Model the values — Keep working on yourself — your mindfulness, your attitude, taking care of yourself, and so on. Simply being the highest version of ourselves provides inspiration for others in ways we don’t often see.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kara Goodwin.
Kara Goodwin, host of the Meditation Conversation podcast, is passionate about helping those who wish to expand beyond their body, thoughts, and emotions to tap into the wisdom and gifts within them. She uses meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, and works with the subconscious to help others grow into a higher version of themselves. While she derives great fulfillment from swimming in mystical waters, she equally values nurturing her Earthly side through motherhood, animals, plants, and treatment-free beekeeping.
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 had always been curious about meditation and tried it casually here and there, with really no perceived benefit. This was back before smartphones and all the apps with guided meditations. I would just sit there in the dark with my eyes closed after a long day and expect something magical to happen — at the very least to experience this state of thoughtlessness I had heard about. I didn’t get magic, but I did get a taste of frustration as I skipped hopelessly from thought to thought while simultaneously and halfheartedly fighting off sleep. I would determine that I belonged in the category of “those who are unable to meditate,” and give up my efforts. Then eventually I would get curious again and give it another go, only to be reminded soon enough that my thoughts were like the unseen middle child, desperate for attention. I would remember why I gave up before and once again my meditation practice would dissolve into the messy background of discarded ways-to-better-myself, cozily wedged in between the untended vegetable garden and the bike with a basket to ride to the farmer’s market.
For those who believe that each person on this planet has a destiny, from where I sit now mine seems to be heavily tied to the practice of meditation. So when the gentle approach of feeling a curiosity about meditation bore no fruit of adopting a regular practice, the Universe tried a different tactic. It hastily turned my life upside down, and in the process it converted that curiosity about meditation into a life saving necessity to cling to as the seas of my life churned relentlessly.
In the span of a calendar year — in fact, closer to half of that time — I was hit by the shocking death of my sister-in-law (and close friend), the passing of our dog, a delicate surgery of my stepdad’s brain stem, my mother-in-law being hit by a motorbike as she crossed the street, and my stepmom’s heart failing, sending her to the ICU and subsequently having a heart transplant. A close friend of my husband was also diagnosed with a brain tumor during this time, which claimed his life the following year. All of these events took place while I was living abroad with my husband and two children, so there was an added sense of helplessness as I experienced separation during the loss and suffering of these important people in my life.
As I struggled to cope with the unsteady terrain which had become my life, I got serious about exploring meditation. Through a series of what I now see as divine synchronicities (which at the time I identified as amazing coincidences), I found a teacher who gave me specific techniques and a meditation method to follow. These teachings helped me immensely in redirecting my attention from my scattered thoughts so I could actually experience a meditative state. Regrettably, there was no graduation ceremony to move me from “those who are unable to meditate” to “those who can meditate like a boss.” To be sure, it did take me some practice, consistency, and dedication to overcome my challenges with meditation. But with the loving guidance I received as I took those initial steps on my meditation path, I was able to have a different outcome than quickly choosing a new adventure when my meditations were full of distracting thoughts, as was my previous MO.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It is truly an honor to be able to work with people in such special areas of their lives, nurturing their connection with their soul and helping them to experience the divinity within them. It is incredibly profound to see someone moved to tears during a meditation I am guiding, as they experience such beauty or have powerful experiences of love or peace by connecting with parts of themselves that in our Western culture we don’t even tend to acknowledge exist.
In addition to helping people through meditation, I also do energy work (in person as well as virtually) to help people heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am often wowed by the experiences of clients. Recently, a client reported that while she knew I was touching her knees, she could simultaneously feel hands on her head. We were the only ones there, so the source of those loving hands is a mystery. She also could hear footsteps walking around her when she knew I was standing still. I’ve had clients talk about very interesting sensations such as an arrow being pulled out of their foot during a session. I can only speculate about what is being perceived in these instances, but the feelings are always very loving even if there is not a clear explanation of exactly what happened.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Vulnerability is a huge asset in the workplace and beyond. Great things can happen within a work culture where people can feel safe to be vulnerable, because they will not be so afraid to fail. Well, they may actually still be afraid of failing, but they will know that it is ok to feel that way and that other people feel that way, too. They will then be more inclined to do bold, creative things that are outside the box — and this is where the beauty is. If everyone is terrified to fail, they will not feel safe to try.
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?
Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch was the first spiritual book I read that was disconnected from any religious dogma, and in fact it blatantly tore down traditional religious dogma as misleading and controlling. I read that book in college, and it resonated very strongly with me. It was written in simple, easy to understand language and was even humorous. It was foundational in expanding my understanding of what it means to connect with our souls, even thought it was another couple of decades before my spiritual side became prominent in my life.
Considering how much Conversations with God impacted me and laid the groundwork for my spiritual understanding, I was incredibly honored to interview the author, Neale Donald Walsch, for the first time in 2022. I will be interviewing him this month for the 3rd time on the Meditation Conversation podcast to talk about his latest book, God Talk (which is also fantastic, by the way).
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?
The vast majority of people are stuck in the past or worrying about the future. They are missing what is happening right in this moment. The state of being mindful is simply the awareness of what is happening in the present moment. It is very simple, but it takes a willingness to be aware of our thoughts and where we are directing our attention — which is not always easy.
When we are holding onto the past, we are continuing to take something painful that has already happened to us, and with our thoughts and attention we are carrying it into this present. It has already happened, we have already been through it, and we have technically moved into another time where that event is behind us. However, we have not let it go and are carrying it into each new moment with our thoughts and attention. We are focusing on the pain from what has already happened, and instead of accepting the gifts that are present in this present moment we are reliving the pain again now. (Gifts, presents — get it?!)
We also can be so worried about future possibilities that we lose the opportunity to be mindful by imagining worst case scenarios for things that haven’t happened yet. There are infinite possibilities for the future, and if you think back on the things you have worried about in the past, you will likely find that a great many of those scenarios you were worried about never came to pass. But you sacrificed the peace available in the present moment to instead focus on worrisome potential future scenarios that never came to pass. In a way, you lived them anyway by the stress and worry you brought into those moments when the actual reality you were in at that present time was safe and secure.
Being mindful is simply becoming aware of our thoughts, noticing when we are ruminating over something from the past or worrying about the future, letting those thoughts pass us by and bringing our awareness again to the present. There are a great many ways to bring awareness to the present, such as breathing deeply and feeling the breath, tapping the tips of our fingers onto the pinky side of our hand a few times, or simply bringing all of our attention to what we are doing in that moment. If we are washing the dishes, we wash them with all of our senses — feeling the suds and temperature of the water, smelling the soap, listening to the flow of water and clink of glasses, and so forth.
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?
Mindfulness enables us to move out of our stress response, which calms our nervous system. Most people today are locked into their sympathetic nervous system, or fight-or-flight. Our fight-or-flight response is a survival instinct which is important when we really are in danger. We need the ability to move quickly and instinctively when our lives depend on it. There is a whole chemical and physiological response that happens in fight-or-flight which draws energy and resources away from our internal organs and the regulatory biological systems in order to get as many resources as possible to the arms, legs, and senses for survival (fighting or fleeing). This mechanism is designed to be utilized infrequently and in short bursts. Because in modern life we are perceiving constant threats in terms of stress, many bodies are continuously being locked into that survival state, which means the internal organs and biological systems that regulate the body (such as cellular regeneration) are not getting the resources and energy that they need.
When we become mindful, our nervous system kicks over to the parasympathetic which is rest and digest, or rest and restore. Not only do we feel greater peace and relaxation, but our physical bodies (i.e. organs, cells) get the nourishment and regulation that they need.
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. 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.
- Develop a meditation practice — Meditation is taking time to sit and deliberately focus. The more you do it, the better you get at keeping your awareness with the present moment — both during meditation and in regular life. Meditation inherently develops your ability to focus and direct your attention, and both of these are essential to being mindful. A very simple meditation is to sit in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. Keep your attention on your breath. If you notice distracting thoughts, let them drift by and bring your attention again to your breath. Have compassion and patience with yourself as you get used to the pattern of noticing a thought and bringing your attention back to the breath.
- Become aware of your breath — breathe slowly through your nose, and bring the breath down deeply into your belly. Keep your awareness with the flow of the breath as it moves in and out of you. The breath is a very simple and effective way to anchor yourself into the present moment. Watching the breath gives you a point of focus. Instead of trying to stop thinking, you bring awareness to the flow of breath and let that be the only thing you are paying attention to.
- Spend time in nature — I have a little patch of woods near my house with a path. As soon as I enter into the woods and am surrounded by trees, something within me shifts into calmness and clarity. Our bodies have unconscious, automatic responses to nature that help us get into the aforementioned parasympathetic state of rest and restore. The colors, repeating natural patterns, minerals in the air, natural photonic light and a whole host of other elements conspire in nature to balance our energy systems and bring us gently and easily into a state of wholeness.
- Go on a news diet — We as a society have trained the news to deliver us sensational, urgent stories that keep us in overdrive. The more sensational news we get, the more we seem to seek it out. But our bodies unconsciously go into the stress response as we dive into these infuriating, worrying, scary stories we feed ourselves from the news cycles. I used to have many “breaking news” alerts delivered through my phone, and I noticed the news apps were getting incredibly liberal in what they deemed worthy of interrupting me with a news flash. I remember my phone lighting up with a news alert a few years ago that said an 19 year old actress who played Mel Gibson’s (or someone equivalent) daughter in a movie from the early 2000’s had past away. Sad? Yes. Interesting? Kind of. Urgent and worthy of pulling my attention from the moment? Nope. That was a lightbulb moment for me that I was just a pawn in a never ending game of where to give my time and attention. Turn off push notifications from news apps on your phone. I promise, if breaking news happens, you will find out without their notifications.
- Water — drink it, find natural bodies of it, put epsom salts in it and soak in it. Many people are not well hydrated. Our cells require plenty of water to be able to replicate properly and cycle off when they have deteriorated. Our bodies, minds, and emotional also respond when we soak in water. If you can get into a natural body of water, like an ocean or lake, you will benefit greatly. You can also take a bath with epsom salts and a couple of drops of lavender essential oil to draw toxins out of your body and relax. In any case, really notice your body in the water, and let your attention be fully in the moment as you are soaking or floating.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Be compassionate — It is understandable that people feel anxious during these times. Hold compassion and understanding for those who are dealing with anxiety.
- Don’t go down with them — As you support someone who is feeling anxious, stay centered within yourself. Particularly for people who are empathetic, they can start to take on the feelings of others as they offer their support, and before they know they feel as badly as the one they are supporting. Honor your boundaries while caring for and about others; if you start to take on their anxiety you won’t be much use to them — or yourself!
- Model the values — Keep working on yourself — your mindfulness, your attitude, taking care of yourself, and so on. Simply being the highest version of ourselves provides inspiration for others in ways we don’t often see.
- Listen without solving — People organize their thoughts through conversation. So often someone really just needs the opportunity to express their worries, and through that sharing they release so much of what they have been carrying. Get out of the idea that you need to solve everyone’s problems. Countless times I have been told just how much help I have been to someone through a conversation where I’d hardly said anything but instead held a nonjudgmental space for them to speak out loud their thoughts.
- Send them loving thoughts — There is compelling research that shows the power of prayer and intention. Our thoughts are powerful. If you know someone who is struggling, picture them in your mind and see them surrounded by beautiful light. See them confident, happy, and peaceful. Just spend a few moments holding that image of them. It may not sound like much, but it is truly a beautiful service to offer someone who needs support.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Making some time each day to meditate has been life changing for me. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sitting comfortably, breathing low into the belly, focusing completely on the breath is a great place to start. You can count your breaths to keep you focused on them.
If you want to take your meditation practice further and learn more techniques, it helped me immensely to have a meditation teacher. There are many fantastic teachers online, and there are likely ones local to you as well. I work with people online and would love to help you develop a practice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” Paramhansa Yogananda
Life is complicated. We make mistakes. It’s so easy to feel that we aren’t enough. Live, experience, learn, adjust, repeat. Little by little, brick by brick, we become a better version of ourself.
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. :-)
The most impactful movement needed right now is for everyone to stop buying into the division and polarization that is plaguing humanity. Everyone seems to be aware that this is an issue, but they are pointing to the other side as the problem. If are blaming the “other side,” then we are locked into the exact mentality that is the problem. We all need to look within ourselves and be very honest about the role we are playing in this division. This separation is the root of much of our societal problems, and the solution is within each individual. If we each work on strengthening our own compassion, our ability to be neutral, and our recognition that the things that trigger us the most are things we don’t want to acknowledge are within us, too, then we can lay the foundation for unity and acceptance on a mass scale.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
My podcast is called Meditation Conversation: https://link.chtbl.com/XAtpI03C
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank you so much for the opportunities you are creating!