In a world filled with noise and distractions―including cell phones, millions of advertisements, and increasing pressure to do more, be more, get more, and make more―it’s no wonder we’re seeing an alarming increase in cases of anxiety and depression. What’s needed is mindfulness. But while mindfulness has become a major buzzword in culture today, very few people truly understand what the word means or how to integrate its many benefits into their daily lives.
In Making Sense of Mindfulness, Keith Macpherson offers an accessible, five-step framework that demystifies mindfulness and offers a formula for combating the anxieties that plague daily life. Come back into balance as you discover the tools and techniques to successfully integrate and sustain a daily practice of mindfulness in your life.
|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
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About the Author
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THE FOUNDATION OF MINDFULNESS
Learn how to see. Realize that everything is connected to everything else.
— Leonardo da Vinci
I was failing French class in seventh grade. Unfortunately, studying French did not come easily to me, and halfway through the year I realized I would have to pull my socks up or be doomed to repeat the entire academic year. Because I feared failing French class, I approached my teacher and asked if I could do an extra assignment to get my overall grade up. Without hesitation, my teacher agreed and told me I could submit an extra, creative project in French. Off I went to figure out what on earth I would do to get my grade up.
During the quest to figure out my extra credit project, I discovered my mother's old Yamaha guitar, which had been collecting dust for years in our attic. One evening, while practicing the three or four chords I had learned, it dawned on me that I could make music a part of my extra credit assignment. Without second guessing my idea, I asked my mother to help me translate Bob Dylan's song "Blowing in the Wind" into French.
I recorded the song on a cassette tape and handed it in. To my surprise, I was given an A+ on the assignment, which brought my overall mark up to a D-. I was so pleased with myself; I would be able to pass the academic year and carry on to eighth grade. What resulted next was a pivotal moment in my life that would forever change me and introduce me to the foundations of mindfulness.
Upon grading my project, my teacher asked if I wanted to perform the song live, in front of the entire student body at the next school assembly. I am not sure what came over me to say yes, but the next thing I knew I was standing at the front of the school gymnasium, watching students flood into the gym for assembly. As I watched this sea of faces, I could feel my heart rate increase; my hands started shaking, my breath was shallow, and I became very nervous. Most noticeably, a loud internal voice that only I could hear screamed at me to run for the hills!
Following a brief introduction by the school principal, I walked out and felt all eyes upon me. I performed my version of "Blowing in the Wind," which translated into "Soufflée Dans Le Vent," and before the first verse was complete, my worst nightmare came true. I could hear snickering as restlessness set in among the students. It was clear that this was not going over very well, and the voice in my head got even louder, insisting I soon would be the laughing stock of the entire school.
As chaos erupted in the gym, I battled my way through the song, but then I heard another intuitive whisper, much like the gentle whisper I had heard when I first decided to take on this project. This unseen whispering voice gently nudged me to begin playing a different song, "The Cat Came Back" by well-known children's entertainer Fred Penner. In a last-minute attempt to gain back the ears and respect of the restless students, I broke into the song my intuition suggested.
To my surprise, within a few moments the energy in the gymnasium shifted. It was as if magic came over the room. Not only did I gain back their attention, but the entire student body started singing along with me. I remember, in that moment, looking out at all the students singing along and thinking to myself, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life!"
Something magical and powerful happens when a good song comes on and everyone starts singing along. It's almost as if all the things that separate us on the surface — whether race, gender, political preference, or religious beliefs — fade away, and for the short period of time we all sing along, we realize we are connected to something much deeper than the surface level most of us operate from. We may even sense something unconsciously orchestrating our day-to-day lives that somehow perfectly aligns all the pieces of our life together. So often, we are too busy to recognize this connected energy, which is also responsible for the rising and setting of the sun, the blooming of every flower, and the breath we all share. Yet, it's out of awareness and connection to this unseen presence in each of us that a mindfulness practice awakens.
