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In this Episode:
In this episode Blake sits down with Christine Jackman to discuss her book ‘Turning Down the Noise.’
Blake and Christine unpack a range of implications of noisy lives, both internally and externally, and the effects on today’s workers and learners.
1:30 Introducing and how her journalism and life experiences lead her to her latest book turn down the noise
10:40 Are there lasting effects of noisy environments
28:40 The power and results of meditation and what the science says is the minimum amount of time needed
34:20 The modern classroom and open plan learning
51:20 Training our brain for focus
59:45 Boredom and the monkey brain and Christine’s experience on a retreat
1:13:10 What we can learn from indigenous cultures about mindfulness and meditation.
You’re listening to the outclassed podcast with Mike Reading and Blake’s iPad exploring Excellence in Teaching tech and leadership.
Okay, welcome back to our class. I’m Blake and today in lieu of Mike, we have a very special guest, Christine Jackman, who actually heard talking on Richard Glover’s show on talkback radio, with a new book called turning down the noise, which is sort of focusing on how we tame both the external and internal noise, a topic that’s, I think, super relevant in schools at the moment, especially around the students, and of course, us as well, you know, trying to manage all the different noise that we have in our life. And super excited to have you here, Christina, and welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me.
I just want to start with a little background on your Korea, because this is obviously meeting you for the first time, it seems like you’ve had a really interesting, Korea, like in terms of you know, your journalists, but you also the way you’re approaching your work. It’s almost like research in a way. That’s how I see it is kind of journalism and storytelling, meeting research. And so I’m interested, just hear a little bit about your backstory and how you kind of got to where you are now.
Okay, well, I grew up in Brisbane, and I was always sort of kid who read books and you know, liked making up stories. And as I tell the story early in, in my book that I wasn’t deliberately thinking about memoir that goes back to childhood. But when I began to think about my life and how noisy it had become, I was reminded of a period when I was growing up, and I was about four years old at a local kindergarten. And I, they had a cubby house, a really big cubby house, like three stories that kids could climb up in and go down slides. And there were all sorts of little hidey holes and things like that. And I loved it, because I could hide in there. And it was, it was quiet and dark and cool. And this was Brisbane, so it could get really, really stinking hot in summer. So, and one day, I even hit up there, when the class was called into sort of singing time on the mash inside. And I just thought, you know, all I want to do is lie here in the silence and sort of tell myself stories and Daydream. And I got the teacher, the teachers got so cranky that they sort of want had to climb up inside the cubby house and sort of drag me back down. And as I said, in the book, that was my first experience of you know, that, you know, you’re only able to allow allowed to do things for a certain time and adults weren’t going to listen to you about well, why do I Why do I have to be silent now, but I’m allowed to, I have to be noisy now. And I have to sing at this point. And I have to, you know, live my entire life to a shedule. And I thought, I remember very clearly thinking that was completely crazy, because I wasn’t hurting anybody sitting in the cubby house, in the quiet I was doing what was your teachers always told you to do, which is, you know, be quiet and listen. So and I remember just, I didn’t even have the words at four years old, describe what I wanted to do and why it was so appealing to me. And that memory came back very vividly, much later, when I was trying to sort out my very noisy life. So to fast forward from being a kindy to being a kindy child. I became a journalist, did my internship in at the Korea mail in Brisbane, and I think within about three years, I was posted to New York as a foreign correspondent for The News Corp. Newspapers here in Australia. So cover the presidential election, the clinton impeachment and lots of other things out of New York. It was fantastic time my life in one of the noisiest cities on Earth. It was it was really wonderful. And then I came back and worked in the in the press gallery in Canberra, which was another great peak for me because I loved loved politics and the study of government. It was something I’d done at university. And then I moved to Sydney, and at that point, had children but continued to work and it was only after becoming, I think becoming a single mum and moving back to Brisbane. And juggling both journalism and then consultancy work I was I was headhunted into political consultancy political communications consultancy work and campaign consultancy work. And then communications consultancy and I think over that time I was becoming slowly aware of just how noisy My life was and What I mean by that is, there were just there was a constant sense that somebody had turned up the volume and then forgot to turn it down. So it was, it was at work, it was constant meetings, and, you know, the constant sort of pings and drawings of, of email, and, you know, text messages. And later on, it was WhatsApp and, you know, social because I was working in communications, it was always really important to, you know, keep track of what was happening on social media, particularly Twitter, news, alerts, so forth. And again, very slowly, I realized, I began to become aware that it was just in insidious it was, it loses its way into every corner of your life, so you can never turn that sort of noise off, you’re carrying it with you. So yeah, my life by the time I was in Sydney working in as an executive communications director, I looked like my life was fantastic. We were living on Sydney Harbour, I was working in the CBD and Sydney.
I had had had a partner who like my, my current partner who, you know, very heavily involved, boys were happy. And yet, I actually sort of felt like, you know, life was rushing by. And I was stuck in this sort of vortex of noise, and I was never really engaging with any of it.
So that doesn’t sound very pleasant.
optimistic picture, but I think it’s an experience, isn’t it that we all feel like, especially, you know, myself with two young kids, I’m just seeing how quickly, time is passing with them. And everyone tells me once I hit primary school, it’s gonna go really fast then. And to some degree, you feel like you’re just in your life is sort of jumping between distractions in a way that you’re, you know, one one piece of noise as you put it to the next and you’re not really sure. If you’re getting anywhere, it’s sort of like fighting the tide, in a way. But I mean, which in your book, like, sort of, you’ve spoken a lot about the motivations behind writing it? Was there a particular problem you set out to solve? Like, what what was it about to you? Like, what was what was the thing that sort of made you go? Well, this is why I want to write the book.
Yeah, I was I’m actually in the fortunate position, because I’m a professional Russia, journalist and an author, that when I have a problem like this, I was able to pitch it as a potential idea. And go on that journey, even when I didn’t really know what I was going to discover. I didn’t have the full idea in mind when I pitched it, but I thought it was a compelling enough problem, which is that why when I felt extensively that I was I was, I had it all or I was so successful did I feel so? unwell. And that’s the first that was the first impetus, I felt, I was actually physically sick at a low grade level, you know, all the time I had insomnia, I was, you’re always fighting sort of sinus infections, and all those things that just make you feel a bit off. I would walk to work from the bus and I felt like I was I described in the book as sort of wading through treacle. And now looking back, I realized that a lot of those symptoms are classic over stimulation, you know, you’re you’re over a heightened attention and and heightened sort of cortisol because you’re under consistent stress. But at the time, I just thought there’s something wrong with me. And I wanted to answer that question. I wanted to explore this idea of why did I feel like there was noise around me all the time, because that’s the way I was describing it. And because from the journalistic background, when you say that, it’s it’s a well researched book, I guess that comes from the fact that while I wanted to explore what I was experiencing, I wanted to find this if there was scientific research as well, to back up the sort of feelings that I was having, because as a journalist, I could never write this sort of thing. And just say, Well, I feel this way. So it must be true. Yeah, my editor, throw that back at me and say, Well, you know, what do the experts say? So what I wanted to explore is what were the sources of noise in our life in our lives? What does the science say about, you know, the impact of noise. And then also, given that most of us are never going to be able to flee noise completely, and we can certainly talk about what I mean by noise. We’re not going to be able to sort of, or run away to the desert or, you know, find a vacuum that we can live in where there’s no intrusion. So what could I do that was sort of scientifically verified In a way to have an impact on sort of turning down and mitigating the effects of all of that noise. What was doable in in the modern world, that someone like me, a working mom with kids could do reasonably? So the Yes, I said you didn’t have to sort of run off to the wilderness and live in a cave to escape at all.
