Ellen:
Hello and welcome back to the Potential Psychology Podcast, and our last episode for this season. We will be taking a short break for a few weeks while we prep for a very big and exciting season seven, but we're right here right now. Before we get into today's episode, I wanted to tell you a little about some self experimentation that I've been working on. I've kept this a little bit quiet, because I had no idea if I'd be able to stick with it. It's been three weeks now and so far so good. So it might be time to share. A bit over three weeks ago, Desiree Dickerson, psychologist and neuroscientist and one of our fabulous past guests on the show, we talked about aging smart and keeping your brain in tip top condition for later life. Well, she put out a call for people interested in joining a 21 day online health challenge, run by PreKure. PreKure is a social enterprise that exists to inspire the medical profession to become more focused on disease prevention.

Ellen:
Their vision is to make prescribing lifestyle medicine as easy as prescribing pills. The challenge itself involved tweaking your diet and exercise habits for a period of about three weeks, or exactly three weeks, 21 days along with some excellent learning each day on topics such as sleep, and mental health, and friends as medicine. There was a competitive element to it with points that you add and subtract according to how well you stick to the goals, and there's a social element. So you're encouraged to join teams to support each other as you establish better health habits. We did this via wonderfully international Facebook group, and I think Desiree might have got me at a weaker moment because I did sign up to the challenge, and then I wondered what I'd got myself into. There was no alcohol for three weeks, no snacking between meals. So no chowing down on crackers in the afternoon to get me through to dinner, and a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day, plus the learning component, which was online.

Ellen:
It really must've been the right moment because I, much to my own surprise, embraced the challenge ,and I actually added daily meditation to my routine as well. So just five or 10 minutes a day. So I meditated using my muse to the brain sensing headband that we discussed on the show with its co-creator, Ariel Garten a few weeks ago. I did that almost every day for three weeks. This I think, might've been where I noticed the biggest difference. I feel fitter and stronger for the exercise. I'm definitely sleeping well. I've improved my nutrition habits. I'm eating larger and more nutritious breakfasts and lunches each day, and this is coming from someone for whom breakfast and lunch was not ordinarily an inspiring proposition, and I quite often just miss them altogether. I don't miss the snacks remarkably, and I don't miss my nightly glass of wine which is also interesting, but I've also spent the last three weeks calmer and more focused, and more productive.

Ellen:
I'm getting more done, and I'm getting less stressed. It's almost like there's somehow some extra hours in the day, even though I know that there's obviously no extra hours in the day. I'm putting a lot of that down to the effects of the daily meditation. Of course, this is an appalling experimental design. I have no way of knowing what is working, because I've changed way too many variables all at once. So I don't know what's really making the difference, and I have no real way of measuring whether the effect is real or whether it's some kind of perception bias on my part anyway. Putting all of that aside because it is self-experimentation, it doesn't really matter, it feels good. The meditation feels particularly good. The focus and the clarity and the calm, feels really good. Good enough to keep doing it beyond my three weeks. I really feel like there's some kind of transformation taking place. Some kind of transformation in my habits and my lifestyle, which is fascinating at the age of 46 almost 47, that we might be able to change these things if we put our minds to it.

Ellen:
I think so many of my inspiring guests, who have gone down this path prior to me for the inspiration to try this out, but it's definitely all positive effects and that's what we're exploring in today's episode. Not my transformation, but the potential of practices such as meditation to transform ourselves, our communities, and maybe even our planets. So let's go.

Ellen:
My guest today is passionate about reducing stress and chaos in people's lives. Tom Cronin knows firsthand the power of meditation and overcoming mental health issues, and the potential this ancient practice has for personal healing and human transformation. He's the author of six books for adults, and one children's book entitled, We See Mood Meditate, which I think is just gorgeous. He is a meditation teacher, a film maker, an international speaker and founder of the Stillness Project, which is a global movement to inspire one billion people to sit in stillness daily. Tom is here to talk to us about The Portal, an upcoming experiential documentary he has co-produced based on the book of the same name, and his commitment to a planetary shift. Welcome, Tom.

Tom:
Hey, it's good to be here. Thanks for inviting me along.

Ellen:
Thank you for coming and having a chat to me, or sitting at the other end of the conferencing facility and having a chat with me. I have a lot to ask you about, because you're doing some big, big stuff. Firstly, I'm keen to know how did you come to be a meditation teacher and start working with things like global meditation, because that's not where you started, was it?

