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#26: You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf

May 22, 2019 | 1 hour 4 minutes 38 seconds

​Live meditation practice? On a podcast? Yep! Podcast series host Jill James brings in two incredible guest-experts on the subject of mindfulness in safety. Former Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) President Linda Martin, and Australian triathlete-turned-social science researcher Rachael Grace, join Jill to share their passion for the subject of mindfulness. After returning from a 30-day meditation retreat, Rachael soon began training hundreds of her co-workers on the discipline—by popular demand—and was unexpectedly rewarded for her efforts improving the safety culture of her organization. Linda published an influential research paper titled The Art and Science of Mindfulness in the Practice of Safety along the pursuit of her doctoral thesis. Together, they’re changing the safety profession by introducing a powerful new idea, and leading organizations into field practice exploration.

Links and Show Notes

The Art and Science of Mindfulness

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems, and the health and safety institute. This is episode number 26. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer, and as a safety professional I am wondering if you have ever said phrases like, I wish I could get my employees to pay attention, or get their mind on their jobs, or maybe I need them to be present so they don't get hurt. I know I have, yet how do we do that? Is there an actual method to deploy that works? And the answer is, yes, there is, and we're going to hear how exactly from our guests today. Embrace yourselves because you may not have heard this before. We're talking about mindfulness, and mindfulness based safety. And this I assure you is not woo-woo fluffy stuff. So I hope you stick around and listen because I have two fabulous guests today, and I'd like to introduce them now.

Our first guest is Rachel Grace. Rachel is a corporate mindfulness speaker, trainer, and emotional intelligence leadership coach. Rachel has 20 years of personal meditation practice, training in psychology, and experience in social science research. As a consultant, Rachel works with leaders and their teams worldwide in both public and private sector, empowering professionals to master the soft skills they need to get hard results. Rachel is joining us today from her home in Brisbane, Australia, where it's a different day.

And Linda, our second guest, Linda Martin is a Certified Safety Professional, a Certified Industrial Hygienist, a Certified Materials Manager, and the 2018 President of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, and the chair of the Certified Safety Professional Foundation Board. Linda is also a full time faculty member, and Ms Degree Program Coordinator at Keene State College, and the 2018 recipient of the Marion Martin Award recognizing influential women in safety. And here at the Accidental Safety Pro podcast, Linda is the star of episode number 15. And Linda is joining us today from Indianapolis. So welcome to both of you. Linda &

Rachel:

Thanks Jill.

Jill:

So Rachel, let's start with you, and just for our listeners, Rachel is our primary speaker today, and Linda has a story to tell as well, regarding how she and Rachel made a connection in this particular sphere. And Rachel, I'm wondering if you could start with your story regarding, how did you come into mindfulness?

Rachel:

Can I... Jill, thanks. Thanks for having me. Yeah, sure. So I started with mindfulness very reluctantly about 20 years ago. I got chronic fatigue in my early twenties from overtraining for triathlons. I was assuming a triathlon coach at the time, and I'd overcooked it a bit, and I got crook. And I went to a doctor who said to me at my first consult with him that, unless I learned to focus my mind, I probably wasn't going to get my health back, which wasn't what I wanted to hear. And I was pretty annoyed at the time because I thought that was pretty well confrontational thing to say, to be honest. But, I was a bit desperate at the time.

And so I went off to my first mindfulness class, and I hated it. And I suspected it was rubbish. But at that first session, all they asked me to do is to pay attention, keep my attention on my breath. And as soon as I sat down to try to do it, I noticed I couldn't. And I was pretty shocked by that. And I thought, how long has this been going on for? And I guess I recognized that there was probably some consequences for that, for my life, for my health and so on. And so I stuck with it. And I'm glad I did. It did help me to get better.

And I got really intrigued from that experience about how we can train our mind. I'd been used to training bodies as a coach, but I thought, what can happen if you train your mind? And what's possible with that? So I went on and studied psychology, got a job in London at a hospital where we use mindfulness to work with patients. And then, when I got back to Australia, I got much more into my own practice, and I've started sitting long stint meditation retreats.

And I did a 30-day one a couple of years, while a few years ago now. And when I got back to my job after being away for 30 days and everyone started asking me where I'd been. I said I'd been on a meditation retreat. They looked at me like I was weird, but then they were also interested. And that kind led to people asking me to start to teach, when I was working in a job, and I did. And then it's just gone on from there. And now I run my own business where I do this work full time. So it's been a long journey, but I was reluctant and skeptical about it at first, but now I know that it really does help. And yeah. So that's how I came to it, and how I've gone on that journey to be here now.

Jill:

Fabulous. So Rachel, but what about the safety piece? Like, how did you find safety, and make a connection with mindfulness and safety, and what that means?

Rachel:

Yeah. Well, it's a little bit like the title to the podcast. It was accidental. Sorry. I got back from this 30-day retreat. People ask me where I'd been on my holidays. I told them I'd been away meditating, and off the back of that, a lot of people asked me to teach them. And then eventually it culminated in the director of my division asking me to teach our team, which I was reluctant to do, but I did. And it really made a big positive impact on people, my teammates. And then it blossomed into word of mouth, spreading in a very short period of time. Under a year, I trained hundreds of people, and I had a waiting list of a few hundred people to do mindfulness training with me.

And in the course of that experience, the Occupational Health and Safety team within that organization noticed what I was doing. And this was an organization that had both a field staff and also office space staff. And I didn't realize, but I got nominated for a safety leadership award in that organization because of the work that I was doing, which is quite unbeknownst to me was having a positive impact on, not only psychological safety, but people's capacity to remain safe out in the field. And it was quite a surprise to me. I won this award actually when I was away on holidays. And I got-

Jill:

How do you accidentally win an award? How did that work?

