Mindfulness is everywhere nowadays. Schools, companies, smartphone apps, even the military. Mindfulness has gone mainstream. For some it’s a buzzword, big business, a product. If you strip away all the packaging, what exactly is it? And how can you apply it to military life?
Patricia Galaczy is the Founder and Director of The Art of Dialogue, Associate Faculty with Royal Roads University, and Associate Faculty with the Justice Institute of British Columbia’s Centre for Leadership. As a Leadership Educator specializing in Mindfulness and Organizational Effectiveness, and Associate Faculty with Royal Roads University, Patricia has accumulated over 20 years and 10,000 hours teaching People Leaders.
- What exactly is mindfulness?
- Myths that exist
- What it means to be a mindfulness person
- 10:23 The value to the military community
- How to get started
- 15:15 Sandra Pinard offers a deeper military perspective
- 19:56 A short guided meditation by Patricia Galaczy
“When we can be more aware and compassionate of our own hearts and our own minds and our own bodies, we’re able to offer that to others. Really importantly, mindfulness when we think about the military, we think about action, and taking strategic action taking wise action. When action comes from a place of calm when it comes from a place of non reactivity. That’s when we’re our smartest selves. So we’re actually taking our most strategic actions when we’re practicing mindfulness, the benefits are infinite.” – Patricia Galaczy
- Thank you to Organized Sound Productions for their help bringing this podcast to life.
Think about the military community is that there’s a myth that mindfulness is inherently passive. And that, you know, if I practice mindfulness, I’m going to lose my edge or I’m not going to be as strategic. And what we find is that when the mind is aware, then we are most skillful. So we’re smarter actually. And we take more wise compassionate action when we practice mindfulness, so it’s not necessarily passive.
The military lifestyle is all encompassing. It’s difficult, but rewarding. Dynamic, very, very dynamic. Unpredictable. You are in the Canadian Armed Forces, or a family member connected to the military. You know, the lifestyle can be a challenge. The military lifestyle is always changing. In this podcast, we explore the world of deployments, postings, and transitions. This is the military lifestyle. Here’s your host, Jon.
Mindfulness is everywhere nowadays. Schools, companies, smartphone apps, even the military. Mindfulness has gone mainstream For some it’s a buzzword, big business a product, if you strip away all the packaging, what exactly is it? And how can you apply it to military life? Patricia Galacxy has taught mindfulness for over 20 years, including Royal Roads University. Patricia, tell me what actually is mindfulness?
Well, Jon, that’s probably the most important question because I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what mindfulness is and what it’s not. When somebody’s offering something like mindful tech or, you know, mindful drinking, I’ve seen that it’s really important that people are clear about what mindfulness is. The sort of operational definition of mindfulness is that mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention on purpose. So intentionally, in the present moment without judgment. For example, if I was to ask you right now to just notice what’s going on in your own mind, to just be aware of what you’re thinking in this moment. And so of course, because we’re recording a podcast, and might be like, you know, how’s the sound? Or, you know, what’s my next question going to be? And there is the possibility for all of us, without exception to bring awareness to what we’re thinking without judging it. So even if in the mind right now, there is judgment, there’s a possibility of just being aware of like, oh, I’m judging, I’m thinking that the sound is too loud or too quiet. And so there’s judgment going on in the mind. But the awareness that’s knowing that you’re judging isn’t judging, it’s just kind of noticing. And I say it’s an operational definition because mindfulness is something that arises when those conditions are present. So when you’re paying attention, so the average adult attention span right now is five to eight seconds. It’s not very good. So most of the time, we’re in a million different places at once we’re lost in thought and the implications for that on our physical, mental, emotional health is really significant and negative. So then paying attention and then on purpose, which is being more intentional about where you’re placing your attention, and even what is going on in your own mind, in the present moment, so there’s this present moment awareness that has this quality of non judgement, or you can say receptivity or allowing that oh, this is interesting. This is what’s going on in my mind right now. So mindfulness is not the same as the word meditation. Those are two different words. And the word meditation just means to cultivate. So there’s as many different kinds of meditation as there are probably people in the military. The word mindfulness means to remember it’s one way of thinking about the etymology of that word. And what you’re remembering is your present moment experience. However, I would say that it’s important to understand too, that mindfulness is more than just being present. One of my teacher says, if you think about like a golden retriever, they’re very present. You know, they’re very like in the moment, but they’re not necessarily mindful. So mindfulness is much more than just being in the present moment. There’s also a quality of observing to ask the question, you know, what are you thinking right? Now there has to be a kind of an observing quality of mind. So you’re present but you’re observing, there’s an acceptance in that there’s a sense of in this moment, it’s like this. So. So those are the fundamental aspects of what mindfulness is.
