Here's the next of our COOL interviews with creatives who reveal exciting details of their journey and what it took to make things happen.
Yeah, this one is like 10 miles long, but listen! Ever dreamed of an effective method to dramatically increase creativity, productivity and quality of life? It turns out mindfulness can be one of them.
Here is Garvey Harris - a registered Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine as well as registered member of the UK Council of Psychotherapists. He currently volunteers his services to Faces in Focus, a charity providing counselling and psychotherapy to adolescents from the age 11 to 25. He has deepened his training in mindfulness teaching and mindfulness supervision at Oxford University Centre for Mindfulness. He is also a member of the Mindfulness Association and is currently training as a teacher in the Mindfulness for Compassionate Living intervention.
He is the founder of Mindfulness World – an organization aiming to provide mindfulness to people who want to become mindfulness teachers, as well as to those who want to learn mindfulness but can’t afford it. He has developed Brief Strategic Mindfulness for homeless suffering with mental health and addiction challenges who cannot attend a full course but need to attend when it suits their ability to do so.
Apart from being a close friend of mine and a classmate on the MA Applied Imagination course at CSM, Garvey is a total stereotype breaker! I mean - how often on a prestigious MA course do you meet a big black guy in his 50-s who speaks Mandarin Chinese, does hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, consulting, life coaching, couch-surfing, art, design, charity for prisoners, and who-knows-what-else, and is dedicated to making the world a better place through spreading mindfulness?
Got you hooked up? Find out more about Garvey’s expert experience in today’s interview!
Hello, Garv! Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in Just How Cool Is That?!, the website for creatives to share and learn about the Journey behind the scenes!
You often say that mindfulness literally transformed your life for the better. How would you explain mindfulness to anyone who hasn’t heard of it? What were some of the greatest benefits mindfulness introduced to your life?
Garvey Harris (Garvey):
It taught me to take a step back and to have the intention to hold with kindness and softness the discomforts that caused me to suffer. Just this year I learned important things from being able to do just that.
I could finally see that I was suffering from my own discomforts, one of which was internalised racism. I did not know how much I had learned to literally be uncomfortable in my own skin. At a subconscious level I did not like not being liked for being a black person. So I was subconsciously hurting others and myself, by being critical, judgemental and negatively analytical about myself. Unaware that I was doing this on a subconscious level, how could I have asked for help? By sitting with my discomforts with kindness and softness this hidden discomfort emerged.
A huge insight that emerged over time also, was that I could see what I had been doing to others and myself was unfair, as far as relationships were concerned. What I had been experiencing both in the distant and recent past, was making happiness a responsibility burdened on others and myself.
I realised I had not spent enough time to figure out how to make myself happy. I could see where I and others had in the past shouldered the burden of this responsibility unfairly on others. I could now see where others and I had become upset when we had not made each other happy, and how unfair it was!
Why was it unfair? If others and I had not yet figured out how to make ourselves happy, then how could we give out and take on the burden of making others and ourselves happy? With this insight, I realised I and others would suffer less. It removed so many known and unknown core conditional beliefs where I and others would have had an unfair expectation of others to live their lives to an unfair belief.
Now I am more forgiving to myself and to others. It is deepened my relationship with others, especially women, as being a single man, who had typical beliefs that a woman that I am interested in physically should also be interested in me. All the complicated beliefs behind attraction and my rights as ‘whoever in my mind’ have gone. The relationship with others is about me, but it is not one where I impose on others that the joint experience has to be about me or them. It is us being unconditionally happy with ourselves and others. It has brought me one step closer to universal love.
Another insight that was given to me by the cleaner on my estate. That we cannot judge people who did not have in the past the teachers and resources for personal growth that we have access to today. I think of my father who had maladaptive social behaviour responses to his family, friends and society.
If he had the same resources and teachers that I have today, would he have been a different person? I think so.
So, I no longer see myself as a victim of his antisocial behaviour, and I do not see him as a victim. I just see him as a healthy human being who did not have access to the same resources as I have which would have helped him at the time.
Before embracing mindfulness practice you have gone through more qualifications than I can count. Which are some of the milestones in your professional development before you decided
to start Mindfulness
World? How do they help you in your current practice?
I had been terrified as a child by a religious preacher in the streets who literally put the fear of god in me and sent me home crying for being born a sinner. I was only 11 at the time.
When I had calmed down, I decided to investigate which religion I should believe in and discovered Buddhism. But that was confusing, as Prince Gotam had attained the status of Buddhahood, and it in itself, was not a religion but a title for a practitioner of a way of life within the Hindu faith. Much in the way that Christianity has many branches of Christianity. Hinduism has many branches of Hinduism. But Hinduism in itself is also not a religion as it was known as Hindustan, before the British Empire decided to practice its divide and conquer principles and turned Muslims against Hindus to stop them from turning against the British Empire.
