The Arts & Everything in Between

May 30, 2023 | Duration: 26 min

Live From RECHARGE! Recharge Your Mindset with Dr. Colm Fallon


Dr. Colm Fallon

In this episode, Dr. Colm Fallon takes us on a journey of the mind, combining neuroscience, psychology and meditation, to teach us how important self care is for the short and long term health of self.

You’ll learn how cognitive load and stress can create a volatile mix and more importantly how consistent meditation practice can help ease these burdens, but also help foster a growth mindset and healthier overall habits.

Dr. Fallon shares his personal journey and the founding of Project One Sky, and also leads a meditation session within the episode.



Investigate new ideas and learn from your arts, culture and heritage peers! Join us every two weeks as we interview arts industry experts and get their take on the biggest issues facing the arts and culture world today. You’ll get ideas to try and practical tips, plus hear from arts and culture managers working in every role from marketing to management –  and every area –  from theatres and music venues to festivals, museums, heritage sites and more.



Got a great topic for the podcast? Want to share your story with the arts and culture world? Get in touch! [email protected]



A big thank you to Dr. Colm Fallon, founder of Project One Sky.



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About Our Guest

Featured Guest

Dr. Colm Fallon

Founder & CEO Colm began development of the Project One Sky course after a prolonged period meditating in the Himalayas. It was a long journey up there – as a teenager, he suffered with mental health issues and spent 10 years on anti-depressants to curb panic attacks and sometimes month-long bouts of depression. After deciding enough was enough, he carefully came off the tablets and began his search to find the best way he could make a difference to the world – he believed this would be the true antidote to his depression.

Intro: It’s. Welcome to the arts and everything in between. Podcast brought to you by ticketsolv.

Paul Fadden: This what I’d just like to lastly, do I want really, really? Thank column.

Dr. Colm Fallon: Dr.Column Fallon, apologies for being our keynote speakers this morning. Dr. Colin Fallon is founder and CEO of the Project One Sky, a wellbeing education company for secondary schools. He’ll talk about meditation and growth mindset through the lens of neuroscience and physiology or psychology.

Dr. Colm Fallon: Sorry. Thanks, Bill. Thanks, Paul. Yes, good morning. My name is Column. As Paul said, I’m going to well, happy spring. It’s the second day of spring. I’m going to talk to you about your well being. I’m going to set the tone for the day, and the team is recharged. So it’s about connecting with yourself, whatever that means, connecting with each other, hopefully destressing a little and learning something and hopefully having a little bit of fun and maybe a few more puns thrown in there. So I will begin by telling a little bit about myself. I left a career in academia to set up project One Sky, which is a wellbeing education company for secondary schools. My particular interest was in meditation and the way it was being taught. So you probably have heard a little bit about meditation and the benefits in terms of reducing stress and in terms of increasing focus and discipline and so on. And that’s all good. It’s very important. But also an important part of meditation is that, well, if you teach a psychopath to meditate, they will just become a better killer according to those terms. So what’s very, very important and the part that I’m in particular interested in is the ethical component of meditation. And so if the ethical component is taught, that will transform both the individual or it has the potential to transform the individual and society. And so that’s why I’m here. My background, where I came from was I started I had mental health issues as a teenager, and I was on and off antidepressants for about ten years. And even when I came off them, I had this psychological barrier that no matter what I did, I failed at. So I dropped out of college twice and almost did a third time. I was managed out of every job I did, and I had a string of bad relationships. And it wasn’t until I learned about neuroscience and about psychology that I started to understand that this transformation that I spoke about could be attained. I had tried the likes of long fasts. I did a five day fast and a few shorter ones, 30 days of yoga, deep meditation retreats, ayahuasca retreats, the whole lot looking for this transformation. But nothing happened until, as I say, I was able to map out a way out of it and a way to transform, if you will. So I’ll show a picture of the brain. I would like a volunteer from the audience. I’m going to talk a little bit about neuroscience. So I’d like a volunteer from the audience to help me demonstrate what I’m going to talk about. Would anyone like to do quick, put your hand up, please. What’s your name? Annette. Annette has volunteered. Thank you very much, Annette. Annette, do you like mats? The answer is no. I’m going to give you a math question, okay? So we’re going to begin with the number 1452, and you count backwards in steps of 13. Take it away, Annette, out loud. Anyone else who wants to do it? You can do it quietly. Sure. 1439-1426-1413-1400 who’s. Beeping 1487-1387 That’ll do. That’s great. Stop there. Thank you very much, Annette. Okay, so what happened was, as Annette was talking, I gave Annette a cognitive load is what scientists would call it, and what happened was an area of her brain, the activity increased in that area. We won’t go into it here, but the activity increased in an area of her brain. And when I told her to stop, then, and anyone else who was doing it in the mind, what happened was the activity in that area would have decreased. But if I was to look at the overall activity of her brain, it didn’t actually decrease, which means that something else went up as this cognitive load exercise decreased. So what was going on? Would anyone? Relief. Relief? Yeah, in the brain. So, thoughts of relief, anything else? Your mind began to wonder, maybe a network with me? Okay, so what happens is an area of your brain called the Default Mode Network begins to increase as the cognitive load would have decreased. So your brain, when it’s in default or the default Mode, is quite active. And what that means is you have a wandering brain. Your mind is wandering. Harvard researchers did a study on this, and so they questioned over a thousand people and questioned them at random points throughout the day to ask them about their focus and to ask them about their mood. And what they found was the conclusion on the study was that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. And so the good news is, so this Default Mode network, it’s not just for being unhappy, but it’s the area of the brain where our mind wanders, where our imagination comes from and so on. But what tends to happen is we will always move towards or we will often move towards problems and start working out problems of our own problems. So we’re working out angsty. We get nervous because we’re not doing it in a constructive way. We’re not thinking, okay, well, I need to solve this problem now. We’re just thinking about it, blindly wandering around it in the back of our mind. This is the George Harrison song. All through the day I’m mine. I mean, mine I’m I also do singing gigs. This is the area of the brain that’s called it’s the Default Mode network. It’s ime mine. It’s where we think about ourselves and this inevitably leads to unhappiness. The good news is it can be trained. So with meditation, for example, seasoned meditators will have their default mode, network will quieten and also they will have more control over it. The area is, as I say, it’s the ime mind area of the brain. It’s where yourself resides. So your image of who you are, what you think about yourself, how you see yourself, and this can get very stuck, it can get very fixed if you ruminate, if you think too much. This was my problem and I wanted a way out of it. It was what you would call a fixed mindset. Most of you have probably heard of a fixed mindset, the opposite to a growth mindset. So I believed that I couldn’t get out of this way of thinking that I was stuck being the way I was. And no matter what I did, I would tell myself, well, you’re not going to succeed at this. You might as well get back in your box. A way out of that is a growth mindset. So a growth mindset is I had all of these experiences that I had done with the Ayahuasca and the deep meditations, they had all given me that growth mindset. In retrospect, all