Podcast (Ep. 2): Exploring meditation with Andrew Johnson

Transcript of The Mindstream Podcast, Episode 2, available on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Welcome to The Mindstream Podcast, exploring the facts and the stories around mind-body-spirit pathways to greater health and happiness. I'm your host, Liza Horan.

On Episode 2, we're exploring meditation. We'll review the spike in adoption in recent years, glimpse the history and science behind it, and we'll also consider the real life benefits that can be realised through this mindfulness practice -- and [meditation] is accessible to everyone.

My guest today is Andrew Johnson, whose 25-year career as a clinical hypnotherapist is now fully focused on meditation. We're going to take a deep dive on meditation in discussion with Andrew, but before we do that let's set the scene: What is meditation?

If we look at the dictionary, Merriam-Webster says it's to engage in contemplation or reflection. It also says, "to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness."

HISTORY
Meditation is an ancient practice that is said to have originated in the Hindu tradition at least 5,000 years ago as a means to understand the true nature of God or Brahman. In 500 BC, the Buddha taught meditation for enlightenment, transformation and liberation from suffering.

Interestingly there was a split between the Hindu and Buddhist traditions around meditation when the Buddhists believe that meditation could be used to realise our own connectedness with others and the world -- not just a higher being. I wonder if this is where today's modern secular meditation practice comes from. It's very interesting because meditation does figure in the Eastern wisdom traditions but also Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Interesting that "spiritual awareness" actually appears in the definition by Merriam-Webster Dictionary because today mainstream meditation seems secular, non-religious. The words "spirit" and "spiritual" are mentioned in hushed tones, if at all, today in the mainstream experience.

So how did this reverent, quiet and originally religious practice become a mainstream movement and a billion dollar industry?

MEDITATION RESEARCH GROWS, FUELS ADOPTION
[3:04] Meditation really moved into western culture in the 1960s and '70s and there has been growing research to understand what is actually happening when one meditates, physiologically, and what is the impact on our thoughts are actions and our health.

It likely has to do with the research of two Americans: Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Dr. Herbert Benson pioneered mind-body science [from 1968]. In fact, he was one of the first western physicians to bring spirituality into medicine. His research demonstrated that meditation -- or the relaxation response [video meditation with Dr. Benson], as he termed it -- reduced the stress response, so the more you relax, the more you reduce the body's fight-or-flight response. In other words, our minds can affect our bodies for positive effect.

[4:10] And he founded the Mind-Body Medical Institute of Harvard Medical School in 1988. He also went on to found the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and he's written close to 200 articles for scientific journals and books.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is focused on meditation and mindfulness. He founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979. That clinic has served as a model for mindfulness-based clinical intervention programs at more than 200 medical centers all over the world. And in 1995 he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I found it interesting that he's also on the board of the Mind and Life Institute, which happens to be a group that organizes a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists to promote deeper understanding between the nature of mind, emotions and reality...so that sounds like very interesting work.

Jon Kabat-Zinn also has published numerous articles and books. In "Coming to Our Senses," a book he published in 2005, he talks about our "attention deficit disorder society." Can you relate to that? And he says that "the power of training ourselves to pay attention wisely and effectively … is not a luxury but an absolute necessity for our emotional physical and spiritual health, not just as individuals but as a society."

These are two significant contributors to mind-body science in western medicine who have brought us where we are today. And so started the research into the mind-body connection, including meditation.

[6:19] In 1999 this area got a boost as the US government appropriated $10 million for the National Institutes of Health to establish chapters to study mind-body interactions. That was in 1999, so how far have we come along?

Well, there's a great deal of research happening and it's only increasing. Think of this: There was one study that had to do with mindfulness between the years 1995 and 1997. Just eight years later there were 216 studies, and that's [just] in the United States. So what does the research show?

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
It shows that meditation can reduce negative effects and increase positive effects in our minds and our bodies. It's been shown to increase calmness, mental well-being; and reduce blood pressure, insomnia, and symptoms of anxiety, depression, skin conditions like psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder...the list goes on. I'll share two studies:

[7:40] The Psychosomatic Medicine journal in 2003 published results of a study that showed even a short program of mindfulness meditation changes brain function and immune function for the positive. And in 2009 the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that compassion meditation can reduce stress induced immune and behavioral responses.

There's a strong body of scientific evidence to support meditation and mindfulness and there are more studies than ever going on worldwide right now.

