Updated: Sep 8
Let's explore how mindfulness can help
the stressed and busy diplomat
Prepare to be inspired by the following words written by my friend, Jase Te Patu.
The post continues a theme I started in the last blog post ‘On anxiety and being a diplomat’, which tells of one of my reader’s management of their anxiety while working as a diplomat and living their diplomatic life. The author in that post tells of the power of mindfulness in managing anxiety. I want to explore the topic of mindfulness and how you can make it work for you in this blog post.
You’ll be hearing more from Jase in my next podcast episode in which I chat with him.
More from me later. Please read and absorb Jase’s words below.
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How do you respond when you hear the word mindfulness? Is it shrouded in mysticism or is it an out of reach practice that isn't a priority? Does mindfulness conjure up images of Zen Buddhists sitting in a Tibetan cave meditating for hours? If that's you, then you're not alone. In the beginning, I too was a sceptic and non-believer.
I’m Jase Te Patu - yoga studio owner, facilitator, trainer of yoga teachers, speaker, and creator of M3 Mindfulness for children here in New Zealand. I am not a Zen Buddhist or a mystic woo-woo enlightened human. The practice of mindfulness and meditation, however, has changed my life immensely!
Sixteen years ago, my professional dance career was halted abruptly by a devastating Achilles injury. Yoga was my preferred rehabilitation and it was the comment “sometimes you don’t need to try so hard” by my first yoga teacher that switched the practice from less of an athletic endeavour to more of a mindful movement one. That's big, given that my whole life was about the pursuit of excellence, having represented New Zealand in three sports and always striving to be the best. I now have a daily mindful meditation and gratitude practice that is a 'must' in my morning routine. Hands down I am a kinder, happier, sharper and calmer human because of it.
Mindfulness, by definition, is very simple. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ’the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment. Thought to create a feeling of calm’. If that’s the case, then how much could we all benefit from mindfulness if the result is awareness, presence, and calm? Furthermore, if it’s so simple, then why don’t we make it a part of our day? We spend two minutes or more on our dental health, but what about two minutes a day spent on our mental health - practicing mindfulness perhaps?
Globally more and more people suffer from anxiety, which is borne from an over-arching worry about the future [a topic we explored in the blog ‘Anxiety and being a diplomat’ and podcast ‘Ep. 18 - On mental health and diplomacy’ – Phil]. It's no surprise that high performing A-type individuals, like me, are overtly anxious. What's truly alarming is that anxiety and depression are now infiltrating the masses. Studies have shown in New Zealand alone, that since 2006 the use of anxiety and anti-depressant medicine in children, has risen by 80 per cent. My program M3 Mindfulness for children was created to assist the state of our mental health here in Aotearoa [the Te Reo Mᾱori word for what’s known in English as ‘New Zealand’].
One of the simplest remedies for both anxiety and depression is mindfulness. Scientific research shows that full awareness of the present moment is a simple pathway back to a calm peaceful mind. Being present means less concern with the future which leads to anxiety, and less focus on the past which leads to depression. It is the most helpful tool at the most difficult of times. The next time you feel stressed (and this is where awareness comes in) and your heart rate starts to race - stop and take a breath or 2 or 20. I call this the breath pause. It's a pause in the proceedings where we get to choose an appropriate response to the situation, rather than falling into a habitual reaction i.e. fight, flight or freeze. It’s simple and the breath is always with you. You are creating new neural pathways that tell the brain, ‘here’s a more beneficial way to respond to stress and overwhelm’. It's mindfulness in action.
Jon Kabat Sinn, Mindfulness expert and author wrote - "We take care of the future by taking care of the present now." Taking care is not something that others should do. Taking care of our mental health and well-being is a MUST, especially if we are anxious A-type personalities. Self-care starts with us - first person. We need to take better care of our own well-being and in particular mental wellness.
