Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Bruce Langford.
This week I have another really interesting, wonderful guest. His name is Bruce Langford. He works as a full time mindfulness coach, speaker and podcaster. In 2003, he became passionate about helping bullied children when he saw the negative effects of bullying in school where he taught. Bruce left the teaching profession and became a full time entrepreneur doing anti-bullying, respect and mindfulness presentations nationally and internationally.
The connection between bullying and mindfulness is clear. Bullying declines when mindfulness is prevalent. Bruce is also the co-writer with Brian Tracy of the bestselling book, Cracking the Success Code. You can listen to him each week on his wonderful podcast called the Mindfulness Mode Podcast.
Using Mindfulness for Pain Relief with Bruce Langford
Bruce, welcome to The Healing Pain Podcast. It’s great to have you here this week.
Great to be here, Dr. Joe. I’m really excited to talk with you about mindfulness today.
I spoke on your podcast, which is a really wonderful podcast, probably a couple of months ago. We had a great connection. I said, “Let’s get you on the Healing Pain Podcast, let’s talk about mindfulness.” Because mindfulness is all the rage when it comes to healing from chronic pain. It’s great to hear about it in different perspectives and how people have landed in the mindfulness space, and how it’s come into their life.
You originally started as a school teacher and then decided to leave once you saw bullying happening in school and found that wasn’t a great environment for children to be in. Talk to me about your transition of how you left full time teaching to working in the mindfulness space.
I was teaching music, really enjoyed it. But what I didn’t enjoy was seeing kids being picked on and bullied, at a state where they just hated going to school. There was one boy in particular that really made me feel like I needed to do something myself about this. The first thought is, somebody should do something about this bullying situation. Of course, you look in the mirror and you realize, “Why shouldn’t that someone be me?” I put together a program that I could take into other schools. It was a musical program, it had drama, it had role plays and lots of concepts about how to deal with bullying. This was back in 2003, there was no talk about bullying on the media back then. I’ve put that out to other schools and I was immediately booked to do this.
After two years, I left my teaching job and went full time with this because it was so rewarding. I felt like I was really making a difference. It didn’t take long before I realized that the whole element of mindfulness could really change the dynamic for kids, for teachers. Once they started to understand what it means to live in the moment, then they could realize that they could manage some of these bullying situations in a better way.
Were you teaching in a private school or a public school? What kind of setting were you in?
It was a public school, a public elementary school.
Mindfulness has come a long way. I think it still has quite a ways to go actually. It’s really important too in many aspects of health and wellness. How did you start to study mindfulness on your own? Did you read books? Did you download audios?
I read books. I did a course with Jon Kabat-Zinn. I just really embraced podcast and audiobooks because I was traveling to destinations all the time. I had a driver so I was able to do my blog. I blogged about it, I listened and I read books. I just learned so much about it that it was a natural transition to move toward doing more presentations on the topic of mindfulness. A lot of people, especially a few years ago, were shied away from it because it wasn’t such a mainstream idea. I wanted to make it more mainstream.
It’s a wonderful story. I definitely commend you for bringing mindfulness into the school setting. I know there are many schools that still have yet to adopt that and bring it into education. A good friend of mine is actually an elementary school teacher and principal. She’s looking at developing programs around mindfulness. I think it’s really wonderful. Tell me, in your opinion, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is living in the moment. It’s understanding that it’s important not to be so focused on the past, not to be so caught up in what you think may happen tomorrow or may happen next week. So many of us, we could slip into that very easily, where our mind is thinking about what happened yesterday and focusing on it so much. Part of it is living in the moment. Another part that I feel is very important is not judging, not judging others, not judging situations and most of all, not judging yourself. Because that can really bring you down if you let yourself listen to that inner voice that is being critical of yourself. It’s okay a little, but you have to listen, identify it and then change it or put that voice under your control.
I’m going to ask you the tough question right off the bat. I know you now have a very successful podcast and a practice where you help people with mindfulness. There are certain professions where you have to be a little judgmental about certain things, whether it’s to make a decision or whether it’s to figure out what’s happening in a particular circumstance. How do you teach certain professionals? Let’s say an attorney who has to make certain judgments about their client and the situation they’re in, how do you bring that into practice and educate them about that without them losing maybe what they’ve studied professionally and what they’ve been taught in their profession?
That’s a great question, Dr. Joe. One of the things I start with is this: I ask them one simple question, four simple words, “What do you want?” What would you like to bring into your life? A lot of people come to me who are professionals and they say, “I’m stuck. I just feel like for some reason I’m not bringing into my life what I want.” When we really sit down and talk about it, when we talk about what do you want, that’s a tough question for people to ask.