It's significant that national institutions recommended meditation as a complementary therapy as well.

In the UK, the NHS has prescribed mindfulness-based cognitive therapy since 1994, and it's also used in schools and prison. And if you're familiar with the NICE guidelines for treatments -- those are issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK -- those guidelines support mindfulness for those who experienced recurrent depression.

While scientific evidence has a strong place in our society, it seems like actual experience counts for a lot. Some people don't need to see evidence they can feel the evidence.

MEDITATION GOES MAINSTREAM
[9:16] Do you know that meditation is the fastest growing complementary therapy in the United States?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some reports last November that showed that the number of people who meditate in the United States has tripled in five years. In 2012, 4 percent of adults said they meditated, and in 2017 that number went over 14 percent. And it's not just adults -- it's kids, too.

It's also very big business: In 2015, meditation surpassed $1 billion in revenue according to IBIS World, and a research firm called MarketData says that meditation will grow beyond $2 billion in 2022.

If you've been to the app store and searched "meditation" or "mindfulness" you would be overwhelmed.

[10:21] There are more than 1,300 apps for meditation and mindfulness, but two of them, which are based in California, are the leaders: Calm has been valued at $1 billion -- it's a unicorn -- and Headspace, which actually was founded by two Brits, has revenues over a $100 million per year and 8 million users and 200 countries.

So we can hear the scientific evidence, but we have to look at the uptake the adoption rates among people. They're having a positive experience. Meditation is enhancing their lives.

GUEST ANDREW JOHNSON DISCUSSES MEDITATION
We talk about thousands of meditation apps available today, but there was someone who was ahead of that curve and he is our guest today! Andrew Johnson's meditation app launched on the day that Apple iOS App Store launched, and his apps and MP3s have been downloaded more than 11 million times.

[11:37] For 25 years, Andrew, a clinical hypnotherapist, has been helping individuals and groups use relaxation, mindfulness and resilience for positive change.

Host Liza Horan: Thank you for being here, Andrew.

Guest Andrew Johnson: Thank you, Liza. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.

Host Liza Horan: When you started your work as a hypnotherapist, did you have any idea all these years later you would be so focused on meditation?

Guest Andrew Johnson:
No, I didn't. I started off as a hypnotherapist working primarily with smokers. That's what you do when you start off because smokers are your best advert. They're the ones that talk about it. Quite quickly in my career I started working, on a voluntary basis, with a cancer support center, and, from there, that led me into working with groups within the support center. And, from working with groups, I developed techniques of teaching people how to get into this -- what I would then call ''a relaxed state.''

[12:38] Twenty plus [20+] years ago there was no way, in the corporate world or even in the charity world/sector, you could talk about meditation and mindfulness. But when I think back, and I was really teaching these people to relax, eyes closed, to do their breathing, to ground themselves and centre themselves, if I then stopped talking in that situation they'd be meditating. It's as simple as that. It just wasn't the label we used. And so in the last 10 years with the real acceptance of mindfulness in the corporate world, it's no longer a barrier to say that you're a therapist, that you teach meditation, that you teach mindfulness. So I realise I've always been doing it, it's just an ability now to use that terminology.

Host Liza Horan: Mindstream is about helping people understand mind-body-spirit pathways to greater health and happiness. It actually sounds a bit lofty to be talking about "greater health and happiness" at a time when there's only 24 hours in a day, everyone is completely strapped for time -- let alone resources -- and there's a lot of pressure in the moments of everyday life. So what we would like to do is bring it down to realistic levels. How do people feel better on a daily basis? How do people find a way to cope with the pressure?

[14:10] Guest Andrew Johnson: I think the biggest challenge the majority people have right now is sleep. I think, by far, that's the No. 1 [challenge]. At any point, about 60 percent of the adult population in the UK have difficulty sleeping or waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. It seems to be a problem. I think this is primarily because we have lost our ability to spend time in contemplation.

And I have to say that there are people who say, ''You know, I used to have time during the day that I was bored. But now I just fill my day with my smartphone. Every time there's a pause I'm looking at the smartphone or the tablet. And I think those times in the past, where there was a little bit of boredom or contemplation or we were sitting on the bus or walking to work, really helped process things. Whether we were consciously aware of it or not, we were processing in the background, allowing the computer, so to speak, do its processing. In doing so, we were coming to unconscious conclusions about life. And starting to really know what direction we should take, and listening more to our body, and starting to notice when we were run-down. And we're so influenced by what's going on around us nowadays, that for many of us it's only we go to bed at night, and close our eyes, that the thoughts we should be thinking about [during the day] start to come up because they're thinking about the things they should've been thinking about during the day. Does that make sense?