Tom:
No, that's right. I was in finance trading swaps and bonds on international markets, and I did end up using meditation as a tool, a mechanism to help me manage stress, and just the intensity of the life there on a trading room floor. Over the time, I tend to see this sequence in people where they go from seeker to finder to sharer. I was a seeker, and what we tend to do as seekers is we're looking for the solution, looking for the answer to the problem. I had a problem, which was stress and anxiety, and I was looking for a solution. I found the solution for me personally, which was meditation, but I was so affected and transformed by it. I couldn't help but want to share that. So that's naturally quite often the case, where we next want to move into that process of wanting to share what we found. Hey everyone, you should see this. It's amazing. So for my next step in the process was to learn how to become a meditation teacher, and then start to teach people.

Tom:
Even then, what happened in that process was an interesting thing. In the middle of that process unfolding, we got this thing called the internet. There was pre internet as a meditator, and post internet as a meditator. What happened was I could then start communicating with people all over the world. Blogs and YouTube videos and podcasts and things like that. All of a sudden I had an audience that wasn't contained to the local vicinity of where I lived. So I had people inquiring with me to use these devices. So that's when I created this Stillness Project and had to realize that wow, there are people in Venezuela and Mexico and the housing estates of Sheffield, England that could do with learning this technique. That's when the Stillness Project became born.

Ellen:
The internet and therefore things like the Stillness Project have helped to expand our awareness of meditation, but as you said, you started pre-internet. So I'm interested to know what got you started? How did you actually come across that, because I'm assuming pre-internet, it wasn't the same level of conversation or such a thing as it is now?

Tom:
Yeah, it's really interesting isn't it, to look back and see how much the world's changed just for our own personal story, when you get into the granular details of your life. At the time, this was in 1996. If there's some people in your audience, probably you don't know if that world's going to be quite a different world to the one they are used to. I developed acrophobia, which was the inability to leave the house. I was not completely contained by the house, but I definitely found it very confronting to leave the house, because I was having such extreme anxiety and panic at the time. In 1996, you've got acrophobia and there's no internet. There's no Foxtel, there's no YouTube, there's no-

Ellen:
Yeah, or Netflix.

Tom:
Netflix. So I was watching a lot of free to air TV, reading books, just really trying to stay in this safe space of just being at home, but I had watched a documentary about a property developer, Bernard Grollo, who was a big property developer in the late 80s, early 90. A very tiny section of that story was about him meditating, and there he was sitting in a chair meditating in a suit. It was like this incredible epiphany went on in my head. It was just like, "Wow, you could do that." It was really the first real introduction I'd had into meditation and the possibility of what it could do for me. It wasn't really much talked about back then in 1996. It wasn't that long ago, but still meditation was very much an Eastern philosophy, where we were a thing and not many people were doing it. So what I did at that point, and some of the listeners might not know what I'm talking about here, but I picked up the yellow Pages book, which was-

Ellen:
I remember. I know what it is.

Tom:
Kept in the hallway stopping the door from blowing in the wind, you know? I remember opening it up to M for meditation. I literally distinctly recall having the book on the coffee table in my lounge room, and going through the different centers under meditation in my local area and ringing them up, and inquiring about the courses that they offered.

Ellen:
So this really must've been quite the epiphany to take you from here it is, to right, I'm taking action on this right now. There was obviously something within you that drew you, or something from meditation. I don't know, something there that really drew you to take action on this immediately.

Tom:
Yeah, I think it's one of the things I was, we call it a rashi in Sanskrit. What a rashi is, is what we'd sit up in the portal, which I'm sure we'll get to at some point in the call today. We talked about in The Portal, this idea of a fork in the road. It's a point in your process of evolution, in company's, in a marriage, in a civilization's point in evolution that you can no longer continue on in that current trajectory. You're at a point where you have to make one of two decisions. You break through or breakdown. The relationship deteriorates and you get a divorce, or the company goes bankrupt, or all sorts of situations arrive at what we call a rashi, which is a point in evolution where the process of change must occur, must occur. I'd arrived at that rashi, which was breakdown or breakthrough.

Tom:
Now, we don't normally know what the breakthrough looks like. If we did, we would have done it. You know what I mean? It just so happened that my breakthrough came through the process of, maybe it was divinely orchestrated by the universe to come across that documentary, but something really, really at that point in my life and the level of bleakness that my life had become really, really, really felt deeply drawn to that process of learning to meditate.

Ellen:
So serendipity, if you will.

Tom:
Yeah.

Ellen:
Yeah, which again is not particularly scientific, but fascinating.

Tom:
Yeah, that's right.

Ellen:
Something that's always appealed to me, this notion that somehow things do align to, and I know from a psychological point of view, there's lots we do. There is a lot of cognitive processing that goes on behind that that creates that readiness for whatever the change is that presents itself, add another period in your life. This is probably just a different perspective on that same rashi notion, another point in your life you could have watched exactly the same documentary and it would have been meaningless. You would never have even noticed that little snippet, but it spoke to you at that point because you were ready for it to do so.

Tom:
Yeah.

Ellen:
Yeah, fantastic. So what do you do today? I know that's a huge question because as I said in the bio, there's lots that you do, but you are a meditation teacher. Who do you teach?

Tom:
Yeah, I mean literally a couple of hours ago, I was on a very, I was at 31st floor of a building in Sydney, teaching a CEO of a large equity fund for private 101. I teach couples. I teach school kids, I teach individuals. I was negotiating before that session with a high school in Western Sydney about a team meditation program. So it varies from the nature of the person that I'm teaching, from CEOs to school kids to pensioners, to couples, to the style that I teach, which could be online programs, it could be on retreats, it could be private one-on-ones, could be group workshops. So that varies as well. Then there's so much built around that. We have a coaching program that I run every fortnight for leaders that have been in my meditation programs, or my treats that then want to become one of those sharers that need some help and support to keep thinking big.

Tom:
I help them with the structures and the modalities of getting their voice heard out into the world. So yeah, it's quite a diverse range, but obviously then within that I credit this film and book, which has been a big part of the time allocation for my day at the moment.

Ellen:
Yeah, and we're going to talk about that in a moment. I've got one quick question about how you find workplaces and organizations and CEOs, how receptive they are to this? My background, I'm a workplace psychologist. I spent a lot of time talking, and I've certainly noticed a significant level of openness to talking about things like wellbeing at work. Meditation for many people I think is another step, because it connotes that Eastern philosophy, the woo-woo thing that you mentioned earlier. How is it received?

Tom:
Yeah, it depends how you sell it. So I come from a very science-based teaching, and convey predominantly a lot of information around the sympathetic nervous system versus parasympathetic hypnosis system. We go a lot into the biochemistry of cortisol, your epinephrine, adrenaline versus melatonin and oxytocin, serotonin. It's all undeniable, it's all verified, it's all science-based, it's all very matter of fact. So companies are realizing now more than ever, brain functionality when you're stressed versus brain functionality when you're calm. It's black and white how different your brain actually operates, and where the brain operates from when you're in these different states. So we really are going to struggle to bring about changing an individual's person's life if they're still in sympathetic nervous system. So meditation consist of really simple and effective device or technique that can move them very quickly out of sympathetic into parasympathetic.

Tom:
Now when we get them into parasympathetic, we didn't need to worry too much about all the other stuff. The body will look after that. We just got to get them from sympathetic to parasympathetic. From there, the brain starts functioning better. Their biochemistry starts changing, the blood pressure starts getting better. We don't need to worry about the blood pressure. We don't need to worry about their biochemistry. We don't need to worry about their brain functionality. That will sort itself out. We just got to get them to parasympathetic.

Ellen:
Okay. So it's moving them from what we call the stress response into the relaxation response.

Tom:
Absolutely. Yeah, and trying to get them to stay in that space as long as possible, because that's when they start to optimize all areas of their life. Their relationships are going to be better, their health is going to be better. Their sleep patterns are going to be better. Their work functions are going to be better. Their productivity is going to be better. So most companies in what we're seeing with the workplace is less let's bring on a meditation teacher for our staff's wellbeing. We need to change this problem that we have, and we'll look at every single path possible to make things better. I had a major company, a household name approach me recently where they've had three or four staff that one of the managers has had to talk them out of jumping off a cliff. He said, "We've never had situations like this before. Our staff are ridiculously stressed."

Tom:
I said, "Well look, let's look at what your staff are doing on a daily basis. It's no fault of your own, but 20 years ago, your staff got up and they listened to the radio, they got on a train and read a book and they got to work. That 30 years ago, they didn't even have a computer to work on. By the time your staff get to work, they've probably done 20 emails and probably been through all their social media feeds. They've probably spoken to 15 friends, and then they've got to get to work and start doing some work. This is uncharted territory for our nervous systems."

