going on at home, and you just haven't been paying attention to what's going on around you. How do you stop this internal chatter? Why might you want to stop it? What techniques can you use to stay present and in the moment? That's what we're going to talk about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:53
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. The COVID pandemic has brought into focus the importance of looking after your mental health. And a lot of companies have now started encouraging staff to be aware of mindfulness. They may even have suggested some mindful practices. What does all this actually mean? What is mindfulness? How do we practice it? What are the benefits of doing so? And perhaps most importantly, how do you get started? To help answer these questions and more, I'm delighted to be joined this week by Angel Shannon. Angel is a board certified nurse practitioner, and the founder of The Seva Institute, through which she helps overworked professionals develop in resilience and embodied leadership. She's also the host of the Healthy Housecalls with Angel podcast. Angel, welcome to the show.
Angel Shannon 1:47
Thank you so much, Jeremy, thank you for having me.
Jeremy Cline 1:50
So, Angel, you have a clinical practice, a coaching practice, you have a podcast, and you're a keynote speaker. How does all this hang together? What's the common thread running through what you do?
Angel Shannon 2:02
Fantastic question. I am deeply, deeply passionate about lifestyle medicine and about helping individuals figure out the connection between what they know they need to do for optimal health and how to do that. In my clinical practice, I often see patients who know that they need to make lifestyle changes for improving blood pressure, for improving or reducing risk of diabetes or other clinical health concerns. But it's the figuring out how to move from knowing what to do to actually doing it. And the podcast is about that. It's about putting those pieces together to figure out exactly how to make sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes for better health.
Jeremy Cline 2:58
I love that. And I love the idea of the sustainability part. Because you can find a myriad of different practices out there, and you might start something, and it might work for you, and it might not work for you. But it's finding something and keeping it going that I think is really hard. I think there's so much value in that.
Angel Shannon 3:19
Absolutely. And to your point, what's right for one person may not necessarily be right for another person, and it's about simplicity and sustainability. And that's the heart and core of lifestyle medicine.
Jeremy Cline 3:33
So, talking about the subject of mindfulness, which is something that we've heard a heck of a lot about recently, especially in the past two years, and some people will have heard of the term mindfulness, some people will have heard of some of the practices that might be associated with mindfulness, meditation, journaling, that kind of thing. To start from the very start, first principles, how would you define mindfulness?
Angel Shannon 4:05
To define mindfulness, I have to turn to a quote that hangs above my computer keyboard, right in my office. And it's by Socrates, 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. And I think about this often, what that means. And for me, I really interpret that as the feeling that, or the understanding I should say, that the unexamined human life is deprived of the meaning and purpose of existence. And to become fully aware of what it means to be human, to move through different stages of our lives, to understand what our purpose is, our greater purpose, what the meaning of our life is moment to moment, to become awake and aware to where we are at any given moment, in any given moment, that is the heart and soul of mindfulness. It is an awakening to our human life, to the gift of being alive, to the gift of being present, wherever we are, whether it's at work, with our families, in community, on a plane, on a boat, at a beach, it's awakening to the current moment, and having the opportunity to examine our lives as they are, as opposed to what we want them to be. Because we're always grasping for the next moment, the next experience, the next goal. And mindfulness is about taking the opportunity to examine our lives, to derive meaning. And I don't mean that in necessarily the philosophical sense, or grand meaning. I mean, just the meaning in each moment.
Jeremy Cline 6:08
So, can you give me an example of what that might look like in practice. So, say I'm lying on the beach, enjoying a holiday, what might be going through my head at that point?
Angel Shannon 6:20
For most of us, lying on the beach and enjoying the surroundings might mean a pull and tug between the moment of the wave coming in, and then the memory of work that needs to be done, or an email that needs to be answered, or a project that needs to be completed. It's rare that we're ever able to stay in the moment of what's happening at the beach, and really noticing the rise and fall of the wave, the interconnectedness between nature and ourselves, to watch the seagulls as they're landing on the water, or perhaps a few other waterfowl, and really take that in. And mindfulness would be the ability to notice those things, be present with those things without that yanking. In meditation practice, we refer to it as monkey mind, that pulling of the mind away to some other thing. And it's those other things that, they're not only distractions, they rob us of the opportunity to examine our lives, to enjoy what's before us, to make that connection to nature, to make that connection to others who might also be there at the beach with us. That's what mindfulness is, it's coming back to the present moment. That's the work of mindfulness. And I'd make the argument that, as I said earlier, it's just that so many of us have that desire to be present at the moment, but there's always that pulling away of the mind towards something external, toward a future time, future or past, rarely in what's right in front of us.