You mentioned, mindfulness, and meditation. And definitely that’s, I think, one of the the myths out there that mindfulness equals meditation. Are there any other myths that might exist about what it is? What it isn’t?
Yes, that’s a really good question, Jon, because yes, there’s a lot of myths. I think there’s a lot of people that You know, hanging up a shingle, like you said, it’s kind of big business and a lot of people are just kind of using the word mindfulness but in a misinformed way. And so it makes sense that people are skeptical when they hear the word mindfulness because there’s such deep misunderstanding of what it actually is. One of the myths of mindfulness it’s really important is that mindfulness is not asking us to stop thinking. So a lot of people would say, I can’t practice mindfulness, you know, I’ve got to how do I clear the clutter from my mind? Or how do I get rid of thoughts or I can’t stop thinking. And so I can’t practice mindfulness. But mindfulness is not about stopping thinking. So that’s one of the myths it’s really about how we’re relating to what’s going on in the present moment. The other myth about mindfulness is that mindfulness is relaxation, so that we’re trying to relax. Mindfulness is not necessarily relaxation. I mean, there is relaxation that comes when you shift the relationship that you have to your heart and your body and your mind in the present moment. But really what mindfulness is asking us to do is to tune in to our internal landscape of what’s going on in your mind and your body and your heart. And that landscape is always changing. And so sometimes that landscapes relaxed, and sometimes it’s full of agitation, and sometimes it’s distracted. And mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness and compassion to that present moment experience, not to repress anything or make anything happen. There is also the myth that mindfulness is an escape from reality that you know, it’s kind of this navel gazing escape from reality. And I would suggest, in my experience, that mindfulness is the exact opposite. So most of the time we are escaping from reality. We’re lost in thought, our minds are distracted, we’re not fully present. We’re missing our lives. Whereas mindfulness is actually asking us to tune in, in a very clear and lucid way to what’s actually happening in the present moment. Not just in our external environment, but also in our internal environment. So I could go on, but I’d say those are some of them. And I guess maybe I’d say one more that’s relevant, if you think about the military community is that there’s a myth that mindfulness is inherently passive. And that, you know, if I practice mindfulness, I’m going to lose my edge, or I’m not going to be as strategic and one of the groups that I’ve been working with for the last five, six years, or CEOs or different levels of leadership, what we find is that when the mind is aware, then we are most skillful. So we’re smarter actually. And we take more wise compassionate action when we practice mindfulness. So it’s, it’s not necessarily passive.
What does it mean to be a mindful person? Can anybody learn it? Is it that easy?
Absolutely. Everybody can learn it. So I would suggest we’re already aware. It’s just bringing awareness to that. In fact, Homo sapien sapien which is our species. So this takes it out of any kind of woowoo touchy feely thing is that, you know, Homo sapien sapien means simply one who knows that they know, this capacity of human beings to be aware of their own minds and their own hearts and their own bodies is inherent in every individual, whether or not we train in that. So right now, I would suggest that most of us are training in distraction, whatever we train in, is going to become the nature of the mind. So it’s going to become the inclination of the mind. So if we train in having the mind be really distracted and numbing out, we’ll get better at that and if we train and being aware in the present moment without judging what’s happening so that we can be more skillful in how we act.
Okay, going back to the stereotypes, you know, that you need to have you know, you need to purchase this you need to purchase that you know, you need, you need your yoga pants, you need your yoga mats, sandalwood.