Host Liza Horan: Yes.

Guest Andrew Johnson: So my first port of call when I see anyone and work with people, whether it's individuals or groups, is to say: Get your sleeping patterns right. That gives you much more energy during the day. It allows you to be more creative and productive, and it gives you more time back for yourself. And in doing so you then would need to find the second part of the equation, which is learning coping skills and resilience [so] that you can deal with what's going on in life.

Host Liza Horan: So you just mentioned a magic word in there about productivity. What you're saying is "less is more." That if we pull back from being busy all the time and find space in our day, perhaps we can actually be more effective and more productive. How does that work?

Guest Andrew Johnson: It's actually easily provable. For the people who take some time to centre themselves -- whether this is with going for a walk or doing some self-care techniques, like having a long bath or going for a massage or just learning to do eyes-closed, like meditation and mindfulness -- they find that it's like rebooting the computer. There are times where your computer just starts to clog up. It's just starts to slow down and you think, ''I'm not doing anything different'' and sometimes we need to switch it off and put it back on again. And you think, "Oh, it's like having a new computer!'' And for most of us our brains are like that -- we need to find time to completely switch off, let the brain reset itself, and then when we come back to our work or our challenges or whatever's going on in our life, we're seeing it with fresh eyes, in touch with our resources.

[17:51] All of us have had days where we do an awful lot and, at the end of the day [we say], "I've done nothing.''

Host Liza Horan: Right.

Guest Andrew Johnson: And most of us have days where we start work at 9 o'clock and by half past 10 we think, ''My God, I've done so much!' That's like a day's work I've done in an hour and a half.'' And it's all down to our mental state.

There are times when we naturally get into a zone where we're just so productive and everything seems easy. We get into the flow. And then we think, ''Oh, wow, that was such a great day. How do I do that the next day?'' And they try to force it and it doesn't happen. It's something you just need to start with. And that comes from having a good night sleep, being more in the moment and concentrating on the task at hand, and getting less distracted.

Host Liza Horan: What is actually happening -- when we're taking that time to reboot or refresh -- our biology, our chemistry, physiologically? Can you describe that a little bit?

Guest Andrew Johnson: Deep concentration on what's going on and focus.[19:00] If you're not totally in the moment, it causes a little bit of anxiety because we are being pulled from all directions. And when we're being pulled from all directions, with colleagues or emails coming in or pings from WhatsApp and iMessage, we're not fully in the moment. And by taking some time to step back from it we sort of quiet the mind. We start to get back in touch with our resources.

You see, there are two ways to work. There's either the consciously or the unconsciously. in the conscious way, it's like using 1 percent of the computer. It's the conscious mind that's working and it's getting distracted by everything in front of it. And then there's the unconscious way of working, which is when you're totally and joyfully immersed in the flow of working. And nothing else is disturbing you and that's when creativity flows. And the way to do that is to get back into the moment, get back in touch with your breathing, removing the conscious distractions that happen during the day.

You can call that managing your stress. You can call it contemplation. You can call it reboot. It's all the same thing: Pausing for five or 10 minutes to ground yourself, bring yourself back into the moment, and open up the resources that we all have -- because we have massive amounts of resources in our unconscious mind that know how to do things. We just can't access them quickly when we're under pressure.

[20:40] And this one of the big problems these days because a lot of people are finding it difficult to make life decisions. They seem to be stuck in limbo: ''Which direction do I go in?'' ''Which direction should I do this?'' ''Am I living a fulfilling life?'' ''What should I do?''

So they look on social media for inspiration and, in actual fact, they've got the answers, but they've got to spend quiet time. And, again, it's a trust issue. You get yourself into a quiet space, and your body and your mind will tell you what direction to go in. And it needs that because it can't do the otherwise. We miss these little subtle signals -- our inner voice or our guidance system, our intuition, whatever you want to call it, or higher power.

[21:22] Host Liza Horan: There's a couple different concepts that I've heard you talk about that I'd love to hear right now: About the creativity of the brain, which you just alluded to, and then the other one is the Theory of Reversed Effect.

