“We used to live in a society. Now we live in an economy”
(Hugh Mackay, AO)
Two million Australians were suffering from anxiety last year alone, and one in four of us will experience an anxiety disorder at some time in our life. Why? Has society’s relentless pursuit for individualism, wealth and power contributed to this situation? Are we neglecting the importance of social cohesion in our local neighbourhoods and communities? Have we forgotten that compassion – a concern for others – is the great antidote to anxiety?
You are invited to join us for a one day journey into the heart of anxiety. Share your experiences and insights with an innovative, growing community. Brainstorm individual, local and global solutions to heal an anxious society and create a better future for us all.
3 MAR 2019, Healing an Anxious Society
Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and bestselling author of 19 books, including his latest, Australia Reimagined, published in 2018. He has had a 60-year career in social research, and was also a weekly newspaper columnist for over 25 years.
He is currently a patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre and an honorary professor of social science in the University of Wollongong.
Towards a Culture of Compassion Through Authentic Responsibility
Turning Points and Healing an Anxious Society
What ‘aha’ moments HAVE YOU HAD in dealing with anxiety? What ‘aha’ moments COULD YOU HAVE in dealing with anxiety? These ‘aha’ moments are turning points in our journey with anxiety, the modern crises, and life. With these turning points we ourselves then live differently and change then happens.
Having ‘aha’ moments is a natural talent of all humans, and in this workshop we will improve our skill level and capability to access this natural wisdom. This is done through developing knowledge (like Humanistic Buddhism), mindfulness, insight, intention, question and practise.
Our question: what story do I have to tell around healing anxiety?
Turning points stories are a hero’s journey, inspiring by their nature. Telling our turning points story is a powerful gift to ourselves, others and to society. We will make a difference by telling our story and we may choose to share it. Check out the Turning Points Project on facebook, which now has some 26,000 followers.
Conversational Leadership – encouraging bigger perspectives and kinder connections in an age of anxiety
If You Don’t Mind, I Don’t Matter
Leadership in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world
An Australian story, a global problem, a compelling motivation
Healing our Anxious Workplaces
Reducing Suffering with Compassion, Community and Chan
On Stephen Hill’s “If you don’t mind, I don’t matter”
Stephen Hill led the participants in this workshop in a discussion how we can address the issue raised by the keynote speaker Hugh Mackay of living in an increasingly fragmented and lonely society. In order to shift toward a more compassionate culture, how can we change the way we live? The discussions began with the ways in which participants experienced social fragmentation and isolation. Many of the examples involved the infrastructure of social life: the prevalence of digital interactions, job mobility and the increase in casual employment, the layout of workspaces and the reliance on cars for transport. Suggestions for responses included forming groups based on common interests, having the empathy to truly engage with other people, walking to shops in order to interact with more people or even just trying to smile and acknowledge others throughout the day. Some participants noted the need to be mindful to notice when others do not want to engage with us, particularly when we are strangers. Examples were cited of friendly encounters with strangers that quickly evolved into requests for money, and feelings of fear by women when approached by men in situations where they did not feel safe. There was a lively discussion of the use of the internet and social media. Whilst participants agreed these technologies are now entrenched as part of our lives, there was also a recognition that the way these technologies are employed have a social and moral valence. The final issue raised during the workshop was the relationship between individual actions and larger social groups. How can communities of practice be grown? The participants wrapped up by discussing using compassion (acting without self interest) and crossing cultural divides to inspire change beyond themselves as individuals. The parting question from Stephen to the group was: “What will you do tomorrow?”
On Mario Fernando’s “Towards a culture of compassion through authentic responsibility”
Mario’s workshop was small and intimate with nine participants. This was actually a great size as everyone was able to contribute and the feeling in the room was comfortable and friendly.
Throughout the session, Mario often drew the conversation back to the theme of the day: Healing an Anxious Society. I believe everyone in the room left that day gaining some insight with something to follow up.
The workshop was structured by having three groups of three people in discussion groups. We were then asked questions such as: What does it mean to be human? Why are we anxious? Each group had to come up with three reasons for each question. This format created a friendly and lively conversation.
The format drove to the message that Mario wanted to bring home: The ethics of responsibility. That is, as humans we have ethics and compassion built into us and by unlocking this key and tapping this resource there would naturally follow through a reduction in anxiety; in both ourselves and those around us. The ethics of responsibility in broad terms is seen as a relationship between ourselves and those around us and our duty of care to respond to the needs of those around us. Mario posited this in terms as an interactive and personal relationship with the “Other” in which the “Other is higher than me yet poorer than me.” Note that “Other” users a capital “O”. “Higher than me” is referencing the fact that the “Other” is taking all my attention and poorer than me is referencing that the “Other” is in need of my assistance. Very interestingly, this tied back to the keynote speech in the sense that the keynote speaker, Hugh Mackay AO, stressed that modern societies need to have individuals responsibility towards each other. Hugh used the model of the neighbour.
Personally, the big take away for me, or “Ah-ha moment” as Tom Halbert would say was this: Mario stressed that to be authentic to myself, I needed to get a few things straight. Firstly I needed to know who my actual self is. Then I needed to know what my ideal self is. I then needed to look at the gap between my ideal self and actual self and reflect on how big that gap is and what do I need to do to close the gap. In this process, it is very important to define my values, articulate that clearly to myself and then use that understanding in the context of the actual and real selves. This process, when followed through will lead to a reduction in anxiety as a very large part of the problem is not being authentic to myself.
Here ends my summary of Mario’s workshop. I highly recommend this workshop and would encourage people to attend this workshop as it was extremely beneficial.
On Elizabeth King’s “Leadership in the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambigious (VUCA) World “
How can leaders better navigate an increasingly complex world? In this workshop, facilitator Dr. Elizabeth King introduced participants to the concept of VUCA, or the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity characteristic of so many workplace environments. Participants were asked to consider their own work environments and the costs of VUCA on their lives. Many responded by saying that it leaves them anxious, helpless, stressed, and deprived of joy. As a potential remedy for this situation, Dr. King introduced a Mindful Leadership Development Index, which outlines ways to employ mindfulness in the face of VUCA. In the workshop, participants were tasked with envisioning their ideal work environment, identifying pain points that exist in reality, and then thinking about how mindfulness can help them embrace and grow from VUCA, as opposed to becoming anxious from it. The workshop ended with participants sharing their goals with fellow participants.
On Meg Hart’s “Conversational Leadership: encouraging bigger perspectives and kinder connections in an age of anxiety”
Through an interactive process and tapping into Buddhist wisdom, Meg Hart walked us through how to encourage bigger perspectives and kinder connections in an age of anxiety. There are difficult conversations to have, and transforming them into a positive experience for all participants requires some leadership, and courage, and acknowledgement of the virtue of collective wisdom. Leadership should not be seen as the monopoly of one individual, but shared. Taking the time to be present, listening more without trying to convince, demonstrating patience, understanding the others’ point of view help tackle difficult topics. Importantly, in a conversation, there is an inflection point where you can make a choice between a conflictual or a collaborative path. Mindfulness, healthy ego, and non-attachment to outcomes are important qualities to manage difficult conversations. Groups engaged in conversations about the characteristics of a healed and healthy society and formed a mandala with their findings.
On Juewei Shi/Sue Sumskis’ “Reducing Suffering with Compassion, Community and Chan”
In this workshop, the Buddha’s teachings of the Four Noble Truths were applied in dealing with anxiety in the modern day context. Participants were able to 1) define what anxiety is in their own terms (First noble truth: acknowledge suffering and its purpose), 2) identify the external conditions and internal causes for the anxieties and just observe and be with what arises rather than battle, judge or get caught up in it (Second noble truth: find out the causes and conditions that lead to the suffering), 3) learn that there is a place of quiet, known as Chan, Buddha nature or the quiet of emptiness, and with Prajna wisdom, we can “stay in the eye of hurricanes” despite the chaos all around (Third noble truth), 4) It is something we can all access with loving kindness, compassion and a community (Fourth noble truth). Throughout the workshop, participants practiced mindfulness techniques such as breath counting, body scan relaxation, and loving kindness meditation, as well as “buddy therapy” to help create the right causes and conditions for managing anxieties in everyday life, so we can all “wake up, get up and light up” our own lives.
On Tom Halbert’s “Turning Points and Healing an Anxious Society”
The workshop opened with Tom inviting participants to think about ‘ah-ha moments in their life and recall what happened, what was the story associated with the moment. Working in pairs participants shared their stories. Tom then introduced the workshop to Otto Scharmer’s Theory U. Tom stressed how the Presencing advocated in the theory created a mindset conducive to recalling and telling stories. In allowing ourselves to let go of the busyness in our minds we are able to become more aware of the moment and to focus our full attention on the activity of that moment.. During the workshop all participants spent some time under Tom’s guidance to practice the Presencing technique. He then introduced a second exercise for participants to recall moments in their life where they experienced ‘relief from anxiety’ and then share stories of those moments. The activities created considerable conversation about storytelling and its value, in dealing with anxiety but also as a technique to address many other life challenges.
On David Rooney’s Healing our Anxious Workplace
First, Professor Rooney led our group down a path of general familiarisation and personal recollection of how the toxic way work is often organised in modern-day workplaces contributes to widespread anxiety and depression. As well, he shared his own personal experiences of anxiety and depression, which likewise were triggered by a growing realisation that work was steadily eroding his own sense of inner-being. Participants shared similar sentiments about their personal work experiences. Yet, there can be a better way of coping, that potentially lessens mental anguish at work. Small working groups chose actual work experiences to case study a possible new paradigm for a more peaceful kind of workplace co-existence, founded on basic Buddhist tenets. Not surprisingly, their key conclusions were consistently the same. The view was, that sustained mindfulness practice enables empathy towards others thereby lessening misunderstanding and being judgemental. This gives rise to compassion and through the wisdom it nurtures provides the skilful means to engender kindness and goodwill into the workplace. In summary, a conscious creation of engagement and mutual respect through trustful well thought out conversation.
On Miaoyou Shi’s Mindfulness Practice and Workshop
Participants were invited to express what they hoped to gain from the workshop. Their responses included, calmness, stopping the chatter in the mind, increased clarity/focus and feeling more in control. As the focus was on anxiety they were also asked what makes them anxious. Responses included worrying about things associated with home life, work and the various stresses that occur as a part of life in society in general. Many had concerns re their varying emotions ranging from happiness to anger and sadness & depression. It was explained to the participants that the purpose of meditation is to gain clarity through “insight” thus enabling us to observe and untie the knots that make us anxious. Emotions arise which are all normal and part of being human. Through our continued practice we develop the Mindfulness to be in the present moment allowing us to be in touch with our thoughts and feelings, and understand that they will pass and change. There is nothing to fear, and the practice will strengthen and empower us on the journey of self discovery and healing.
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