Yeah, you don’t need any of that. One of the other reasons there’s skepticism around mindfulness is there’s the tendency for us to lump together mindfulness practice with every spiritual tradition that you know has ever arisen. And so you know, like sandalwood, yoga pants and whatever. But mindfulness is not any of those things. The definition that’s why I said it’s the most important question is the first one you asked, which is what is mindfulness? So being able to pay attention in the present moment without judging is available to you and to me right now in this moment, and to everybody who’s listening to this. So if you’re listening to this right now and you’re walking or you’re sitting, can you become aware of the fact that you’re walking or sitting are aware of how you’re feeling or aware of what’s going on in your mind? And that’s all that’s required. I would suggest that being skeptical of anything that’s kind of gimmicky that you know, you need this thing to practice mindfulness. I’d say ask a lot of questions and maybe skepticism is warranted in those cases.
So how can mindfulness be a value to the military community’s thinking military members, military family members, how can it be integrated into their work? How can it be integrated into their daily lives, especially thinking of the military lifestyle, deployments, relocations, transitions in their life.
My experience working with the military communities is that mindfulness has a real place that can be helpful in these communities. So working with the families, one of the pieces of feedback that I received in working with families is the the area of what’s called mindful self compassion, which is bringing compassion and kindness to our own difficult emotions. So the families that support and also the military individuals themselves, just as being a human being, we have a lot of different emotions. And so being able to be kind changed the way that we’re relating to our emotions, whether that’d be anxiety or depression or anger or irritation or judgment, whatever the emotion is that it’s normal, that it’s human, and that we can change the way we relate to it so that we’re not repressing it. And we’re also not acting it out. I would suggest that mindfulness impacts deeply all of our relationships. When we can be more aware and compassionate of our own hearts and our own minds and our own bodies, we’re able to offer that to others. Really importantly, mindfulness when we think about the military, we think about action, and taking strategic action taking wise action. When action comes from a place of calm when it comes from a place of non reactivity. That’s when we’re our smartest selves. So so we’re actually taking our most strategic actions when we’re practicing mindfulness, the benefits are infinite.
How do you get started with mindfulness? Can somebody with a busy lifestyle integrate it into their lives quite easily.
I heard recently somebody say that a dentist who is trying to get people to floss their teeth and asked how do you get people to floss their teeth and the dentist responded by saying just floss one tooth, because by the time you get the floss out and floss one tooth, and you’re kind of committed, and I think with mindfulness, it’s the same thing, just a small step. So even if you’re listening to this right now, if you’re just set the intention to feel this next breath in, and this next breath out, and to stay with the sensation of that there is actually a body that’s listening to this and the sensations that are here. So bringing that into the present moment, the breath and mindfulness practice is universal anchor is not the only we can use sounds, we can use many different things sensations in the body. But just feeling this next breath in and feeling this next breath out. And then I would suggest setting a little bit of time every day and even it can be five minutes. It doesn’t have to be a long time to just sit quietly and setting the intention to feel the breath, if that feels like too much, or if that feels overwhelming, you could take that practice into a routine activity like washing the dishes, going for a walk, brushing your teeth, taking a shower. And I was just talking to somebody yesterday who said that, you know, every morning now I’ve been we’ve been working together a little bit on mindfulness. And he said every morning now what he does is that when he takes a shower, he just uses that time to focus on his breath. Or it might be in conversation with somebody. So when you’re listening to your partner, or your children, or you’re at work is is actually using some of that time to focus on the breath. And as you do this, you will notice that it’s not multitasking. It’s not like, I’m going to be focusing on my breath. And there’s this other thing that’s happening when we focus on our breath, and you can just try it right now as you’re listening and just set the intention to feel this next inhale and feel this next exhale. We’re not dividing our attention. We’re actually focusing our attention. Most of the time our mind is not here. And when we can sense into the breath, bringing our mind and our body together, which is the one of the foundations of mindfulness. So I would say that’s a great way to start.
You don’t need to buy anything. You don’t need to necessarily invest a lot. For me mindfulness, the way you’re describing, it sounds like just a way of being, in a way of being present.
