Awareness: Notice, Acknowledge, Choose

Today Parker, Annewe are continuing our ongoing focus on the Miraval Mastermind that we are going to do July 23-27. We have had some of the experts from Miraval, and if you have been listening to us, we have talked with Michael Tompkins, who is here with us today. We’ll be meeting Anne Parker, Wellness Expert at Miraval and will be talking with her about her expertise.

Michael is a 15 year veteran of the luxury hospitality industry. He began his career at the Miraval in 2007. He has been instrumental in the Miraval Life in Balance Spa with Clarins and the creation of the Andrew Weil  MD Integrated Wellness Center. They are also in the last stages of completing the development of the Villas at Miraval, which is one of the fastest growing luxury, lifestyle real estate projects in the country. A lot of what Michael has talked to us about in the past, comes from his book, Mindful Living, which has some other co-authors.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Michael, welcome! Maybe you could say a little bit about the program, then say a few words on Anne.

Michael Tomplkins: Thanks so much, I’m happy to be here Relly. Miraval is a destination spot that is located in Tucson, Arizona. Our philosophy is based around mindfulness. While we are a vacation destination for many people, we are also a site for businesses to come and teach their corporate groups and executives mindful leadership techniques. So, we have had Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies come here to learn from our experts, like Anne Parker, who is going to be joining us today. One of the things that we try to do is to teach people to live in the moment so that they can make decisions both for themselves and their businesses that are optimal and at the same time have  little bit of joy in their lives.

That is one of the reasons why I’m excited to have joining with me today, Anne Parker, who is one of our wellness counselors. Ann has been really instrumental in creating programs at Miraval that revolve around joy and resilience and heart-centered leadership. She has done a number of programs, not only for Miraval, but also for corporate groups and companies outside of Miraval who have seen her as an expert and leader in what she does and have engaged her to come to their companies.  I’m really excited that she is going to be with us today to talk about some of the things that she teaches in our Mindful Living Miraval book that is out.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, thank you Michael. Let me say a little bit about Anne and then we’ll bring her on.

Anne has been a professional therapist for more than 30 years completing degrees in music therapy, counseling psychology, and health services administration as well as post graduate studies in integrative heart therapies. She combines executive administrative experience with therapeutic skills and spiritual practice to bring a unique look and practical understanding to creating and enhancing wellness. Anne inspires the discovery of new perspectives about balance, joyful living, and transformation.

Anne, welcome to the show.

Anne Parker: Thank you, it’s great to be here this morning.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Why don’t you say a little bit about how long you have been at Miraval, and the scope of what you do.

Anne Parker: Well I first came to Miraval in 2005, so I’ve been here for quite a while. My background really fits very well for the kind of guests that we have here, because as you mentioned, I have been a therapist for over 35 years and that certainly informs a lot of the work I do. I also have a graduate degree in business, specifically health services administration, and spent the middle part of my career as a hospital executive as well as being executive director of national non-profits and sitting on boards of various non-profits, local and national over the years.

I think that my background really melds well with our programs here at Miraval because I can connect with people in the paradigm that they are used to working in, but also lead them into some new discoveries about themselves and how to be in their lives.

I think the main thing that distinguishes me really comes from what I was saying earlier about my sort of two-pronged background. I started out my professional career as a therapist, specifically working a lot in music therapy and expressive arts therapies. What I have discovered over the years is that those tools actually are very effective, as we always say, to help people get out of their heads.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I’m very curious, for people who have not had experience with those modalities, can you talk a little bit about the distinction between them?

Anne Parker: Sure. The whole idea of the expressive arts therapies really does dovetail very nicely with emotional intelligence, because so many of us are so locked into particular cognitive patterns that may help us but may not serve us so well any more. So by using modalities such as music, arts, writing, various kinds of things that tap into more of our emotional self and also tap into more of our unconscious dynamics in a direct way, what happens is that people find that even though they may feel a little uncomfortable at first because it’s a way of relating to themselves that is probably new, what they find is that they discover parts of themselves or reconnect with parts of themselves that they don’t use very often or haven’t used in a long time. So, by using the arts modalities it just becomes a way for people to really expand their awareness of self as well as gain some new tools.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: A big question for me Anne, in terms of what you do at Miraval is: how can you tell us very simplistically, how you apply this background and your expertise on a daily basis with all of the different kinds of guests who come to Miraval whether they are business professionals, leaders or soccer moms, mothers and daughters, or fathers and sons, or friends who just show up there to renew themselves and to learn these mindful living practices that we have come to know and love and thank Michael Tompkins for sharing with us at the beginning of the new year.

Anne Parker: Well, I think one of my strengths, which a lot comes from 25 years of mindfulness practices of my own, is really the ability to be very present with people, wherever they are, mentally, emotionally, cognitively, and relationally. When I do an individual session with someone here at Miraval, it really is about them coming through my door with whatever is most top of mind for them. Then I really am able to meet them where they are and through whatever experience we choose, whether it’s something arts based or something more talking oriented, really be able to zero in on one or two key points that will help them make a shift that they want to make.