Rachel:

Yeah, well I got nominated for. I think there was the Occupational Health and Safety team put out a call to leaders in the organization to hear nominations for people who are making a positive impact on the safety culture. And the director who had initially asked me to run my first mindfulness course, she initiated it, and then it got voted in by all the other senior leaders as being a really worthwhile project that had, had a positive impact on safety. And so when I got back from a holiday to Vietnam, I found that I'd won this award. I was sitting on my desk, and I was really surprised that I got into conversations with the safety team there, and I realized that what I'd be doing had actually kind of dovetailed into one of their initiatives, which is mind on the job in that organization, which is all about keeping your attention in the moment, to keep yourself safe in the field.

And that was my first awareness, to be honest, really explicitly about how much the work in mindfulness can be of service to the safety profession. And then it was about probably a year later when I'd left that job and started running my own business and do keynote presentations on mindfulness. I did a presentation to a couple of thousand people, where they are in the construction and industry predominantly, but also other field base work.

And I had a lot of interest off the back of that talk about how this could apply to safety. And again, I was like, wow, okay, this is really started to build some momentum. So I did a fair bit of literature research on it specifically, and that's where I found Linda. I found her article, Art and Science of Mindfulness in the Practice of Safety. I thought it was brilliant. I started referring to it and I made contact with her and say, yeah, accidentally have I stumbled into safety. But I'm glad that I have because it's brought me here today. And that's how I've met Linda.

Jill:

That's wonderful. So Linda, you authored a paper called The Art and Science of Mindfulness, which we have on our website at Vivid, and you can find it in some other areas too. But what was... I guess Linda, why did you write that paper? And then tell us about what it was like when Rachel reached out to you?

Linda:

Yeah. So, so that's a good question, Jill. I was asked to look at writing the paper originally by my graduate doctoral coordinator. And he works primarily in the safety management systems realm. And he said, this is a really interesting area, that's up and coming in safety, and actually in a lot of different realms of business. And he sent me on a path to do the research, and we ended up writing an article about it together for the magazine. And again, my interest was in... Rachel will tell you this is more theoretical, while hers is practice-based. And so when Rachel contacted me, we hit it off almost immediately because I'm more kind of in that realm of research, and Rachel is rubber meets the road. This is how you do this. And so I think Rachel will agree we've hit it off famously.

Rachel:

True, Yes. Confirmed.

Jill:

Rachel, when you stumbled upon Linda's work were you like, Oh yes, somebody's actually done some research on this!

Rachel:

Oh yeah, totally. I mean, my background in psychology is in research psychology. And so I'm a little bit of a nerd and I'm kind of, there's a part of me that always wishes I was still at academic. So when I got into Linda's paper, I was not only excited to find it, because it was exactly singing from the song book, that I was singing from, but you know, it was a really high quality paper and I passed it on to the people that I was working with in organizations immediately. And I was so excited to see that someone was making these connections. And yeah, so I had both a nerdy researcher moment and I had a moment of going, this is going to help me to communicate to the people in organizations about how this works because it was so well written.

And so, yeah, I was really excited and yeah, it's been great. And Linda's amazing. And I think because I do have that research background, I can appreciate and respect what she's doing, and that's why it's been such a win because we're looking at writing a paper together. And I'm looking at doing these projects, these programs in organizations. And I need people to be doing the research and the theoretical papers. And I think academics need people like me who are a scientifically literate, and are out there working with people in organizations to make it happen. And so I think it's a really beautiful partnership actually. It's good. Yeah.

Jill:

Linda, what does it... what did it mean for you to discover Rachel and like you aptly put it, you are on the theory side, Rachel's on the practice or where the rubber meets the road side. What's that been like for you to be able to see someone who brings what you started full circle?

Linda:

So I guess when Rachel first contacted me I was like, oh somebody else is interested in the same types of things I'm interested in. But beyond that, it's pretty exciting to see that Rachel's already kind of looked at the areas that we proposed as far as putting mindfulness into practice in an actual field setting. And that is low-dose short sections of mindfulness. And maybe Rachel can talk about that a little bit more. But how do you adapt those traditional programs into something that will actually work for a company?

Jill:

Right. Which I guess leads to another question, Rachel. How does mindfulness relate to safety?

Linda:

Yeah, sure. Well, I think probably if we start with a definition of mindfulness then it's probably helps to conceptualize how it does relate to safety because I think it's pretty obvious actually. So there's heaps of definitions of mindfulness, like any construct, but a simple one that I like to use is basically that mindfulness is about bringing our full awareness into this moment and accepting this moment just as it is. So when I say accepting, I don't mean approving or liking, I just mean being able to face that currently, this is the reality of God.

And so that definition shares these two dimensions with pretty much all the other evidence-based definitions of mindfulness in that there's an awareness or attention element about having your awareness here and now. And there's this kind of emotional balance of mind aspect to that definition.

So you know, we're not getting reactive about what's going on. We're just accepting what's happening right now. And so that's both a state of mind that can happen naturally and will happen naturally for everyone at different times. But all too often, that's not the case. Our mind is not thinking about what's going on in front of us. Our mind is not on the job. It's not with the person we're with. The mind has drifted off and it's thinking about something that it wants to have happen next or wishes didn't have happened yesterday.

And so mindfulness is a state of mind, but it's also something that we can actually start to develop through dedicated practice. And when you look at safety and throw it to Linda to talk more about how she appreciates that it relates to safety. But my understanding is that, if you don't have your mind present where you are, then it's pretty hard to be safe at a really basic level. You need to have your mind on the job, your attention in the moment, if you're going to have any chance of remembering what on earth you meant to be doing, spotting any challenges or problems that are coming up so you know how to handle them. And so it's really, it's the foundational skill. It's the internal skill that allows people to do their job safely, equally with the emotional regulation part of it.