Yes, everything that we do or fail to do begins in our own mind. And one of my favorite things about mindfulness, very favorite things is that it’s 100%. See for yourself, so it’s a practice, the only way you’ll ever learn anything truly about mindfulness is to practice it so I can talk about it. You can listen about it. You can read you can watch movies, but really, it’s only your present moment experience of practicing mindfulness. And then you see for yourself, does it make a difference or not? For the skeptical minds, those are my favorite because it’s very much. If you have a curious mind, if you have a mind that’s open to learning and seeing for yourself, then mindfulness is definitely a practice that will show you its benefits quite quickly.
I want to bring Sandra Pinard in for a deeper military perspective. Now, Sandra, she’s the deployment coordinator at the MFRC, but she’s also completed the mindfulness training with Patricia at Royal Roads University. So can you tell me how can mindfulness be a value to military members?
You know, mindfulness could help you be present in your job so that if you’re having to stare at a radar screen or whatever you’re having to look at for a long time you can. mindfulness can help you be more present so that your mind doesn’t wander away. Or it’ll also make you more conscious of when your mind is wandering and help you to refocus faster. Now we all sort of catch ourselves daydreaming from time to time, sometimes you’re like, how long have I been daydreaming about whatever it may be, where with mindfulness, the more you practice it, maybe it’s through meditation, maybe it’s through mindful movement. There may be different types of mindfulness. The most common is usually meditation. And what the mindfulness meditation can help you do is train your brain to be more conscious of what is happening. So it is more aware when it drifts off. And you can bring yourself back faster if that’s your goal. So it is about staying in the present moment. But it is also about when you’re not fully present, that you are aware that you’re not fully present and you can bring yourself back and for military members, they have to stay focused for long periods of time on specific tasks. It may also help with stress reduction. So if you’re finding that, you know, as a military member, you’re stressed lots of military members will work out physical exercise is a great stress reductor. You can do physical exercise in a mindful way and add another layer to it. But also it could be just about learning how to take three deep breaths before you react to a stressful situation. Taking three deep breaths before you answer somebody who’s maybe challenging you in the workplace, it’s taking three deep breaths before just flying off and saying something that you may regret. Mindfulness can be as simple as learning to take three deep breaths before you react.
How can it be a value to a military family member?
For military families, I mean, some of it will be the same as for military members. Reducing stress, keeping focus. There’s lots of mindfulness programs for children. So mindful movement for adults or mindful movement for children can help with stress reduction. It can help to add concentration levels to children, they’re able to focus on their schoolwork or they’re able to focus on whatever it is that we’re wanting them to focus on. Anybody is able to learn to not just react to whatever is coming at them, but to actually stop again and take a breath, or also to be aware of what’s happening in your body. So if you’re facing a stressful situation or you’re facing, you know, you know, you’re about to react in a way that maybe isn’t the most positive, then being mindful means that you’re able to feel that in your body and maybe be able to eventually stop that reaction before it happens. So again, it’s about being present, you’re able to feel when your cheeks get red and you get flushed in because maybe you’re a little embarrassed or you can feel that your heart rate is increasing because you’re stressed or angry or scared. So for family members, there’s a lot of times when you’re stressed, it can be stressful to be a family member, particularly on deployment or maybe you’ve just gotten that posting message that tells you you’re about to move to the other side of the country. Lots of things are going to happen to you because you’re in the military lifestyle. And mindfulness can help you to manage your reactions to those things in a more positive way. And it’s also I think about learning to be kind to yourself, it’s a learn, give yourself a break, when you do have that normal reaction to bad news or good news or whatever it may be, you’re now able to be a little bit more gentler with yourself. Mindfulness helps you to quiet that internal voice that maybe isn’t so positive. So you’re able to be nicer you to your own self. There are times when I will say things to myself in my mind that I would never allow another human being to say to me. Through mindfulness, I’m able to catch myself in those negatives quicker, and I’m able to be more kind to myself than I was before.
Thanks, Sandra. To end things, I’m going to ask Patricia to lead you in a short guided meditation. So we’ll do that now.