Jeremy Cline 8:15
I'd like to explore that a bit further, because you've talked about this desire to stay in the present, which some people may be consciously aware of, some people may not have thought about this desire to stay in the present and to be aware of what is going on in your surroundings. So, what is it that getting into this state of being aware of your present and surroundings achieves? What's the purpose of all this? Or perhaps to put it another way, what's the problem, perhaps, that you're looking to solve by engaging in this sort of mindful, I was going to say mindful mindfulness, which is rather tautological, but yeah, getting into this mental state?
Angel Shannon 9:07
Well, if you think about what happens physiologically in the body, when we're either pulled to a past memory, or to a future that has not occurred yet, creates a certain amount of stress physiologically. If we're thinking about, let's just take one, if we're thinking about a past, an opportunity at the office, let's just say that, gosh, I wish I had spoken up and said what I wanted to say at the meeting, or I wish I had said something differently at the board meeting, it creates a certain amount of anxiety, stress. Take the future, for instance. Gosh, I wonder what's going to happen tomorrow at the meeting or gosh, I wonder what's going to happen to the email that I sent to my manager, I don't know what's going to happen. Both of those states of mind create a degree of physiological stress in the body, but also in the mind, a certain amount of tension. And mindfulness, being in the present moment reminds us that all that we ever have within our purview, within our degree or locus of control, is the present. We can't change what happened yesterday at the board meeting or two weeks ago, or the email that's already been sent. And we certainly can't change a future that hasn't happened. We can make some different decisions, but we still don't have the ability to predict the future, we never know what's going to happen. So, mindfulness, coming back to the present moment, into our bodies, into our current experience, allows us just to sort of settle down some of those stress responses that can occur in the body when we are not within our own locus of control. Because ultimately, that's what anxiety is. That's what the fear fight-fright-flight response really is about. It's about the unknown, about those future experiences, that projection that we have into the future, and the recollection of the past that we don't have the ability to change.
Jeremy Cline 11:42
These physiological responses, what do they look like, what might be happening in the body that makes someone think, 'Hmm, that's not a good thing'?
Angel Shannon 11:55
There's a very interesting part of the brain called the amygdala. It's a tiny, tiny little part of the brain that sits just below the thalamus. And the amygdala is in the limbic system, but it's a storehouse for emotional memories. And it's responsible for our survival. When the amygdala is hijacked, we use this term the amygdala hijack, it causes a variety of responses. It is very akin to what we call the lizard brain, it's that small little part that triggers off the alarm that says, 'I've got to protect myself.' And so, from that alarm, there's the strong emotional reaction, first sign, strong emotional reaction that something is threatening me. Whether it be another person, it could be an actual threat or perceived threat. It's a sudden onset, and then, after the onset of those emotions, after the episode, after whatever the incident is, there's this strong realisation that the reaction itself was inappropriate. Physiologically in the body, what happens? Increased heart rate, increased breathing, increased blood pressure, the release of stress hormones, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine that increase the heart rate, surge of blood sugar, raising of blood sugar, which we know that physiologically increases inflammation in the body. So, there's a trigger of reactions that occur, both at the emotional level, but also at the biological, physiological level. And the amygdala hijack is really, and we've all experienced it, it's that, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't believe that he or she said that. I think they're insulting me. I'm embarrassed. What am I going to say?' The fear, the stress, the immediate response, those things sort of take over, because of that little part of the brain that gets triggered. And what mindfulness does, and meditation practices do, mind body practices I should say, is help to calm that amygdala, that tiny little part of the brain calms that part of the brain, so that we become less reactive. So, that little amygdala hijack gets lessened and lessened and lessened over time, such that we're able to create what I call emotional distance between what is either actually happening, or what we perceive to be happening, such that our minds are not taken over, and that we're not thrust into responses that are inappropriate, that our bodies are not thrust into the physiological stress response that I described, that we're able to create distance, for even just one minute, to think through how we're going to respond, whether we even need to respond, how to collect ourselves so that our response is appropriate to whatever the situation is.