Guest Andrew Johnson: So both of those concepts are married together. The Law of Reversed Effect affects probably 5 percent of what we do in life. But it's so important. So most people, when they are learning to do things, need to do it consciously with effort and persistence and concentration and hey need to keep repetitive practices going and it takes a bit of will power. So, learning to walk, talk, and ride a bike, and run a computer and all those things we do in life that require these skills. However, there are a small percentage of things that react badly to us trying to force them. Relaxation is one, sleep is another. Most folk recognise that if you can't sleep, the harder you try to make yourself sleep the less it works.

Host Liza Horan: [laughs] Right!

Guest Andrew Johnson: And it's only when you give up trying to sleep that you actually fall asleep, though that's easier said than done. So relaxation, sleep, intuition, inner guidance, and creativity are all affected by the Law of Reversed Effect; i.e. the harder you try to force yourself to be creative the less it works. And so one of the things that I do when I'm working with creative teams is to introduce not only a little bit of stillness, but equally as important quite a bit of laughter because laughter breaks apart the theory that we need to be serious to do something constructive and creative.

And, in actual fact, the more ridiculous a brainstorming session, or how it starts -- with a bit of laughter and ridiculous suggestions -- the laughter that comes from that opens up the mind to tremendous creativity. Because people relax and all of a sudden, by some form of magic, out comes creative inspiration from people and that is a wonderful thing to see. So adding in relaxation, adding in laughter, adding in ridiculousness accesses the wonderful parts of the brain.

Anyone who's done any research into the great geniuses of time, Shakespeare and Edison and Henry Ford and Leonardo DaVinci, and all these incredible people will read in their stories, whether it''s biographies and autobiographies, that their great leaps of inspiration came not sitting at the desk, they came in daydreaming, and walking, and in the bath, and then sessions of laughter with friends. All of a sudden, what they'd been working on: The answer suddenly came up because that's when the unconscious mind is at its most creative -- when you're allowing it to work on its own.

[24:34] So there are many, many different ways of meditating. The simplest being closing your eyes and just following your breathing. And just seeing what happens. There's guided meditation where you're taking people on journeys; and some people would argue that's not pure meditation. There is solitary and silent meditation. There's Transcendental Meditation. There's meditation when you're gazing on a candle or a rose or some icon that has that effect on you. There is the meditation that sportsmen and women get into when they're in the zone. There's the meditation that musicians get into when they're in the zone.

And, along with all of those, there's mindfulness, which is a meditation primarily to get yourself into a non-judgmental state of the moment as it is, here and now, and this has proven to be incredibly useful for people because a lot of people will recognise, if they're listening to this, that the most of us spend our time thinking about the past or thinking about what's going to happen in the future.

[25:38] And we can do that so amazingly that we can sit and eat our meal and not be aware that we're eating the meal. We do it when we're driving cars. Many people will drive a car and they will be thinking of other things and will get to their destination and wonder how they got there.

And, you know, some of that's fine -- it's nice to daydream, as I mentioned earlier. It's nice to drift away. But what's really happening is we're losing touch with what's actually happening in the moment. And when you bring yourself back to this moment, with all your faculties and all your concentration, and you allow things to be as they are, that's when you can really be transformative in your life because you're not being influenced by things that happened in the past or things that could happen in the future. You're having incredible enjoyment of the moment as it is.

Or, if you're in distress and you bring yourself to the moment, you start to realise how much of that anxiety and distress is caused by our thoughts about it and not necessarily what's actually going on.

[26:47] So there's a story I like to tell when I'm doing corporate work: When something happens in life that gives us anxiety and we feel scattered and unable to cope we all know that at some point in the future we start to feeling ourselves again. We'll start to feel in control. We'll start to get back in touch with our resources and we'll start to see solutions to what's going on in our life. Everyone knows this, but when it's happening, we don't realise it.

[27:16] Now what meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, coping skills, and resilience training does for us, is that it might not make the immediate experience of anxiety less at the moment, what it does is -- as you start to centre yourself with your breathing -- it makes the solutions come quicker. So, instead of it, for the sake of example, taking three or four hours to feel back in control after a really traumatic event, it might speed it up to half an hour.

So it makes us feel much more in control of ourselves. It brings us back to our resources because, as I said before, most of us in most situations know how to cope. It's our ridiculous conscious mind that takes on journeys of despair. And, you know, I've been in this business 25 years and there will be times where folk will look at me and say, ''I can't believe you get so stressed about doing that, or getting so anxious about doing this,'' and I have to stand back and say, ''Okay, I did. That's human life -- we all have emotions.'' However, I believe that they pass quicker because of the practices that I know how to do. And that's the way of it.