This theme of connection has led me to discover the principles of mindfulness I intend to share with you. I hope to remind you of who you were created to be and inspire you to live a life of pure magic and possibility. Through understanding and remembering our connection to everything around us, we can engage with intentional living and find fulfillment, both within and around us. Awareness of our inherent connection is the foundation of mindfulness and the beginning of waking up to who we really are, thus living an inspired life.CHAPTER 2
IKA PONO MEA
Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.
— Sonia Ricotti
A few other significant moments of connection in my life have led me to discover what it means to live mindfully. For the past twenty years, I have performed as a professional musician in the band Keith and Renee (formally known as Easily Amused). I met Renee in 1996 at a small church in Ile Des Chenes, Manitoba. From this initial meeting, we decided to form a band and eventually went on to record and release six complete full-length albums, traveling to many parts of the world, performing music together.
During our travels, we experienced a synchronicity I attribute to the vulnerable act of putting ourselves in rental cars and airplanes to explore the world as artists. During our travels, it always seemed like the right people would show up exactly when they were needed. Events and opportunities would present themselves in an almost magical way that could not have been pre-calculated or simply the result of being world travelers. I remember our tour van being stolen along with all our musical equipment in a hotel parking lot near Philadelphia. But in less than twenty-four hours, complete strangers provided us with accommodations and assistance to get home. Within the span of a few months, most of our equipment was found and shipped back to us, along with the stolen van.
On another occasion, we had the opportunity to share the stage with one of my musical mentors and Canadian songstress, Jann Arden. Not only did Renee and I get to tour with Jann across western Canada, but we got to sing with her on the duet "Unloved," which she originally recorded with 70's star Jackson Browne.
Through my travels with the band, I came to discover that the world is one degree of separation. Ultimately, we're all connected by an intangible source that is moving the pieces around. Performing around the world with Renee, it seems the ideal characters always presented themselves to assist me in learning life's most important lessons.
My Huna Kane teacher often uses the Hawaiian phrase "Ika pono mea," which translates as, "Everything is working out perfectly on time." As I look back on my life and significant events, I can now see it all happened in the spirit of ika pono mea, with no accidents. Everything truly happened in perfect timing to lead me to this place of practicing and living the mindfulness lifestyle.
It is no coincidence that you picked up this book and are now awakening to this new practice of mindfulness. The words you are reading and the place in which you find yourself are exactly what is supposed to be. It's my hope that you will become more and more aware that life has no ordinary moments. You live an extraordinary life — if you are paying attention.CHAPTER 3
MY Canadian Idol FAMILY
Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.
— Sukhraj Dhillon
Back in 2006, I spent a summer singing and competing on the reality television show Canadian Idol. I decided to audition for the show because I was turning twenty-eight, and apparently after twenty-eight you're no longer considered a rock star. To my surprise, I passed the first few auditions and found myself on a plane, flying from Winnipeg to Toronto to compete with the final top twenty-two contestants on the program. This meant I would be singing a solo song every week on live television in front of two million Canadians. Little did I know at the time, but two of my greatest learnings about mindfulness came out of this experience.
The first learning came to me after spending time with renowned vocal coach Debra Byrd. Debra has coached some of the greatest singers on the planet and I was fortunate enough to work with her during my time on Canadian Idol. Each week, I was given fifteen minutes with Debra to run through my featured performance and receive her feedback. During our first session together, I arrived at the rehearsal with a very busy mind. There were four television cameras filming me along with a whole group of other crew members observing my every move. Among all the chaos, I began to sing my selected song of the week for Debra. Within the first few lines of the song, Debra interrupted me and exclaimed, "Stop!" I immediately stopped singing even though my mind continued to race. Debra took both of my hands and asked me to breathe a deep breath with her. We took three deep breaths together and as we did, all my anxiety faded away and I felt myself become very present. Following our third breath together, Debra looked deeply into my eyes and gently whispered the following words to me, "Now sing." I immediately felt a peacefulness come over me. As I began to sing the song, I could tell that something had shifted within me. I felt more present to the music I was singing and felt deeply connected to the words in a way that I hadn't before. The music came alive within me, and I felt the power that comes with showing up fully present in the moment.
