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[PODCAST] Unpacking Mindfulness – Separating Fact from Fiction

Join Vesna and André on this episode of ‘He Said She Said: The Workplace Wellbeing Podcast’ as they delve into the world of mindfulness. From busting myths to exploring its benefits, they’ll leave no stone unturned in their quest to help you understand what mindfulness is all about. Get ready for their monthly webinar by tuning in and learn how mindfulness can be used as a force for change. Don’t miss out on this thought-provoking episode!

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Episode transcription

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention intentionally in the present moment without judgment.

He’s from the Netherlands. She’s from Serbia. He’s from the corporate. She’s from the nonprofit. He was an addict and burnt out. She was caring too much and got compassion fatigue. Two different backgrounds and two different voices.

Welcome to a new episode of He Said. She said, an unfiltered and honest discussion format with diverse. With your hosts, Vesna and Andrea join their mission to break the stigmas and start the conversation while supporting HR in bringing mental fitness to their organization. Let’s get ready to develop resilience.

Improve emotional intelligence and build companionship within your team to reduce absence, burnout, and emotional exhaustion within your workplace.


welcome to He Said She Said. During this episode, we will dive into the. Topic of mindfulness. While it is the foundation of almost every modern wellbeing approach, mindfulness is often seen as just meditation or a tool to sinus our head.

This is why it’s time to debunk the myths and beliefs about what is mindfulness and what is mindfulness not, as well as how it can benefit us. This episode’s goals are to get you ready for our monthly webinar, and to go a little bit more in details about our blog “let’s not turn mindfulness into capitalist spirituality”

check out the link in the episode description to register for our monthly webinar. You can also find in the future there do webinars replay, or you can read the whole post. Now in this episode, we will go first shortly over the article. Followed by some questions, and we will also close with a lightning round where we give five tips and reminders on how to start practicing mindfulness within your team.

So I should say, let’s dive in. My name is Andre and I love to hand the mic to my wife and business partner Vena, the real expert when it comes to mindfulness-based approaches with her eight years of experience as a certified mindfulness trainer. Vesna, welcome to the episode. And can you give us a short recap on the article from this month.

Article recap

The way mindfulness is taught today, adapted to the western world, often excludes from itself values such as empathy, compassion, and concrete actions to change and do something in our society. Only as long as I have my inner peace, I can continue to live into this little bubble of self-satisfaction. Too much emphasis is placed on control of thoughts, emotions, and stress.

While forgetting that we are primarily social beings that live in communities and with other people, and what is happening around us and in our society. It really affects us, all of us. The way mindfulness is often taught in the West leads to people being passive, individuals who settle for the status quo. In order to better manage stress everyone is expected to shoulder all responsibility, and it’s assumed that everyone causes of stress are entirely individualistic. Suppressing the reality that stress is frequently caused by poor policies, unfavorable social economic conditions, racism, discrimination, and poverty. It is forgotten that mindfulness practice can really be used as a force of action. And developing the awareness of the individual to notice what in society in which we live doesn’t work. And from that state of awareness, understanding, and compassion, the individual takes action to change something.

Now, first of all, maybe it’s interesting to explain a little bit more about how you started your personal mindfulness journey.

How started your mindfulness journey?

Okay. I actually got a present for my birthday, a mindfulness workshop from my sister. At that time, I was living and working in Slovenia in a youth center. I went to that workshop. I had no expectations. I just heard that some something related to personal slash professional development. I came there. I have to say I didn’t like it frist.

But it brought certain curiosity because I noticed there was something deeper there that I needed to work on. And there are certain challenges and issues related to my relationship that I had with myself and with other people. And I think that was opened up for me on that first mindfulness workshop.

And my instructor was a very um, interesting charismatic lady from den. That made a great impression on me and I really wanted to learn from her, and that’s why I continued my mindfulness journey. But to be honest, it was purely for personal reasons. So I never planned on professionally teaching mindfulness to others.

Maybe because I had such an instructor that was, that had such a powerful presence. So I thought, I can’t compare myself to her. So probably I will never teach this to. So I just really dived into this experience for, from purely personal reasons.

And like if you, cuz I think there are a lot of people who hear about mindfulness but don’t really know what it is.

If you could explain it like in a simple couple of sentences, like someone who is a newbie, someone who maybe likes to start with mindfulness. What is mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?