I'm not sure, but I imagine that a lot of accidents happen in a work environments when people are distracted. And I think a lot of distraction can happen from stuff like being reactive about stressful stuff that's going on at home, stressful stuff that happened on earlier in the day. And when people are caught up reacting to events that have just happened or they're worried might happen. Again, it leaks resources and attention from the moment. And I think it makes us less safe. So with mindfulness training, we're targeting that ability to be fully present and clear-headed in the moment. And as far as I understand it, that's at the very root system of creating safety for individuals, and then of course, safe work cultures.

Jill:

Right. So, Linda, can you maybe expound on that a little more as from your view as a safety professional, what that might mean to be present and what those advantages are, or risks when you're not.

Linda:

Sure. I think what Rachel said is very true. I think one thing that I want to add to that is, when you're paying attention to, the right here now, the present moment, and you're doing a task, a lot of us in safety talk about, well, if you have the right training, and you're focusing on the steps that you're supposed to do on a task, and you do them right every time, then you should theoretically be safe.

But that's not always the case. Right? Being aware in the right here now also helps you to recognize internally and externally, instinctually, if something is not as it should seem. Right? So if your mind is elsewhere, as Rachel said, wandering or thinking about what's next, or thinking about yesterday, you're not as in tune with those internal and external factors that could cause you to make a different decision despite your training. And so, you know, everything that Rachel said plus that. So it's not so much being always in tune on doing things correctly and not being distracted, but also being so attentive to and open to the internal and external factors that you may make a different choice that in fact saves your life.

Jill:

You may be present enough to listen and know that you got instinct, that we say, like something's not right with this, and being able to make a different decision.

Linda:

Right. Would you agree with that, Rachel or?

Rachel:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I mean, I think that's spot on. I think that the underlying skill set, the internal skillset, that I work with people on in mindfulness training, is to learn to notice when their mind wanders off, and to be able to bring it back to the here and now. So it's awareness and choice. And in that moment they'll also develop the skills. Part of the training is learning to use that tool to distress on demand and to not get caught up in emotional reactivity. And so once you've got a present and a calm mind, then your situational awareness is enhanced, your ability to be cognitively flexible is enhanced.

I think that picks up on what you're saying, Linda, that it's one thing when everything's going as it should, but when things start to go differently, you want to be able to pay attention to that and you want to be able to think clearly in that moment. And that's where clear thinking, paying attention to what's going on, and being able to distress is really valuable. And so, yeah. And I think a lot of the times if things do go wrong or things don't go to plan, it's one thing when it follows the script or the steps, but as Linda said, when it doesn't, then you really need to notice that, you need to be able to respond appropriately, not react stressfully, and that's where mindfulness really does support safety in a really clear way, I think.

Jill:

Well, I certainly know as someone who practices mindfulness herself that I deployed what I do from mindfulness when I'm under stress and it's knowing, like to be able to listen to those cues of your body, to say things aren't right, right now. How do I come back to the present moment? And then exercising those muscles that you've practiced to know how to do that.

Rachel:

Yeah, that's right. And it's also too... there's a different type of stress, which is not just when it's peak stress, but when it's kind of like, I call it like boredom stress. If you're doing a habitual task and you really know your job, and you're operating as usual, it's really easy to zone out. I think because it's... and so part of the benefit of mindfulness is that it kind of helps people to remain consciously choosing in the moment rather than get caught off in habitual patterns.

Right.

That can [crosstalk] Does that make sense?

Jill:

Yes, it does. I can see that being powerful in repetitive jobs. Maybe someone who's working a repetitive task or working on a line doing the same thing hundreds of thousands of times a day.

Rachel:

Yeah. That's it. Or driving like classic wine, or partners and train driver in the minds and, or a long haul truck drivers.... that kind of situation. It takes a conscious effort to keep your mind on the job and that's what mindfulness really builds up that capacity. When you look at the research, there's good research that shows that it does actually improve the brain's capacity, both in terms of its function, but even its structure, the structural elements of the brain that are related to attention and emotional regulation. Some research shows that it actually changes those areas for the better, it grows gray matter. And it actually makes a positive impact on the brain. So it gets people more focused, and it gets people more present, and it gets people better able to manage their stress so that they don't dissipate energy and lose concentration in the moment. Yeah.

Right. When I was, I was recently speaking with someone who's a safety professional in the trucking industry, and I was telling him about this podcast, and what we are going to be talking about and he said, I cannot wait. He said, I cannot wait to hear this. He said, because I want my drivers... This is the message. He said this is like the holy grail for me as a safety professional with drivers, for exactly what you just talked about.

Yeah.

Jill:

And so he'll be very excited to hear this. He's been waiting for it.

Rachel:

Yeah, that's cool.

Jill:

Yeah. Linda, go ahead.

Linda:

I was just going to say that as we continually research on this subject, and as me coming into my dissertation, there are more articles coming out on mindfulness and it's tied into distracted driving and how it can improve the safety records of professional drivers. So I mean that's something that is coming along.

Jill:

Yeah. And Linda, you said that there's more and more people doing research, if people are interested in looking into that and finding the research, how might they start looking at... do you... I mean obviously you have your paper and we can draw people to that. Who else is working on this or what should they be searching?