And that’s, that’s an interesting point there as well, because I just started the book, I haven’t finished it. But one of the things that I found interesting is when I when I read the title, and I thought, okay, turn down the noise. And I heard you interviewed, I immediately thought, we’re talking about internal noise, but you’ve actually you’re talking about physical noise constant, you know, this physical like you’re saying, living in New York, and having been in New York, it is extremely loud city, everywhere you go, even up in high rises, somehow can hear, you know, every noise that’s going on. And I wonder about, like, is this kind of, obviously, you’re looking at both sides of the coin, the internal noise and the external noise? The lasting effects of this constant noise, like when you when you sort of started looking into it, was it? Was there a trend towards, you know, thinking about, you know, should we just return the noise? I think there going to be certain benefits is, you know, what, what are the things that sort of came out of that part of it? I’m interested to know about that the sort of physical side, because the reason I ask is a lot of learning spaces, you know, design now is going open plan. And so lots of kids very noisy and people say, well, noisy is good, this noise means collaboration, noise, noise means work. And, and then you see kids resorting to headphones, and they’re sitting there with more noise over the top of the noise to block out the noise. You know, one of the issues you see you see, arising out of that, and from your perspective and what you’ve experienced
so many, so many good questions that, firstly, to be clear, yeah, I very quickly realized that external noise is only part of the problem. Yeah. And that internal noise is, is, as you said, the other side of the coin that they can’t, but they can’t really be separated in many ways these days. Because as I said, that the pinging, the short ping of the email then creates a whole heap of internal noise in terms of what you’re thinking about are God What does the boss want? What do I didn’t do that job. So external and internal noise with the things that I was exploring here, and in terms of, you know, I like to put it in historical context first, because if you in terms of human evolution, you’re I personally, I wasn’t the first person to flee a city it this has been going on since, you know, early centuries BC, when I, and probably longer when you group of men and women who became known as the desert fathers and mothers flew, flips, I fled, the thriving Metropolis that was ancient Rome, they decided that Rome had become too debauch too noisy. And that, you know, to be to be truly Christian, they needed to live in the in the desert, outside of Rome. So they fled, I think, I’d be stand to be corrected, but some flat as far as Egypt. And very quickly, though, they started to realize that you can be externally living in a very quiet area, but that just sort of almost increases the volume of the noise going on in your head. So it was a quite a humbling experience, firstly, to discover that, you know, I wasn’t the first person to grapple with this sort of start thinking about it, it goes back to the centuries that we’ve seen people asking why why is it so noisy, and how do I escape it? But then you think,
did you do a solid retreat? Did I did,
I did several.
That was the one of the really important things for me is that I once I realized that there are lots of traditions, I wanted to explore as many as I could. And I went on a 10 day, Vipassana retreat, which comes from the, that draws from the ancient sort of Buddhist Canon satipatthana suta, but isn’t an overtly Buddhist retreat. They don’t, they don’t proselytize or anything like that. They teach you the technique of meditating in silence for 10 for 10 days. But I you know, I also stayed with the Benedictine, you know, certain traditions in the from the Benedictine stream of Cristy Christian monks, both in Big Sur in California and in here in Australia. tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria. So, yeah, I found that pretty much every tradition every Religion has a contemplative tradition of quietness, stillness, meditation and what some people would call prayer. But yes, to go back to the sort of evolution of noise and how we’re how we’re dealing with it, it’s, you know, relatively recently, only the industrial revolution that we started seeing people working with a lot of mechanized noise, and coping with that, but also withdrawing from nature in large numbers. So, you know, before the Industrial Revolution, your workday was really governed by sunset, sun, sundown, sun rise, things like that. And then from that period, which is only, you know, a couple of centuries, you know, we retreated indoors, we started working longer hours, lightbulbs meant we could stay up that sort of thing, we had a lot more noise around us externally. So that was difficult, you see, start to see a spike. And there’s an interest in noise that starts, you start seeing in the early 20th century, looking at the impact of external noise on people working in mining and trades. But then again, the next big change is really the flip over into digital noise. And when you think about how recently that is, you know, we only saw the internet, really, I mean, in the newsrooms I worked in the internet only became installed on your own computer, in the mid to late 90s. It was lat late. And then you think of that moment, when Steve Jobs held up the first iPhone. It feels like they’ve been with us for forever. But it was I think, I stand corrected, stand corrected, but I think it was 2007. Is that correct? I
think so. Yeah.
Now, what that meant is suddenly, you have for the first time people had, you know, a portable, you know, machine that was essentially a mini computer, you know, that traveled with them everywhere. And that’s the moment that we see the starting of the spiking of that sort of people saying that they feel anxious and irritable, and you start seeing insomnia rates, your reported rates of insomnia rise, you because of the blue light that you know, people people are exposed to, during the day and then into the evenings. I’m covering a lot of territory here. But I guess what I’m saying is, if you look at human history, it’s not even a blink of an eye, that we’ve asked our brains to adapt to that sort of level of constant input. So you’re playing on your Atari or your Nintendo or whatever, whatever it was, when you were growing up. You know, your parents probably thought that was awful. But that was still, you know, could be that was a one way street of noise that sort of, you know, it wasn’t interactive, there was no algorithm, it could be turned off fairly easily. It wasn’t sort of an infinite array of things that could be served up. It was one or two games. And similarly, with me growing up with TV, it was the Saturday morning cartoons that my mother getting stressed about, but they were over at midday, and you had to go out and play. So
TV generation. Yeah, we were all getting doomed when we
Yeah, absolutely. But what we’re seeing now, and I think we can’t underestimate it is this level of sophistication that’s happened so quickly, to be able to individualize the sort of inputs that we’re getting, and also to hook us into continually engaging in different ways. That level of noise for the human brain to adapt to, is just, I mean, unprecedented is an overused word. But yeah, I firmly believe that the reasons that we’re seeing, you know, rising rates of anxiety, anti anxiety, antidepressant medications being prescribed. People reporting, as I said, these levels of just low level, stress and irritability and insomnia. A lot of that comes into how much comes from how much noise both digital and auditory we’re being exposed to. And the science is now starting to back that up.
