Interview: Philip Stevens, mindful neurophysiologist

Philip Stevens is a consultant Neurophysiologist, Sleep Scientist, Certified Yoga Teacher, Life Member and Fellow of the “World Society For Clinical Yoga”. He has over 30 years of experience in classes, personal tuition & counselling in Yoga, Meditation, Relaxation and Stress Management (M.B.T.I. Accredited). He also has science degrees in Psychology and Physiology from the University of Adelaide, plus honours in Physiology, completed in The Centre for Sleep Research at The Queen Elizabeth hospital in Adelaide.

1. What led you to meditation?

I discovered meditation as a child, when I would often sit in a tree and just listen to the wind, feel the gentle sway of the breeze moving the bough and following my thoughts back to try and find their source. This type of meditation has stayed with me all my life. I have since learned and practised many other forms of meditation, each of which contains components of my earlier practices.

2. What value has practising meditation brought to your life?

It brings me peace of mind and helps keep me sane in this crazy, busy world of competing demands and endless distractions. It also seems that I have become somewhat of an authority on meditation techniques and various people seek me out for talks, presentations, interviews and consultations.

3. How has meditation supported you in your professional life?

I teach meditation professionally at Monash University in the Medical School and also in my private clinical practice as a sleep and stress-management consultant. I use meditation because it works and it helps many people cope with various problems in life. A particular meditation technique useful for sleep induction is called “Yoga Nidra” which is most often used as well as Mindfulness meditation for avoiding or dealing with stress. The main aim is to bring about a level of attention regulation that helps people avoid constant catastrophising in their minds.

4. What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?

Being very busy most of the time keeps me very occupied and much of my work is pro bono, as service, so I take time here and there to simply stop and just be for a moment or two. Also I practice every morning and every night at least a little. Whenever I walk anywhere, I practice a form of walking meditation.

5. What is a quote that most inspires you and why?

When speaking about different names for meditation techniques, Dr Craig Hassed said “It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you practice it.” It really does come down to the practice. While there are many different techniques and sometimes various names for the same technique in different contexts, the important thing is that people learn how to and then practise a form of meditation that works for them. Mindfulness is the current technique that is palatable to just about everybody. It’s easy to practise and has a significant amount of published articles on the associated medical and mental health benefits.

6. What is a book that has opened you to new ideas and inspired your growth and why?

The Brain That Changes Itself” and “The Self-Aware Universe“. Both are about conscious awareness and ability to change an apparent reality by use of meditation and applied consciousness.

7. What Mindful Music do you listen to (ie. music that grabs your full attention and brings you into the moment).

Indian classical music and chanting of various types mostly, I also compose and play my own chants, kirtans and bhajans, and accompany on a harmonium. I often play in a kirtan group as well, sometimes playing lead harmonium and vocals, sometimes backing vocals and sometimes a drum.
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