Linda:

Well, I mean, at least from my perspective, I've seen a lot of papers recently that are pulling together the theoretical points, but there aren't very many papers of people actually doing the research. And I think my hope is, in the partnership with Rachel that at some point, she picks up some pretty good companies here that are really interested in this. And we can start doing some really hardcore research on; yes, this does work. I would say in my estimation, and I'll defer to Rachel in her research, but I see a lot of, this is how we think it works, but not so much a large or small scale actual statistical analysis of things.

Jill:

Yeah. So we're still emerging in this area. Yeah. Rachel, is that how you feel as well?

Rachel:

Yeah, I mean, I think there's always this tension in research between correlational research that happens in the field, where you do something, you statistically analyze it to go, when there's a pattern here and we think that they're related. And that's the real world stuff that we can probably start to do in organizations. And like Linda said, I'm very keen to work with organizations who are... want to take a research-based approach to really uncovering the impact of mindfulness training because that what needs to be done.

And on the other side there are, as Linda said, there's more and more research coming down the end of the randomized controlled trials, which has little real world validity, if you like, but it does give really strong robust findings for identifying that we are doing something with mindfulness.

Like for example, there was a study at the University of California, they wanted to have a really high degree of experimental control and go, are we actually doing something when we're doing this mindfulness training? Right? And so they had three groups. And the dependent variable or the way they assess if their interventions made a difference was they got these participants to do a simple computer task and they compared their error rate and response times. Right?

And the three different conditions were somewhat... some got assigned to a mindfulness practice and others got assigned to a simple relaxation task or reading the paper. And what they found was that those who'd been assigned randomly to do the eight minutes of mindfulness breathing has significantly faster reaction times and significantly fewer errors on the computer task, which indicates less mind wandering, compared to people who'd been in these other conditions.

So when you start to get really great research like that that's done in the lab, and then you start to get research that's the real life experiments that I'm doing with people I work with in organizations where people... typically after about week three of my eight week mindfulness class go, I'm starting to notice that I could bring my attention back in the meeting. I could keep my mind focused more on the job when I'm out in the field.

When you start to dovetail these different domains of evidence, because I think it takes all of it really to build a case, then we're really starting to forge ahead, and it's really exciting to be a part of that. So I know if people are interested in some of the research that I refer to, they're welcome to email me. There's some really great papers that are contemplating mindfulness at work and Integrated Review from the Journal of Management in 2015, and there's a lot of great papers that are really starting to bring these together in addition to Linda's. So, yeah, I hope that answers that question.

Jill:

Yes, absolutely it does. So, Rachel, when you're talking with people regarding mindfulness and safety, where do you start? Like how do you get them interested?

Rachel:

Yeah, people are often interested about that. So I have a signature talk. It's a one hour introduction to mindfulness and it's called mindfulness. It's not just hippy fluffy stuff. But I didn't know if that title would work in the US but it seems to work really well here in Australia because it kind of calls out the elephant in the room that says, you know, this might be rubbish. I might just be some hippy-dippy person coming in, talk at your team building event, but let's give it a go. And I take people on a journey in that talk where I basically share how I got into mindfulness, which is through being sick and being told to go and practice. And then I talk about the research, how there's so much research on the benefits of it these days.

But then I really narrow in on two of the benefits of mindfulness that really are appropriate or important for organizations. One is on its ability to help us learn to focus better and our ability to be more resilient. And I think one of the key turning points in that talk, I think is to be honest, probably not just that I've got the personal experience so people can tell I just didn't do a weekend workshop on mindfulness and now I'm trying to flog it off for a profit. And I can tell it's January. I've kind of reluctantly being dragged down this path for 20 years and I'm... so I think that helps.

Jill:

You are aligned with the skeptics in the room based on your [crosstalk]

Rachel:

Yeah, exactly. And to be honest, I'm okay if people are skeptical about it, so they should be.

But I just... I asked people in that talk to just have an open mind to giving it a go. So I talked to them about the science and that tends to help a lot. But I also refer to this key piece of research which was done by researchers at Harvard. And the title of their paper is: A Wandering Mind Is An Unhappy Mind. It was done by Killingsworth. And in a nutshell when I talk about that piece, I think it really turns people's... I don't know, I think it turns some of the skeptics because what they found was that this study looked at how much our mind wanders and they found that on average, 47% of the time in a really large sample size, people are thinking about something other than what they are doing. So what they did was they gave people... it was an app on the FineEye and it asks a few questions at random intervals during the day.

I record the time and there was a number of questions, but the target questions were, what are you doing right now? And are you thinking about something other than what you're doing right now? And what they found was 47% of the time people were thinking about something other than what they were doing.

And when I invite people in that talk to think as I do feel listeners, you know, to think, well, if that half the time, our minds not where our body is, then like what's the implication of that for our safety? We're probably more likely to have an accident. What's the implication of that for our decision making? At a basic level, making good decisions requires capturing all the information and if we're missing stuff because we're not present, then we're probably unlikely to make a good decision in the moment.

What's the implication for our connections with other people? Because most people can feel it when you mind wanders off, you're not listening to them anymore. And it tends to not build relationships, and communication, and organizations very well. When you look at the crisis of engagement in a lot of organizations, I think a key thing that leaders can do is they can learn to listen and be present with their staff even more. We can learn to be present with one another because that builds trust and connection which helps engagement. So we kind of look at what's the implication of this? Like who cares? And then we look at actually doing a practice where I teach people, got them through an opportunity to experience what it's like to do an evidence-based mindfulness practice where I noticed their mind wanders off, which is inevitable.