First thing that I would suggest is if you’re listening to this right now So even just as I’m sitting here, you have anything in your hands to just put that down and just seeing where your body is in space in this moment. So maybe you’re sitting in a chair, maybe you’re standing, maybe you’re walking, maybe you’re lying down. And I would suggest that just for this next few minutes to let go of any expectations that you have of yourself that you have to do anything or fix anything or improve anything, to just allow yourself to minimize all the distractions that you have. So if you have your phone out, there’s other things that you’re looking at to kind of minimize those. And then what I invite you to do is we’ll all just take a few conscious breaths together. So let your posture be both alert. So your spine is relatively straight but yet relaxed. And then I just invite you to take a full deep breath in. So breathing into the belly up into the ribs and the chest, full inhalation, pause maybe at the top of that inhalation and then as you exhale, see what it’s like to just soften a little bit the shoulders away from the ears, soften the muscles around the eyes and the jaw. So we’re not trying to relax, but we can just notice where we’re maybe holding tension in the body, we’re just bringing awareness and we can soften around those areas. So let’s take a few more conscious breaths. So full deep breath in. Pause. As you exhale, see if you can extend the exhale as you let your shoulders drop and feel where your body is touching either the floor or the chair so feet where they’re touching where the hands are touching, you might feel the air touching your skin. And just notice in this moment, if the air that’s touching your skin feels cool or warm, and as you bring awareness to this present moment, you might also notice if the air is passing quickly or slowly across the face. You can open your awareness to sounds. So not trying to make anything happen. But just noticing the sounds in your environment right now that are coming and going. You can hear my voice and whatever sounds are there in your environment. And then with the same kind of open receptivity, to just notice what’s here in the mind. Just notice if the mind is busy in this moment, or distracted or calm, and realize that one is not better than the other. We’re not trying to change or fix anything. We’re just noticing it’s like this right now. Just check in and notice how you’re feeling. So notice what emotions are here. You can notice if you’re feeling agitated or tired or calm or even resistance, you can notice those things and just notice what’s here in the body. So how is this all showing up in the face and the neck and the shoulder? See if you can stay with it as you scan down through the arms and the hands, the chest, the ribs, the belly, the back, the seat, the legs and the feet. And again, it can be helpful to connect with those places where your body is making contact with the floor or the chair. And then just invite everyone to set the intention to follow the sensation of this next inhale all the way in and set the intention to follow the sensation of this next exhale all the way out. However, your breathing right now is perfect. So there’s no proper way to breathe and formal mindfulness meditation. Doesn’t matter if your breath is shallow or deep. To see if you can do that maybe three or four more times. Just follow set the intention to follow the sensation of this next in breath and follow sensation of this next out breath. Just recognizing that there is a body here that’s breathing. And as best you can keep this practice going of following the sensation of the in breath, following sensation of the next out breath, and staying with the sensations of this actual body that’s here that’s breathing. In the background, there’ll be thoughts and emotions and sounds. But in the foreground, there’s the intention to just rest your awareness gently on the body breathing. You can continue this practice for as long as it feels comfortable for you. Where if this is the end of your practice, a great way to close is to just offer yourself a little bit of kindness. If it feels authentic and genuine. You can even put a hand on your heart and just notice that whatever is going on in your mind or your body or your heart in this moment, that it’s normal, other people experience whatever you’re experiencing. And just to offer yourself a moment saying, you know, can I be kind to myself. Can I be compassionate with myself? And, you know, we may choose to also close by saying that we we do this practice and not just for ourselves but so that we have a more calm mind a more open heart when we’re relating to others so we can dedicate the merits of our practice to the well being of the people in our worlds.
Well, thank you for coming. That was great.
Great. Thanks for having me.
Thank you to both Patricia and Sandra for their insights on this topic. You can learn more about Patricia Galacxy at theartofdialogue.com.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Military Lifestyle. To learn more about this episode and to check out our other resources like the deployment app, go to Esquimaltmfrc.com. A special thanks to Organized Sound Productions for bringing our idea to life. Please share this podcast with your military family or with someone living the lifestyle. Subscribe to The Military Lifestyle on your favorite podcast app. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening.