Guest: Pauline McKinnon
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Pauline McKinnon is a mother and grandmother, a psychotherapist and a specialist meditation teacher. She is the founder and director of the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre in Melbourne. A popular presenter to a range of organizations, Pauline speaks to corporate, education and health industries. She is a Clinical Member of the Australian Association of Family Therapists, supports the work of ADAVIC (Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria) and assisted in the development of meditation teaching with the Australian Catholic University. She also initiated the formation of the peak body, Meditation Australia, and is its most recent Past President. After 9/11 in 2001 Pauline introduced the Olive Green Ribbon theme ‘personal peace for world peace’.
Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, let us welcome Founder and Director of the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre Pauline McKinnon from Melbourne, Australia. Pauline’s recovery from acute anxiety is a testament to the effectiveness of Stillness Meditation Therapy created by Australian psychiatrist Dr Ainslie Meares. Meditation is rapidly gaining popularity as an effective life-skill. Pauline is privileged to have assisted some thousands of people within Australia and internationally to relieve their symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. She considers Meares’ unique natural ‘stillness’ approach to be more advanced in its therapeutic value than meditation per se and fundamental to health, happiness and general wellbeing across the lifespan.
Health Professional Radio – Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and today my guest is Pauline Mckinnon. Pauline is the Founding Director Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre and joins us from Melbourne in Australia. Pauline welcome to Health Professional Radio.
Pauline Mckinnon: Thank you Wayne. Good to talk to you.
W: Now Pauline, tell us what it is that Stillness Meditation Centre does.
P: Well we offer therapeutic meditation to provide mental rest. And this is a particular kind of meditation based on the work of Dr. Ainslie Mears. If I can go on for a moment, Dr. Mears was a world renounced psychiatrist, Melbourne-based, he passed away in 1986. And he see a created this very innovative approached to meditation. I guess really we can call him the father of therapeutic meditation, because what he taught was unique. And mine, I was transformed through his work and so he invited me to start treating other people and I’ve been doing that for over 30 years.
W: Thirty years is a long time in anyone’s profession. Pauline how did you come to meet Dr. Mears, what was the association?
P: Yes, well I suffered from chronic anxiety for about 8 years in my early married life. And in those years nobody knew very much about anxiety, not in the public arena anyway – I mean we hear a lot about it today. And I’ve struggled to cope, I had ultimately 4 young children and my husband was a great support but nethertheless anxiety was ruining my life and the symptoms were chronic and quite severe and constant. And I went down on the early conventional path, most of which is still the path offered today in generally speaking and almost by accident or fortuitous serendipity I think, I came across the work of Dr. Mears. And pretty much plucked up the courage to go to see him because it was a little bit of a radical step in the side direction although of course he was a highly trained psychiatrist, this is a different approach. And his work was life transformational for me and then I published my story of anxiety, which really I guess pioneered awareness of anxiety as a social problem. And Dr. Mears as I said earlier invited me then to start teaching other people based on his work but also based on my experience of recovery.
W: Now Pauline you’re now considered yourself recovered?
P: Oh absolutely, for many, many years. (Laugh) Yes.
W: Yes. And for someone who’s suffering from anxiety, is it something that they’re going to recognize or is it something that they’re going to struggle to kind of get a label for a diagnosis?
P: I think because today anxiety is more widely discussed and mental health issues are more widely recognized, I think people … I mean there are tests people can do almost over the phone or in the internet to kind of diagnose themselves. But I’m not a great fan of diagnosis in these conditions, because I think that everybody is different. And we need a very sensitive and personalized approach to help people. Nevertheless having said that what we offer is a baseline of mental rest and this seems to be highly effective in reducing the symptom. So just coming back to your question, I think whether the people recognize that they’re anxious or not, and I think most people sort of do, because the anxiety is pretty compelling and it keeps repeating itself in various ways and people feel uncomfortable, they might feel ill, they might feel as they are about to come out or faint, they might be having panic attacks, they might be getting depression, but not of a clinical nature just a frustration and a miserable kind of state of being – they might develop phobic reaction or obsessive compulsive reaction, and so on. And so all of those things are indicative of high levels of anxiety and accompanying that, very high levels of nervous tension.