Ellen:
That does make perfect sense, and I think taking that really practical approach, that's what we talking about here. It's the opportunity to make lives better, and the flow and effects from that not in necessarily a spiritual sense, although obviously that's important for some people, but just that practical sense of people feeling well and relationships being good, and really doing everything that we talk about here on the podcast, which is allowing people to thrive and flourish. So the mechanisms for doing that. Tell us a little bit, Tom, about The Portal. So this is this documentary and it's based on a book. Can you just talk us through not just what it is, but how it came to be?

Tom:
Yeah, it's actually was the other way around. So the film was first. What we did was we set about to make a 90 minute feature documentary that would be shown in cinemas on a beautiful big screen, in a beautiful surround sound system that gave people very much a transformational experience. What we wanted to, and this was always our motto was that we wanted to stay away from an information packed film that told you why you should meditate. You can get that on a YouTube video. What we wanted to do is create an immersive experience that was moving, that was powerful, that was unique, that stood out from the rest of the 15,000 documentaries that were made since the secret, when people realized they could put a camera in front of someone's face and get some information out of them and package it up and make a film.

Tom:
So this film follows six stories that have all had a crisis, and they've all moved through crisis and transformed through that crisis by using the device of meditation. Now there are a myriad of ways people can transform. We just wanted to showcase meditation is one of those techniques that they can use to alchemize their life, and so we researched 300 different stories around the world that had those components to it. We found six really beautiful, diverse moving stories that had their alchemy, their [inaudible 00:20:00]. Then we also have free futurists that build out the story and give it this greater depth, by really these guy's a futurist and they keep the cat along way down the road. We look at technology in AI, and how we got to this point as a human species and where we can get to, and what things might look like if we don't change what we're doing, and how bad things can be if we don't do that.

Tom:
So there's a fair bit of urgency in the film and the book, and the book was derived from the interviews that we carried out in the making of the film.

Ellen:
So my first question is 200 people. How did you find the 200 people? How did you actually go about sourcing stories of crisis and transformation, and the link to meditation?

Tom:
Yeah, that in itself was quite a process. It was actually 300. What we did was we had a team of researchers, plus my director and myself. It's like you get down this rabbit hole, and you start waving your way further and you talk to one person and they said, "You should talk to this person." Google helped, contacts helped, books we'd read. We'd read Stealing Fire, which we found a source in that one. Other people recommended to other people, and yeah it was constantly just following ideas, following suggestions, Googling and just scaring those stories, and weighting them out as far as how did they come across on camera? Did the camera like them, did they have a persona that was charming to the audience? Did they have a story that was global? Did they overlap another story that we'd already got, and a character that we'd already got from a different diverse background.

Tom:
We've got a Vietnamese refugee and African-American's soldier. We've got a wealthy doctor surgeon, entrepreneur, a U.S. track athlete, a beautiful French UN Human Rights lawyer that worked with humanitarian situations. So we've got a wonderful Jewish rabbi in Toronto, and yeah, very diverse stories.

Ellen:
Did you find any themes, because as you're speaking then I thought of Dan Harris, who wrote 10% Happier, because I think his story is that parallel of having a crisis. In his case it was a panic attack on air. Then finding, I'm not sure we quite had the epiphany that you did. I think it was a gradual process, but getting to a point of discovering the benefits of meditation. Did you find that there were significant themes for people, or did it come differently for everyone?

Tom:
There was definitely themes. I mean there was definitely all of them had their rashis. The thing with the rashi is you can have multiple rashis throughout your life. There's significant turning points, and these are creation of evolution. So they all have had that experience that was a theme, and using meditation was a theme, but their life stories, most of them had had quite challenging upbringings. We didn't want to showcase the power of meditation with a monk that lived in a monastery all their life, and didn't really... We wanted stories. This one woman sent us a message, she said, "I can't read this book on the bus, because it makes me cry so much." I resonate with that toil and the hardship and the challenges that these people had faced in their childhoods, and I think it's really important for us to showcase the plight of what it is to be human. It's a difficult road. We've made it tough on ourselves for quite a long time.

Ellen:
It's quite a philosophical story as well as having these practical and every day, and relate, well somewhat relatable, at least in the sense of as you say, we all have struggles. What is it about the philosophical side for you? What appeals about these bigger issues that you address?

Tom:
The possibility of transformation. One thing we really wanted to convey was that it didn't matter who you were. It doesn't matter what your story, it doesn't matter where you right now that within each and every one of us is a better version of our current self. This is the underlying principle of evolution, that there is the possibility for change and it doesn't really come down to needing circumstances to change, because that disempowers us what it comes down to as our own unique capacity to evolve as an individual, to be more harmonious, to find more love in our hearts, to be calmer and to feel connected more with not just humanity, but with nature itself.