But then the key thing is that they have the ability, the awareness, and the skill to choose to do something about it. So rather than this thing, kind of, I sometimes... I think the wandering mind just drags us around wherever it wants us to go. It's like, well, we can't get rid of the wandering mind. It's with us, but we want to have it in the back seat. So our conscious choosing self is in the front seat and by giving them a practice... I do a practice for that 15 minutes in that introductory talk. And so far I've done this in front of thousands and thousands of people. Now I say at the end, can I just see an honest... raise your hands, who felt like... who noticed that, that made a difference to the state of their mind. And 95%, 99% of the room, their hands go up every single time. And so that's something that... you can't fake that. when you get that repeatedly, that's people in the moment verifying that.

Jill:

Yeah.

Rachel:

We did something and something changed for the better-

Jill:

Things shifted.

Yeah-

Absolutely.

Rachel:

I always make the point that I can talk about my personal story. I can talk about the research evidence, but nothing is really as important as people doing... going, yeah, that had an impact on the quality of the state of my mind, so-

Jill:

Right. So in order for our listeners to sort of experience this, and touch and feel what it, what it's like and ensure that it's not hippy dippy fluffy stuff, I think we should take people on a little practice.

Yeah, sure.

Yeah. And we can hear in your beautiful part of the world the birds are active outside your window.

Rachel:

Yes. So I might just shut the window so that it's less distracting.

Jill:

Go ahead and take a moment and do that.

Alright, great. Yeah, because it's morning time here in Australia, so the birds are in the palm tree outside. So hang on two seconds.

So Rachel, let's experience what a mindfulness practice is about. And if you wouldn't mind, please take us on that journey. And for anyone who's listening right now who happens to be driving, this is not something that you'd want to do while driving a car, or any kind of motor vehicle for that matter, or doing anything that might be deemed dangerous. And so if you're going to participate in this, this next five minutes, I invite you to get to a place where you can be safe and present. And Rachel, please lead us.

Rachel:

Great. Thanks Jill. So just by way of setting the practice up, I just want to point out that in this practice, what I'll be guiding you to do is feeling the sensations in your body. And when I first started, I thought to myself, what on earth is that got to do with anything? But the reality is that the sensations in our body are really great tool to learn to anchor our attention in the present because sensations in the body are always occurring, and only occurring in this very moment.

So don't let the subtlety of this practice kind of be lost on you. It's really an evidence-based practice that uses the sensations in the body as a way to anchor attention in the here and now. And as you'll see, every time we noticed that our attention wanders. I'm going to invite you to have your attention come back in. And this way we start to notice the wandering mind, and choose to do something about it and respond by bringing it back.

So to make the start, just invite you to find a comfortable sitting position. Ideally, if you can both feet flat on the floor, a nice straight back, and then just allow your eyes to be gently closed or downcast. We'll make a start using some times to begin.

So to begin our practice, I just invite you to join me in taking a nice deep breath in filling your lungs right up. Then exhaling gently and slowly releasing all the air from your lung. And then as you allow your breath to return to its natural and gentle rhythm, breathing in and out through your nose with your mouth gently shut, if that's possible for you today. And just invite you to bring your attention, firmly into this moment by paying attention to the physical sensations that are currently going on in the area of your feet.

So wherever your attention might be, I invite you to get it and direct it, focus it on your feet. And feel and notice the physical sensations that are going on in the area of your feet right now. Tingling, coldness, heaviness, whatever it might be. If you can't feel any physical sensations in your feet, it's okay. What you might like to do is just push your feet into the floor and as you do that, notice what that feels like. That is way you might feel pressure or warmth.

Then allow your feet to come to the resting position. Just noticing the sensations that are there in your feet right now. Now I invite you to shift your attention from your feet to your hands. And the important part of the practice and benefit of mindfulness is we learn to shift our attention where we want it, upon command and keep it there. We're practicing that right now. So if you shift your attention from your feet to your hands and as your attention lands, if you like, on your hands. I want you to begin the process of feeling and noticing all the different kinds of physical sensations that are going on in the area of your hands, right here, right now.

What can you notice? There's no right or wrong. It's simply a practice, raising your awareness to notice what's going on right here, right now. Coldness, tinglingness, sweatiness, dryness, heaviness, whatever the sensations are in your hands right now, just notice them just as they are.

Now if I just shift your attention from your hands and take your attention to your belly. In fact, I invite you to place one hand on your belly, so that with the benefit of your hand on your belly, you can feel or notice the physical sensations that accompany your breathing, so that on the very next in breath you feel the way the belly rises, or the next out breath you notice how the belly falls. Keeping your attention on your belly exclusively, feel and notice the physical sensations, all the different kinds of physical sensations going on in the area of your belly as you breathe. Rising, rolling, the touch of your clothes, all the sensations that are there. Just keep your attention focused when feeling those sensations. If you notice that your mind wanders away from being focused on our sensations in your belly at any time, the moment you notice that, with a kind but firm attitude, just bring your attention back.

Choose to bring your wandering mind back and focus on feeling the sensations in the area of your belly again. We'll practice this in silence for the next 20 seconds or so. You know what to do. You're feeling the sensations in your belly, and every time you notice your mind might wander away. The moment you notice, you just choose to bring your attention back, and focus on the sensations in your belly. We'll start that 20-seconds practice now.

Feeling the sensations in the area of your belly as you breathe in, keeping your attention there as you breathe out. Now you're having your hands return to its original resting position, joining me in taking a nice deep breath in to conclude our practice. I'm taking a nice long exhalation out. Then allowing your eyes to open gently bring your attention back into the room.

Jill:

Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel:

My pleasure.

Jill:

So Rachel, for people who just experienced this and maybe they're feeling a little like refreshing, this feels good, but at the same time wondering how do I do this with my workforce? Like when would I do it? And how would we do this?

Do you have any examples from some of the companies that you've worked with of how they've actually incorporated it into their work environments and allowing the time for it once they know how?