Jeremy Cline 15:37
Okay. So, if I've understood you correctly, what we're talking about here is kind of like managing your emotional response to some kind of external events, or something might happen and absence, having these this mindful practice, this mindful awareness, you might react in a particular way, you've mentioned the physiological reactions, you might lash out, say something you later regret, that sort of thing. But if I've understood you, if you have this greater sort of awareness, this greater space, then you're less likely to do that. Is that the reflection?
Angel Shannon 16:19
Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. You're absolutely right.
Jeremy Cline 16:23
There's something interesting that you said, you talked about the physiological stresses of looking backwards at things which had already happened, and thinking about things to come. There's clearly a benefit to looking back at things which already happened, because it's from our past experiences that we learn stuff. So, we recognise that something didn't go terribly well and can think of ways that we might better do that the next time. Similarly, looking forwards, you plan things, you think about how something might go, you think about how best you can approach a particular task or problem, so that you can do it well and achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. So, where do you draw the line between that way of looking at both the past and the future, and having this sort of mindfulness, keeping things in the present? I mean, presumably, mindfulness isn't about always being in the present and never looking in the past and never looking to the future. So, where's sort of the interface between mindfulness and that sort of thing?
Angel Shannon 17:39
That's such a great question. Let's think about what you just described. And if you have children, or a spouse, or just day-to-day activities that you're engaged in, let's think about if you're sitting at home with your family, and you're enjoying a board game together, or you're engaged in an activity together. And just for a moment, you see that your children have now grown, and your mind flashes back to when they were little, or when they were just born. And you think to yourself, 'Gee, I remember when he or she was a brand-new baby, we brought this baby home, so adorable', and think back to that special moment. Absolutely, beautiful memory to have, and that's how our brains operate. We're certainly not suggesting that mindfulness would be, you know, a tug to say, 'Don't think about that child when he was younger', or 'don't think about that new baby.' Those memories are so pleasurable. But mindfulness would be the ability to have that spacious awareness to remember those moments, remember when the child was young, brand-new, just coming home, but then returning to the present moment of this child who's now five or six or seven, and be present with where we are in this moment, to enjoy the laughter of this five-year-old, to hear the question that the five-year-old may be asking you, 'Mom, dad, what letters do you have', let's say you're playing Scrabble, 'Dad, what letters do you have? What word are you going to make?' And to see their inquisitiveness, to see their joy, to be present in the moment with that child, because this too is a memory, this too, this moment here will be a memory. Tomorrow, the memory of playing this board game or Scrabble game or Wordle, whatever, will be a memory. And so, we're constantly creating memories. And the degree to which we can be present in the current moment is the degree to which we can create more of those beautiful memories. I don't know if that makes sense, or resonates for you, let me say that. And the opposite is also true. If we're enjoying this time with our family, or children, we know that the day is going to come that this son or daughter is going to grow up and get married, or have a family of their own, or move away, or go to college. If we're projecting into that, and planning and sitting, in the middle of playing a word game, if we're thinking about, 'Oh, gosh, I wonder what it's going to feel like when he or she goes away to college. And, gosh, we're going to be empty nesters. And, gee, I hope we have enough money saved.' You know, that's not the moment to think about that. I mean, certainly it can arise in the mind, but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy where the child is at this time, and to create more of those beautiful memories to reflect on in the future, i f we're always thinking about what's ahead, and not really present in the moment.
Jeremy Cline 21:20
Certainly a challenge I find, and I suspect I'm not the only one, is when you're in that situation, suddenly finding yourself invaded by the thoughts of, it's usually 'Oh, I've got this to do, this is what's going to happen at work tomorrow, this is what's going to happen at work later in the day.' I might go out for a walk first thing in the morning, and I've been trying to concentrate on surroundings and what's going on. But a lot of the time, I just suddenly find myself thinking, well, it could be about almost anything, it could be a certain thing that's happened, it could be a conversation that I'm going to have at work, I could be playing in my mind how a conversation might go, something like that. And you know, suddenly 10 minutes, I realised that I haven't really been aware of what I've been doing. So, how do you stop that?