Ellen:
So really that evolutionary notion that we do have the capacity to be that best self, that we do have the capacity to evolve, but it's up to us.

Tom:
It is, absolutely. It is up to us, and this is one of the defining statements we have at the end of the film, which is that what does the world look like if seven billion people go through The Portal or start meditating, because it's not going to come down to a government. It's not going to come down to a corporation. It's not going to come down to an internet provider, or a social media platform that's going to make our life better. It's an individual process that each and every one of us have to undergo. We've seen more and more people realize that, which is why we're seeing more and more consciousness slowly rise to the surface on the planet.

Ellen:
How do you think that's playing out, because you do use the tagline I noticed in the promotional material that it's calm your mind, open your heart, save the planet? If that's happening already through the use of meditation and collective consciousness maybe, how is that playing out? What do you see, do you think?

Tom:
Yeah, we're right in the thrust of the battle bang and the most intense moment, and this is a really exciting time. It's when you're watching a game of, let's call it sport of some sort and it's a draw, and you're in to that nail biting, coming down to the final minutes and you just don't know which way it's going to go. That's where things are most exciting. It's what the audience wants to see the most, and that is to be watching this as it plays out in front of our eyes. Will the humans make it? I wonder if we'll get across the line. We're in this really intense time where some very old forces and old systems, and old status quos are getting challenged by a new movement of way of thinking, a new way of doing things and we don't know. I think we'll get across that tipping point and we'll see a new prevailing world that's very, very different, and we've got all the capability to make that happen. I think we're in the process of seeing that unfold, which is really exciting.

Ellen:
That is exciting, and it's a really positive way to view it I think. We hear a lot of doom and gloom, and this is going wrong and this is terrible, and the world's in a bad, bad way and there's no denying that there are challenges that we face, but I think that juxtaposition of that against the idea of human possibility, the idea that we do have power as individuals to make change, to set a different course is wonderful and optimistic.

Tom:
Well if you look at my life now, anyone would look at it and go, "Wow, you've got an amazing life. Beautiful family, and beautiful, living a great level of health and doing some wonderful things in the world." If you looked at my life in the middle of the darkest moment, you'd go, "This life is disastrous, and this is terrible. Who would even want to have that life?" I didn't even want to have that life. I was questioning whether I wanted to keep living that life, but there's always evolution. It's not like evolution gives up on you. There's the evolutionary processes. It's a matter of whether we have the adaptive capacity and the willingness to change that allows us to align back into that natural law that is very fluid and harmonious, and very smooth and effortless.

Tom:
Beyond all of that complexity that we create out of our conditioning in our minds, there lies a remarkable simplicity. That's where we're moving towards, but we've got to get through this complexity. I don't know this cliche sayings like it's always darkest before dawn. Yes, it might be seemingly turbulent, but if you look beyond that to the better version of what we currently have, you'll see something truly profound. We need to start putting our attention on that better version. Daniel Schmachtenberger, one of the philosophers in the film very beautifully asked us to invite our audience to contemplate as he has done since a child, what life would be like on an enlightened planet. If we're not contemplating that, if we're not visualizing that, if we're not entertaining that as an idea, and really we don't have any stakeholders invested in that process yet, other than a few people currently on the planet.

Tom:
If we got a large portion of the planet starting to invest in that idea, starting to contemplate that idea, starting to map out what that might look like, then there's a very good chance we'll get there.

Ellen:
It's amazing, isn't it? I'll be coming back to that notion of serendipity [inaudible 00:28:52], but I was at a session here, presentation by the demographer Bernard Salt here in my hometown of Ballarat. We were talking about the future of Ballarat, and what it could look like. One of the things he talked about, which I think probably ties into that notion of whether it's process or adaptability or somewhere along that spectrum. He talked about the fact that looking at the demographics, people are moving away from organized religion, and he gave us all the stats of the Australian population from the census. The last census in 2016, the number of people who had previously connected with a form of religion, [inaudible 00:29:31] not, but he also looked at the rise in independence in politics.

Ellen:
So people moving away from the major parties, and part of his message was this same idea that we're acknowledging that the old ways don't work. For whatever reason, we're starting to identify more with our closer connections, the people we're related to, our communities. Perhaps even at an individual level. Maybe that's where the meditation comes in. Starting to want to connect and understand our own power as individuals, rather than looking outwards at what the bigger entities have to offer us. So another little parallel just for me in the last 24 hours between this conversation with you, and a session that I attended yesterday. Similarly, with positive psychology which is the field that I practice in one of the exercises that we do with clients is the best self, or reflected best self, or visualizing your best self. There's a couple of different ways of doing it, which is the same notion of who can I be? Who might I be? Who am I best? When I'm at my best, when I'm using my strengths, when I'm living my best life, what does that look like and how do I create more of it?

