Spend a little time with one of the Founders of Meditation Australia, and a leader in the Australian meditation community, Pauline McKinnon …

Your story – How long have you been teaching, what type of meditation do you teach and where?

I have been practicing and teaching meditation for over 40 years.  I’m a pioneer meditation teacher offering meditation as a therapeutic intervention as opposed to traditional styles of meditation.   My specialty is the unique ‘stillness’ concept of meditation created by a major medical pioneer, the Australian psychiatrist, Ainslie Meares. 

My early teaching took place in a church hall in Kew, Victoria, where I gathered a range of anxiety sufferers who responded to publicity surrounding the launch of my first book, In Stillness Conquer Fear.   This led to my establishment of the SMT Centre in Harp Road Kew, Victoria which hosted some thousands of clients over many years.  COVID has interrupted that flow, but my services continue in smaller rooms in a similar COVID safe local location – and also via Zoom.  Visitors to the SMT Centre have also included numerous adolescents and young children whose parents responded to my book (Quiet Magic, 1990/2002/2022).  This fantasy story and its accompanying teachers’ manual introduces the young to ‘stillness’ for stress and anxiety management. 

History – What is the story behind your first meditation experience?

My passion for the practice of ‘stillness meditation’ reflects my lived experience of 8 years of extremely life limiting anxiety following many stressors that occurred in the early years of our married life.  The book previously referred to remains the first known testimony to recovery from years of panic attacks and the life-limiting reaction of agoraphobia.  Having searched many unsuccessful avenues of healing, I discovered this natural solution and Meares work almost by chance – a serendipitous happening and the turning point in my life.  From this relief I was powerfully drawn to share my success story.  Consequently, I trained in counselling and psychotherapy to lend authority to my story and to my ability to assist others.  However, Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT) is always my primary intervention.  Curiously, it seems SMT has also been, (further to my beautiful husband and family), my significant life purpose and a passion that continues today.

Practice – How long did you meditate for today?

My practice continues as a basic commitment to ten minutes each morning and evening – seated in my favourite supportive chair, at home.  Periodically and not necessarily each day, I take the time to increase this precious experience.  This practice may be up to 30 minutes once or twice in a day.  The aim of Stillness Meditation Therapy is to learn the calm and live the calm.  As I spend much time assisting others to be still, I concurrently ‘live’ the experience on many regular occasions.

Tools – Do you use a mediation app? 

Definitely no apps!  People have asked me over the years if I would make an app.  But no!  Capturing stillness must come from within and the mechanistic reliance upon technology is not suited for this practice.  I have relented and made two major audio recordings which help people – especially those who may never learn from me in person – to at least make an assisted start.  People do seem to like and respond to my voice for which I am grateful.

Inspiration – What or who inspires you?

I am inspired by the people I meet.  I am inspired by their trust, their stories, and their willingness to share these.  I feel privileged to have been led to this work and to know that when ‘bad things’ happen in life, the human spirit can learn, grow, and change in myriad positive ways.  There is much to be learned from really, deep listening to others! 

Wisdom – What’s a golden key you have learned about teaching or facilitating mediation?

This may not always be palatable to the reader but the golden key to personal change via the practice of stillness cannot be assumed to be ‘a quick fix’.  Trust, patience, and perseverance are required!  Personal growth and change are essential to all human challenges.  The inclusion of ‘stillness’ as a therapeutic intervention just happens to make things very much easier – and the positive results are well worth the wait.

Gratitude – What fills your heart gratitude?

My quite large family and the love that surrounds us constantly fills me with gratitude.   The ability to ‘wonder’ brings gratitude:  I wonder at the magnificence of nature, the sea, the cosmos … the simple garden and more.   I am a trained singer so the use of voice and a love of music in its many variants lead to gratitude – and especially singing with others.  I am grateful for words – I love reading and rhythm and also art in its many colourful shapes and forms.  Most of all I am grateful for physical, mental and spiritual wellness.

What was the last thing that made you smile or laugh 😊

I can find humour and nonsense in almost everything.  I think I thrive on humour although this must be judiciously contained at certain times!