Angel Shannon 22:18
The gift of mindfulness practice is that we always have one very special tool in our toolkit. No matter where we are in the world, no matter what we're doing, no matter who we're with, we have something called our breath. And the breath is considered the anchor of our practice, because we can always return to the breath, tune back into what's inside of us, what's with us, the breath. And I know what you're referring to, because the one common denominator that unites us as human beings is that we're always pulled away into other thoughts. And what I think about, what I recommend in my teaching and coaching, is go back to the breath. Listen and feel and tune into your breathing. Nine times out of ten, you've been holding your breath, your breath has been shallow, you've not been breathing for, well, you've been breathing for survival, but not for optimal health and wellbeing, and settling the nervous system, settling down that amygdala. And so, when I find my mind drifting off, I tune back into my breath. Sometimes I'll even take my hand and I'll place it gently above my heart, over my heart. If I'm walking, I'll do this. Certainly, if I'm walking, my hands are free, I can either put them on my chest or I can just stop for a moment, take a nice deep breath and inhale and exhale. And that brings me back to my centre, it brings me back to where I am. That's the anchor of some styles of meditation, but it's certainly the anchor of mindfulness practice, it's tuning into the breath. Because that's the one thing you always have. That's the one place that you can always return to.
Jeremy Cline 24:20
Okay, so when I'm on this walk alone, well, first I need to be aware that these thoughts are flying in. Because sometimes I can be immersed in my thoughts, and then it's only, I suddenly catch myself and go, 'Hang on, I've been thinking about this for the past 5-10 minutes', but I suppose it's once you've got that awareness that you, as you say, come back to your breath and start to be a bit more aware of your breathing and what's going on around you.
Angel Shannon 24:48
Absolutely. I mean, it's a practical tool, something that you don't need any equipment for, you don't need any special app or anything like this to do that. And as you mentioned, which I think is really important, is the awareness. You know, for many of us in modern times, we go for walks with our equipment. So, we'll say, 'Oh, I'll grab my earbuds, or I'll get my phone, and I'll tune into my favourite podcast.' I think you mentioned a very important point, which is the awareness of why am I going on the walk in the first place. I'm going on the walk because I want to relax, I want to be out in nature, I want to get some exercise. So, from the beginning, it might be the awareness that it's important that I eliminate anything that may pull my attention away, whether it be an app, or the earbuds, or any other thing. And when I go for my walk, I'm going to do my best to be as present as I can possibly be, and I'll tune into when my mind is wandering. And the other part of this, which I don't think I mentioned, is that bit of wandering. Mindfulness is also paying attention to the direction that the mind is wandering, paying attention to those thoughts. Maybe not necessarily yanking yourself back each time to what's in front of you, but sometimes even just allowing the grace of that mind wandering to see, 'Gee, you know, I'm always thinking about work. I'm always thinking about this particular manager. I'm always thinking about the team meetings on Mondays. What's happening there? What's happening there? Why am I thinking about that a lot? I'm home with my children, they're playing, they're all having fun. And here I am, I'm thinking again about this meeting. What's happening there? Can I create space around this? Can I think about, is there tension there? Is there something that's bothering me about this? That's also mindfulness. It's awakening to the direction of our thoughts, seeing where there might be patterns, seeing where there might be tension, seeing where there might be stress, opportunity to further investigate the direction of the mind.
Jeremy Cline 27:33
Presumably, doing that in such a way that it doesn't stress you out in the first place. So, I'm always thinking about work when I go on these walks, I'm always thinking about the conversation with my boss, what's wrong with me?
Angel Shannon 27:46
Yes, yes. And perhaps that creates an invitation to understand how that impacts our health and wellbeing, where there might be a need for more boundary setting, where there might be a need to create more time to explore other areas of our lives. And I'm hesitating, because I'm thinking about the intersection of this with my own health coaching and clinical practice and your question in the beginning about my work. I always recommend mindfulness and mind-body practices for my coaching clients and for my patients, because when we're talking about things like high blood pressure, or diabetes, or insomnia, anxiety, depression, and we're looking at root causes of those conditions, the answer to that is inside of us. The answer to where those stressors are, where the stresses, where our thoughts are racing so much that we can't even get a good night's rest, that answer is inside. And so, that's where those mindfulness practices also come in handy. And I do recommend that in my coaching, just pay attention. You know, at night when you're trying to fall asleep, tune into what is it that your mind is attached to, what is it that you're thinking about, how can we create space around that. Could it be a journal practice? Maybe what we'll do before you go to bed is get out your journal, write down everything that you're worried about, write down everything that you're thinking about, do what I call a brain dump, or a thought download. Download those thoughts into your journal and see if that helps. That's just something that just came to mind when I do some of this coaching with my coaching clients. Let's do some thought downloads, and that too is part of mindfulness practice. So, let me get that out of the mind, so that the mind can then settle.
