The most important thing we can do to alleviate anxiety for the people we love is to truly listen to their fears. Sometimes all we need is to feel heard and cared for, and that is an added element of safety that can help us work through those feelings. Active listening means we are sincerely engaged with the person we are hearing, without judgement, and without the need to correct or fix anything they share.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kat Courtney.
Kat Courtney, also known as The Afterlife Coach, is a traditionally trained Ayahuasquera and Huachumera medicine woman, with over 14 years of shamanic ceremony experience, including a 10 year apprenticeship. Kat works as a vocal advocate for the preparation and integration of all plant medicines and peak experiences, and she is also a coach to hundreds of transforming fear, sadness, and anger into joyful liberation . She’s a transformational junkie with a major love of polarities, and she adores helping others love their darkness too.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ihad a diagnosis in my twenties as bi-polar, as well as an addiction to alcohol and bulimia. By age 30, I had a successful career as a video game producer and a beautiful life, but my emotional instability rendered me severely unstable and depressed. I was given the opportunity to visit the Amazon jungle and try the ancient plant medicine called Ayahuasca; three ceremonies later, my life had completely transformed. After two years of repeated visits, I decided to take the plunge and study shamanism in a traditional apprenticeship, and 14 years in I have never looked back.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In all honesty, every single shamanic coaching session and ceremony is fascinating! I have poured medicine for powerful and famous souls, witnessed and participated in things like full scale exorcisms, watched people heal themselves from cancer, diabetes, and all manner of illness, and had the blessing of connecting with the spiritual realm in a very tangible, undeniable way. I personally have watched alcoholism, bulimia, and a deeply rooted belief system of self-loathing completely transform into acceptance and love. When I started this process, I felt broken, disconnected, and inadequate. Now not only do I feel empowered, centered, and full of positivity, I have the honor and blessing of helping others feel the same.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
It’s all about leading from the heart, and having a genuine sense of care and compassion for the people who are working with and for you. I find that when leaders truly lead by example; that is, if they want loyalty, they first give it, or if they want motivated, upbeat employees, they first embody that, there is absolutely no limits to what an aligned tribe can accomplish.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Soul Story by Tim Freke — The more I understand about who we are as conscious beings, the better I am at living my best life. This book is an astoundingly wise deep dive into what it means to be human, to have a soul, and to be alive. It continues to have a transformative impact on how I see myself and the world, especially during this time of crisis.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
The term “mindfulness” is in some ways misleading, as the state of being that is truly mindful is ironically not about the mind at all. I define it as the experience of being truly present to exactly what is; no longer preoccupied with the past or future, but all-in with feeling and witnessing everything in the present moment. In that sense, the mind becomes “full” of the now — not the usual tirade of thoughts and concerns that aren’t based in the current reality.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Physically speaking, mindfulness gives us a deeper awareness around being “embodied” — that is, fully connected with our bodies. We have expressions like “gut instinct” that point to the benefits of being connected consciously to our physical beings; because bodies are always in the present moment, they have a lot to tell us about what is and is not working in our lives. And when we are embodied, the little whispers of dis-ease and toxicity can be heard, thereby diminishing the probability that a major illness or issue will arise.
Mentally speaking, mindfulness is the ideal state of consciousness, as it allows us to be present, calm, aware, and content. Our minds are typically preoccupied with worries and stresses about the past and future, but mindfulness flips that and lets us be completely immersed in reality. There are always, always good things to enjoy in any moment.
Emotionally speaking, mindfulness brings us in to the integrity of what we are feeling. Because it’s a very present-moment state, we can identify programmed sadness, subconscious beliefs that create fear or anger, and other triggers that otherwise fool us into emotional states we do not find favorable. Mindfulness implies the freedom to step out of those triggers, and be present with the joy of just being alive and awake.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Meditation — This is the step that is almost universally accepted as a necessity for anyone wanting to escape the trappings of fear. Meditation is our opportunity to balance the saturation of doing in our world — we are a do-do-do culture. Meditation allows us to be. Without that balance, it is pretty much impossible to escape the fearful urgency of non-stop doing.
- Processing Emotions — Most of us do not actually sit with our challenging emotions, we constantly attempt to navigate, repress, and avoid them. Taking the time to create a safe environment that allows us to feel and process what we are feeling is absolutely essential to all aspects of our health. Therapy is golden for this, so is getting vulnerable with a trusted friend or partner. Emotion is “energy in motion” — if we don’t feel and process, it gets stuck in our bodies, and that’s what causes long term trauma and even illness.