So we can say that the basic meaning of the term mindfulness is paying attention. But specifically when we talk about this term, we’re actually talking about conscious attention, which is paying attention in a certain way.

Definition of John Kabat-Zinn, who is actually the creator of one of the most famous mindfulness programs called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program is that mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention intentionally in the present moment without judgment. And I think here for people is important to know that all of our judged experiences is good or bad.

Pleasant or unpleasant. And some things we like, some things we don’t and that’s perfectly fine. Unfortunately, very often we are pulled back by that judgment, unaware of the experience at the moment of their occurrence. So the moment when we noticed that we are not here, that we drifted something somewhere else and that we managed to bring our attention back to here and now and on what we’re doing that is actually mindfulness.

And what do you think is like the most common misconception because what you also wrote in your article that it maybe becomes more capitalistic, spiritualism. What is the thing that maybe people get wrong about mindfulness?

Mindfulness misconceptions

I think one, a really important thing that I can definitely say from my own personal experience is that mindfulness is a journey. And it takes practice, patience and time to see all the benefits that you can get from mindfulness and the way how people teach it today. They teach it as a tool, as a technique, just as meditation. And they really put it at, in that way oh, let’s do a couple of mindfulness exercises because that’s gonna help us, increase our focus or control stress and so on.

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t. Nothing is wrong with wanting to, have a better focus and not be stressed, but you can’t expect long lasting results if that is, if that’s gonna be the only way how you’re gonna teach it. So you need to approach it with a more sustainable attitude, but also ,with a goal that it has to take time, that it has to take patience, and that it has to be practiced in many different ways, not just as a tiny tool, as a tiny technique that you can use once a day.

So it actually needs deeper transformation of your mindset. When we talk about practicing mindfulness, the first step would. Doing at least eight weeks course because from my experience, people understand this. What I’m trying to explain now, if they’ve been participating in a long-term mindfulness trainings, they are the people who understand and probably will understand what I’m talking about here.

Yeah and like also the term that you’re using in your article, like rephrasing, McMindfulness something that becomes really popular like in the West. Can you maybe explain a little bit more about that?

What is wrong with mindfulness?

Yeah. They refer now often, you can read certain criticism of mindfulness with some, I agree with some I definitely disagree. That it became like a new fast food of wellbeing. It sounds hipster, it sounds cool, it sounds slash spiritual slash practical. There are a lot research of its impact on the brain. So people are always interested in the topics related to brain and how can they become smarter, better, and so on.

So they really start to see it as fast food. Oh, I will just do a couple of mindfulness exercises and, I will be this super superhuman with a bigger brain, and I will impact my neuroplasticity because everybody now know what neuroplasticity is. So it became mainstream in the West.

And I think that’s also what’s gonna happen for sure here in the Balkan. And I don’t know if that makes me happy or that makes me afraid because I think that when something becomes mainstream, that some that can also lead, that it loses deepness and its value in a way, how we are gonna approach it.

Practicing mindfulness. It’s not just pleasant and it’s not just about feeling better, it’s also about digging deeper and seeing all the things that you dislike about yourself, about your life, about your relationships, and that can be painful. And that’s why often when you dive deeper into mindfulness, that eventually will lead you to psychotherapy and some other approaches that can help.You know, be even better in practicing mindfulness, but also being better and feeling better about yourself, about your life, or navigating those difficult transitions and periods of your life. Because mindfulness can really bring up a lot of things that aren’t so good about you and your life. And that’s also something that we need to talk about, and that’s maybe not something that everyone is ready for.

Is mindfulness for everyone? Is it just for a Pacific type of people? Do you need to be spiritual or super woke to do mindfulness?

Is mindfulness for everyone?

To be honest I do think that everyone can practice mindfulness. I often hear people saying I’m not a type for mindfulness, because they think there you should be a certain type of a person for mindfulness.

So I think that’s bullshit because I think everyone can practice mindfulness. The thing is what mindfulness, maybe who, there are people who are not ready for mindfulness yet and because, for example, the first time when I went to a mindfulness training, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t like it. I thought it’s super boring, frustrating, irritating.

And I thought, this is not for me. And maybe at that time it wasn’t. But it took me, it still brought certain curiosity about what’s wrong and why is it that I don’t like it so much. So I started doing some exercises and in time I was then ready after more than a half, a year later to dive deeper in. So I think it really depends on stage of your life in which you are.