of them worked. It wasn’t that none of them worked, they all had worked. The problem was, a few days later I had gone back to, I mean, mine. I won’t sing again. It was like I had planted a massive seed in the ground, but I hadn’t allowed it to I hadn’t allowed it to grow. What I’ve learned since then is that a growth mindset can be planted easily with a small little seed is all you require. So Annette, for example, with Mats, you may have realized, actually you are quite good at that. And you might say, I’m not bad at maths or I’m not bad at subtraction. Maybe I could try algebra or calculus, or maybe I could try it with a different subject or with a different hobby or with my work. And so the growth mindset can grow. But it needs to be fostered. It needs to be nourished in order to become a seedling. This is done through habits and everyone knows about habit techniques. The good news is Google and Facebook and Meta and all of these, they have all put millions into understanding our habits for our benefit only. It’s not because they want to get us more addicted to their apps, I’m sure. But we have this access now and we have a great understanding of how habits work and they will help to foster a growth mindset. So, for example, an implementation intention is when you write down, I will do this task on this day, at this time in this location, if you write it down as opposed to just deciding, I’ll do it, you’re twice as likely to get it done. Another one that I like is habit stacking. So if you have, I say to myself, I’m going to have a coffee at 11:00 and I want to do you go to your physio beforehand? And the physio I’ve gone to my physio with a dodgy shoulder and he told me, you need to go home and do these exercises for five days a week and I’m paying you to fix it for me. But anyway, it turns out I have to do it myself to do the physio work. If I tag this, if I stack a habit, a thing that I need to do on top of something that I want to do the coffee. So if I tell myself I’m not allowed to have that coffee until I do the 15 minutes of physio, I’m far more likely to do the physio. And in fact I look forward to doing the physio because my reward is the coffee. So these are little tricks that you can do. The real benefit of habits and the real potential of habits is not in changing the outcomes though, it’s in changing your identity, who you see yourself as. So if I repeated doing these physio every day for a week or for two weeks or for three weeks, the longer I do it, the more I believe I’m a person who does physio. And then I can actually detach it from the coffee and tag something else to it if I want to do that. So this is growth mindset. Ideally what you would find is what’s called a keystone habit. So a commonly used keystone habit or a commonly spoken of keystone habit is exercise. So exercise, if you think of people who do yoga or weightlifters, they will often begin with exercise and then they say, well, in order to look after this routine that I’m doing or this habit that I’m building, I want to improve my nutrition habits or my sleeping habits. And so it becomes a keystone habit. It causes a positive chain reaction for all your other habits. Another keystone I started to exercise about a year later I picked up another keystone habit, which was meditation. I had realized that meditation was this great thing to do after doing my retreats, but it wasn’t until about seven or eight years later that I actually got the habit going. A year after doing the exercise habit. So will we do a little meditation? Yeah. Okay, I’m going to grab a glass of water as well. Okay, so everyone sit down for a moment with your hands on your ties. Put your feet flat on the ground. We don’t need any candles or anything like that. Feet on the ground, hands in your thighs and close your eyes and take a deep breath. And now just allow your breath to happen as it happens. Breathe deep if you want to breathe deep or if you’re breathing deep and shallow. If it’s shallow, just allow it to be itself. We’re just going to observe the breath. Now. Focus on the tip of your nose. Focus your tension there and feel the air coming in. If you can’t feel it, just keep the focus there. Is the tip of your nose tingling? Is it numb? Is it hot or cold? Just observe it. You don’t need to do anything about it. Just see the way it is. What will happen is your mind will begin to wander. As soon as you recognize that it has wandered, bring it back to the tip of your nose. You might be thinking, what’s up next? Or I’m not doing this right. That’s another toss. As soon as you recognize that you’re thinking, just come back to the breath. Let’s finish with keep your eyes closed. We’re going to finish with the dedication. So say to yourself, may any benefit that I received here today or that I gained here today, be for the benefit of others. And you can open your eyes. So what you were doing there, that’s basically mindfulness. I’m sure some of you have done mindfulness before. That’s basically it. It’s training your attention to a single point. So this trained attention is mental training. And what’s happening is there’s an area at the front of your brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is shown in seasoned meditators that that area of the brain and the default mode network that we were talking about, the connections between the two have been strengthened or will have been strengthened by seasoned meditators. Just by coming back to your breath. So losing attention and coming back to your breath is like lifting a weight in the gym. You’re strengthening the connections between the different areas of your brain. It’s been shown that with only about 30 hours of practice, so 20 minutes a day for three months, there will be permanent structural changes in your brain from that meditation. So to come back to the pictures, allow a seed to be planted, a growth mindset. Nourish, that seed with habits strengthen it not necessarily with meditation, but with repeated practice of whatever it is that you do. Meditation is probably the best way to do so with focus and discipline, this can help you to strengthen your mind. And it also shows up, as I say, that the CEO, the leader part of your brain is strengthened by it and has better