As I say, it's a bit of a leap of faith when people try it, but there is such a joy in being able to get back in touch with yourself and, rather than it being a burden to have nothing to do for half an hour, a lot of people will say to me when they start meditation, they look forward to that half an hour where there's nothing happening. And they think, ''Isn't it wonderful to put the phone off? Isn't it wonderful to sit here and not be disturbed with myself and allow my mind to still and my body to relax."'

BREAK
You're listening to The Mindstream Podcast interview with Andrew Johnson. Coming up: He'll discuss the phenomenon of what happens in meditation practice to improve quality of life.

Mindstream is marking National Freelancers Day on the 20th of June by presenting a panel discussion and networking event at The Black Ivy in Edinburgh. We'll be exploring the dilemma of pricing work that springs from your natural gifts, and our panel includes creatives and intuitives.

This is an important topic because many self-employed workers undervalue their products and services. And the IPSE, the self-employed professional organisation, says that we give away at least£5,000 of valuable work per year.

[30:25] The reason this is significant to Mindstream is because we did original research last year that showed most workers in the mind-body-spirit disciplines -- we're talking complementary, alternative, natural health therapies, and spiritual growth disciplines -- are self-employed.

You can find details of this event at facebook.com/mindstreamconnect and also on MindstreamConnect.com. I hope you will join us. It's going to be a fantastic and inspiring evening.

We're in conversation with Andrew Johnson, whose website is AndrewJohnson.co.uk, where you can find free MP3s and also find his apps.
END BREAK

[31:37] Guest Andrew Johnson: If you spoke to 100 people about meditation, you'd probably get 100 slightly different answers, but for me it's about it stopping distractions. So it's about closing the eyes, so you're not seeing things. It's about being in a relatively quiet space so you're not hearing things. And it's about stillness, so you're not experiencing movement. And with that you start to quieten the mind. And, from there, you will notice that the mind has this mental chatter, this mental noise. And you will notice that you are actually the person observing the mental chatter and you come to the realisation after a while that mental chatter is not you -- it's just a voice in your head. It's not really you. But it's so, so persuasive at times.

And once you start to notice that mental noise is not you, and you start to disassociate from it and take the energy out of it, then you start to connect with the real you, which is all your skills, all your resources, and the connection not only to what is internal -- i.e. much more of a connection to your body and its mechanisms -- there's a connection to the unconscious mind so you can start to really change the way you think and there is a connection, if you choose to, to what's external to you and that is where spirituality starts to come in. And that leads us down a completely different path [of conversation]. That's something, again, you can't make happen, it just happens when you're ready for it. And that's a different experience for everyone.

It's really important that people recognise what we're really doing with meditation is training ourselves to return back to ourselves.

[33:38] Host Liza Horan: There seem to be several opportunities that can come with meditation -- reasons that people would use the tools and techniques: To close their eyes, focus on their breathing, come into the moment. That could be to relieve stress: You're rushing somewhere, kind of freaking out, you notice that your breathing is shallow, you're definitely worried.

Sounds like that might be a good opportunity to just step back, as you say, close your eyes, focus on your breathing. Then there might be something else -- like writer's block or "I want to be guided to the decision on what course I should take for this."

What are the reasons people come to meditation, perhaps beyond coping with this particular minute...maybe looking for an answer?

Guest Andrew Johnson: I think that's such a good question. I think an awful lot of people come to meditation because, for a lot of them, it's just a thing they think they should be doing. And it's only when do it for a while they start to see the real benefits and it can really be wide-ranging. It really can.

For example, one of the techniques I teach is just diaphragmatic breathing, so it's a way of focusing your breathing, taking it deeper, down into the diaphragm, and just being aware of it. And people will watch me demonstrate this technique and then they will look at it and they say, "Okay, I get it. I practice it, but what effect does this have on me?"

Well, the fact is that the effects can be absolutely huge, but you've got to practice it and there has to be a belief that it's going to do something.

What happens is, even with something as simple as diaphragmatic breathing, people will use it, practice it, and they will use it for something specific like getting to sleep. But then the more they do it, the more the body and mind -- the unconscious mind -- takes over and it becomes just a part of who you are because it's the way we're supposed to be.