Tom:
Yeah, that's wonderful. Yeah, that's the way forward.

Ellen:
It seems to well, same. I mean there's a few different avenues here telling us the same thing, isn't it? They seem to [inaudible 00:30:49] that perhaps are coinciding along this route through change. Tom, I'm interested to know from you, because you said that you went through your own period of crisis, mental health struggles, acrophobia, found meditation. What have you learnt from the experience?

Tom:
What I learned was that all of those anomalies were indications. They were cues, they were signals in the body to embrace change. Just as when a red light comes on the dashboard of your car, the problem isn't the red light. We don't want to fix the light that's flashing on your dashboard. What we want to do is use that red light as the cue that there is something not quite right underneath the bonnet, and we need to see what that cause is and look at that. What we're doing predominantly in the West is looking at the symptoms, which is anxiety or acrophobia or insomnia, and trying to treat those symptoms. Just take a tablet, and that's not the problem. What we have to look at is the underlying cause of the symptom. The symptom is just the cue, the body's way of giving you a hey, over here there's a problem. A little tap on the shoulder, and lets you know that you need to start addressing some of the underlying causes that are creating these symptoms.

Tom:
When we get to addressing those causes, simply the symptoms drop away. So my anxiety, my depression, it all started just melt away. I mean, it's not like I hadn't suddenly lived a perfect life and I'd never experienced any more stress again. There were certainly many times along the way that, and still to this day, there's challenges that I face and decisions that I make that are wrong. You're not perfect human being, but you get greater ability to be adaptable and to move through those processes with more ease and less of the symptoms that show up in the body, letting you know that there's a problem.

Ellen:
So what were the symptoms telling you? What did you have to change in order to then start on that path to transformation, and a more perfect life even if it's not the perfect life?

Tom:
Yeah. Well, if you look at Dr. Bruce Lipton, who's from Stanford University Medical School, he says that 95% of all sickness is a product of stress. So if we want to remove sickness or 95% of sickness, then we just simply have to remove stress. So what I learned was if I reduce the stress response in my body, then I'll reduce the symptoms of sickness. That was the really big thing that I learned. For me, meditation was just a powerful tool. I'd get a mantra, I repeat the sound, calms my mind. It calms my body, my body drops into a metabolic state four times deeper than sleep, and then everything starts to change because there's an intelligence in my body that knows how to do that. So this is the approach I take is if we want people to live better lives and healthier lives, let's start with the first problem.

Tom:
Predominantly, most of them are having a stress response, because of the overwhelming demands that they're living in their life, and they're not seeing those situations in a very clear way. They're seeing them in a distorted way that reacts into a physiological way in their body.

Ellen:
So really is taking that simple tool of meditation and just the physical mechanism of calming the system down to allow us then to get a bit of clarity maybe, but also yeah that adaptability. I think you're absolutely right. I know for me, that experience of just being able to pause, take a deep breath, and this is what I say to my kids as well when they're getting themselves all flustered and worked up about something. It's just like, "Calm everything down. Take a deep breath. Okay, what do we need to do to solve this problem? How can we do that?" I wonder whether that's something that gets missed a lot in the conversations about meditation, that it really is a simple tool just to calm everything down.

Tom:
Yeah, that's the angle when I teach, it's a very physiological teaching. I teach predominantly about three quarters of the course that I teach is about your physiology. That's home base. That's the ground zero, and that's where we need to start. I had one student comes to me that she only drank Diet Coke. She would only eat Snickers and Mars bars. She looked incredibly sick, but she wanted to learn how to astral plan. It's like no, we're going to start with ground zero. Your body, if you don't feel great, nothing's going to work. Getting out of the body with astral planning is still going to keep you trapped in the body, and that's one of the things we want to optimize as well as we can. It keeps coming back to the third law of thermodynamics. I don't know if this is exactly word for word what the third law is, but I believe it's along the lines of that as de-excitation occurs, orderliness increases.

