Are We Experty Enough?

Looking for help in your daily dance with suffering? Listen to the Mindfulness Off the Cushion podcast and learn how to be as alive as you can be while you have the chance!


In our inaugural episode of the Mindfulness Off the Cushion Podcast, we begin where countless other new podcasters begin, asking: Are we experty enough?


Spoiler alert: We’ll never be experty enough, and that’s okay.

So, what qualifies us to enter into your listening space and sound off on the topic of mindfulness? In this episode, we’ll start by taking some time to get to know each other, providing you the background and qualifications of each of our four co-hosts. Then, we’ll dive deeper into the heart of the matter, exploring what it means to practice mindfulness both in personal and professional settings, and whether there’s a difference between meditation and mindfulness. We’ll touch on some of the diverse perspectives and applications of mindfulness, including its rapid rise in popularity, and its use in the clinical setting as well as both off and on the cushion. By the end of this episode, we think you’ll have a pretty good idea of what makes a mindfulness expert - and why it's actually okay to not be too experty in your approach to mindful living.


Our goal? We want this podcast to be a resource for you if you are dealing with the challenges of living mindfully and are looking for help in your daily dance with suffering.


Who We Are

The four of us came together to co-host Mindfulness Off the Cushion from different backgrounds, but united on a few important fronts. All of us have directly and indirectly experienced the benefits of mindfulness meditation in our personal lives. To varying degrees, we each apply mindfulness to our professional lives at the Austin Mindfulness Center, our podcast sponsor. We’re all curious and deeply driven to make mindfulness more accessible as an everyday practice - not just in a formal, meditational setting.


Christina Philburn, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Texas who is also licensed in New Jersey and New York. Christina served as Assistant Professor of Practice at Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas, as well as instructor at Dell Medical School. She’s been in private practice for four years assisting individuals struggling with trauma-based symptoms and diagnoses. Christina’s practice is centered in compassion and mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches.


Christina is joined by Patrick Harris, LPC, a Licensed Professional Counselor and PhD candidate in Mind-Body Medicine with an emphasis in Integrated Mental Health from Saybrook University. When not in private practice, Patrick also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Huston Tillotson University and practices clinical hypnotherapy and tobacco cessation. Patrick also has extensive training in therapeutic humor.


Next up, we have Claudio Barrientos, one of our Certified Mindfulness Instructors at Austin


Mindfulness Center. Claudio caught the mindfulness bug back in 1999 when he took his very first course in mindfulness at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That course was taught by James Duvall, a former student of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is a big name in the mindfulness field, having founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic and written several best-selling books that have made meditation more approachable for many people. Claudio teaches the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, as developed by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, while also working with individuals one-on-one. He’s also finishing graduate school where he seeks to couple his mindfulness background with a thorough clinical understanding of mindfulness.


Finally, we have Lance Vaughn, co-owner of the Austin Mindfulness Center. Lance expresses his familiarity with mindfulness, having witnessed his wife's discovery of the practice and come to more intentionally embrace it himself over the last five years. Lance is a recent graduate of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, founded by none other than Dr. Kabat-Zinn.


Together, our four co-hosts balance each other out, offering varied personal and professional perspectives. While Lance refers to himself as a ‘self-proclaimed mindfulness student,’ deferring to his co-hosts as the more qualified professionals, we’ll come to discover that everyone is truly a lifelong student when it comes to living more mindfully.


Does the world need another mindfulness podcast?


Sure, there are other podcasts that deal with topics of mindfulness and meditation. Perhaps


you’ve listened to one of the forerunners, Dan Harris’s 10% Happier. Mindfulness Off the Cushion may be considered as a sort of companion piece to Harris’s podcast. Where 10% Happier deals more frequently with meditation - mindfulness on the cushion - our podcast deals more directly with mindfulness as it occurs off the cushion.

We certainly didn’t invent the term ‘off the cushion,’ either. Harris has been quoted as using the term in an interview with insight meditation teacher Shayla Catherine and before that, meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg spoke about it in early 2015. There’s a lineage there that our podcast has a place in - and yes, we do think perhaps the world could use another mindfulness podcast.


There is room within the world for yet more diverse voices on mindfulness. Where many podcasts conversations surrounding mindfulness meditation have sprung from individuals within the same American Buddhist school of thought, our approach is different. With two therapists, an independently trained instructor, and a relatively new student of mindfulness in the same room together, we’ve opened up an opportunity for new perspectives, allowing for more practical applications, more clinical discussions - and more light hearted discussions, as well.


Where do you keep the ketchup?


Diversity of experience leads to diversity in approaches to mindful living. As Patrick mentions, there’s a certain go-to question good interviewers rely on: where do you keep the ketchup? That question, or a variation of it, points to the fact that depending upon one’s lived experience, home country, culture, or upbringing, among other factors, their ketchup may live in different places in a home. For some, it's the refrigerator. For others, the pantry. But what happens if you’re all out? Which condiment replaces it? Someone who stores ketchup in the cupboard may resort to pulling together vinegar, tomato sauce, and sugar. Someone who keeps their ketchup in the fridge may just say ‘grab the relish or mayo instead.’ Someone else may not even use ketchup.


The point is, when we talk about bringing mindfulness off of the cushion and into our everyday lives, we need to account for a variety of perspectives, a variety of lived experiences. Our goal is to bring mindfulness practice into more practical, everyday applications, and to do so without disrupting the diverse ways in which we live our lives. This goal accounts for both ourselves and the people around us who are interested in living mindfully, too. The privilege of coming from a therapist or teacher’s perspective is that we have the opportunity to bring mindfulness practice into the lives of individuals we work with, and to do so in a way that aligns with their needs. The caveat is this: being a therapist or a teacher does not necessarily make one an expert.


Accommodation versus assimilation


Other podcasts and authors already do a wonderful job explaining what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial, but they’re not always as clear about how to actually ‘do’ mindfulness. That’s where the clinical, teaching perspective coupled with that of the student can be really useful.


How do you make lasting changes in your everyday life? There are two modes of imparting new skills: one is with expectation that you accommodate your life to that new skill. Accommodation can be uncomfortable, difficult, even. Without guidance, it may feel like reinventing the wheel. The other mode comes with the expectation that you may learn more if you can assimilate pieces at a time, building on top of functional strengths you already have. Both modes can lead to lasting change, for sure, but we find that the latter fits more naturally, more practically into everyday lives. It also lends itself to a more open-minded approach. Maybe some aspects or practices of mindfulness resonate with you more naturally than others. That’s okay. Rather than focusing on becoming a meditation expert, try remaining open to learning at a beginner’s pace.


Conclusion


We’re all still learning here. As it turns out, there is no fixed path, no particular qualification that makes one a mindfulness expert. Our goal is simply to practice being mindful in our everyday lives, alongside each other and each of you. Inspired by the words of Dr. Kabat-Zinn, Lance wraps up our first episode with a paraphrased mantra that nicely sums up the spirit of this podcast:


“In this present moment be curious, generous, and grateful. Patiently practice non-judgment and acceptance. Trust yourself, let go, and just be.”


This season, we’ll delve into episodes exploring the concept of practice, different practices you can take off the cushion today like bearing witness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion, as well as overcoming challenges to mindfulness and guided meditations.


We’re grateful to have you join us on this journey towards more mindful living.


Listen to the podcast here (or just about anywhere): https://motc.buzzsprout.com/


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