Rachel:

Yeah, for sure. It's a good question. Yeah. So I guess the thing of the back of a practice like that I would encourage your listeners to do is just to notice how they feel right now. And contemplating the state of the mind that they're in right now, ask themselves, ask yourself, would this state of mind make a difference to how I work? Most people report feeling calmer and clearer, more together, more settled, more focused. And the reality is that for most people, the answer is self evident that if they could maintain or access that state of mind on demand or be in that place more regularly, it'd be self evident that would make for a better work environment and better work practices.

So I guess that's one part of the answer, Jill. It's about having the practical experience of it, so you can notice that it has an impact. And then using that as a motivating force to go. If we do this more regularly, we'll get more of this clarity focus, centeredness and so on.

So a lot of the work that I do off the back of a one-hour presentation is about taking people to train them in eight-week training, mindfulness training program. Because this is a lot like fitness. Talking about going to the gym doesn't get you fit and talking about mindfulness doesn't benefit your mind fitness. If we want to create a successful mindfulness-based safety culture, as you're pointing out, you've got to do the practice. And so just like with getting physically fitness and basic skills that you want to learn, you want to know how to use the equipment, you want to know how to avoid injury, you want to know how to train different types of mindfulness muscles for different activities.

And so it's about getting educated and about knowing how to do different practices. So in practice, what that looks like is getting people together as a team. Normally I train groups of about 24 in a team and I wake mindfulness program. We spend an hour, once a week, every week for eight weeks. And we talk about the conceptual, the science, the stories, the practical application of mindfulness. But then we also, most importantly, we do a practice and I connect people with the mindfulness practices. I publish on the Insight Timer, mindfulness app, so that they can do a daily practice. Of course, not everyone does a daily practice, but those who do are the ones who get the most benefit. That's just the truth. Like fitness, if you go to the gym you get fit. And with that it starts to create a couple of things.

One is people start to handle themselves better. And once they start to handle themselves better, that has influence on those around them. And when people go together as a group and they start to have the language, to have a dialogue about these things. So there's a whole education piece around mindfulness, and non-reactivity, and emotional intelligence, and awareness that a group of people in the same organization develop. And then they are able to start to talk with each other and encourage each other and you model to one another. These kinds of behaviors. So one team I worked with, they were last year highly stressed out that work's really demanding. They go and do work in the field, and they are just taking that stress out on each other. It was a really toxic work environment. And the first part of mindfulness to be honest, was really about imparting the skills for them to know how to regulate their emotions and distress so that they could stop being so reactive and toxic with one another.

First things first and then... but then once you get from that kind of that where people are sinking to getting them to swim, then what you actually get them to do is go from the swimming to actually like the surfing, the stresses of life. One of my favorite quotes around mindfulness is that you can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. And sure, a lot of people come into training and they're just trying to not sink. But once people get the emotional regulation piece, which comes from practice and understanding how this all works, then they start to be able to perform a lot better.

And so, I was also talking to a guy yesterday, he's kind of like the Alpha male in an organization. He came to a mindfulness one-day training I did in January. He was skeptical. He set up the back with his arms crossed all day. He's the leader of the group too. 40 of them. He's up the back. I thought, oh goodness-

Jill:

Oh great.

Rachel:

And yeah. Good. And that's fine. And then at the end I actually haven't caught up with him to find out what it was that got him over the line. But in the end he said, you know what, you've actually made some really good points today. And he said to me this with his words. He said, I'm going to give this a red hot go. And when he, and of course when he said he's going to give it a go, half the group falls in behind him because he's the alpha male. He's the boss. So a lot of it's about having the leadership in an organization to... because it's easy for people to go. Well, I think they all need it.

But the people who believe this who are willing to go, I'm going to do it. That's when it really has the capacity to change culture. And I talked to him yesterday, I'm going up to work with his people next week and he's like, I've been practicing 15 minutes every day. It's changed my life and his words, he's like, I'm just telling everyone, they've just got to bloody well do it now. Get classic, just try. And I'm like I can. I have it going to go off to workshop that, but good on him because he's taken it and he's run with it and he's gone, I'm going to give this a go and if it's rubbish then I'm going to call it out, but I'm going to try it. And he's now an advocate for it and I can't wait to work with his team because he'll be modeling it.

And so, I mean in some ways it's not rocket science. If we want to create a safe culture in our organizations, we've got to start with the internal skillset that we're all wondering around with. And if safety doesn't come from our internal capacity to pay attention and manage our mind and our awareness skillset then I don't know where it comes from. Surely that's the foundation of it.

And if we get organizations where they practice it together, then that starts to change the shape of people's brains probably. And definitely the shape of the culture. I've had organizations where they now start their meetings off with five minutes of mindfulness. So that's one way people do it and they find that they're much more productive in the meeting. They're much more focused, because a lot of people walk wandering into meetings in there, their mind's still on the job that they've just left. They're kind of reactive and it's a bit chaotic.

Whereas starting with five minutes of mindfulness kind of gets everyone in the zone and gets people thinking clearly. That's why some people do it. Other people have created mindfulness meditation spaces in their depot, shared or in the workplace. But it requires a few champions in the organization that's the truth. And if those champions can be the leaders, then it really gets a run on and that's where you really start to see things start to change. But, so it's an education piece and learning the skills and then with the practices that are put up on the APP and there's plans to potentially do a digital course. So it's kind of available on demand. Then these are the kinds of ways we can start to scale it. We're not quite there yet, but it's in the pipeline. Yeah. It's in the [crosstalk] because the demand's there and the impact is emerging wherever you do this and you do it properly, it starts to have a positive impact in that is what people want. So, yeah.