Can you devote yourself to it? Can you, do you have ambition to go deeper in it? Are you curious about yourself? Do you wanna become more self-awareness? Are you going through certain transition in your life where you need something like this to support you? Do you wanna become I don’t know, a different person?

Are you open for this kind of experience? So I think it really depends on motivation of a person. I think it really depends on of the interest of the person, of the stage, of their life and so on. I really don’t think it has anything to do with your character traits, because people often think, oh, if I’m, you know, Extroverted and energetic.

I can’t practice mindfulness. That’s really not true because I’m extroverted, I’m energetic, I overthink, I’m self-critical. And actually mindfulness is made for people like us. So in that way there is no answer. Oh, for these people, mindfulness is, and for these group of people, for those group of people, my mindfulness is not.

So I just think that people. Need to be open for it need to be patient with themselves and be, I dunno, curious to learn something more about themselves.

Like in your article you also. Rephrase a little bit more like that it goes way further than just the individual experience.

It goes further than just silencing the brain or reduce stress. What are those other elements that can be brought through mindfulness or can be reached through mindfulness?

How is mindfulness more than just meditation?

I think one part that I found in some other practices that are actually mindfulness based, and I found those things in program called mindfulness, self-compassion, and for sure mindfulness is a very important part of mindful self-compassion as well.

You can’t observe them separately. Is that part of common humanity. What we often forget is that we are social beings, and I have a feeling that wellbeing industry now puts a lot of emphasis on individual happiness.

It’s often forgotten that we live in a group of people. We live in a society, we live in a community. We go to work, we have colleagues there. So I think that part is often missing and what mindfulness can bring you. Beside that, besides that self-awareness, it’s also that awareness of other people and how do we talk to each other.

How do we interact? We start to recognize the judgments that we have about others, attitudes that we have that are maybe unhealthy or toxic, or that are damaging in general, maybe workplace culture, and the atmosphere and communication we have with each other. So while practicing self-awareness, you also become more aware of your relationships with other people.

So I think that in, in the long run, mindfulness can really help us change those relationships that we have with each other in a way that we become more compassionate and empathic towards each other. And then when it comes to mindful self-compassion program, I think it adds this extra layer of common humanity.

But also part of this fierce self-compassion, meaning that we actually want to do something differently and to change something when it comes to humanity, when it comes to relationships with other people. Whether that’s injustice, whether that’s discrimination, whether that’s racism, whether that’s poverty or some other social problems that we have because we are coming from this place of self-awareness, inner peace and acceptance of who we are, but also acceptance of other people and who they are, and also desire to help them, but helping them because we are able to give compassion to ourselves and to others as well. Because people who are very self-compassionate, they who are very compassionate, are often not self-compassion.

So often this compassion and action desire to help comes from this place of suffering and pain in order to be, I dunno, liked or accepted, or because you’re a people pleaser or something else. So in this way, when you practice self-compassion and the only way to practice self-compassion is also through mindfulness.

It helps you really, genuinely, and honesty honestly, give that compassion and understanding and support to other people. And I think that’s the missing part that I got from the program. Mindfulness, compassion that I missed just in mindfulness program.

Okay. Okay. Okay. If somebody thinks. Maybe mindfulness is something for me.

I feel stressed. I want to do more about it. I maybe even want to do it with my colleagues. What should be a good starting point to, to practice mindfulness?

How to start with mindfulness?

Definitely I would emphasize that it’s important to start with practicing meditation. But to be patient also when it comes to practicing meditation.

So you can do really short, when I say meditation, I don’t mean any religious practice, but more meditation in which, for example, you focus on the sounds on the breath, on the body on the present moment and what’s going on here and. So there are many different mindfulness meditations that can easily be implemented throughout your day.

It can be before a meeting. It can be before a brainstorm. It can be at the beginning or end of your day just to calm yourself down and just to. Bring your attention here and now. So meditations can be a very simple thing that I think can be literally included everywhere. And they don’t have to last half an hour.

They can last 5, 10, 15 minutes. But I do believe that if we wanna teach meditation, we also need to be aware of certain mindfulness attitudes. And I think mindfulness attitudes are certain values that are important that we also nurture as people. Not in the relationships with ourselves, but I think not just when it comes to our mindfulness practice, but I think in general when it comes to life, because those values are something that I believe every human being should practice in their lives.

So for example, non-judgment, acceptance, patience, trust, letting go, and so on. Because these values can help us also in accept. The reality of our meditation experience because meditation can be frustrating for people. And I think here is a very important point for people to know. Meditation is and will be boring and frustrating.