That’s where we start. We start by talking about what do you want. As we dig in, we dig in deeper and deeper and deeper. We find out that there’s a tremendous amount of fear interwoven into a person’s wants and desires. They often find that what they think they want is not at all what they want. Then we have to start dealing with those fears and realizing that a fear is only what you’ve created. My clients have created stories for themselves and they’ve come to believe those stories. We have to tear them down and create new stories.
I think that’s really well said. When I work with other patients, I talk some about the story that they’ve created around their pain. Because with acute pain, it can be actual, like you have a cut or a bruise or you break something. But with chronic pain, oftentimes it’s a story and oftentimes it’s fear based about what’s going on in the brain. When you decrease fear, as you know, working with clients, you decrease anxiety, you decrease sadness and depression, and you also decrease chronic pain. What type of clients do you see in your practice? What have been the surprising clients that you’re shocked that they would actually embrace your mindfulness approach to life and how it helped them in their daily life?
People who are professionals, who are CEOs or who are project managers and who are seen by their colleagues as highly, highly successful people. They’re thought to have everything together, they’ve got the big house, they’ve got the cars, they’ve got the life that just looks amazing. Yet they are feeling overwhelmed. They are feeling high levels of anxiety. They’re feeling stressed. When we’d start to dig in and talk about the real person behind the illusion, then that’s when they start to become happier and more content in their life because they start living honesty, they start understanding what they’re really truly about.
When you start to peel back all these layers of the onion, on the surface, everyone says, “I want to be stress free and I want to make a lot of money.” I think you hear that quite often. When you start to get to the deeper layers, what kind of things come up in people’s experiences with you when they start becoming mindful of their own life?
As we dig in, I start to hear stories about relationships with parents, things that happened during their childhood that have somehow molded their life for today. We start tearing those stories down, we start investigating those thoughts about their parents and what’s happening there. Part of it is we dig into that whole idea of not judging. They start realizing, “My parents did the best they could. Yes, this happened. Yes, that happened. There were things that weren’t the best, but they did the best they could.” Once you can dig in and not judge, understand that it’s important not to judge others, just accept it, allow these situations and then move forward, that’s when differences start to really become apparent.
Excellent. Really, you’re talking about emotions that they’ve had really from early life and somehow have affected them basically. You already talked about fear. In my book, Heal Your Pain Now, I talk about three core emotions when it comes to people with chronic pain. Fear being one of them. The second is anger that I talk about in the book. How do you approach anger from a mindfulness perspective? How do you work with someone to not only be mindful about their anger, but figure out what the root cause of it is and to decrease that in their life and their emotions?
We talk about it. One of the biggest problems with anger is that people try to suppress it. Because somewhere in the back of our minds, many of us feel like anger is somehow a bad thing. We try to suppress it, push it down. The more we can talk about it, bring it to the surface and then allow it to happen, then we can reach it. We can start to accept it and allow it. That’s when things start to happen. That’s when people start saying, “Wow, I never realized that it’s okay to be angry. It’s all right.” Then they start to feel so much more relaxed. Ironically, the anger starts to just dissipate.
It’s okay to be angry. Anger is needed at times. It’s a core emotion and oftentimes has a purpose to it.
That’s right. It is.
How do we prevent someone from being angry all the time? They may say, “Now I can be angry at this person or this thing,” but obviously there’s a time where you should move beyond the anger and let it go.
We talk about the reasons for the anger. Why are you angry? What is it that’s causing this emotion? We dig deep into it. Once we do and we talk about those particular pieces, then we discover that the person is no longer so angry. It’s just surprising how that works. Much of it also, with my clients, is through journaling. I encourage them to journal some of this. Many of them have never written about it before. Many of them have never allowed themselves to really explore this. Once they do, they feel this tremendous lightness, like they’ve unloaded this off their minds. They say to me, “Wow. Bruce, I can’t believe how much better I feel as a result of it.”
Journaling is a wonderful way to release hidden emotions. I know there’s a physician, his name is Dr. John Sarno who used journaling in his practice with chronic pain patients often. Do you see chronic pain patients in your mindfulness practice? Other than journaling, do you use other type of interventions to help them?
I do notice that sometimes with anger, there is pain. People who experience a lot of these feelings of anger do have the pain that goes along with it. It is surprising, or it has been in the past, surprising to my clients that once they start to deal with their anger, their pain begins to dissipate. It seems magic to them. They’ll say, “It’s just like a miracle. The pain started to disappear. That chronic pain that I’ve been feeling every day, I don’t even notice it now.” It is through mindfulness. Sometimes we don’t even have to deal directly with the pain. Like I said, we’re dealing with anger, we’re dealing with that story of self-sabotage that the person has been carrying for years.