control over the rest of your brain. And then the question is, if you have become the leader of your brain, what next? What do you do? You can do anything you want, really, because you have mastered your mind or you’ve begun to master your mind. I have a pun. A Buddhist goes up to a hot dog vendor, I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, goes up to a hot dog vendor and the hot dog vendor asks, what would you like? And he says, make me one with everything. It’s a bad joke, but there is an interesting point to it, which is every world religion and every philosophy, every worth thinking about has at the center of it two things in common. They all will talk about selflessness, which we’ve been talking a little bit about. By quietening the default mode network, you’re getting over yourself and unbounded love. Unbounded love. I don’t like to use the word love because it’s overused and it gets mixed up with passion and with sentimentality. So we talk about GRA instead. If I say I have GRA for everyone here, it means I want you to do well. I want you to have a great day today and I would like you to do well in your life and to bring the essence of what it is to be you as a gift to the world. That’s the ideal. The great news is that this can be trained too. So with in Buddhism they have this training called meta meditation. It’s also called now by scientists lovingkindness meditation or compassion meditation. They have done studies on it and the studies show that with compassion meditation or with lovingkindness meditation, our brains, there will be permanent structural changes in our brains within only 8 hours or seven to 8 hours. So those permanent structural changes from mindfulness meditation that show all the stress reduction and so on, they will happen in only 30 hours. But it only takes seven to 8 hours for this love or this connection training to occur. I think that’s fascinating. It’s the most important scientific discovery that I’ve read about, what it means really, and I think what it points to is this transformation that I mentioned earlier. The transformation is going from the default mode network, me thinking about I, me, my mind, I won’t sing again to other people. So if I can transform my identity from being me at the center of it to being other people at the center of it, that’s what real leadership is. That’s when you are. Simon Sinnick has a book leaders eat last, leaders consider other people first, and other people follow for that reason. That’s what leadership is. If that’s not enough of a motivation for you to hopefully go on this path, the algorithms are coming. They are Google, Facebook, Meta, they’re all working on algorithms with AI now which are learning how to control your habits and doing a great job at it. And what’s their aim? It’s to consume, to get you to consume the more you consume. Overconsumption is probably one of the biggest problems in terms of our climate crisis. The other big problem, or another big problem, is the mental health crisis. And I think a big part of that is to do with our focus on ourself too much. We have what some psychologists call a narcissistic or a narcissism epidemic. I know we’re sick of the word epidemic now. So Elon Musk, some people would argue that Elon Musk likes of them will be the one who will. Technology will save us from the climate crisis. I tend to agree. I think it will be technology, but we’ll just find another problem unless we can transform ourselves and this will happen globally. But it begins individually, it starts with you. So to go back to the tree analogy, there’s a nice tree plant. The seed growth mindset. It’s not so difficult. It doesn’t have to be a big massive ayahuasca ceremony or whatever, just getting inspired by someone or recognizing that you can move in a direction that you previously didn’t think you could. That seed, nourish, it with habits and strengthen it by repeat, with effort, ideally with meditation, not necessarily, and focus on other people, strengthen that. So today, if you have step a little bit outside of your box maybe, and go over and talk to somebody else, ask them how they are and really listen and help and finally blossom. Bring your love to the world, bring your truest self to the world. Thank you. So seven to 8 hours a day is about 15 minutes a day of this meta meditation practice. I’m going to do that for the next 30 days, which will be starting in a week or so. You can follow me on YouTube. Thank you. So Paul asked, what meditations do I listen to? I did a half an hour this morning of just that just what we did. So it’s just focusing on your breath. As soon as you recognize eyes, that your mind is wondered coming back. I also do a body scan. It’s not as simple as a body scan, it’s recognizing any sensation in your body, recognizing it as a sensation. It’s quite simple and that’s all there is to it. With the meta meditation that I’m going to do in a few weeks time, that’s just wishing myself, it’s like four sentences, I don’t know them yet. It’s four sentences. Wishing myself well and wishing others well. Start with people who I like. That’s easy. And start with people who I don’t like. Sorry. Then go to people that I’m indifferent towards and then people that I dislike. And that has shown to grow to work. But that’s all, it’s that simple. Apps, I don’t know, I don’t use them, so I don’t know which one to recommend, but yeah, I would say any of them. They’re useful. I may return to an app again, but for now, that’s what I’m doing at the moment. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months or so. There’s a slight difference coming back to the meditation. There’s a slight difference between the meta meditation or lovingkindness meditation and compassion meditation. So lovingkindness meditation begins with yourself. You can’t fill up somebody else’s cup if you’re not going to fill up your own. So you have to begin, well, this is the path I’m taking. Begin with yourself. You have to look after yourself. If you don’t look after yourself physically, then you have to understand yourself before you can give to others. So it’s the final step of the process is to focus on others. But yes, you begin with yourself.

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