And that’s the whole point because we are learning how to sit with that boredom and frustration. Meditation, how you see it in movies that people sit in this blissful state of mind and being. Yes, it can also happen after some time, but most often is that experience of frustration because what you’re actually learning here, you’re learning to tolerate frustration and you learn how to be with those difficult emotions, thoughts, frustrations, sens, negative sensations and so on.

So you’re growing your resilience, so you’re growing your capacity to deal with all these unpleasant things so that tomorrow when the real stress hits, you’ve grown your capacity to deal with the stress and to deal with challenges. That’s the whole point of meditation. The point of meditation is not for you to be in a blissful state.

So I think that’s the first thing that you need to get rid of if you decide to practice mindfulness meditation, because it’s not a pleasant thing to practice. It is difficult, and that’s. The way how it’s been taught by people who are not professional is they just introduce it as a quick fix. People don’t like it.

They try it five times. They give up and they think it’s not for them. This is bullshit. This is crap. That’s not how it’s taught. It should not be blissful state of mind. It should be learning how to sit with frustration with negativity. And growing your capacity, and that’s why it takes time and patience from the trainer, whoever decides to teach it.

So it’s actually little bit rephrasing back to the gym. You need to feel the next morning muscle pain. That means you had a good training. The same with meditation. It’s practicing for the moment that you need the muscles.

Yeah, exactly. I believe you can also share your experience. You were on a personal retreat.

You were in silence for five, seven days. So I believe for 10, even more I believe you can also share how it is to, sit and meditate for 10 days and not talk.

Yeah, it’s, it’s not really the most pleasant thing to do, but I think what I really see now in my work that I easily can go back to that moment where I was in silence, where I learned to reflect on things.

So it’s really amazing tool that you can create to implement in other, Elements of your life. And I think that’s really in line also with a little bit like the next question because we really see mindfulness becomes a hype individually, but also within the workplace. What are the other benefits that like a team can have from practicing mindfulness in the workplace?

What are the benefits of using mindfulness in the workplace?

So mindfulness definitely improves wellbeing because it helps individuals reduce stress, increase emotional intelligence, and improve overall wellbeing. It increases productivity because practices such as meditation and debriding can improve focus, but also mental clarity. I think that’s a really important.

And also that eventually leads to better decision making ability. Also, it enhances creativity and innovation. And I can really Testified this, that through some meditation experiences, I had the best and most brilliant ideas, or certain solutions popped up in my head through meditation.

So it was really difficult to let it go, especially for example, if you’re focusing on the breath and then you have this idea, work related or life related. And then you need to let it go because that’s the whole point of meditation. You need to accept and let go. So then it happened to me often that after meditations, I was writing down some ideas.

So it can really increase imagination, creativity, and outside the box thinking because there is also in other stages, while you keep on practicing meditation, you have other stages where you practice literal visualization. You imagine certain outcome. You imagine certain resolution of the problem and so on.

So it goes deeper and deeper as you practice mindfulness.

And I think that’s also really practical, like for complex IT projects that you really can visualize together what is the end solution? Where are we going through instead of just starting from the beginning? Because often those projects are run with the ending in mind. What also really comes from mindfulness.

And also I think it boosts the morale and collaboration because it improves communication, as I mentioned before, that non-judgmental part, and also ca catching yourself when you start judging others because. I think that we all judge ourselves and other people, and that’s fine.

It doesn’t mean that mindfulness takes away your ability of critical thinking, but it helps you distinguish, okay, is this judgment, is this judgment coming from a place of my own insecurity, fear, anger, or something else? And how can I let it go and just, for example, be curious and open-minded and with beginner’s mind when it comes to this problem or this person and so on.

So it really has this social component that I think it’s very important. And a and also mindfulness is used in. In schools to prevent peer violence. I think that’s really an important thing and there is a reason why, because it really impacts relationships that we have with each other. And also it supports, of course, mental health.

And I assume that many psychotherapists also use mindfulness exercises. Many coaches also use mindfulness exercises. You even have a mindfulness program, especially designed for certain, for depression, for anxiety, eating disorders and so on. So it really helps you uh, increase job satisfaction because it also impacts your mental health in general.

And because earlier in, in the interview, I already recognized that the way of teaching mindfulness that it was different from other personal development approaches. So I’m curious, like can say HR, psychotherapists or coaches easily teach mindfulness, or are there certain dos and don’ts that I really need to know upfront?