Instead of starting the day with a full mind, create a mindfulness practice that gives better focus, longer attention span, lower anxiety, lower blood pressure and most of all a slower, calmer start to the morning. It's simple… Take 2-3 minutes at the beginning of the day to sit and notice the sensations of your breath. Try to count 10 consecutive breaths in and out, uninterrupted and perhaps undistracted. The practice itself is simple, but hard to master. Like anything too, we get better with practice, so practice not until it's perfect - rather practice until it's permanent! Your mind will thank you.
My wish is that we all make mindfulness a part of our self-care package. Personally, the benefits have been plentiful and profound. And, I’ve created two businesses to assist others in finding their peace and calm.
My biggest wish is that in this lifetime, we get to experience a world where we spend less time looking down at our screens distracted and more time looking up, connecting. Being mindful doesn't take a lot of effort. Eckhart Tolle, author of ‘The Power of Now’, says it best: “The power of now can only be realized now. It requires no time and effort. Effort means you’re trying hard to get somewhere, and so you are not present, welcoming this moment as it is.”
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Iwi - Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Apa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Jase is an award winning facilitator with over 25 years experience in the health and wellness sector. He is co-owner of Awhi Yoga and Wellbeing in Wellington, a teacher trainer, facilitator, keynote speaker and creator of M3. Jase’s students include the All Blacks, the Hurricanes, the Pulse, the NZ School of Dance contemporary students and many more high-performance athletes.
Jase has received many awards for his work particularly in the mental health and well-being space. These include the NZ Exercise Industry Awards- Body/Mind Teacher of the year in 2018, the Lifekeeper’s Award for Suicide Prevention, the Regional Local Hero medal as part of the New Zealander of the Year Awards 2018 and the Absolutely Positively Wellington Award 2019.
Jase is an Edmund Hillary Fellow and an Ambassador for international brand lululemon.
Jase facilitates full and half day PD sessions for both Primary and ECE Teachers. He is also the creator of our M3 Video Resources for classrooms. M3 is a beautiful way for Jase to share all his skills with the tamariki of Aotearoa. His message can be seen here in his popular kōrero at TedX Wellington (see below).
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Jase - I want to honour your words here by taking a deep breath […] and saying thank you for sharing your wisdom with us all.
I first met Jase in September 2019 after a mutual friend – and reader of The Lonely Diplomat – introduced us. Jase and I have been prioritising our fortnightly catch-ups ever since and I find myself learning from him and walking away with my spirit uplifted and a renewed sense of my purpose. I deeply value his ability to see through my bullshit with a single arched eyebrow.
I’ve shared with him – and with you now – that I can struggle to find time in my day to practice mindfulness. Intellectually, I know that practicing mindfulness and meditation benefits me enormously, but I often struggle to prioritise it, in favour of jumping into what needs to be done in the day.
Frankly, who has time for this mystical woo-woo nonsense when there’s so much to do??
His point about dental and mental health practices really cut through to me. So, with some accountability and support from those in my corner, I have been prioritising mindfulness and meditation in the few minutes before I start my day and while my first coffee brews. It turns out that this whole mindfulness thing is working amazingly for me through a challenging period for me personally.
Jase – it’s an honour and privilege to have you write for my audience and I look forward to our next coffee/hot chocolate meeting. Nga mihi o taku tuakana.
I love Jase’s point about willingly devoting at least two minutes a day to maintain our dental health but we can struggle to find the time to devote two minutes to our mental health.
Can you give yourself at least two minutes to sit and breathe without distraction? Now’s a good time, don’t you think?
Where to now?
Phil McAuliffe, ‘The Lonely Diplomat: reconnecting with yourself and the world around you’ (amazon.com)
Jase Te Patu ‘Mindfulness for Children’, TEDx Wellington
Eckhart Tolle, ‘The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment’ (www.eckharttolle.com)
This post covered the central themes of diplomacy, resilience and connection.
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Important notice: All views expressed above do not reflect any official position. The words published above are intended to support, challenge and inspire diplomats and those living the diplomatic life as they reconnect with themselves and the world around them. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional.