Kerene Strochnetter is the Managing Director of Mindful at Work, a business hell-bent on making the M-words cool in the workplace – mindfulness and meditation.
She’s also a sought-after public speaker with a clear message is – if busy is the new stupid, then mindful is the new smart! Kerene talks to NZ Booklovers about her book, Crazy Busy.
Tell us a little about Crazy Busy.
The busier you get the more your mind wanders and according to the research, the more your mind wanders the unhappier you become. Why is that? Well, we’re all naturally biologically programmed for absent-mindedness and to focus on the likelihood of things going wrong. It’s called a negativity bias. While designed to keep us safe, it makes us prone to overlooking life’s good stuff. And the more pressure you’re under the more self-obsessed, critical and negative you become. Over time it takes a significant toll on your health, happiness and relationships.
Crazy Busy is a book for busy people who want to practice mindfulness but decide they can’t because their mind’s too busy (which is normal) or that they should be able to stop their thoughts (which is simply not possible). It includes a simple step by step 8-week programme and comes with a free downloadable workbook from the Mindful at Work website, and access to the Mindful at Work app. Anyone can meditate with the right intention and support. You don’t have to meditate for hours. Just a few minutes each day will positively impact your life.
What inspired you to write this book?
Mindfulness can be a dry sterile topic. Initially I began writing the book to support people who do Mindful at Work programmes, but it quickly morphed into a story about my own messy journey and why I began practising mindfulness. I’ve tried to inject humour and add evidence to dispel the many myths. It’s aimed especially at people who find anything even slightly woo-woo cringe-worthy.
What research was involved?
I feel like I’ve been researching this book forever! My head has been constantly buried in any neuroscience, psychology or meditation book for about 14 years. I have an academic background so understanding the science was vital for embarking on my practice and is what got me hooked in the first place.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I just love writing, so my daily routine was writing first and everything else can wait! This is not the smartest thing to do when you’re running your own business but a great way to get a book written.
Early in the process I mapped the chapter structure and added bullet points of content and sent it to a few experts to critique. Then everything changed when my mentor and teacher Stephen Archer told me he far preferred reading about my messy story and encouraged me to change my angle.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor is the first song that comes to mind! Mindfulness helped me dig myself out of a deep dark hole. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes and needing to take much better care of myself, I started meditating every day. It was and still is a radical daily act of self-care!
The second much less well-known song I’d choose is by Adam Cohen called ‘Love Is’. He talks about love being ‘a faded sign that you don’t see sometimes’. Unfortunately, some of us miss our faded signs because we’re so busy getting stuff done and racing towards an illusory future when we believe we can relax, put our feet up and enjoy life. It’s a con! For some of us, we’ll only recognise this when taking our final breath! We’ll realise we missed our lives, but by then it’s too late. Mindfulness is a powerful practice for bringing us back to what’s important.
What do you hope people will take away from the book?
Mindfulness meditation sounds simple but it’s not! Instruction: sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breath or sensations in your body for brief periods, daily if possible. Informal practices include giving your full attention to everyday things and doing them with more awareness. But asking people to sit still, tune in, and let go of thinking (even for short periods) when they’re used to living in their heads and always racing around getting stuff done, is really challenging. Establishing and sticking to a regular practice takes effort and commitment. However, over time our inner reward system kicks in, and it’s much easier to keep going. Without proper support most people give up. This book provided that support.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this?
The writing process itself - the wordsmithing - the crafting of something I hope people can relate to and which will give you a laugh. Writing also gave me plenty of time to reminisce about my childhood, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Initially I was anxious about how my mother would feel about me openly sharing our family history (because it’s not pretty!), but she surprised me. The book bought us closer together. Now we talk about things we probably should have a long time ago.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I didn’t celebrate at the time, but I’m celebrating soon with a launch in March in Wellington. My good friend Lotty Roberts is helping me organise something in the CBD.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
It would be ‘How to Escape from Prison’ by Dr Paul Wood. I couldn’t put it down. He reminds us that our minds can be our prisons. I believe mindfulness is the secret sauce to help break old habits of thinking, feeling and behaving which are keeping you trapped.
10. What’s next on the agenda for you?
Apart from delivering workplace mindfulness programmes across New Zealand I’m planning on doing more speaking events this year and running weekends away with my colleague and friend Shirley McLeod (Yoga with Me). We’ll be joined by a bunch of crazy busy people who need an escape to the seaside for a few days to learn how to practise mindfulness and to do life a bit differently. I’m also writing programmes as Chief Content Designer for the Awakened Mind app.