I digress, so I had always been interested in yoga and its many disciplines. Primarily at the age of 17 I became interested in Raja Yoga, Yoga of the Kings, or yoga of the mind where you learned to control your thoughts and emotions.
So mindfulness has always existed but not as the sanitised clinical practice that we have today. The yogic context, its true form, has been stripped from it and instead of having the stream to drink from, we just have a thimble of what Raja Yoga can do and we all are amazed. Imagine what would happen if you were to drink from the source of mindfulness? Instead of having tap water, you got to go to source of the spring?
I was always interested in the esoteric, and became a Brief Strategic Therapist in 2006. After becoming ill whilst working at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt. I returned to the UK. I went through a bit of a crisis and ended studying at the UAL as an undergraduate, doing lots of short courses in the creative arts, with a leaning towards digital art.
Which lead me to being trained in traditional animation before becoming a computer animator and studying computer animation as my major at London Metropolitan University. Where I also did art and Chinese Mandarin as adjuncts to my major.
Which then allowed me to do a placement in China which should have been for 6 weeks, but I extended over 6 years. It was when in 2011 after having a medical before moving to China I was advised to recuperate in the UK before emigrating to China.
I found the MA in Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries. That course was the turning point, it taught me to believe in me and give myself the permission to do academically something I was interested in - ‘Subliminal Messaging’. But it importantly taught me how to do active research, which meant engaging with others and getting measurable evidence of the active research.
During that period of study over two years in doing the MA, I retrained as a clinical hypnotherapist and was able to join the Royal Society of Medicine as a Clinical Hypnotherapist.
I was then fortunate to become a member of the James Braid Society where others I and were offered the opportunity as hypnotherapist to become Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression teacher.
How did you come up with the idea of Mindfulness World?
Sad to say it but there is a lot of elitism within the world of mindfulness. People are sectarian and are professionally trying to protect their income and so deny those that don't have the right qualifications any access to training to become mindfulness teachers.
You have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous? Both are voluntary organisations run by volunteers in recovery. Academics and clinicians have tried stepping in and taking control and only managed to make complete balls up of it. It has turned out that it is better managed by those who have survived their experiences and can share those experiences with others. They have proven they are the experts on how to best deal with alcoholism and dependency of narcotics. It took a while for all the academics and clinicians to admit that academic knowledge is not better than hands on experience.
Mindfulness World is set up to allow people with lived experience develop and have cultivated a practice of their own come onboard and learn Brief Strategic Mindfulness. The method has been developed with the feedback from those who have lived and are living with mental health and addiction challenges.
Mindfulness World is set up to raise funds for training people in other countries to teach Brief Strategic Mindfulness for free by supporting them financially.
Mindfulness World was called that name so that it would be for everyone regardless of status.
Some of the most innovative companies like Google provide mindfulness practice for their teams. How can mindfulness
Cortisol causes a domino effect where your mind is enhanced to remember experiences under stress. At the same time when your senses are heightened because of a perceived threat, the neo-cortex brain’s critical reasoning functioning state is reduced. Whilst the mammalian brain emotional state and reptilian brain ‘flight or fight' state activities are enhanced to focus on danger, you effectively experience brain freeze.
A mindful attitude reduces stress hormones allowing the mind to be at rest and in its least distracted state. So where you would normally feel that you do not have enough time to do everything? You all of a sudden find you do have time to do all the things you want and have time to spare. All of this is possible because you will find that you are less stressed and have more time to be happier so you enjoy your life more; and see the world as a new creative experience all the time instead of just some of the time.
How does mindfulness help you overcome criticism, fears, self-limiting beliefs and other obstacles preventing you from success? Can you suggest a helpful exercise?
By understanding how critical you can be of yourself and practising kindness and softness towards the moment where you notice the discomforting thought. You are reducing and increasing your ability to reduce the automatic release of stress hormones that would throw you into a ‘flight or fight’ response. You become aware that others are reacting to chemical release of stress hormones and have not had the opportunity to practice responding mindfully to the release of stress hormones. So you see the experience for what it is, instead of what your defence mechanism perceives as a threat.
Trained as a hypno-psychotherapist gives me one added advantage over other therapist not trained in this discipline. A deeper and better understanding of the subconscious. Nobody wakes up and consciously says to themselves:
- I am going to feel depressed
- I am going to feel sad
- I am going to feel suicidal
- I am going to feel anxious
- I am going to feel stressed
- I am going to overreact to everything
- I am going to have insomnia
We are consciously aware of these feeling states. So if the conscious mind did not decide to have these feeling states then it must be the subconscious mind?
With this in mind, let’s look at my Captain of the Ship model for getting back in control of our mind.
Most therapies can only address what comes up in the conscious mind and do not work with the subconscious mind.
If we assume the conscious mind is the Captain of the Ship, then the subconscious mind is the crew and your physical body is the ship.
We know that the captain has to talk to the crew. So the crew can take good care of the body. Whenever we breathe out, the body is relaxed. We know the mind records information better when we are stressed.