Hmm. I just actually watched the social dilemma last night in in educational circles is being widely recommended to almost everyone. effect a few teachers have emailed me saying every student at the school should watch this. And
Funny you should say to interrupt there for a moment because I often make this point we often say students should watch this or kids could should watch this. But you know, I recently came back came back from holiday with my kids. And we were on an island where there was very little Wi Fi and there was one area around one of the restaurants that had Wi Fi and you’d walk in and it wasn’t just the kids You know, it was every adult, almost on the on this beautiful tropical island had their head down over a fine. So we often have to ask ourselves, what are we modeling? for the kids?
Yeah, modeling isn’t great is it? And I think in some ways, our kids can kind of see it more clearly than we, we were, you know, always say, if you want to have good strategy, you should plan first. Well, we couldn’t plan First, we were kind of just dumped into social media with not realizing what it actually was, and what it would turn into, you know, the no one, I think, at these companies tried to build what we have now. single handedly. So it’s a, it’s an interesting place to find ourselves. I’m interested on that social emotional stuff you’re talking about, it’s obviously become a big, big part of, you know, schools is the welfare around students, and the increased rates of anxiety and depression. And, and even I think there’s a study out of the US that shows suicide rates have almost tripled since 2007. When, when the handheld smartphone kind of became popular. So, you know, I’m wondering about what, what that looks like in terms of like, in a school, what are the things we should be thinking about, you know, one of the things you discovered on that journey of, of, you know, reducing the noise and the stress and anxiety, what actually worked? Like, did you go to these silent retreats, and sit down and then, you know, suddenly have a realization? Was it more about you working through things? Or was it just about being mindful of how your brain works, and trying to figure out what works for you and what works in your context?
So many of it was firstly, becoming learning about the science that says that auditory, and what I call auditory oral noise and digital noise. Yeah, it really does have, you know, a negative impact. And there’s some great research we can talk about there to go back to the question about, you know, open plan classrooms. We need to we should go back to that I because I realized I didn’t answer that question. And it’s a fascinating issue. But so having learnt that noise, I can have some very negative health effects. I then really just wanted to explore whether silence and quiet places and quiet practices can reverse mitigate, help erase and the word I keep coming back to is, it feels like a brain rinse, feels like you’ve got a hyper stimulated brain, in high reps in high revolutions, where we stimulate and stimulate, we put more and more information into this amazing computer. That’s the human brain. That again, to go back and remind yourself really hasn’t had time to evolve to the amount of tech that we are now dealing with every day. It’s really, you know, a tiny sliver of time. So we have we, our brains haven’t caught up. So we’re going into this sort of high rep irritable state. And what I say about silence now is, you know, you know, practices like meditation practices like walking in nature, without headphones and just being present, because while that’s not silent, what I found, most auditory experts refer to sort of silence or quiet as the absence of manmade noise. So that’s what I’m looking for when I’m in nature. Yeah. And again, that’s largely about evolution, because our bodies react differently still, to natural noise than they do to other sorts of noise. Probably because, again, most of for most of human history, the human animal was out there in that world and what I described it as like, whether it’s meditation, or just simply being in nature, or being in a quiet place is it’s it’s allowing the senses in a way to unfurl from that sort of clenched, you know, cog in a wheel type of working that it does for most of the day and it’s allowing those sensors to not necessarily I mean, yes, there’s a slowing but I see it as an almost an unfurling and you certainly see that when you spend time in quiet really quiet places in nature. I hiked as part of the books research to a place it’s been Christian the ones one square inch of silence in the continental United States as Christians that that it was it was called that by a acoustic ecologist by the name of Gordon hempton who’s a, you know, award winning sound recordist. His recordings are used in, in movies, in games and all sorts of things as when people are looking for background sounds Fill in those sorts of things. And but his passion is, is finding quiet because levels of quiet have different textures and things like that. And he in the early 2000s, I wrote a book in which he divulged that in his travels, he’s been around the world making sound recordings, he believe there are only 12 genuinely quiet places left on the continental United States. And what he meant by that is that there are only 12 places where you could record for 15 minutes, at least, and not have the intrusion of manmade noise. And yet in that enormous amount of lead, largely because of things like air, you know, air traffic, because the US is a very noisy space for air traffic. But also obviously, you know, road noise mining, tourism, those sorts of things. I hiked to one square inch of silence in the whole river valley, which is in the in Washington state in the Olympic National Park and highly recommend that area to anybody where you can ever if we can ever travel again. And sitting in that in that day, it was a it’s a forest full of those old, old ancient trees, the sorts of trees that grow to sort of hundred meters plus
Douglas spurs and spruce Sitka Spruce has enormous trees. And sitting in that at one square inch of silence, which is about six caves in and having seen almost nobody in the hike. I was just struck by this. As you sit even as I was hiking, without any input, what happens to your senses is they literally you can feel them unfurl, because what your body is doing is the human animal is what it’s doing is reaching out to read the environment in a way that we just don’t do anymore. When we’re sitting at a desk with a computer in front of us, you know, we become tighter and tighter and more tightly wound. And it’s got a wonderful effect on things like blood pressure on the immune system, on, you know, all sorts of things to do with your heart rate and heart health. And this has been shown in research largely that came out of Japan, the Japanese government invested a lot of money in what they call shinrin Yoku, which is forest bathing. I suspect that they may have been trying to sort of pump up tourism to their own forests. But for whatever reason, a lot of money was plowed into into scientific research around the benefits of being in the forest set. And so that those benefits that I quote there come out of that, but what we’re starting to see is you can see similar effects by being near water. And it’s to do not just with noise, it’s to do with with the scent of the natural environment as well and the reaction it has on the human body. But to go back to yet to go back to what was I seeking? Yeah, I was really just seeking a sense of better well being better health, I wasn’t certainly wasn’t seeking enlightenment by going on meditation retreats, for example, I just wanted to see if what would happen if I got really quiet.
You know, in an in that, like you we see in schools, a lot of schools like my school, for instance, we do meditation, weekly, in a more than weekly. And it’s sort of a thing that all classes stopped. And we do a few minutes to really focus people up because it’s not just noise at the school, but it’s also at home now. And it’s in your pockets and everything else. is meditation, a good I guess replacement, when you can’t go out into the into the environment and get that peace, like is that a microcosm of what you’re talking about?
Now, meditation for me, I mean, it has different benefits. But meditation for me is, is the sort of the secret pill. The way I describe it to people is, you know, if you had something that you know, was completely free, you didn’t have to pay money for you didn’t have to buy fancy lycra. To do it. You didn’t have to sign up to a class you didn’t have to. You could do it anywhere. That really good science is now showing has great benefits for physical, physical health. And for relatively few side effects only for you know, people who have certain mental health predispositions. Would you be concerned about them doing serious meditation? Yeah, would you would you do that? And most people go, you know, yes, absolutely. And yet, what it does take is just a little bit of time. And what I mean by a little bit of time is the science is now showing that depending on the type of meditation, you can start to see benefits from about seven to 14. minutes of it. And, you know, the key is consistency, more is usually better, but certainly consistency doing it, you know, once a day, twice a day and and doing it or, you know, maintaining that practice, you will start to see benefits in reported well being in things like holding attention and focus, lowering, you know, high blood pressure, all those sorts of things. And I mean, I could go on my book has lots of the really good, peer reviewed research in it. But so what I would say is, you know, absolutely, it’s a, it’s a practice that from very little amount of time is, is an absolute godsend. You know, and it’s, it doesn’t cost anything. going with that, I would add that mindfulness has become a bit of a catchphrase a bit of a fad term. But what you build out, there’s a saying, in sort of meditation communities that it’s, the real benefits aren’t, don’t come to you on the mat or on the stool, or on the meditation couch cushion. It’s what happens in the rest of the day. And certainly, from having a longer and more ingrained practice, I can, I can say, That’s true that you, you, what you’re doing is training your mind to just take a breath before it gets caught up in the distractions of the day. And even if you are caught up being able to sort of pull yourself out of that distraction a little bit more quickly. Rather than get carried away. That’s the that’s the ideal.
Interesting, you say mindfulness has become a fad term, what what sort of Legion leads you to that conclusion?
Um, I think that it’s just the fact that it’s become a generic, it’s become one of those terms that is used for almost everything you know, you can have a mindful eating, mindful drinking, mindful, mindful gym mindful, it’s some there’s I think there was a book written in the last year or two called Mick mindfulness and just the, which came out of the concern in, among some in the sort of traditional meditation communities, that mindfulness is now being introduced by big corporates, under the guise of this will help you feel better. But you know, a concern that it was actually about sort of, you know, keep keep being productive. And don’t question too much what we’re doing here, but you know, you get your 10 minutes of meditation to feel better about it. So I don’t say a year. I don’t say mindfulness is a bad term. I just say that I am. I am aware that it’s become so witness.
Yeah. Can corporate interest taking over because it’s such a thing you can slap on? It’s like the green sticker that used to go on everything? Well, we’re green now. Now doesn’t mean anything to be great. Yeah, so he sort of made a new a new vocabulary for it, though.
No, absolutely. I mean, there’s good debates in the certainly in the American community about, you know, the, one of the most successful, one of the sort of large organizations that adapted introduced meditation. Training quite early was the US Army, US Defense Forces. And so there was a very avid debate about do we just want to make more, you know, more accurate and focused killers? And is that really what meditation should be about? So that’s, that was a really interesting side discussion. But I guess it reflected the concern that you can almost make you can make mindfulness mindfulness into anything now. And it’s not just about the 10 minutes or 20 minutes of actual meditation that you might do. It’s then about how you apply that in your day to day life, I suppose. Which brings you to the busy classroom, I’d imagine.
That’s right. And the open plan classroom, which I’m interested to get get your, your thoughts on as well, like, is it is this something that’s a good idea or a bad idea of sort of putting people in what they call sort of band style, teaching areas? What are your thoughts?
Well, I was laughing as you started talking about that, because I didn’t do a lot of I didn’t, I didn’t do research into classrooms for this book. But as you described, kids in classrooms with the headphones in these big open plan areas where there’s supposed to be more collaboration that you were, you were almost word for word, quoting parts of my chapter on work, because that’s exactly what happened. When we started saying open plan offices introduced. I mean, they they become more and more trendy for different reasons. But there was this big, big push, I think from the 70s and 80s on and there’s always been this sort of a lot of buzz about how it will encourage collaboration and more creativity. But I’ve looked at two types of research one that was just about what office workers felt about it. And then to what studied how it was impacting them in more detail in terms of their biological markers, and their and their, and their work rates and things like that. And one of the largest research surveys of the first type of asking workers what they thought was actually run out of unit University of Sydney in about 2013. And they had access to 42,000 workers spread around the world. And what they found was that overwhelmingly, people said they hated it, you know that it was irritable, that made them more irritable, they couldn’t focus they have privacy. Yeah, yeah, privacy, the lack of the the constant interruptions, the inability to control the noise in their own environments. And that’s the lack of control over your working environment is one of the big markers to indicate worker turnover, too, by the way, people often don’t want too much, but they do want to have a small amount of control over, you know, the environment in which they would in which they work. And so yes, those big headphones that you describe is key choosing, that’s become an issue in, you know, lots of the Silicon Valley workplaces that really led the charge into these open plan areas, open plan office spaces, because they wanted to see collaboration and creativity. Yeah, they were the ones among the first to report the people were putting on headphones. The other thing that happened is that they actually found that there was a drop in, in people speaking, and collaborating. Can’t quote, which study this was this, but this it has been repeated. So a drop with open plan in terms of people collaborating, I would suggest that because people don’t like just you very conscious, if you’re having collaborating with one or two of your your fellow workers, you might be bothering somebody who’s sitting in made or two away. And similarly, you might not also want to everybody else hearing a discussion. So people stopped collaborating, in that, that face to face way, and the amount of email and the use of things like slack and those other technologies spot, because people just reverted to communicating in that way. Because again, that they thought like, it was probably because it was more private, and easier to do. So I’ve been planning officers got and I should also say there’s some good work being done by at a bond University, here in Queensland, that measures things like cortisol and other and other stress indicators, that shows that people sitting in open plan offices often have the same sort of responses as people sort of, you know, working in war zones, they know their cortisol levels go up. Interestingly, people don’t necessarily report up front, they feel more stressed. And that’s, that’s quite common, but what will happen is it will take a while to their body will be showing that the level of stress, but it will, it will take a while for the brain to catch up and say, you know, I’m, I’m really not enjoying this, because what the body does is it tries to adjust to the level, you know, the body and the brain are great in terms of, you know, throw things at me, I’m going to try and work it out or try and make it work. But over time, you know, you just run out of gas. Yeah, I should say with noise. There was really interesting to go to this idea that people, lots of people will say, I don’t mind it. I mean, I know working with journalists, plenty of people say I don’t mind it, it’s fine. It’s part of life. And I’ve seen those classrooms, but there’s always something going on in them. And, you know, a lot of observers might say other kids look like they’re fine, having fun, whatever. But again, there was, I think Harvard research, that 2009 fellow called Buxton measured, that measured noise amongst people in hospitals,
and found that even with even people who reported that they slept well, he was looking for things like the sounds of doors, opening and closing the sounds of monitors going off the sounds of mobile phone out in the hallway or things like that. Even people who reported that they’d slept well. We’re still when that’s those sounds happens. You get your neural spikes, spikes in their brain activity, spikes in their heart rate, things like that. And when you think about it, that makes sense. I mean, the brain The reason you know, the areas don’t have aliens, like our eyes have eyelids, right. And that’s because from an evolutionary perspective, our ears are supposed to be keeping watch even when we’re asleep. Now, if our ears are keeping watch while we’re asleep, and they’re they’re that sensitive to noise, then we’re kidding ourselves if we think you know, working in a noisy classroom or a noisy office, has no impact whatsoever, because we’re designed to be responsive to those things.
Hmm. And it’s interesting to note, like, some of the benefits that were touting out of these open plan stuff is collaboration, there seems to be sort of more downsides in a way, in terms of the the stress that we’re putting on people in the spaces. But the I know, there’s some interesting models like in the Steve Jobs biography, he talks about Pixar studios where they built an entire building, and he went full OCD, Steve Jobs style on the whole thing, you know, with the framing, and the steel type of steel they use and everything, but his big thing was about getting people to collaborate around common spaces. So what he did is put all the toilets on the ground floor, he put the the lunchroom in where you heat it up your food and everything in a central place, that forced interaction for students, he bumped into someone on the way to the toilet or on the way to the lunchroom, but still maintained officers, because he believed in that kind of you needed that breadth, that ability to kind of, you know, think creatively in a safe space, you know, I think it’s often notice, you know, if I’m, if I’m in an office on my own, I can kind of lay things out and try things, and you feel much more free to innovate, you know, and trial things and fail at things as well, without having that person peering over, what are you doing? Oh, that’s a silly idea. You know, ideas are easy to crush when they’re small. So, you know, I think there’s, there’s some benefit in, in engineering, that collaboration more into the structure of the building, than necessarily, you know, the office or the classroom. In our case, I’m keen to hear as well about your thoughts in terms of, you know, openplant classroom, a lot of people say, well, the important thing for me is flexibility. And you hear that a lot, is a very famous, you know, educational as Steven hepple, who talks about his, you know, the ability for flexibility is not going away. And he saw, right, no one’s ever going to say I want to be have a less flexible learning space. But what I think a lot of people read that as is I just make it big open area where things can fall away. And it turns into sort of an echo chamber a little bit. I wonder what, what schools can do like, what is you’ve talked a little bit about the research there? What are some sort of hybrid methods we can do when we still have to have classes of 28 kids and those kind of things? You know, headphones are only when we option? or What else? What are some other ideas that perhaps you’ve seen?
Yeah, look, I’m not, I’m not an educationalist. I’m not an educational researcher. So I’ve only been bringing my own sort of general research and my insights as a parent to this. But I would certainly say that, you know, in an ideal world, what we need would need to recognize first, first up is that in every group of 28, kids or indeed 28, adults, you’ll get a proportion of them who work well, in that sort of completely open floorplan for a free flowing space, just as I really thrived on the old style desk, every desk, you know, facing the front, and actually didn’t like it when we moved to, you know, there was a period where this is the late 70s, where we moved to, you can have you desks in small groups, because it added that stress of you know, social choices, who wants to sit with home? So, I mean, yeah, in an ideal world, you’d be able to sort of profile or your kids for a start up front and work out who’s the kid who needs to run around more, and put them in a different classroom to the kids who can sit and hold focus? And I think there is, you know, there’s some awareness of that, obviously, there are gender differences in terms of, of how kids develop, and how quickly and you know, how long they can hold focus, but and so I think you need to be aware, firstly, that there’s just never going to be and one size fits all. And that’s difficult for adults, that must be even harder for teachers with kids in classrooms. Personally, I think that you know, that what we need is a recognition, we need to sort of talk about that sort of need to talk about those challenges up front that recognizes that not everybody can operate in this space. That said, the kid who’s so that the kid who has to put headphone headphones on or you know, go into a quiet corner isn’t the weird kid. But we recognize that there are actual biological needs for all of us to give ourselves diet downtime. So I don’t know how people structure their date, the day in school, for example, but I would certainly be looking at at least, very clearly sort of allowing sort of more quiet, building in quiet work times, with the more you know, sort of frenzied, open creative time and talking about why that is because you know, kids aren’t stupid in that sort of sense. And what we should be educating them about is, I guess the meta of the meta information about, you know, what’s what’s happening when your brains doing this? And what’s happening when we’re all sitting at a desk? Or, you know, and how do we feel about it. So that we can be more aware and more mindful about working techniques. And I think similarly, look, that’s what’s happening. Again, rather than a one size fits all, in some of in some areas of Silicon Valley, for some reason, you know, that they can come up with some of the worst tech decisions, but they can also lead the charge in terms of, you know, trying new things and pushing the envelope. So some of the workspaces that I investigated, that were doing really interesting things. Were, for example, we were in around Silicon Valley, working in the tech industry, and for example, base camp that so you probably none of it. There, Jason freed the CEO, there is a very outspoken about how do we use our time so that we allow
I’ve gone back to offices, I think 37 signals the company, a company that my base camp, I think they’ve got sort of pseudo offices where there’s sort of a sliding door. Yeah, record or rather than a full office, which Yeah, interesting idea.
And his thinking around, I mean, he, you know, they’ve implemented things like they call it library, library rules, library rules day. So one day, a month or a fortnight, there’ll be a, you know, a day that you operate by library rules, which means that there’s no talking loud talking in the office area, generally. And there are no sort of meetings that it’s the day, that’s a day that’s designed very consciously for deep thought for those projects that you actually need to sit down and spend a couple of hours working on. And I think that’s, again, where you get this the more conscious recognition in terms of our classroom time and our learning time, that constant interruption of the brain, just the brain doesn’t do well, in terms of creative thinking, strategic thinking, deep problem solving, with constant interruption. So you need to work in these periods where we can actually settle into deep, solid work now, obviously, with some with kids, it’s gonna be harder. But
yeah, getting worse at deep work. Do you think that’s our definitely, as a human race we’re struggling with, as we, you know, have more and more distractions.
Now? Absolutely. And it’s one of my big concerns, is that came by out of my time, particularly in as a communications consultant, working with both CEOs and with politicians, I’ve already done a fair bit of work with politicians as a journalist. Recognizing just instinctively at first and then researching it, the amount of time that is spent now in answering emails, in meetings, and all of what I call sort of performative visit buisiness. You know, here we are being busy collaborating, being active on social media, which is sort of required of politicians or seems to be required to politicians. Now, we know that you can’t do the sort of deep thinking that’s required to be sort of truly innovative and creative, to problem solve properly. When we’re constantly moving from task to task like that, I mean, Stanford did the research, you know, about 10 or 11 years ago that put to bed, the idea that we can multitask at all, you know, and show that we actually can’t, and if anything, I think one of the researchers said, you know, he was concerned that we are dumbing down as a human race by doing that, because the brain can’t do it, what you’re actively doing, think about it, as you know, you open multiple window windows in your in your browser. And you’re basically just running more things and flipping between them and you know, your energy is dispersed and drained over multiple things. So, yeah, I absolutely, I really worry, not just for you, I worry for our leaders politically and in business. That I mean, there’s a reason why people like Bill Gates, you know, go away for, you know, a week or two at a time and spend time, you know, you know, in a cabin disconnected, you know, he’s
not a normal human being, though. Another another dimension, I think, a lot or a different prospect for him.
I wonder though, can anybody I would love to know of the great edit of great work that has come out of great, truly innovative and new thinking that’s come out of sitting in an office doing flipping from one task to the next. I think it is defies common sense to me. And even in the tech world where people are building things very quickly, as you know, they have worked and the people that I’ve seen do this, I’ve had some, some insight into sort of Amazon and IBM, you know, when they’re building things quickly, with the idea that we’re trying to, we’re trying to fail fast, if we’re going to fall, if we’re going to fail, you know, they design those sprint periods. Very awesome shop, yeah, but very consciously, you know, we’re going to do this, now we’re going to collaborate now, then we’re going to do this, and then we’re going to review. So you’re still trying to channel your thinking into certain areas. So yes, there are times when you do need to collaborate, and, and brainstorm and, you know, try different things quickly. But, but that’s only part of the process. And I think what social media does, and, and did the digital world generally, is it drives a sense that that is the only thing that that is going on, and really requiring us to engage.
It’s really interesting looking at even when I work with, you know, in schools, we work with, you know, very young people, but in my job, you know, I’m working with, you know, people who are at the end of their careers and their 60s all the way back to obviously students. So you know, but it’s interesting looking at, you know, people are a bit younger than me. So in their 20s, working with new, you know, it guys or new teachers, and you try and sit with them and solve a problem for sort of more than half an hour, and then the eyes glaze over, you know, like people aren’t, we’re not practiced enough, I don’t think to do long, two, three hour work, because our life has been in 45 minute periods of school. Our life has been in, you know, trying to get things done between the emails, the text messages, and the social media updates in the washing machine, finished chime that, you know, drives me crazy until I get up and fix it. So I think we sort of train ourselves and I actually did an exercise about two or three years ago, because I was looking around the house, no one else having this problem. And I did an exercise where at work I, I blocked out my calendar for an hour and a half, once a week, and I read this blog post, you know, that was sort of a bit about this exact thing. And I tried just sitting down for an hour and a half without the phone, without email open without, you know, just just on the one task. It’s incredibly difficult. And you think, an hour and a half’s nothing, what’s that 90 minutes can be over before I know this is going to be great. You sit down, you’re like this is excellent. The first thing you’re doing is reaching for your phone, then you’re thinking maybe I’ll get a drink of water. You’re trying to do everything except just focus on one thing, because it’s hard. I think that’s that’s the problem is that that deep work, your body’s always looking over your brains was looking for that easier thing to do, you know, I can just send off a quick email, and then I’ll feel good, I’ll get that gratification. You know, that’ll push my you know, the chemistry of my brain in the right direction. So I think so true, there is that there is that undercurrent of Well, we’re just avoiding kind of the heart of work because it is harder, and how we get our kids to kind of think about that. And one of the things that was interesting to me as I went to a school, I’m probably more tolerant of that I like to sit down and not through things in kind of a deeper way, which sometimes frustrates people I work with but but the the school I went to had double periods only I went to Sandringham college an hour, an hour and a half. And I found that transition hard coming from you 1045 minute periods, you know, by the binary brain sort of switching off, but actually, by the end of you 12. I was I was quite good at it. I could I could work that whole hour and a half where it’s coming in. I couldn’t. And I thought that was an interesting reflection in that. Perhaps I’m able to do longer since just because I’ve trained my brain.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, we know, again, that’s one of the big changes in in the last I guess what, 40 to 50 years the recognition of neuroplasticity? Yeah, the brain does, we can train our brain, it’s a wonderful thing to know. But it’s also tells you that it can be trained the other way, you know, it’s gonna follow what you know what feels good, right? What lights that lights up the dopamine, you know that that loop of this feels good now. It’s we it’s always been us that, you know, your brain will not want to do something that’s harder. So writing an assignment at when I was at school when you didn’t have those distractions would still Yeah, I’d still want to do anything, you know, go and make it. do the laundry. Yeah, but the difference now is that we have these little things, you know, we’re working on something that’s a portal to this wonderful world out there. There’s an infinite array of possibilities, we have a phone that does the same thing. So the gratification is so much easier to achieve and, and inexhaustible, like and not just inexhaustible, but a lot of it and this is where you know I can sound a bit dark and sinister, but I think I’m backed up by a lot of people that you know, you’ve started watching the social dilemma. The industry, this, the thing that makes a big difference is in the technology of today, as opposed to the TV and video games of the past is that it is you’ve got some of the brightest brains on the planet, being cherry picked into Silicon Valley into the big tech firms, and very explicitly being employed to design things that that keep people’s attention. Why? Because it’s the attention, that’s a value, that’s what they can sell to advertisers. And these guys will, you know, numerous you know, Tristan Harris, the guys from Facebook will tell you, you know, we did this knowingly. And that, as Tristan Harris calls that the slot machine or what I call the poker machine in your pocket is designed to loot light up the same pathways that we light up with that light up when you play a poker machine. It’s very effective. That instant gratification, giving you some very quick, cheap reward that will keep you there, or to spike a little bit of cortisol. So you need to go back and see if your friends have liked your post. All of those things are being manipulated by very, very bright people with the power of big data now. So it’s not just sort of getting to know you or me personally and thinking, Oh, she likes cat videos. So we’ll feed more of those. It’s also being having the power of a lot of data to be able to see that somebody my age, who might be interested in cat videos is also more likely to respond to this, this and this. Yeah, I mean, it’s usually
oxygen out of the room, doesn’t it?
Well, YouTube with they reported that and this is Yeah, this is not hidden information. I think this was the CEO reported that of the 1 billion hours that of YouTube video that was watched daily worldwide. This is a couple of years old now 70% of it. So what’s that said 700 million hours of it was based on what a user had been suggested. So it wasn’t even what they’d gone looking for. But the algorithm was so good that 70% of what people was watching each day was something that had been suggested to you after what you what you actually went looking for that kept you on there. And similarly, for example, the head of Netflix recently said, we’re now and now our biggest competitor, Wikipedia, we’re competing against sleep, though, you know, they’re very, very open about their bid to attract your attention and then holders. And I think that, you know, we all need to be more aware of that. And so we go back to that idea of deep work. Yeah, I, in the journalistic community, we often Yeah, I’ve heard lots of people talk about that, that, you know, when I started, I could write on a big day, and unusual day, I could maybe write 3000 words a day. But I could also read easily a 3000 word piece. Yeah, hold my attention. That wasn’t a big deal. So I’m scrubbing that loud, Labrador in the background. And but now, you know, we you’ll often you’ll often hear remarks to each other, can you? Can you read a long piece? And No, you can’t. And as a result, news, news outlets have shortened the pieces, you know, where you’re seeing a lot fewer pieces?
Yes. And it’s because I think because you’ve as a human now that you know, you’ve got all these great opportunities to read things you like to I want to commit an out of this crap, you know, or do I just read a quick snippet that gives me what I what I want, and then I can go, and it does raise an interesting thing about, you know, this sort of sucking up the oxygen in a sense, where there’s no space to breathe anymore. What what’s your take on the whole, you know, lack of boredom now, like there’s been some research done or how boredom inspires creativity and critical thinking, and especially in kids? And I’m interested to know about your experience, obviously, going on those retreats? Did you experience boredom? what you like and did it actually help you with your health? Number one, whether you were trying to help with? And do you think it helped with, you know, creativity and sparking sort of some innovation and interesting ideas in your mind?
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I’ve watched the firstly I’ve watched the lack of tolerance of distraction of an absence of distraction, which I guess is what boredom is, right? I’ve seen my my own children’s threshold for that drop, to the point where it’s almost physically painful. The idea of having no distraction is almost physical, physically painful, and I know I used to do I was the only parent whose kids were like that. And I realized one day, I think we’re all going through that, and we don’t want to admit it, you know,
my summers, he’s only four. And he says, What am I doing? What am I going to do now? Dad? What can I do now? Like, I’ve got it, I’ve got to keep him entertained. You know, maybe it’s my fault. But
absolutely, yeah, um, and you certainly notice it in things like, before I get to my own meditation experience, you certainly notice it, when you go away. Just the I live on it, we did very deliberately chose we moved back to Brisbane to live on a foreigner reserve that eye and it’s the same area of bush land that I grew up, living next to as a kid, in the 70s. It’s amazing. But the difference is that there are so many fewer kids, it used to be like, every kid’s dream, you’d be down there and make forts and tree houses. And there’s a creek that runs through our backyard. So there’s, you know, you can catch things in it catch tadpoles or whatever. And there are, there are still kids there. But just fewer kids. Yeah. And and that that really troubles me witnessing that, that there’s just that lack of why would you engage with the with the natural world or when you’ve got so much that you can engage with on your on your phone? And again, to be fair to kids? That’s not just kids? I think there are plenty of adults who do that, you know, rather than go out and explore things in their backyard. Why not? Was
that requires some rigor and discipline, whereas Yeah, the suggested 50 videos that you didn’t know you liked? Yeah. And kind of emerged from the fog later.
Absolutely. And that’s what and to go to the meditation retreat. That is actually one of the things that I discovered there is that, you know, your brain when it’s stripped of all stimuli goes into it has a little tantrum, I mean, yeah, Buddhists call it the brain, you know, the monkey mind. That’s the thing that leaps from tree to tree and screeches and tries to distract us
survival instincts. And
yeah, and it really does, it’s, it will try all sorts of things. Both in terms of, you know, when you’re sitting on a meditation still, you know, in this tradition of the past night, you’re taught to try to sit and stay still not not move at all over time. So that and when you have the pain in your knee, or your shoulder, in my case, you take your attention to it and study it, because you know, everything rises and passes away is is thinking. But similarly, to observe your own thoughts in the same way, so to watch a thought arise, but not attached to it not get distracted by thoughts. Now, when you strip all of the stimuli away, your brain, that’s one of the things that’s left, right, if I can’t pick up a phone, or read a book, or talk to my neighbor on the next meditation store or anything, then your brain will start racing with thoughts, or and it’s amazing what it’s very individual. People bring their own baggage, in many cases, their own fears, their own annoyance, their own grievances, or indeed their own. No fantasies, or pleasure type, distractions and daydreaming. And it is, it is a real discipline to, to not lose yourself in those things. But what happens when you do and this was quite remarkable, is once you strip away all that stimuli I write about in my book, in that I thought that I’d attained enlightenment accidentally, on day two of my retreat, because I had a real battle just with staying awake, which is the tradition teaches is another way of the brain just saying, excuse the turn of phrase which screw this, I’m just, let’s have a sleep. It’s more interesting than sitting here meditating. And I had this moment of, of just sudden clarity, where every year we were in a meditation hall, but we’re every sound from outside because our retreat was in the in bush land in Tasmania. And every sound the wind in the trees outside the bird calls was just crystal clear. It just enchantingly pure. And apparently that happens. Yeah. So I thought, well, I must have I must become become a Buddha. Obviously, I’m suddenly enlightened because all this is just amazing. And but instead, it’s actually you know, it’s a bit like, it’s a little bit like wiping the gunk off off the screen right? As you strip away all of that stimulus. You know, your senses become more honed, and you get more and more clarity, you become more aware of what’s going on. So I’ve heard people describe, you know, sitting on the grass in the sun. At meditation retreats is the most blissful thing. And I have to say, you know, again, I describe it in the book moments of sitting in the sun eating, you know, a simple vegetable curries, you know that because you at the person or you, it’s vegetarian, I should give you an outline of some of the other rules that some segregated. So while you’re in the hall, you sit, the men and women sit, but you’re separated for the rest of the time, in different sleeping quarters and different dining quarters, there’s no eye contact, it’s not just no talking, there’s no eye contact, because that’s a form of communication. Because there’s no reading or writing materials allowed, which almost killed me, you can walk that you, you can walk during your rest times, but there’s no running or other exercise allowed, because people will use that to zone out and distract themselves. And you meditate, basically, there’s a gauntlet for at 4am, when, depending on how strict the retreat is, you don’t have to necessarily attend that pretty much. There’s meditation in two hour chunks for you know, eight to 10 hours a day. It’s it’s a lot of edits. And there’s a couple of things I would say, one, my senses kicked into a point where it was just
when I talked about it, it sounds like I’m describing some sort of weird acid trip, but it was just it was so your, the clarity around you, that comes from just taking away all distractions so that you live, you can sit by a fire and realize that there was a period in, in, in human history where the fire was basically like the TV, right? You know, you watch the flames change, you know, you listen to the sounds of the burning. And it’s it’s at at you, your brain just loves that because it’s a different stimuli. And it’s not over stimulated for once. But similarly, I would say that after the after 10 hours of sitting still and meditating, I slept, you know, I’m a very poor sleeper, and I slept better than I ever have in my adult life. Yeah, I was
pillow. How is that translated into into the now? Do you do find you’re able to sleep better now with those skills and with this practices? Or is it something that’s gonna slip back once all the noise comes back?
Yeah, yeah, I felt it was really important in the book, because but probably because I’m a perfectionist myself, or I have those tendencies. Not to make people feel like right, you have to do this. And then your big failure, if you don’t, then, you know, meditate for two hours a day. Or, you know, or you don’t get rid of all your devices, you know, you’re going to go back to just as bad as you were before you started. I mean, the idea is to come out of that, and you in my view, and use the tools, use the things that you’ve learned, except that you’re going to fall off the wagon in different ways. So for me, one of the great gains is actually that I’m much more aware. I think meditation gives you that ability to recognize earlier when I’m starting to become either anxious or overstimulated, and I think it’s Tim Ferriss who wrote the four hour workweek, who’s a meditator who describes it, as he says, the process is like sitting in, you know, your brain is like, you know, a washing machine, and where previously you were in the washing machine with all the clothes, you know, being tumbled around. Meditation just gives you the ability to step six inches on the other side of the, of the glass, you can watch the things turning and tumbling around, but you’re not in there with them. And that’s really what a practice like meditation does for me is that you can become more aware of when you’re starting to be irritable or overstimulated, or any of those things. And I, for example, will know, you know, I fell off the wagon badly during COVID working and didn’t meditate at all. And I noticed, you know, how much more reactive I was to things. But you know what, it wasn’t just meditating on a stool. I mean, I talked in the book about different ways you can incorporate similar types of silence or quiet into your life. So for me, because I was commuting, I was working. I went in house for as a comms consultant for a while in a hospital that was doing COVID research. And I hadn’t been in house for a while because I’ve been writing the book so I reverted to using one of the practices I described in the book, which is, I call it the car cone of silence, which is when you get in the car to commute, rather than return calls or make calls rather than listen to podcasts or music or radio, just use at least some of that time drive in silence. Hmm. You know, and often unwind a little bit. Yeah, yeah. And it also gives you that ability to insert punctuation points in the day so that your brain knows it’s moving from one thing to the next is great neuro neuro research that shows the brain actually needs those points. Similarly, I say to people, you know, if you’re not it, rather than say meditate, I mean, I also know that if I’ve been sitting at the computer working for a long time, just getting out and this is reason, the reason why we live deliberately next to a nature reserve getting out and walking, and just walking, not putting any expectations, no productivity goals, no, I have to run two K’s or just walking and looking at the trees is enough to reset, you know, feeling sun on your skin, which again, we know actually does good things for your body.
I’ve started doing that with the kids were during COVID, I think we could do is walk around the block couldn’t even Go Hawks. So it was it was really, as you said, like enlightening for me just to see how much that could just relieve stress and anxiety and give me a reset, come back and just feel so much more relaxed. And because there was no, no goal, we were just going to kids to walk on the block, I wasn’t trying to like you say, you know, run a mile or something like that, it was it was great. Because
it’s a really important point, sorry, I’ll just add a really important point that I try to emphasize with people because I think we live in a very, now productivity driven world. So that anything you do, because we’re so time poor, it feels like it has to have, you know, you have to have achieved something ticked off something in a to do box to do list. So I love the fact that you use your kids, little kids are great for that, you know, if you follow them, and just allow them to set the agenda on a walk, you know, it relieves you of the decision making for a start, but you also start to see the world through their eyes. And I say similarly, particularly women, a lot of women feel uncomfortable, you know, walking in the bush, on their own or work. And I say, you know, if you can get a dog, because we have a dog now there’s nothing, it’s it’s very hard not to be more mindful, following a dog, you know, interacting with the natural world, because they’re so into every smell. And you know, what’s that sound, and let’s go over here and look at this. And it, it automatically encourages you to be more mindful yourself, because that’s what that dogs doing. They’re being in the present moment, like, like, like very small children are there and they’re engaging with it in a very sensory way, which takes you out of, you know, the crazy washing machine of your head.
Absolutely. And and just on that I’m mindful of your time. And we will wrap up as one last sort of question that I wanted to dive into, which is something I heard you talk about on the interview that I heard on the radio. And that’s this idea of meditation, where we say it’s almost in every religion, and we’re always looking to sort of exotic forms of it, you know, like, the Indian meditation or whatever it may be this week, transcendental meditation, but you spoke about some things in our backyard, that indigenous tribes, thousands of years, I’d love for you to just talk about that. I know, a lot of schools, you know, we’re doing a lot of work with our inclusion of indigenous cultures into the curriculum and trying to be global citizens with a local mindset. And one of the challenges we have is, you know, how do we integrate, but I think this could be a great place to do that if we could find good practices that have been working for thousands of years that we can use instead of, you know, the, the style of meditation we happen to be using from Europe or India or wherever it is, I’m interested to hear about what you found and what what it is and how it works.
Yeah, well, and I should pray
as a precursor say, you know, obviously, I’m not going to speak for an indigenous wisdom tradition. It’s really important to say that because it’s wisdom that shared but but I was very humbled to discover that, you know, having been looking offshore to Eastern traditions, particularly, and and then to places like Stanford, that were doing research into the brain, that that indigenous cultures and their relationship with country is steeped in what they call deep listening. And I stumbled actually by way of a Christian meditation Teach that I’ve been researching who gave a seminar with a woman called Miriam rose on gunmen, who comes from Delhi river in the Northern Territory. And she spoke about what what heard people describe as DD, it’s probably and it’s depending on the language, it will have a different name, but the DD is it heard in her culture, deep listening. And deep listening is almost the perfect combination of the perfect melding of basically meditation with the engagement with nature. Because how she described it is that there are just times when she, you know, she goes on country, on to her country, and she’s lucky enough to be living on it. And, and they go individually, on the whole, it’s not about talking to each other. And it’s not about engaging with the issues of the day. It’s basically going out into country, and being quiet and basically, listening, meditating on the land. And funnily enough, God Gordon hempton, who I quoted earlier, the acoustic ecologist describes it as, you know, letting letting the country speak to you, or give give you the questions once answered. And it’s that it really is that simple. I mean, she’s, she’s recorded a lovely video about it, which I think you can find online, where she describes, you know, walking to their river people. So walking through, you know, along the river, noshing in that mind for what we would call mindful, you know, observation, the mindfulness practice of noting how that river is running, the birds that come there and have come back at that time of year for, you know, thousands of years. And essentially, what she was describing was, you know, a classic, what we consider a mindfulness or meditation practice in nature. And, yeah, as I said, I thought, this is a mildly political points, but I think it’s worth noting that, you know, in time, certainly times gone by where I grew up, there was a lot of derision about indigenous peoples, you know, going walkabout as if it was a bad, you know, some bad thing. And what I realized is that, you know, that was a practice of, probably a practice of deep listening, of reconnecting with something deeper and bigger than ourselves. So yeah, I did try to I, my, I had the intention of going up to Delhi river, and, and speaking to her, but unfortunately, it’s a long way from from Darwin. And it was just, it became too difficult to get there in the time frames. But I just thought it was really, really important to recognize that our own cultures here, have these traditions and what’s more, Australia is still recognized by people like Gordon hempton is one of the last remaining, you know, places where you can find real silences. I mean, you go out to I don’t, all the route, definitely. But I found going to cat ajouter, what was known as the the ogres. Those has that sense of presence, and silence, if you go there, so that on your own or with a couple of people who are prepared to be quiet, that that just invite deep listening. Yeah, it’s something that’s much deeper and older than you are.
Yeah, I’m what a great place I think to wrap up this thing, fantastic. Book, and I’m looking forward to finishing it off. And look, just thank you again. And thank you, for everyone who’s listening, doing some deep listening, hopefully. And if you found this episode, interesting, please share it on those noisy socials. We’d love to, you know, get shared around and interrupt everyone else’s day. But thank you again, Christine, and everyone who made it this far. Look, I’m so grateful. We could keep talking for hours. I think there’s so much to unpack here in terms of the implications for students and hopefully it’s just serve as a provocation. And hopefully in the future in your next book, we can chat again, and I look forward to that time, but thanks again for coming on.
Thank you so much. It was absolutely wonderful.
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