Jill:

Wonderful. So you had used a term a little bit ago, non-reactivity. Can you talk a little bit more about that? I picked up on that word and I think I know what you're getting at there, but for our listeners to define what you're talking about.

Rachel:

Yeah, sure. So, a lot of the time where we all have these habitual reactive patterns to things. We'll see the person who annoys us at work and will react with a sense of anger or there'll be some turtle internal reaction that will go on to life's stressful moments and there's plenty of them. Right? And the thing is that sometimes those reactions serve us, but sometimes they don't. And particularly when they're really strong emotional reactions to stressful events, they can often lead us to behave in ways that we will later regret or unsafe or unprofessional or unproductive.

And it can happen from the overt reactions of... someone said to me the other day that they nearly punched someone and that would have been a career limiting move and I said, yeah, well that would have been a career limiting move.I'm glad you didn't do that. From that kind of extreme to people who just, they ruminate and fester about what's going wrong at work and it's waking them up at three o'clock in the morning and it's a really internalized experience. But so there's lots of different ways that we react negatively or unproductively to stress. And with mindfulness, we start to be able to notice those patterns and essentially interrupt them, and catch them early. So then rather than reacting habitually and unconsciously in ways that we might later regret or which might actually undermine our concentration or health, we start to be able to notice that pattern early, and then we start to be able to choose instead of a reaction, a more wise and skillful response. And at a really practical level, this starts with being aware of what's going on in our body.

And I know this is really hard for people to conceptualize at the beginning, but you get to see it when you practice, one of the first signals that you're reacting is the changes in your body. So when I'm getting angry, I can feel it in my body. I feel like it's heat prickling up against my chest. And there's actually been research that's been done that shows that different emotions have different physical sensation Carlo lights-

Jill:

Sure.

Rachel:

Yeah, it's really interesting peps got color coding on it and everything. And I introduce this to people who aren't during my eight week course and people look at me like, I'm not quite sure, but I had an email from someone the other day said, you know, you're not wrong. I got into an argy-bargy with my boss. Typically I would have reacted really badly. It would have gone, you know, pear shaped. But in the moment I remember the practice, I use my breath to focus my attention and calm my nerves, and I noticed all of the sensations in my body that were telling me that I was really angry. I felt heat in my chest and in my throat and I used that as a warning sign to be very alert to what I did next.

And because I was sensitive to that, I didn't get blind-sided by my habitual reaction where I got it in another argument with my boss, I actually was able to notice that, that was what was coming. See it ahead of time and actually use the practice, feeling the sensations with the breath to calm my mind. I create a bit of a gap to be able to choose a different response. I don't know if that answers your question.

Jill:

Yes, it absolutely does and it makes complete sense why this practice is an eight-week study when you're working with people because it takes... this isn't a once and done kind of thing to build that, to build those responses that you can lean into when you need them. It's, yeah, you're not going to listen to this podcast and be able to have it nailed.

Rachel:

I mean, it's exactly right. I think the closest metaphor, the most helpful metaphor is one of exercise. If you go for a walk... if we were all to go for a walk right now for ten minutes, we'd probably all feel better at the end of the ten minutes for the walk, you know? But that's not to say we're fit. So when I take people through a ten-minute mindfulness practice, most of the times they feel some benefit. They've had a change in their state of mind. But if you want to have a change in the trait of your mind in terms of how you habitually respond to life, how you turn up, how you are most of the time, you've got to train to be fit. If you want to get physically fit, you've got to do the training and then you have all of the day to day benefits of being physically fit, more energy, more flexibility, greater ability to deal with stress.

And so same goes with mindfulness. And I think if people keep that in mind, this is not a magic pill at all. It's work and it's training, but the benefits are there. And just like mindfulness or, sorry, just like physical fitness though, you don't have to... it's not like you're only get benefits from physical fitness training after you've done it for a year. You get a little bit of benefit every time. And they call it a dosage effect. You can't trick the system here. And I like that. That honesty about mindfulness training is that you get as much benefit as training that you put in. You put it in 10 minutes of practice, you get 10 minutes of benefit, and that's not no benefit, but it's not the same as someone who's done it for 20 years. So it's, you get what you put in and in that way, it's a really kind of honest and also really predictable kind of experience that you'll get a good result if you put the training in. And so, yeah. Yep.

Jill:

Yeah. Linda, I'm interested to hear from you on some practical applications as you've been studying this and listening today. What would you share with our guests? Our podcast listeners about applications in health and safety practices?

Linda:

So, I learned something new from Rachel every single time I hear talk about this subject. And so as I was listening to tie it back to safety outcomes, the things that we've touched on today, fleet safety, Rachel just talked almost directly to workplace violence and how mindfulness, collectively or individually in a workforce, might help to reduce incidences of workplace violence and/or to deescalate situations. These are all hot topics in safety right now. It's not just about reducing errors or preventing accidents. But some of these really difficult things that we are looking at right now in safety, like I said, fleet safety, workplace violence, reduction of error, a bit they all have application with these methods that Rachel talks about.

Jill:

Yeah, I was thinking about... from a mental health standpoint as well. Maybe someone who suffers from mild anxiety and at work and how this could be an intervention for them as well.

Linda:

Yeah, I mean, I think the... careful to point out that, I'm not a registered psychologist and I don't go into organizations to do this as a therapeutic intervention. Many therapists do use mindfulness with their clients these days, of course, and there's lots of research on the benefits for mindfulness, for anxiety, and depression under certain conditions and so on.

When I'm in a workplace, I definitely... I guess I'm working with the population which will have some degree of anxiety, and some degree of depression and aggression. It's all there in every workplace, isn't it? Because-

Jill:

it's everywhere.