Jeremy Cline 30:03
I loved what you were saying earlier about kind of leaving the devices at home, when you're going for one of these long walks, so that you don't get distracted by other things. Because there was quite a long period of time, where I would go on sort of walks from the train station to the office, and I would just be walking. And I would find myself getting very gnarled up in my thoughts, getting angry about something that happened yesterday, or worried about something that was going to happen today. And the way that I started to combat that was by constantly plugging myself in and usually listening to podcast episodes, because it took my mind off that sort of thing. And I find that it kind of suppressed those thoughts. But then, I realised later on that I wasn't always getting the benefit of the walks, particularly now, when I can go for a walk before work in fields around my home, and you know, it's not traffic, I'm going through fields and trees and that kind of thing. And I kind of realised, I'm doing this whilst constantly listening to podcast episodes, usually of a more education bent rather than entertainment. And so, I'm kind of starting to overload my brain, and then I'm doing that and then going straight into work. And I've just not got the time to create the space. So, one thing that I've done now is, yes, I will still listen to podcast episodes on some of my walks, but definitely not all of them. I try to make sure that there's at least one a day where I don't do that, where I've just got the space. And it's then that I'm usually finding myself thinking about work, trying to do exactly what you've been describing. But it's really interesting how, for me, that was my default sort of coping mechanism. But you know, it brings home what you've been saying that it's better to be aware of this, rather than to try and suppress it.
Angel Shannon 32:06
Exactly. And I'm so deeply grateful that you brought up that point. Because that's the key word, suppress. You know, tuning out is the greatest illusion. We tune out because we say, 'I just don't want to think about that, so I'm going to either educate myself with a podcast, or I'm going to entertain myself with some music.' But either way, it's what Pema Chödrön talks about, is the wisdom, she's a Buddhist monk and teacher, one of my favourite teachers, and she writes about the wisdom of no escape. There is no escape from our minds. We think that we're escaping, we think that we're tuning out, oh, I'm just going to watch this show, and I just don't want to think about work. And in fact, all we're actually doing is suppressing. We're just pushing it down, pushing it down, pushing it down. And it's like having a hamper, of clothing, of towels, you know, your children, they've taken their baths, you've taken your shower, you put your towel, and another person puts their towel, and you just keep putting these towels in, and you just keep pushing it down and pushing it down. But in actuality, at some point, those towels have got to come out of the hamper, because they're going to overflow, they're going to spill out and spill over. That's what happens when we're not mindful of what's happening, what our emotions are, what our thoughts are. We're really, and we're just escaping into other things. And a healthy escape certainly is listening to an educational podcast, but they're less than healthy escapes. Drinking, drugs, alcohol, all kinds of other binge eating or other outlets that people have that are not so healthy. And at the end of the day, all of it is about knowing that there is no escape from our reality. There is no escape from our thoughts, from our experience. And so, it's having the courage to confront what it is in our lives, whether it be work, worries, concerns about the world, concerns about the planet, the courage to confront those emotions, the sadness that we feel when we learn about potential war, or homelessness, or poverty, or climate change, the courage to open our hearts to those emotions, to those experiences, and to ask ourselves those difficult questions. Why am I feeling this anxiety? Why am I feeling this fear? Why am I feeling this sadness? And to sit with that, what would be the harm in sitting with our emotions for one or two minutes a day, five minutes a day, and just seeing what that brings up for ourselves? Because ultimately, I think that's what a lot of us do. And I'm certainly in there with you, in that wanting to escape those difficult emotions from time to time, because they are very overwhelming. For me, when I think about climate change, and I think about what's happening on our planet, when I think about just all the different political things and whatnot, it is very, very, very sad, especially as a parent. And so, there is that desire sometimes, 'Oh, gosh, I just don't want to think about that, I want to tune that out.' But how do we create a better world, for ourselves, for the planet, for our children? How do we create a better world through escape? We don't. And so, it ties into other levels of consciousness, we can't change the world, we can't make our workplaces better, we can't make our interactions with other human beings better, if we are not aware of our own space in time, the space that we occupy, our own emotions. It's all interconnected. The health and wellbeing of ourselves is interconnected with the health and wellbeing of others, of the planet. And so, again, mindfulness creates that spacious awareness.