Tom:
So if you think of boiling water or a big crowd in a stadium of 100,000 people, now you can have a 100,000 people very orderly and calmly and quietly move out of that stadium within 10 minutes. You can have that same 100,000 people if there's a bomb or a shooting or something, and be absolute pandemonium and people will get trampled and killed and all sorts of chaos. That's when [inaudible 00:35:56], because it's become overstimulated, overexcited and our systems are way over stimulated, and are way overexcited compared to how they were, let's say 100,000 years ago, 50,000 years ago, 25 years ago. So we have to look at what our nervous systems are having to cope with on a daily basis, because it's like this is not a nice analogy, but I think it does work. That's the way French apparently, someone may well correct me and that's okay to be corrected if that's what happens.

Tom:
I was led to believe that when French are cooking frogs, they put them in cold water alive and they slowly, slowly heat that water up so gradually that the frog doesn't even realize that that water is actually heating up. Then the water gets so warm and so hot so slowly that the frog just actually just so much falls asleep in it and that passes. There's such a gradual change in its environment, which changes its whole frog dynamic. That's what happens to us as humans, that it's happening quickly, but it's actually happening slowly as well that we don't notice that it's happening. This phone for me alone has crept into my life in such a way that I have to be so structured that it doesn't richly dominate and dictate my life, which it tends to do on some days and I have to be really forceful about not letting that happen.

Ellen:
I think that's a great reminder because again, I think we hear about the sensationalist reports about the threats of digital technology and smartphones, and how they're all doing us all kinds of damage, but it is a much more subtle thing, isn't it?

Tom:
Yes, it's very subtle.

Ellen:
It's not necessarily the content, it's not necessarily the tool itself. It is that constant switched on-ness, if that's a word which is now, that allows us just to keep busy. The brain is always busy and because our brain and our bodies are so inherently linked, that changes your physiology and it's just the go, go, go all the time. That is paralleled in social expectation and all sorts of things.

Tom:
Yeah, and there's so much more. We haven't really done much research into the idea of what a wifi in the house does to a nervous system. This is uncharted territory that we haven't had this experience in the 350,000 years of being a human being, and all of a sudden for the last five to 10, we've had this sensation. My house, I live in a fairly sparse suburb. It's spread out with just mainly houses. There's not like lots of units, and my wifi if I got to log on there's at least 15 wifis that I can choose from when I go down to Bondi Beach, which is a very dense suburb. I mean, there's 50 wifi that are all sending an information flow hitting my nervous system, and it's very subtle, of course. It's not like it's a loud noise or it's not like a physical thing that hits my body, but you've got to question, what does all of that do? The 3G, 4G and now we're moving into 5G. This is uncharted territory for our nervous systems, where we really don't know the impact that all of this is going to have on us.

Ellen:
Yeah. It's interesting even just for whatever reason our wifi needed to be reset at the house the other day. So I was logging onto the little portal that shows you how to reset it, and I said to the kids, "Wow, this says we've got eight different devices connected to our wifi." We were like, "What are the eight things?" We had to go through and count them away. Well, there's mom's phone and dad's phone, and my oldest son has a phone, and then my youngest son has a tablet and there was the Foxtel box. We just went through, and it really, it was a bit of an insight into we've gone from something that didn't exist when I was growing up to something that is so interconnected in our world, and as you say yeah we don't know both in terms of the technology, and what it might be doing to us.

Ellen:
Again, it probably just highlights that level of constant information, constant data, constant influx, go, go, go thing that goes on in our life, and the need to be able to disconnect and reduce that input for your brain in order to keep yourself well.

Tom:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Ellen:
Tom, tell us about the movie. When does it come out and where can people catch it?

Tom:
So it comes out, the advanced screening start on October the 10th, where we'll be touring across Australia. Sydney starting first, where we'll do a Q&A in all the capital cities. Myself and Jacqui, the co writer of the book and the director of the film, and that'll be touring across Australia. Then we start national release on the 17th of October, and they can get all the details from entertheportal.com. Then we go, it's on in New Zealand, in Oakland on November the 7th for a period of time. Then we'll be in the States, and we'll be on in the U.S. it looks like around the 1st of November starting in LA, and that'll be touring across the U.S. in lots of capital cities up into Canada.

Tom:
Yeah, it'd be screening in New York on the 15th I think. Then we've got Austria and Germany and Switzerland and yeah, screenings all over the world basically where people are starting to host their own screening. So anyone that can't access the cinema has the possibility to host their own screening in their local town, and that can all be organized through our website.

Ellen:
Okay. I know that's something that happens here in Ballarat. We have screening, special screenings of independent films that aren't necessarily going to get released yet through the national distributors. So starting in cinemas, is there a hope that it ends up on some of the streaming services somewhere down the track?

Tom:
It's not our hope it will happen, and we just have a strategy that we want to give the cinemas and people the ability to watch it in the cinema first. Once you've got a digital, the cinema thing just dries up very quickly and people tend to just watch it at home on their TVs or computers. So we really wanted to give the audience the most richest experience possible, and it's in the cinemas and then we'll probably hit the streaming services I'd imagine possibly around mid next year. It's going to be a while, because we really have quite a long process with schools and universities and corporations and-

Ellen:
A lot of traveling to do.

Tom:
Yeah, a lot of travel to do as well, spreading the good word.

Ellen:
I like that as a strategy, not just for me as a psychologist, as soon as you said that, there's obviously the visual benefits of seeing something in a cinema, but also the social connection that comes from sitting in a space with all of those other people you know. Even if they're complete strangers, we know that people benefit from just the physical presence of other people. So I think that has a lovely positive wellbeing component to it as a strategy too.

Tom:
Yeah, you think about one thing that survived the test of time and that's churches, and churches are built on congregation and the idea of communing. So not that we are creating a religion of any sort, but we really see the merit in communities coming together for a profound experience, and this is what the film is. It's a profound experience, and we wanted to give people that. There's a meditation in the film so they get to collectively in a dark room dive into a meditation by default. It's a really beautiful scene where they don't even realize it's happening, and the next thing they're in it. So that's really lovely.

Ellen:
Yeah, cool. That is very cool. I love that idea because I think being able to, well I know because occasionally I do just moments of mindfulness or short mindfulness exercises with groups in workplaces, and people are supportive. At first, they're a bit kind of, "You're going to ask us to do what?" Then they do it, and as a group and it is a beautiful moment. It's a very powerful moment usually when people accept that, and take it on as a bit of a challenge and then see what the experience is like. So to be able to do that within a film environment is super cool. So Tom, we can find more information at entertheportal.com. You have a website as well that I will pop in the show notes. I think that's just tomcronin.com, is that not?

Tom:
Yeah, correct. Yeah, that's right.

Ellen:
I will put that in the show notes for this episode, as well as links to some of the research that you've mentioned everywhere that people can find it, and keep up to date. We will look forward to being able to go and commune with others in our cinema, to watch the movie itself next month it will be.

Tom:
Yeah, exciting.

Ellen:
It is exciting. Super exciting. Congratulations on it.

Tom:
Thank you.

Ellen:
I love to see people achieving new and big and different things, particularly when their goal is to help people to thrive and flourish. So congratulations again, and thank you very much for being a guest on the show.

Tom:
Pleasure. Thanks for inviting me. It's great to be here.

Ellen:
Thank you for sharing that interview with Tom Cronin with me. Please do visit our show notes and check out the links to The Portal film and the book. I've included a link to the trailer for the film, and even the brief two minutes of trailer. It's really quite intriguing and inspiring, and visually amazing. I'm really looking forward to seeing the whole show. If you happen to be in Melbourne or thereabouts, come along and join me. I'm going to go to the first screening in Melbourne and the Q&A session, which is being held on October 17 at the Nova in Carlton. So come say hello. If you want to find out more about Tom and the Stillness Project and The Portal, and Tom's work and where you might else be able to see the film, follow the links in the show notes for the episode at potential.com.au/podcast and there you'll find all the resources that Tom mentioned, and his top tips for meditating when you don't have time to meditate. You'll also find all the links that you need to find Tom's Stillness Project and The Portal on social media.

Ellen:
Now this is our last episode for this season of the podcast, which is absolutely flown by even with the bonus 11th episode. Jay and Andy and I will be taking a short break, and returning with season seven in late October. Actually we won't be taking a short break. We will be working very busily behind the scenes, so that we can bring season seven to you in late October. Big thanks go as always to both Jay and to Andy. I could not bring this podcast to you without them. They are integral to making this appear every week. Extra congratulations go to Andy this week as not one, but two of the podcasts that he produces hit the Australian iTunes health and fitness top five this week. Both Pete Evans at number one, and Osher Günsberg at number five so we're an esteemed company. Congratulations to Andy. That's quite a coup.

Ellen:
Of course so many thank yous go to you for being here, for listening in, for sharing these conversations with me, for letting me know that you love the podcast and just for being generally awesome. I'm looking forward to bringing next season of the Potential Psychology Podcast to your ears very soon. In the meantime, stay safe, go forth, thrive, flourish, and fulfill your potential.