Can HR, psychotherapists or coaches easily teach mindfulness?

I think it’s very important that all of them at least go through eight weeks mindfulness course, so that they have their own experience because mindfulness is really experiential approach and when they go on those trainings, go as a participant. So go to fully part. And to get curious about yourself, to help yourself, to learn it for yourself.

Don’t think what the, whether you’re gonna use it one day in your work or not, just do it for yourself. Go there with the beginner’s mind. Don’t go the go there as psychotherapist coach, HR professional or whatever.

So that’s first thing that I would advise them. The second thing is if they ever decide to teach mindfulness, then really engage in education for becoming a mindfulness teacher or facilitator, because it is a different type of process when you teach mindfulness to others.

Especially when it comes to inquiry. So asking participants about their own experience. It’s very important that you embody the practice, that you have your own personal experience that you are not looking for the right answers. You’re also not analyzing their past, you’re not diving deeper.

And in correlations between why they had certain experiences and where does it come from and what is its triggering. For example, as a psychotherapist would do also with the coaches. There is, we have in mindfulness this practice on non-striving. So coaching always wants to get to a certain result to a certain achievement, to a certain conclusion.

And in mindfulness there is always there is this neutral. Presence that we have as teachers. And what I noticed is that for psychotherapists and coaches, because I had many colleagues when I was going through my certification training, there were many colleagues that were psychotherapists and coaches.

I know from their experience that it was very difficult for them not to lead the client, to a certain conclusion or ask these certain types of questions that you really see that are coming from their psychotherapist or coach back. So that’s really what can be obstacle for them when they teach mindfulness.

And I think here the part of inquiry and mindfulness is something that is very specific, but also embodiment practice because participants can see through you if you are not practicing mindfulness. I think more than in any other approach, and I’ve been through many different types of education, so I know, although, so it’s not that I’ve just done mindfulness.

First things first finished eight weeks course, and then you will see. And what I often notice is that many people who come to me with intention to one day teach mindfulness after they finish eight weeks course, they say to me openly, I realize this is not something for me. I don’t wanna teach this. I liked it for myself, but I don’t plan on teaching it further on.

I just realized it’s not my, because I often also got the command from psychotherapist that sometimes. That the, actually, the certification for mindfulness trainer sounds more difficult than certification for psychotherapists, especially when they hear that you have 10 day silent retreats and that kind of stuff.

So for some people already, that is a no-go to become a mindfulness trainer.

Okay Thanks Vesna. If you want to go deeper in this topic, we also have, of course, our monthly webinar, so be sure to join that. Then as closure, the lightning round with five tips and reminders on how to get your team started practicing mindfulness.

Five tips and reminders on how to get your team started practicing mindfulness.

1. Lead by example: encourage team leaders and managers to model a mindfulness practice by themselves. Also to adopt it in their lives. I think a good thing what s also said, start first by yourself, by enrolling in a eight weeks program, or at least maybe take a small meditation retreat.

2. Schedule a time for a mindfulness: I think it’s important to set aside some daily time to practice your mindfulness activities. This can even be maybe having a mindful breakfast. This can be having maybe a short walk with your dog in the morning, but do it mindful.

3. Make mindfulness accessible: offer your people your employers, workshops, trainings, maybe other resources or books . Maybe create a certain d daily routine within your organization.

4. Encourage open communication: Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their experience with mindfulness and openly share the insights. And for me, I think the most important one, it’s

5. Celebrate success: become together aware of. Recognize and celebrate the positive impacts of mindfulness practice, but also maybe other wins that you have in your team.

It’ll improve the mood, but also it creates a better relationship with your team members. So Vesna, should say your last words for today.

Final words

So I think it’s important to remember that mindfulness is a journey and not a destination. It takes. Patience and dedication to integrate mindfulness practice, especially into a team setting.

But the benefits are really well worthy. Effort. Start small, be consistent. Encourage everyone to participate, but also don’t dis insist. Allow people to take time when they feel ready for it and when they want it, and make mindfulness a regular part of the team’s.

Now thanks for your attention today.

And don’t forget to press the follow or subscribe button so you don’t gonna miss our next episode that goes around attention and concentration. Check the episode description to register for our webinar, but soon you can also watch the replay of the webinar and you can read the whole post. I should say see you on our next episode.

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