Meditation is not something unusual. It's actually the way we're supposed to be. We should be able to just close our eyes and just go inward. And it's something we do as we fall asleep and as we wake up in the morning. There are really suggestible states called the hypnopompic and the hypnogogic state, which is intense periods of incredible creativity just before asleep and just after we wake up. With practice, the body is almost sleeping, and when it's in that beautifully slow-breathing, heavy relaxed state it's recharging.

And so, a lot of people think that will do a meditation for 10 minutes or 20 minutes [or] a half an hour and they'll feel groggy and they'll feel spaced-out after it. In actual fact, folk feel fired-up. Energised. Really, really recharged because their body has had that reboot, as well as their mind. It's a wonderful thing to be able to do.

You change from a person who is learning meditation to a person who can get into a meditative state quite easily. And then the actual technique disappears and you become a more contemplative person. Much [more] able to get into a state of calmness, and stillness and creativity or productivity or sleep or so many other things. But it's so individual that a lot of people don't recognise the benefits 'til they start to see them in themselves.

Host Liza Horan: Yes, and "How long does it take?" is someone's question.

Guest Andrew Johnson: It can take seconds and it can take a lifetime. So I think the fix the classic quote is, remember that meditation is not a destination, it's the journey.

I think for most people they need to find a practice that works for them. Whether it's with a recording or just doing it themselves. They need to do that for about three or four weeks, once a day, and they will get to the stage where they can genuinely measure the effectiveness of it. When you get to the stage where you think, "Oh, I really miss doing that because I'm seeing the negative effects of not doing it," then it becomes a lifelong practice, but it's just becomes simpler and simpler.

[38:06] Host Liza Horan: Sounds like we're really missing out if we're not tapping into daily meditation, because you're just not going to be at the top of your game. What could you recommend as a really easy on-ramp to meditation?

Guest Andrew Johnson: Well, there are a variety of avenues into meditation. Personally, I think that a lot of people look for a meditation center, go along and they're put off by people sitting on the floor in Lotus position or they're chanting, or they're going through mantras, things like that.

Now all these things are wonderful, but they're part of a dedicated practice so I think people should start off with meditation by looking at the simplest form of it, which can be just some gentle real eyes-closed relaxation techniques just to get you used to the eyes being closed, the body being still and focusing on your breathing. Now that's not necessarily called a meditation, if you're looking for a recording on that, and there are many, but once you've learned the foundations like that, it's very easy to build on.

You see, here's the thing, first of all, about meditation: There's a lot of people with a lot of agendas out there, about guiding you down one route or another. In its purest form, you should be sitting, eyes closed, and following your breathing. That's it. And if you learn that, and you allow that to happen, you will gain massive benefits in your life.

However, you see, in my opinion, because it's so simple, people add bells and whistles to it, and then they give it a name. So I've got "this method" or "that method," and they're putting ego into it -- quite rightly, at times, because you can get great ways of doing it. But they're trying to take it from its simplicity into something else so that they can sort of claim that it's their method of doing it.

So, first of all, I say to anyone thinking of doing meditation: Strip everything away and just find the most basic form so that you can get into an eyes-closed situation and start to enjoy it, just following your breathing. And that can be just really simple suggestions, with a music background, to just keep you there in the moment. I would also say that creative visualisation -- going on a journey with someone guiding you there -- is transformational. But it's important that you realise that you should learn the foundation of it because everyone has different ways of perceiving their world.

I will teach a technique called "Favourite Place of Relaxation," but I have to leave it really vague where people go to because if I suggest to people in the group that they will end up -- as a suggestion for relaxation -- on a beach with the warmth, the smell of the ocean, the feeling of the heat and the hot sand, the noises, and everything like that. For most folk that would be a relaxing place to be, but for a substantial percentage of folk they don't like that. They don't like the beach, so it's really important that we realise that one person's pictures and smells and tastes and sounds and feelings of relaxation may be completely different from ours. And this is hugely important.

For example, I'm not visual at all, I have aphantasia so I don't see pictures in my mind at all -- which means that I love words, and music and feelings and emotions and things like that. So when people say to me, "Let's do some meditation and picture something in your mind," I say, "Well, I can't do that." "Oh," [they say].

