Author Joey Klein: How to Develop Mindfulness During Stressful or Uncertain Times
…I would say it’s the act of being aware of what’s occurring for us internally and what’s occurring outside of us. So, an awareness of what’s going on for ourselves internally: mentally and emotionally, and also an awareness of what’s going on in our environment.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joey Klein.
International Corporate Transformation Expert Joey Klein is an internationally known personal transformation expert, world champion martial artist, business CEO, and author of the book “The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit.” He travels the world teaching his technique of Conscious Transformation to support people in living healthy, happy, and more fulfilling lives. Learn more at www.JoeyKlein.com, www.ConsciousTransformation.com and theinnermatrix.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I found my way into what I’m doing initially through a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. I was younger, 19 years old, and I realized that my life was just not working for me. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t fulfilled there in Wichita, Kansas where I grew up. There wasn’t a lot of joy in my life. I looked around and I didn’t see that around me. So I set out looking for answers. I initially found a meditative type teacher who was anchored or grounded in some ancient wisdom practices. I ended up finding my answers initially through meditation. From there, I noticed that I was feeling better and a lot of the techniques worked, but the dogma around each of the traditions didn’t seem as necessary to me. And so I was really fascinated to know why it is that I’m feeling better and it seems like it’s working for other people as well. That got me excited about studying the brain science around neurology to see why these techniques worked. I eventually found my answers. Then I met a seasoned psychologist in LA who ended up taking me under her wing, and asked me to start teaching internal training or meditation to a lot of her higher profile clients. It really just took off at that point where I had a full practice very quickly. Then it wasn’t long before my clients were asking me to put on seminars or events where their friends and their family and their coworkers could access the work as well. At that point, it all sort of just took on a life of its own, and led to today where I’ve got somewhere around 50 clients that I see one on one; I teach 40-plus weekend programs a year and we have thousands of people interact with our training company on a regular basis.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The psychologist I was working very closely with in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills ended up referring me a lot of her clients. She also trained me inside of psychology and I trained her inside of internal training meditation. So she referred me to one of her clients. I ended up at a client’s house in Bel Air, something like an $80 million estate, terrified out of my mind because I was a whole 20 years old at the time. And I’m fresh out of Wichita, Kansas. I have no idea realities like this exist. I remember pushing the button on the gate because you couldn’t see the house from the road. And I remember this voice comes on and asks me who I am and lets me in. This drawbridge gate opens and then we’re pulling up the driveway and there was somebody outside washing a variety of cars, a Ferrari and a Bentley and a whole slew of these six-figure cars out in the driveway. The butler answered the door. I never even knew that was a thing. I thought it was just something in movies where people had butlers and full libraries and fulltime chefs.
My client came down and I was terrified because I’m thinking these people have everything. They have private jets and they had all this wealth. And I thought, why could I possibly be here? My client gave me a tour of the house and walked me into the library where we had our session. She seemed vibrant and happy; everything seemed great from the outside. And I remember she sat down and she burst out into tears. And it was in that moment that my fear went away and I realized, “Oh, I know exactly why I’m here. I know how to train somebody and teach them in how to access peace and how to access fulfillment.” And it was very clear in that moment that even though I knew intellectually that money and riches and fame and those types of things are never going to produce happiness, it was the first time where I had this real-life example confirm it for me. And in that moment, it really solidified for me the importance of teaching people how to manage their internal reality.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Number one is you have to have those guiding principles named that everybody’s going to strive to live up to. Nobody’s going to get the principles perfect. Nobody’s going to nail them exactly. Everybody’s going to make mistakes. But you need to have these guiding culture principles that make sense for the company that you’re growing, and ultimately where it is you want to take that company. It can be as simple as, we’re going to respect one another in a general sense, or we’re going to be kind. Or a culture principle that I have in my company is a no-blame policy. We’re just not going to criticize, condemn, and complain.
We’re going to name what’s happening and we’re going to name solutions. We’re not going to have a blame culture. So whatever the principle is, it’s got to be named. But a lot of times it falls apart. They name it, they put it on their wall. It says some nice things, it’s a nice idea, but it’s not actually trained or prevalent in the culture. So after you name the key culture principles that everybody’s going to live up to, that everybody’s agreeing to engage with each other, you’ve got to train it and make sure you’re reinforcing it and keeping it alive in the culture in day-to-day actions through meetings, one-on-one interactions, et cetera.
From there, I think that that training can be very, very supportive inside of giving people what we think of as emotional intelligence training. But rather than just talking about what emotional intelligence is, it’s really about taking it to the next level and getting people trained inside of how to manage their emotions and their inner reality. Not just to understand the idea of emotional intelligence, but to actually interweave in the culture a sense of training and a sense of reinforcement around helping people cultivate a higher emotional capacity. It needs to become a lifestyle. Training and practice needs to become the way we engage. So if you have meetings, maybe the first two minutes of the meeting is just everybody naming where they are, as in, “Hey, I’m here, I’m stressed.” And then, you don’t go into it, but at least it’s a data point of where people are.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I really like the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It’s been around forever; I read that book the first time when I was maybe 18 or 19 years old. There is this theme that’s woven in the book of get clear about what you want, give yourself permission to name a vision for your life that looks nothing like your life looks today, and have this burning desire or passion for that vision and make it most important. Believe that it will happen and accept no other option in the fulfillment of that vision. Where I was at that point in life, it really gave me permission to believe that a reality different from the one I was living was possible for me. And it gave me permission to start moving toward it. It’s one of those books that just hit me so strongly. I’ve read it and re-read it many times over and I have definitely verified the concepts in the book as being true and real for me. Because when I look at everything I’ve created, it started out as just this idea, this vision, this fantasy that I wanted to create. But then I committed to the process, and time and time again, it wasn’t long before it was the practical reality that I was living.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
I would say it’s the act of being aware of what’s occurring for us internally and what’s occurring outside of us. So, an awareness of what’s going on for ourselves internally: mentally and emotionally, and also an awareness of what’s going on in our environment.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
I think it’s important to note that as of right now, these terms mindfulness and meditation have become generic labels for literally thousands of different methods and/or practices that are out there in the marketplace, so to speak. And the majority of them aren’t going to produce the result called mindfulness, or aren’t going to produce the result called greater capacity for and with oneself. So it’s important to make sure that that one has qualified the training or mindfulness practice that they’re engaging in. If we’re engaged in a quality training that has a record of producing results, the benefits that one can expect from creating mindfulness are things like decreasing stress; being able to move out of painful emotions such as anger, depression, fear, shame, guilt, despair, et cetera, while driving toward more enjoyable experiences of life, such as joy and inspiration and passion and love and connection, which all of us would love to be able to access.
But above and beyond enhancing our own personal experience of life, as we become more mindful we start to see things that before we just couldn’t see. It’s very hard, when we’re stressed or we’re overwhelmed, or we get focused on a problem not realizing we’re focused on a problem. If we can become mindful that we’re focused on the problem or that we’re stressed, and take note that it’s time to make a shift, we can see a situation or circumstance from a new angle. So mindfulness helps us to become aware of what we’re doing and the result that we’re creating by way of what we’re doing and where we are. And it can also can be helpful to support us to make that shift, to engage the space with a new perception and a new tactic.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Each of these steps will train mindfulness and can be repeated with any space in life.
Number one, we need to make a distinction between the things that are happening and where we are, and to understand that those are separate realities. So step one is name what’s happening. Just name the facts, like, we’re in quarantine, restaurants are closed down, businesses are closed, whatever it is that’s happening.
Second, after you name what’s happening, name how you’re feeling. Name your reaction to what’s happening. It could be: I’m afraid. I’m uncertain. I’m scared. I’m shut down. Name your experience or your reaction to what’s happening.
Third is to acknowledge that those are separate realities. It may sound counterintuitive at first, especially when you start to acknowledge it this way. It kind of creates a disruption in the brain, which is the point. And sometimes we’re going to want to resist this third step, but with a little bit of practice, we’re going to realize that it actually gives us access to extraordinary empowerment. So third is to separate those two realities of what’s happening and my experience. It creates a little bit of a separation where we can now put our attention on essentially where our power lies and all the things that we can influence and control. And it reminds us to move our attention away from things that we can’t influence or control. So essentially I can’t control it if the government decides to put everybody in quarantine. I can’t control if they stop travel. I can’t control if there’s a mandatory business shutdown. I can influence my reaction to what’s happening, though, if I know how. Practicing that positioning gives me some distance between what’s happening and where I am.
Fourth is to center myself with breathing and focus. And so once I notice where I am, if fear is there, or anxiety; if I am overwhelmed, shut down, my fight-or-flight mechanisms are turned on, I want to turn those fear centers off. A great tactic for that, which is very simple to execute, is to take four- to five-second breaths. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take a deep inhale in through the nose, count to four or five, pause, hold the breath at the top. And then exhale for five seconds through your mouth. Pause, hold the breath at the bottom and continue that breathing cycle while focusing on relaxing your body. If the mind wants to focus on other things, such as what you did yesterday, just gently bring the focus back to the breath for two to five minutes.
When you feel a bit more calm, when you feel a bit more centered, now you’re ready to take the fifth step, which is to determine how you want to respond and take action in relation to what’s happening. Then we can focus on the response we can have mentally and emotionally, as well as the things we do, the actions we take, which include things we communicate. We can see where our power of influence lies, whether it’s the power of influence over just feeling better emotionally, or holding space and having influence on the people who are in our life, or having an influence on the business that we’re running. Rather than be a victim to or in a reaction to things that are happening, we can redirect and take intentional action toward what we want to create, the vision we want to fulfill, the result that we’re wanting to get. Ask, what action can I take right now toward that result? Or how can I respond to what’s happening in a way that will move me toward that result?
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Two things: Most important is just starting to take a little bit of time with yourself and for yourself. What that means is you’re not reading a book. You’re not watching TV. You’re not on Facebook. You’re not doing email. Start by just taking 10 minutes to just sit; just literally be with yourself. It’s a great resource to simply spend time with ourselves and get to know where we are. The only way we’re going to see what’s happening within ourselves is to spend a bit of time with ourselves. Most people are outwardly focused from the very start of their day until they go to sleep at night. So carving out soe time when the point of it is just to be with ourselves starts to reveal where we are. Are we happy? Are we sad? Are we positive? Are we negative? Are we comfortable with ourselves? Are we uncomfortable? Second, if somebody wants a little bit of support with that journey, with that process, Conscious Transformation training is one of the best methods of training they could execute to develop those skills and those capacities. The book “The Inner Matrix” explains more about how it works.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My first meditation mentor said to me, “Train yourself so that you take action from love and not fear.” When I first heard that, I thought it was kind of esoteric and it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But the more that I came to understand the neurology of the brain, how we function and how we work, the more I realized what sage wisdom that was. Because there’s been countless times in my life where I was upset. I was angry. I was afraid. And the things that occurred to me to do, if I had done them, would have been really destructive. Having access to the ability to realize, “Nope, this isn’t the place to take action from,” I got into a place of acceptance, compassion and love, where I take much better action and I get much better results.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would create a movement around making internal training and development a lifestyle. What that means is, just as we pay attention to nutrition to make sure our health is optimal, and we go to a personal trainer or a gym to be in great physical shape, and we understand these are activities that we need to engage in as part of a routine to realize good health or optimal fitness, we would just as consistently engage in the tools, techniques, strategies and principles that are like diet and an exercise for our emotions and our minds. Because at the end of the day, the emotions that we feel and the thoughts that we think literally drive every choice, decision, and action that we make. And yet it is the space many people spend little to no time developing.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!