- Self-Discovery — Many of us operate from a programmed idea of who we are, not an authentic expression. We are also very dynamic beings, so who we were five years ago has likely shifted dramatically given the ever-changing nature of the world, but it takes time and effort to discover these new parts of ourselves. Any effort to do self-discovery is golden. This includes self-help books and courses, self-inquiry meditation techniques, deep dive discussions with trusted friends and family, therapy, plant medicine ceremonies, life coaches — there are so many ways to find out who we really are. We just have to make the effort.
- Creative Expression — Creativity should never just be viewed as a hobby, but as an essential element to emotional and mental health. This is a mode by which we discover more about who we are in the world, and how to connect with something other than our conscious minds. Writing, painting, 3D art, music, singing, dancing — there are endless ways to channel our creative beings. We don’t have to be good at it; the idea is to let loose and explore these other sides of ourselves, and give those parts a voice. If we are always in work-mode or adult-mode, we suffer from a grave imbalance of play vs work.
- Dream Analysis — Our dreams tell us volumes about what’s going on beneath the surface of our beings. If we really want to understand what stories our subconscious is working through that might be holding us back from joy and serenity, our dreams hold all kinds of sacred information. There are countless books, courses, therapists and life coaches that have a specialty in dream analysis; this is always a worthwhile endeavor into self-discovery and mindfulness.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Active Listening — The most important thing we can do to alleviate anxiety for the people we love is to truly listen to their fears. Sometimes all we need is to feel heard and cared for, and that is an added element of safety that can help us work through those feelings. Active listening means we are sincerely engaged with the person we are hearing, without judgement, and without the need to correct or fix anything they share.
- Question Our Fears — In addition to good listening skills, it’s also helpful to gently ask our worried loved ones if the fears they are expressing are actually part of reality. Most of the time, our fears point to future potentialities that don’t actually need to be dealt with in the present moment — things like, “What if I can’t make rent?’ or “What if I get the virus?” Any future focused fear is wasted energy, and if we compassionately help the fearful one reflect on what is really occurring, it gives them a chance to pivot and focus on what they can control, which is how they are relating to what is actually transpiring.
- Encourage Play — Our culture takes being an adult very seriously; we often lose the ability to play and stay stuck in fear as a result. One of the most powerful things we can do to transmute anxiety is to have fun. Laughter is always available, no matter how difficult things are. Offer to play a game of cards, to list all the things we are happy about, to be nostalgic about happy and humorous things in the past — anything to help lighten and brighten the current mode.
- Physical Touch — We are social creatures who deeply respond to a compassionate form of touch from someone we trust and love. If we aren’t social distancing, physical touch can transform fear into relaxation. Hugs, hand holds, and even a shoulder squeeze can mean everything to someone who feels alone and lost with their current reality.
- What We Are Moving Towards — It’s also extremely helpful to ask people stuck in sadness, anger or fear what they are moving towards. When we fixate on something like anxiety, we amplify and duplicate that emotion. By contrast, you can ask something like, “What is on the other side of fear?” I typically respond, “Acceptance and peacefulness.” Reminding someone that every emotion has a balanced opposite gives the awareness that everything is just passing through, and even the most difficult emotion has a favorable, heavenly opposite. In the words of Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
The good news is we have so many resources to choose from these days from wise and wonderful teachers of mindfulness! Books like A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and The Most Important Thing by Adyashanti are just two examples of powerful texts from people who practice what they preach. There are also oodles of podcasts and YouTube videos by people like Brene Brown and Matt Kahn that are invaluable on the path to being more mindful. Some life coaches and therapists specialize only in mindfulness; Dr. Jeffrey Rutstein is a very gifted example.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my very favorite life quotes is by Rumi — it goes:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.”
This quote reminds me that there is nothing externally to look for; everything we need for peace and joyfulness is always within us. Healing is the releasing of past traumas and triggers that have prevented us from feeling that deep, deep love and acceptance.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I work towards every day involves befriending fear, and all other shadowy emotions. I am a passionate advocate that feelings like anger and sadness are not the enemy, they are our tickets to deeper spaces of love and joy. We need only be willing to feel them, to trust them, and to remember that every ounce of fear we carry is in balance to the capacity we have for serenity and happiness. Everything is in balance. So my work is about encouraging us all to trust and feel everything inside us. If we no longer repress who we are, we will no longer seek to fight, create conflict, and be cruel to ourselves and each other. Feeling is healing, and we already have everything we need to be mindful, connected, trusting, and happy beyond words.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
My moniker is The AfterLife Coach; I have a website and a blog folks can follow here:
I am also on Facebook and Instagram (@theafterlifecoach)
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!