Linda:

Yeah. That's exactly right. And I guess, for people, if they're really struggling with significant issues, then I direct them to connect with a therapist. But pretty much in any situation feeling aggressive feelings, even if it's not that it turns into violence or feeling really stressed and anxious even if it's not full blown anxiety, that's present for all of us, I think, to some degree at some point in time. And so this is for... this is really about equipping people with the skills to know how to handle the stresses of life. You know, I've heard some people saying, I agree with them, that probably in... it's Dan Harris who has some really great youtube clips on mindfulness, and then wrote a book called 10% Happier. I've heard him say that, and I don't know if it's true, but this is what I think he says, is that in the 50s if you had a said to someone, I'm going for a run, they would have said, what are you running from?

But now it's taken as it's given that way that, if you might not choose to be physically fit, but if you want to take care of your health, you really need to do some exercise. Right? And I think in the next five to 10 years, it's going to be the same with mindfulness. People be like, have you done your practice? Have you done your sit? And of course there's going to be people who go, no, I can't be bothered. I don't want to do it.

But I think the amount of momentum with the evidence and people's direct experience will be that, we all know that if we want to keep ourselves mentally fit so that we don't fall into the trap of... have some of the challenges that come when we're not mentally fit, I think people are going to know and it's going to be part of a lot of certainly probably Australian and American cultures where it's almost a given that you need to have good mental health practices, and mindfulness is one of the best training tools that I've ever come across for keeping yourself in a good space.

Jill:

Yeah. That's fabulous. Thank you. And as we start to wind down our time together today, Linda, I wanted to ask you, I think you had mentioned earlier kind of like what's next for both you and Rachel together, things that you're working on. Um, do you have some things to share with us?

Linda:

As Rachel mentioned, we'd like to write a paper together. I'm hoping she's still-

Jill:

okay.

Linda:

... she's still game for that. And we have also discussed doing some presentations together. Hasn't worked out this year just because of Rachel has a very busy schedule. But I would hope in the future that we can kind of a mesh kind our two different realms of thinking together and bring this to more companies. Yeah. Rachel.

Rachel:

Yeah, Now that's exactly right. I mean, I would love to write a paper with you Linda. For sure I'm still on for that mate. No worries. But I think the thing is that I see this as being demand-led. If there's demand for people who are willing to give this a go, then I'm interested to hear about that. And I would love to work with Linda and I'm happy to travel to the states to do so. So the thing is that, it's at that point where we need a few organizations who are willing to lead the way, to work with Linda and I to start to really create a database of evidence for how this works. I've got programs that are ready to go and potentially if we can look to create papers, do work in organizations, and then once that's been piloted or explored, potentially do a digital program so it can be rolled out to at scale.

They're other things I see in the future. And if no one's interested in it, then that's okay too, I'll go and do other things. But I think the truth is, and Linda has talked about this a lot and we've talked about with you too, Jill. I think the truth is that these skills are evidence-based. They're accessible, they're practical, and they have so many knock-on benefits for safety and performance in the workplace, that I can't see it going any other way than this being something that is a major feature of leading organizations in the not too distant future. So, yeah.

Jill:

And our end, it's not only as accessible, it's free. After you know how to do what needs to be done. It's accessible to you at any time without a cost.

Rachel:

Yes. That's exactly right. And that's one of the best things about it. I'd make this point in my mindfulness training and I train people specifically to focus on using the sensations in their body and particularly their breath as a way to get the benefits of mindfulness because it's highly practical. It's free. You know, you're not relying on an APP, or a sound, or some candle, or anything else.

There are techniques in mindfulness practice that do something external to the individual to get them to focus their mind and train their attention and they're really useful. But I don't think they're as practical in the workplace, because if you're out driving your train across the desert or you're out on the road or you're at work, you can't be going on. I'm just going to get out of this external tool to help me get myself in a good state of mind. It's got to be something you can do in the moment, in day to day life. And I'm really passionate about making mindfulness practical to people. And after training hundreds of people now and speaking in front of thousands, it would appear that it really does work. Once you made an investment and you learn the skills, and you've got some champions in the organization then your way. Yeah.

Jill:

Right. Well, and for our listeners, speaking of demand, Rachel and if people are listening and thinking, I want to know more, I want to hear more, I want to read about this myself. Some places that you can go, number one, if you want to read Linda's paper, The Art And Science Of Mindfulness, you can go to our website at vividlearningsystems.com and in the search bar, just type mindfulness and the paper will come up right away. You can also connect with Rachel at her website, rachelgrace.com.au and also on linkedIn where Rachel often shares some of the information that you referred to on the insight timer where you have some guided meditation practices of people who want to come back to it. Is that correct?

Rachel:

Yeah, sure. My website is, rachelgrace.com. but I use it as R-I-C-H-E-L-G-R-A-C-E.com.au You can follow or connect with me there, but LinkedIn's probably the best place to stay across the things that I'm doing. I publish there, when I put up new meditations on Insight Timer and so on. So you can look from me under Rachel Grace, and on the Rachel Grace, it's in Australia and I think there'll be links on this page as well. So yeah, and email me if you're interested to find out more, that's fine too. So hello@rachelgrace.com that I use my email.

Jill:

Wonderful. Well, Linda and Rachel, thank you so much for being with all of our guests today. Really appreciate it.

Rachel:

Thank you.

Linda:

Thank you Jill.

Rachel:

Thanks Linda.

Jill:

And thank you all so much for joining in and listening today, and thank you for the work you all do to make sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day. Special thanks to Will Moss, our podcast producer. You can listen to all of our episodes at vividlearningsystems.com or subscribe in the podcast player of your choosing. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.