The second mindful learning from my Canadian Idol experience took place when I first arrived at the studio in Toronto. I was given free tickets to give to friends and family who might want to come and watch the live taping. At the time, I barely knew anyone in Toronto, as most of my friends and family lived back in my hometown of Winnipeg. Upon receiving the free tickets, I also received an inner, intuitive whisper that suggested I go out on the streets of Toronto and hand out the tickets to random strangers.
I decided to act on this intuition and handed out the tickets to several people on the streets of Toronto. The next day, following the live taping of the show, I watched the rerun of my performance. As I was singing my solo, the camera panned over to the group of random strangers in the audience whom I had given tickets to. The caption on the television read, "Keith's friends and family." Although these strangers were not immediate family members, or even friends for that matter, this memory is a reminder that we are all connected. We are all family. This, once again, is the foundational awareness that leads to a mindfulness practice.CHAPTER 4
CONNECTED IN KENYA
Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.
— Margaret J. Wheatley
One final story reminds me of how connected we all are. It began in 2008, when Renee and I received a phone call from a young man named Craig Kielburger.
At the age of twelve, Craig became aware of child labor practices after reading an article in The Toronto Star about a boy from Pakistan. The boy, also twelve, had been murdered for speaking out about child labor. Upon learning about this tragic event, Craig gathered fellow classmates and started a group called Free the Children. The group was formed to raise awareness of and find solutions to child labor issues.
What started as a small group at his school has, over time, expanded to reach and assist over one million people around the world. Thanks to their various initiatives, Free the Children has provided education to children in developing countries and empowered the impoverished with clean water sources and health supplies. What started in the imagination of one twelve-year-old boy has expanded to become the largest network of children helping children through education.
Craig reached out to Renee and me, expressing how much he enjoyed our music, and invited us to take part in a volunteer work trip with Free the Children to Kenya. What started as a three-week volunteer trip resulted in two full summers of volunteer work in the Masai Mara region of Kenya. Being in Kenya was a life-changing experience for me. Every day, Renee and I worked together with a group of volunteers in the local community to build schools for the children there. On the weekends, we visited the local market where the community gathered to shop for basic necessities.
My first visit to the market was an eye-opening experience. I had never seen this degree of poverty firsthand. I wandered the streets of the market and witnessed people selling used clothing and food that was rotting, all in an effort to make a bit of income to survive another day. Although we were surrounded by poverty and extremely harsh living conditions, what struck me most was that despite all the poverty, the local people seemed to have an inherent joy within them. The local people in the market would gather, sing songs, and dance together, with a deep feeling of community and connection filling the air.
The energy from the local people inspired me so much that I found myself dreaming about how amazing it would be for Renee and me to bring our guitars into the market and play music with the locals. The following weekend, we decided to make this dream a reality and brought our guitars to the marketplace.
What continued in the market that day was a beautiful exchange of music and dance. The locals taught us songs, and we also shared music with them. Although we didn't speak the same language, we connected through the power of song, dance, and laughter. It was a magical exchange.
Immediately after the jam session in the market, a man who was also volunteering with Free the Children approached Renee and me. He explained that he had come to volunteer for a few weeks on behalf of a company he owned back in his hometown of Dubai. He proceeded to ask us if we would be interested in flying to Dubai, with all expenses paid, to perform our music for the staff of his company at an upcoming event he was organizing. The next thing we knew, Renee and I were on a five-hour plane ride to Dubai.
Upon arrival, we stepped off the plane and were immediately greeted by giant skyscrapers, brand-new cars, and "all you can eat" buffets, with some of the freshest food I had ever seen. Beyond this, there was even an artificial ski slope built inside a local shopping mall, which felt more like a king's palace. After spending two months in Kenya, it was culture shock to arrive in a city with such extreme wealth.