If you were to press the finger and thumb together to create pressure, would this not be a form of stress?
Let’s take advantage of breathing out and letting go of the pressure between the finger and the thumb. As we breathe in whilst pressing the finger and thumb together, say to yourself, ‘I am…’ and then, as you notice the relaxing out breath, release of the pressure between the finger and thumb, and say to yourself ‘…letting go’. Do this a few times.
Why does it work? Because of where is your attention in that moment? With your breath and the sensation of relaxation. Not only that you as the captain are telling the subconscious to let go. But what could the subconscious be letting go? Who knows, but whatever it needs to let go to be relaxed in the body and mind. Thus lowering the release of stress chemicals, taking you out of high alert at the subconscious level which means also being out of alert at the conscious level.
This is a Brief Strategic Mindful method that comes about with the understanding how to control the body’s level of discomforts that influence the negative and positive thoughts we have.
What creative fields interest you? (design, writing, painting, music, dancing, etc?)
Which ones have you practised, which ones do you still like doing, and which ones are on your to-do list?
I was an amateur dance teacher, teaching contemporary dance. I don’t dance or teach dancing any more, but happy to say my daughter went to university and graduated as a dance teacher.
I have a passion for learning, so there are many things I am doing. I write poetry and wrote short stories. I paint and draw using natural materials. I think I am an amateur illustrator. I like an image that tells a story. I create greeting cards and make small and large picture gift clocks.
I have on my to do list the website but I think it may be easier to pay someone to do that for me.
As I did train to deliver mindfulness in a non-clinical setting in Higher Education, I also have on my to do list a future project of offering Brief Strategic Mindfulness to overseas students struggling with stress. Studies show suicide rates for overseas students have shot up.
I do lots of little bits on all of the projects I am currently interested in. One that I am paying attention to is improving my Mandarin by watching lots of great Chinese anime, as animation from China is becoming mainstream now.
Many creatives are afraid to share their ideas or work in process because they might get stolen. Yet, obtaining feedback is a crucial part of proper testing. What would you advise
The answer to this is encouraging them to practice active research. Nothing better than finding a platform where you can get feedback to help you to grow. Ideas, like all living things, need light, we night the light of insight from others. I have never ever heard of ideas growing if they are kept in the dark.
But at the same time, what an amazing opportunity to sit with your discomfort and hold it up with kindness and softness! Then you won’t find yourself being held hostage by your anxieties which are a perceived threat that only exist in your mind that your hypothalamus turns into physical sensations in the body so you end up thinking your imagination is real.
Which part of your work do you enjoy the most and which part do you dislike the most?Garvey:
I enjoy all of it! Every moment could be my last. I have no parts that I dislike, as I know that everyone else and myself are doing the best we can with what we have at the moment.
Give me an example from your practise when you managed to turn failure to success:
What compromises did you have to make? Did it turn out better or worse than you initially imagined? What were the learning outcomes?
Not knowing how to respond to my own and other people’s criticisms and unwanted advice on what I should be doing.
With others I learned to tell them that their suggestions are amazing and that I think they should manage the suggestion from beginning to end. I won’t stand in their way and that I know they will do the best that they can do. I know that everyone is doing their best to help others and themselves.
Even if they are referring to me, it is not about me, because I have ‘befriended myself’ mindfully. That anyone who wants to give me their opinion about me. Where else can they have got the bases for their opinion other than from their own experience of life? So mindfully listening, I listen to what the person is saying and how it relates to their level of comfort in that moment.
As for the team, it is like the tide; it grows and shrinks in numbers of teachers but grows in the number of practitioners. Mindfulness World is very much like a garden where all can grow and disperse like seeds to grow as teachers in their own right.
Which is just what has happened. I thought I would have lots of teachers under me, but they have become teachers in areas that are not formally organised by Mindfulness World, but they as teachers are supported by mindfulness world. Mindfulness World up to the present moment has avoided applying for funding as we - or I - have found out that there is much legal legislation to follow once you start taking public funds.
At present we, or to say that I am collaborating with other organisations to help them apply for funding to have Mindfulness World provide the mindfulness support they need. This stage has naturally emerged as a continual path of the active research to engage others in possible interventions that suit the needs of others.
How do you picture yourself in 5-years time? What would your ideal situation be?
Completed or to have least started a PhD in Psychotherapy, have an established office and a charity shop for Mindfulness World so that we are fully sustainable.
What is your final message to anyone reading this?
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Good luck to you and Mindfulness World!
Stop for for a few breaths a day to Feel the sensation of just being alive!
Garvey Harris Today
· I do lots of little
bits on all of the projects I am currently interested in.
One that I am paying attention to is improving my Mandarin by watching lots of great Chinese anime.
I have on my to do list a future project of offering Brief Strategic Mindfulness to overseas students struggling with stress.
Have your say!
- Have you had similar experiences?
- Do you practise mindfulness in your daily life?
In what cases are you too harsh on yourself or the others?
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