You need to be given a template for doing it and then create your own inner pictures if you seen them, sounds if you hear them, smells and tastes if you experience them, and then the feelings that are associated with that. And that's when you can become incredible powerful because you can create that bundle of sensations that give you confidence or love or health or energy or focus or productivity or creativity, and that's you really connecting the mind and body, and becoming incredibly powerful.

[43:00] So, as part of this podcast, I'm going to give listeners access to one of my meditation MP3s, which is really nice and simple, and can just help you with some simple suggestions to get you into that state. So if you visit AndrewJohnson.co.uk, you'll get all the resources, including links to my free MP3s and my free apps that will give you a little taster. The bonus of the MP3 is that will guide you there and get you into a meditative state quickly, but what you need to realise is that once you start listening to it, you need to take yourself away from the meditation MP3 and start to do it yourself. It's only then that you gain the power to do it yourself in all situations.

We need to be able to get ourselves into a situation with eyes-closed work that we can do it when we need it: in the traffic jam, at the airport, before an interview, and all these situations where we find ourselves a little bit out of control.

Host Liza Horan: That's great, thank you. Sounds like if we get into this practice and we're able to turn it on or tap into it at anytime it's going to immediately calm us down, take out the emotions, perhaps, out of our reaction to whatever may be happening, getting a clearer view on how to respond to all the stimuli around us and maybe act truer to ourselves.

Guest Andrew Johnson: Yeah.

Host Liza Horan: Do you feel the mind, body and spirit are connected? And, if so, how?

Guest Andrew Johnson: That's a difficult question because, you know, "spirit" is one of those words that means different things for different folk. But there is absolutely no doubt that the mind and body are connected. I see proof of it every single day.

And we all know it happens negatively. We all know that that we can start having thoughts -- and stressful thoughts -- and that they will end up as physical ailments. We know that. Even if it's just an upset stomach, or a skin condition or migraines or tension or anything, or much worse. We know it.

But what a lot of people don't understand is the mind-body connection works just as well positively. We've just got to realise that most of the things we encounter in life seem to have a negative effect on us, like the news and listening to negative people, noise, and walking next to cars and all the things that we experience in life and putting ourselves under pressure, and it's really nice then to have a balance to that.

As for "spirit," well, that is such an individual question. So I have worked within meditation and hypnotherapy and Reiki for many, many years and I know there are people out there who would benefit massively from meditation and mindfulness and relaxation and resilience training, and things like Reiki, who are put off by the so-called "spiritual" side of it.

Because they look at it and think, "I don't know if I have those beliefs." And so my suggestion to anyone is to find people who train other people in meditation or mindfulness or Reiki  -- or any of these complementary therapies, Reiki in particular -- and find people who train you in those things without the spiritual side of things because, what I find is, that once people start their practices and they start to open up to what's internal to them and external, they find their own practice of connecting to what is external to them; call that God or source or the universe of the higher power or an inner knowing. These are all labels for just "something bigger."

But I think for most people they've got to find it for themselves. It's such a personal thing to do.

[46:41] Host Liza Horan: I want to thank you so much, Andrew, for joining us today and sharing the details of what meditation is and what we can gain from a regular practice. And thank you to our listeners for tuning in. We're going to wrap up here with an invitation to become part of the test panel

for Mindstream's prototype of our new website, but first here is some information on how you could connect with Andrew Johnson and some news about his newest product.

BREAK
Andrew is a clinical hypnotherapist and for 25 years he's been helping individuals and groups use relaxation, mindfulness and resilience for positive change. Now he works through audio products and interactive workshops, and you can find his apps in the Google and Apple stores. And he's got some free meditations on his website, AndrewJohnson.co.uk.

If you are a therapist or a coach, you'll be very interested to hear about his newest venture, kookoo. And it just launched! kookoo enables professional practitioners to deliver audio content instantly to your clients and customers in a user-friendly app.
~~~
Do you want to learn more about the science, history and practicalities of meditation?

I'd like to invite you to join the test panel for MindstreamConnect.com. Right now we're inviting listeners of this podcast and our social media followers to take part in testing the prototype of our new website. Just go to MindstreamConnect.com/rsvp.

Meditation is one of the featured disciplines across our scope of complementary, alternative and natural health therapies, so please go to MindstreamConnect.com/rsvp and accept the invite.

SIGN-OFF
The Mindstream Podcast is put on by MindstreamConnect.com. Please visit our website and sign up for our monthly newsletter. You'll also find our social links on there. We're on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This is Liza Horan, signing off with Love and Light.

[49:51] Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.