I think so often, people are very aware of the shift they want to make, they are not so aware of the obstacles that are keeping them from making those shifts. So one of the things that we can do pretty efficiently is identify some of those obstacles and come up with one or two very key, practical action points that they can take to begin that change process.

Dr. Relly Nadler: When you are at Miraval, do people get a chance to make an appointment with you and then given that they are only there for a limited amount of time, how does that work from an intensity standpoint? Are you able to follow up with them, because we know there is a lot done on the phone these days, or Skype. How does that work?

Anne Parker: Well, I do follow up with people from time to time. One of the things that is wonderful about this place, Miraval, is that it’s amazing how much personal work people can do in a very short amount of time. Because the whole environment here supports the work that they are doing and their own self awareness and it’s always interesting when I talk to therapists who work in more traditional kinds of therapy settings because they ask the very question you did, “how can you get so much done in one or two sessions?” But the magic of Miraval is that they work with me in those one or two sessions but then they leave my office and are supported in whatever it is that they are working on by the entire environment and all the other specialists, services and classes that we have here.

One of the things that I have often said is that, when people are willing and ready, I can help them do more work in a week here than it would take a year to do in a traditional therapy practice, because the whole environment supports it.

Dr. Relly Nadler: You know what’s interesting about what you are saying, especially when you tie into mindfulness; for anybody who has gone to see a therapist of numerous types, you are in this closed door environment, 50 minutes or an hour—whatever it is, and then you leave and you are back into your world. I think what happens is a lot of the knowledge kind of seeps out—you lose that because all of the sudden it’s where do I need to go? I’ve got to pick up my kid… So it isn’t allowed to sink in. As a matter of fact, I remember thinking of a dissertation topic, I was going to have people after a counseling session go into another room, which probably happens similar to Miraval, and just think, reflect and write on what happens so you don’t lose that specialness. That may be what you are saying in regards to Miraval. In that environment you can really stay with the insight and stay with the learnings versus trying to get back into your world where you may lose it.

Anne Parker: That’s right. Not only can you stay with it but it gets reinforced from all kinds of other perspectives. So when people spend a week here, it has much more ability to stick, as it were.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I think that is so important for people to understand, especially in anticipation of the upcoming Mindfulness Mastermind in July, it’s the reason we are doing a multi-day program. Anne I’d love your perspective on this and we sure are looking forward to having you stop by and join us for any portion of the program that you can participate in. I know that when you immerse yourself in an experience for a number of days they way we do when we go to a fabulous resort like Miraval, you are constantly supported in that consciousness effort, in that thoughtful effort, we will call it for the purposes of our show, that mindfulness effort. Because what we are trying to achieve in a very short period of time is at least an awareness and if I could say this without seeming like I’m building something that is to intricate or detailed, but a support structure that we can take when we leave.

I think one of the things that Relly and I are very interested in learning more about is this, “Notice, Acknowledge, Choose, Mantra” of yours. Can you tell us a little bit about that and explain where it came from?

Anne Parker: It’s just a way that I have of characterizing how we can be more mindful in the moment and how we can access more of our emotional intelligence in the moment. So, the “Notice, Acknowledge, Choose” is just a very simple three-step awareness process. The first one is to notice what you are paying attention to, to notice what your thoughts are, to notice what emotions you are having. I know that sounds very, very basic, but so often we are operating on automatic pilot, we are operating out of patterns and habits that are pretty unconscious, and so just that first step of taking that split second to notice—“Oh, this is what I’m paying attention. Oh, this is what emotion I am having right now”—begins to set into motion a decision making process that is going to be more integrative. So Acknowledge is then after you’ve noticed what you are thinking, feeling or paying attention to, to acknowledge it. This becomes a very powerful step because often times, even if we are aware of what we are feeling or thinking, we are not really acknowledging it. We are just kind of letting whatever the thought or feeling is drive us. So the acknowledgement step is very important.

When I talk about  acknowledgement I always say, it’s just that: acknowledging. I think the thing that often hangs people up in self-awareness is that even if you are good at the noticing and acknowledging, then you go into why am I feeling this way. What is the matter with me; all of the self-talk that goes one, which in the moment becomes a distraction. So Notice what you are thinking and feeling, acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling and then make a choice. What thoughts and feelings are going to be most productive for this moment, for this decision I need to make, for this interaction that I’m having? So part of what I teach is how to actually make that shift, if for example, something is going on that we are just really frustrated and irritated by, we notice the irritation and frustration, we acknowledge it because it is there for a reason, and then we make a choice. Does that irritation and frustration really serve me right now? Or, if I can shift into a more balance, more calm, more compassionate, more appreciative state, am I going to be able to be more effective.

Of course what we know from a lot of the biological science and neuroscience is that when we can shift into those more positive emotional states, actually the brain and body works better. That “choose” step becomes very important. Not to get rid of the stressor as it were, but to shift how we interact with it.

Find out more about Anne and the wellness and mindfulness programs at Miraval. Once a month we talk about the Miraval and our Mindfulness retreat we are sponsoring at Miraval on July 23-27. We encourage folks who are interested in this, to go to or where you can get more information about the experience and sign up! We would love to have you. Listen to our complete interview without commercials, above.


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