Jeremy Cline 36:41
I've just written down, 'you don't create a better world through escape'. And I think that's going to be possibly my favourite quote. I'm conscious that we don't have time to deep dive into some of the practices that might be associated with mindfulness. But I'd really appreciate just a brief introduction into some of the stuff that's out there. So, I know that we've touched very briefly on meditation, and you've mentioned journaling. Can you just sort of introduce what sort of practices are out there and what they're about and how they help?
Angel Shannon 37:22
I would recommend first and foremost several resources. Well, before I do that, I should say that you're correct in that journal practice is one way to bring ourselves back into the current moment. Breathing practices, I am a certified yoga teacher and yoga therapist, I did my training about 12 or 15 years ago, and in yoga practice, there's something called pranayama, and it's specifically breathing practices. So, there are tools and courses and instructors, teachers who focus only on breathing and breath awareness. There's certainly yoga, there's one of my favourite practices that I engage in two nights a week is Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Those are mind-body, mindfulness-based practices, helping you to develop physical and spatial awareness, incorporate breathing, Qi Gong, meditation, all of these practices are very helpful for calming down that amygdala, as I mentioned, helping develop spacious awareness, connecting the body with the mind. So, those are some, and there's always walking meditation, that's something I learned in Tai Chi. It's not just going for a walk, but there is a special technique in walking meditation. That's something I also teach to help cultivate the state of mindfulness.
Jeremy Cline 39:04
Then, in all these practices, is it about essentially practice? It's all about doing things which you might have an instructor there who helps you to achieve this particular mindful state during the hour-long Tai Chi class or whatever it is. But then, that's something which, through doing that regularly, through practising it, then you kind of build that into your own day-to-day, so as you go around your business, you just find yourself incorporating these sorts of mindful practices. Is that basically?
Angel Shannon 39:39
Absolutely. Yes. And it's what Thich Nhat Hanh teaches in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, can you learn how to wash the dishes while you wash the dishes? It's funny, but again, it's just, I am washing the dishes now. And I will just wash the dishes. I will notice the pattern on my China. I will notice the sun as it beams down onto the water. I will be present with how my hands feel in the water. I will notice, if you're standing in front of the window, as I do when I'm washing my dishes, I just notice the birds as they land right on the edge of my garden planter. It's just being present in that moment. And so, you're right that, what you're learning, whether you're taking a formal class or instruction someplace, you then begin to apply that at every opportunity. If you're driving, can I turn the radio off and just drive while I'm driving? Can I just pay attention?
Jeremy Cline 40:50
Fantastic. So, you mentioned a couple of resources that people can look out for when they get started. I'd love to know if you've got some recommendations.
Angel Shannon 41:02
Absolutely. One of the very best books that, well, I'll mention three, but one of the very best books I've ever read on the subject is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. And Thich Nhat Hanh has recently passed away at the age of 95. He's a Vietnamese monk who teaches so beautifully about mindfulness, what it is and what it isn't. It's a short volume, probably about 100-130 pages or so. I'd highly recommend that for your listeners. The second that I really enjoy and refer back to often is Turning the Mind Into an Ally. It's written by Sakyong Mipham, with a foreword by one of my teachers, Pema Chödrön. Turning the Mind Into an Ally. And the book teaches on some of the concepts that we talked about today. How can we befriend ourselves? How can we turn the mind into an ally, a place of peace and a place of thoughtfulness and kindness and compassion to ourselves and others? How can we not be in this battle in our minds between the past and the future, but just being present? And then, the last that I really like, is more for a Western audience. It's Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. And what I love about that book, that was one of my first reads, is exactly what I said earlier, wherever you go, there you are, wherever you go, your breath is, wherever you go, that's where you are. And so, it's a very, very handy book on remembering where we are in space and time, and very, very practical, because he gives some sort of lessons at the end of each chapter that you can apply and begin working on developing mindfulness in your own life, you can be your own teacher, you won't have to take a formal course. So, that's one of my primary recommendations for those who are new to mindfulness-based practices. Jon Kabat-Zinn, I should also say, developed a very useful training that's been taught throughout the world, MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He started that at, I think, the University of Massachusetts, I believe so. And that's been taught worldwide, especially in the workplace setting, to help individuals reduce their stress in the workplace. So, it's MBSR Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
Jeremy Cline 43:59
Well, that's plenty for people to check out. Where can people find you? Where can they get a hold of you?