W: Pauline many of our listeners, in fact about a 95% of them are clinicians of one kind or another. Lots of nurses, some doctors, some other allied health professionals – but lots of them are of course not experts in either anxiety or mental health for that matter. What’s the message that you would have for them today?
P: I think the message is when there is anxiety, there’s always going to be high levels of tension and people are often not aware of that. Mental rest is essential to drop those tension levels, to lower the overall anxiety level, and that in turn will relieve the symptom. It’s very easy to reach for the prescription pad or for people to look for a pill and then take pill in the bottle. These are bandage, they’re good bandage and we all need bandage and crutches from time to time but I think because of the nature of anxiety and until we address the overall levels within the individual, the anxiety is never really going to be under control or managed successfully. And that we see amazing change in people’s lives. I mean my life is testament to me that I’ve seen probably thousands of people over the years who could also note that significant change once they have a sense of control over this anxiety which is otherwise feels it’s controlling us.
W: I see. Now Pauline people who are interested in connecting with you, do they need a referral or can they self-refer?
P: Oh yeah, they can self-refer. I mean obviously it’s good to have a bit of background, so sometimes doctors do refer people and they’ll give us a letter of introduction and that’s good. But it’s definitely not necessary so people can come along.
W: And I guess your website is the best way to do that at www.stillnessmeditation.com.au
P: Yeah, that’s right. That is a good starting point I guess, yes.
W: Now Pauline my favorite question in every interview is about misconceptions. What are the big misconceptions around your work and around anxiety that leads you to be concerned that there are these unresolved issues?
P: Well around my work, I think one of the greatest misconceptions is that meditation is all the same. And that if you go to the local community centre, you’re gonna get results. I don’t think that’s going to happen because what we’re working with really is a therapeutic process, it’s not about teaching people how to meditate. There is a personalized interaction in this whole process. I’m a psychotherapist and my assistants are all counselors and we work with people individually and in groups. But it’s a very individualized process and that’s where I think the changes takes place, but also because of the type of meditation that it is. A lot of people know about “mindfulness” meditation these days.
W: Uh huh.
P: And a lot of people assume that what we’re teaching is mindfulness. In fact what we’re working with is the exact opposite of mindfulness – it’s about “mental rest.” It’s about helping people’s physiological being to heal in fact. So the sad aspect of it which is a common misconception. And I think in terms of anxiety, well as I said earlier there is more anxiety awareness these days. But I do think that there can be a bit of catastrophizing, people need reassurance when they’re anxious. And I mean this might sound a bit self-indulging but I think if I had the reassurance that I give to people when I was within my 20’s (chuckle) I think I wouldn’t have developed the same sort of level of anxiety that I did that which in fact was really the acrophobic reaction where it was very, very difficult for me to freely leave the safety of home. So I think a sort of an individualized reassurance is really, really important and I don’t think we can just fix anxiety by the tablet, the medication, certainly some talking therapy can sometimes be helpful in conjunction with the mental rest.
W: It has indeed, and it has been lovely talking with you today because it’s clear that this is a subject about which you’re passionately concerned and involved in. That comes through when you talk so thank you for your time and thank you for your passion.
P: Oh that’s good.
W: I did mention the website before stillnessmeditation.com.au Is there a phone number people can contact you on as well?
P: Yes certainly, well we’re Melbourne based so it’s 03-9817-2933.
W: So that was Melbourne in Australia 03-9817-2933. I’ve been in conversation with Pauline Mckinnon, the Founding Director of Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre. And if you’ve just missed my conversation, well we have good news and bad news. The bad news is you’ve missed my conversation, but the good news is we have a transcript of the interview on our website. You can also listen to the interview again in our audio archive on both YouTube and SoundCloud and there are links to all of those resources on our website at www.hpr.fm. You’re listening to Health Professional Radio, my name is Wayne Bucklar.