Marion Neubronner: She’s in the Business of Healing People’s Minds
Even fully engaged athletes don't always see the connection between mind and body, but Marion Neubronner does. This wise, insightful and intelligent woman spends her waking hours helping people change and heal in her capacity as a writer, psychologist, coach and counsellor. She changes people's lives, but the overachiever – with too many undergraduate and graduate degrees to list here – considers it all in a day's work.
RS: Do you participate in sports?
Marion: I played hockey, netball, softball, ran track and I used to dive. I can't leave dragon boat off the list. These days, I swim and I'm trying to find time to do Aikido and horseback riding.
RS: Two big events are on the horizon for you here in Singapore: Wisdom 2.0 Asia and Search Inside Yourself (SIY). Can you tell our readers who helped organise these events?
Marion: Wisdom 2.0 Asia is co-chaired by Tan Chade Meng, a long-time Wisdom 2.0 speaker and friend and Google's Jolly Good Fellow. Tan is the creator of the mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course “Search Inside Yourself”. His official Google job description is to “enlighten minds, open hearts, foster world peace”.
RS: If our readers attend Wisdom 2.0 Asia, who can they expect on the program?
Marion: Social reformer and spiritual leader A.T. Ariyaratne; teacher and author Jack Kornfield; Hour Glass Group Founder Dato', Dr. Jannie Chen Siew Lee; CCO and executive VP of LEGO, Loren Schuster. There will also be panels, meditation, connection exercises and networking events.
RS: What format will Wisdom 2.0 Asia take?
Marion: We won't stage the usual 'sit-and-listen' conference! Attendees can look forward to a think tank-style, interactive gathering focused on conversing with other participants to make meaningful, lasting connections.
RS: We understand that there is a day-long meditation scheduled before Wisdom 2.0 Asia. Meditation can be hard for active runners, but you say that learning to meditate can help their performance on and off the track. How?
Marion: At high performance levels, sports are mental and physical pursuits. SIY creator Meng cites examples of athletes who stay on top of their games thanks to mental mastery—the ability keep a calm, clear mind under stressful circumstances. Running is no different. A marathoner with whom I spoke complained that she had plateaued, but with meditation, she broke through after realising that she was getting in her own way.
RS: So you define meditation as mental training?
Marion: I do. When a runner brings herself back to centre, her brain is strengthened in what's called attentional control. Meditation contributes to mental fitness, which in turn, leads to physical fitness. If your readers want to know more about this topic, they can read this Huffington Post article.
RS: SIY seems complicated. Can one actually practise it after just two days of training?
Marion: A person can get a healthy start and then start meditating on their own or in a group. We have developed an app and webinars to keep the community going. We encourage athletes to attend retreats. Past participants return for more mindfulness practice as well. At Google, staff trained in SIY techniques even undertake mindful walking exercises during their lunch breaks.
Marion: Start by acknowledging your innate reserve of well-being and happiness and pay attention to bad habits like too much alcohol, poor nutrition or substance abuse. Athletes can even get hooked on the euphoria that results from exercise—they over-exercise to get the rush. But if one is self-aware and pays attention to negative habits, she can make changes in all aspects of her life. Runners who check in on their bodies know that perseverance and proper recovery are important in both sports and life.
RS: It's been said that not every person is cut out to be a leader. What's your opinion?
Marion: The biggest lesson I learned while attending Harvard is that every person either influences or is influenced. We make the choice based on circumstances. Sometimes we lead consciously and other times unconsciously and while we may not always be leading, we can still be seen as a leader if we choose to be conscious and mindful of our actions. Some people lead without thinking or considering the wishes of others. True leaders don't even have to open their mouths to be role models!
RS: You refer to "Mindfulness" all the time. What does that mean and how does it help manage stress and change?
Marion: Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention without making judgements while staying in the moment. When one is mindful, positive emotions reduce negative ones. People don't get stuck in repetitive negative and/or fear-based thoughts. Research proves that mindfulness increases the density of the brain's grey matter in learning, memory, empathy and emotion regulation centres. SIY offers tools for becoming mindful that lead to self-awareness, empathy, emotional resilience and flexibility.
RS: What can our readers do now to improve their Mindfulness?
Marion: They can follow Nike's slogan, "Just do it!" Stay in the moment, focus on breathing, steady the heartbeat and work to diminish repetitive distracting thoughts. Pay attention to everything and continue to stay present, focused and kind to yourself and others. Mindful exercises keep people "in the moment", but it takes practice to master this skill. People can beat themselves up if they don't feel they're learning the art of Mindfulness fast, but it's a process—there is no time schedule.
RS: What plans and goals do you have for yourself for the remainder of 2015?
Marion: I'll be challenging myself on the business front so I can live in places around the globe while running my online communications business and undertake inspirational speaking engagements. I'm getting into Angel Investing, too. By investing in edutech and/or healthtech innovations, I can help change the world. As you can probably guess, I believe entrepreneurship is a sport, too, which is why you'll hear me saying this often: Get your mind(fulness) in the game, and you'll win!
RS: If our readers want sign up for Wisdom 2.0 Asia, what should they do?
Marion: I can offer them a special discounted rate for Wisdom 2.0 Asia.
Power. Compassion. Confidence. Marion Neubronner influences people of all walks of life by teaching them how to develop mindfulness so their lives are richer and more satisfying. We'd like to know if you've ever been influenced by someone like Marion or by attending an enlightening workshop or program. Who or what changed your life when you least expected it?