Despite the imbalance of wealth between Kenya and Dubai, both places confirmed for me the principle and foundation of mindfulness, which states that we are all connected. Renee and I played the same songs in Dubai as we did in Kenya, and we had the same reaction from the people. We watched people smiling, dancing, and singing along with our music. In those moments, while the music was playing, it didn't matter whether one was rich or poor, male or female, of a different culture or race, or of a different skin color. The music was somehow able to transcend all the surface traits that normally separate us.
Upon witnessing and participating in these experiences, I was forever changed. I came to see that we all are inextricably connected by an invisible source that I have come to call oneness.CHAPTER 5
THE FIVE-STEP MAKING SENSE OF MINDFULNESS FRAMEWORK
All is connected. No one thing can change by itself.
— Paul Hawken
Being "mindful" can mean something different to everyone, as there are many interpretations of this word. Full courses have been developed around this practice, and many different cultures in our world have based their practices and beliefs around this one word. Through my experiences, I have come to develop a new, personal practice and understanding of the word "mindfulness."
In the remaining pages, I will present to you a concrete, five-step framework to make sense of "mindfulness." I have found from firsthand experience that applying these five principles to your everyday life will transform you and serve as a foundation, empowering you to navigate every experience that comes your way.CHAPTER 6
WHAT'S YOUR DREAM?
What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed and what if in your dream you went to Heaven, and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awoke you had that flower in your hand, ah, what then?
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Principle 1: Everything Begins as an Inner Dream
What if I asked you, "What's your dream?" What would your immediate response be? In almost every presentation and workshop I give, this is one of the first questions I ask the audience. Over the years, I have been blown away by what happens when I ask this question. It opens people up and deepens the conversation almost instantly. Pondering our personal dreams moves things to a deeper level, as it makes one look at the heart of the matter: What is it I truly want?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Making Sense of Mindfulness"
Copyright © 2018 Keith Macpherson.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Foundation of Mindfulness,
Chapter 2 Ika Pono Mea,
Chapter 3 My Canadian Idol Family,
Chapter 4 Connected in Kenya,
Chapter 5 The Five-Step Making Sense of Mindfulness Framework,
Chapter 6 What's Your Dream?,
Principle 1: Everything Begins as an Inner Dream,
Chapter 7 A Birth Story: A Miracle Manifested,
Chapter 8 Dream Busters,
Chapter 9 The Ultimate Dream Buster,
Chapter 10 Expose the Saboteur,
Principle 2: Expose the Saboteur,
Chapter 11 The Origin of Saboteurs,
Chapter 12 Jump out of the Jar,
Chapter 13 Cross the Line,
Chapter 14 Practice Makes Perfect,
Chapter 15 Give Birth to an Open Mind,
Principle 3: Open Your Mind,
Chapter 16 Suspend Your Disbelief,
Chapter 17 Let It Go and Let It Flow,
Chapter 18 An Open Mind in Dream Time,
Chapter 19 Suggestions to Cultivate an Open Mind,
Chapter 20 An Open Mind Prevents Disease,
Chapter 21 Living Awareness,
Principle 4: Live Mind-Fully Aware,
Chapter 22 The Conscious Mind,
Chapter 23 The Unconscious Mind,
Chapter 24 Attributes of the Unconscious Mind,
Chapter 25 Understanding Habits,
Chapter 26 Creating with the Unconscious Mind,
Chapter 27 A Dynamic Relationship,
Chapter 28 The Conscious and Unconscious Mind Recap,
Chapter 29 The Higher Self,
Chapter 30 Attributes of the Higher Self,
Chapter 31 The Mind-Fully Aware Formula,
Chapter 32 The Mind/Body Relationship,
Chapter 33 Who Are You?,
Principle 5: I AM,
Chapter 34 The Importance of Feelings and I AM,
Chapter 35 I AM Compassion and Non-Judgment,
About the Author,