Angel Shannon 44:04
I'd love for your listeners to find me on my website at www.sevahealthgroup.com. I trust that might be in the show notes.
Jeremy Cline 44:15
It certainly will.
Angel Shannon 44:16
Yes. And they can also find me on LinkedIn. That's my one social media sort of place that I tend to enjoy, have very robust conversations. And on my podcast, Healthy Housecalls with Angel.
Jeremy Cline 44:35
And you mentioned before we spoke that you might have a tool on your website, which could help people out as well.
Angel Shannon 44:40
If you go to my website, www.sevahealthgroup.com/retreat, you can download my free resource, which is a seven-day course on creating retreat for yourself, using this practice of mindfulness to reduce your own personal stress, to figure out what part of your life may need the most attention, the most nurturing and the most compassion right now, especially during these very uncertain times.
Jeremy Cline 45:19
I will certainly put a link to that in the show notes. Angel, thank you so much for this interview. I have been trying during the course of this interview to be more aware of what you've been saying. And you know, we can see each other rather than what I usually do, which is frantically thinking about what the next question is going to be, so I'm feeling more relaxed, I'm smiling. I think this has been a great introduction to mindfulness for everyone. So, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Angel Shannon 45:48
Thank you so much for having me, Jeremy.
Jeremy Cline 45:51
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Angel Shannon. During that interview, I really found myself trying to implement what Angel was talking about as we were speaking. So, quite commonly, during these interviews, I'm obviously trying to listen to what people are saying, but suddenly, a question occurs to me, and I think, 'Oh, I better remember that, or how am I going to remember it', and then, the person who's speaking has gone on and talked about something else. It's kind of natural for the brain to do that. But I really found myself making the effort to force myself to, as Angel put it, be present, be in the moment and really focus on everything that she was saying without worrying about what was going to happen next in the interview. And as a result, I found myself relaxing. And I tried again, later on in the day, when I had a load of chores to do before we could sit down for dinner. So, I had things to clear up, some food to make, you know, the usual sorts of stuff. But rather than my mind constantly focusing on 'and then I've got to do this, and then I've got to do that', instead, I tried focusing on, well, what am I doing just at the moment. So, let's do that. And then, you're not going to forget about what you need to do next. So, let's just focus on that job, finish it, and then move on to the next job. And again, I was surprised by how relaxed that made me feel. These are two small, perhaps silly examples of the techniques that Angel was describing. But for me, it's really shown how powerful they can be. I'm one of these people who has thought that, if the brain is just switched off and isn't thinking of stuff, then it's almost like it's wasting time, that it needs to be constantly rumbling over things, resolving things, when that really isn't necessarily the case. And frankly, it's just exhausting. So, I hope that everything that Angel was saying was as helpful for you as I think is going to be for me. There's the usual show notes with a full transcript, summary of everything we talked about, and links to the resources which Angel mentioned, and this week, they're at changeworklife.com/131, that's changeworklife.com/131 for Episode 131. This was perhaps a slightly different episode to the sort that I usually put out. But I certainly found it enjoyable and interesting. And ultimately, I think it's going to be helpful. But I'd love to know whether you feel the same thing. Is this sort of topic helpful for you? Is it something that you'd like me to follow up on in a later episode? If not, what would you like to hear more about? You can get in touch using the contact form on my website. That's at changeworllife.com/contact, changeworklife.com/contact. So, do get in touch, and let me know what you thought about this episode. There's another great episode in two weeks' time, so if you haven't subscribed to the show, make sure that you do, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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