I think that that’s the key. Oftentimes, people carry these thoughts, emotions and programming for years. They have no awareness that it’s actually affecting them both mentally, physically and of course, emotionally. As a mindfulness coach, I’m curious to know what your daily mindfulness practices in your life.
I love to meditate and I find it really helps me. When I get up in the morning, I have a quick shower then I meditate for 20 minutes. I find that just gives me a sense of calm and it gives me a sense of presence. I feel much more grounded. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I do just a short workout just to get my body moving. I have a habit of having a smoothie, which has flaxseed in it, chia seed in it and some of those things that are just healthy for the body. Sometimes I have a little bit of cereal. Then I’m just ready to go, I feel energetic. I love having the routine so that when I get up, I don’t have to think, “What will I do first? What will I have for breakfast? Will I meditate today?” No, it’s routine, it’s habit and it’s easy. I think that’s the key, is to create these routines into habits so that you don’t have to think about it anymore, you just do it.
There are many different types of meditation. What style of meditation do you use in your morning routine? Do you vary it at times?
I do vary it, but I use silent meditation. I have been using the Muse headset, which is interesting to try because you’re getting immediate feedback as to what’s happening from your mind. I do just love the simplicity of just saying, “I’m going to meditate.” I just put myself in the place where I like to meditate, which is consistent. I close my eyes and it’s quiet. There I am. I don’t have to set anything up or start an app or do anything like that. I love the simplicity of silent meditation.
I’ve used the Muse as well. I’ve also used something called HeartMath, which isn’t necessarily for meditation, but it helps regulate your heart rhythm, which helps with things like anxiety and emotions. I think you have a good point. I think the apps are incredible. For people who have a hard time just sitting in one place and clearing their head so to speak, or focusing on one thought like peace or ohm, I do think these apps have their place. I’ve gone back and forth with myself and with patients as well. Ultimately, I wonder if we have enough power in our brain and body that we can tap into our own peace and tranquility without actually using those apps. How do you feel about that?
I totally believe that. I think personally every day, I would just do silent meditation without any apps. One of the reasons I do use apps sometimes is because of my clients. Because a lot of my clients, especially my new clients, they have trouble with meditation. They find it’s very difficult and they seem as if they need help, they need help from an app. I feel like I want to understand how the apps work. I want to be familiar with them so that I can recommend them to someone and say, “Try this. This is what it’s like. This is my experience with it.” You may use the app for two or three months and then decide to use no app at all. At least it’s an alternative. It’s important for me to know how those apps work. I really enjoy just giving up the apps and doing silent meditation.
Me too. You mentioned you do this every day. I have a similar practice actually, but like all of us, we get busy and sometimes you’re not at home, you’re traveling or you have a podcast you have to talk on or lecture to have to go to. At times, there’s a day when you’re going to miss it. It just happens, it’s life. When you miss your meditative practice, how do you feel and how is your day different? Can you articulate that at all?
To start with, what I do if I’m traveling, if I’m doing a talk or whatever, I always do get a time in there. Even if it’s only for five minutes, even if it’s only for two minutes. I make a point of still doing it. I would say in three years, I haven’t missed one. Having said that, if I’ve only done say a five minute meditation instead of my full routine, then sometimes I will notice that maybe I’m not quite as relaxed. Then later on in the day, I’ll just take some time to meditate. The important thing is that I don’t want to just completely leave it out of my schedule. Even if I do it for two minutes, I’m still doing it, it’s still quieting my mind, it’s still giving me that peace. To me, that’s what’s really important. I just like to maintain it in that way if possible. Even if I’m sitting on a plane and I just close my eyes for a few minutes, that can be my form of meditation right there.
It’s a great point. I live in New York City. I’ve seen people even close their eyes and I imagine that they’re meditating on the subway or when they’re on the bus. As you get better at this, it becomes a practice. You can do it almost anywhere. You could black out some of the loudest noises, both externally in your life as well as internally that we all have in our mind and in our heads. Tell us about your podcast. I know you’ve had the podcast now for a number of years. I think when you start a podcast, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen or how it grows or how people are going to take to it. What are some of the more positive experiences and things that have come out of your podcast?
It’s been really exciting having the podcast. I’ve had over 200 guests on there. I think one of the things is, I get really psyched up because I line up a guest that I felt, “Wow, I never thought I’d have a chance to talk to this great guest that’s coming up.” I learn things from that person and I’m so happy to share what we’ve learned together. But sometimes I have a guest lined up that’s fairly unknown. I do a little research and I think, “I don’t know how this is really going to go. I don’t know whether I’ll learn much.” A lot of times, I find that it’s amazing. Sometimes, some of my best guests are people that are literally undiscovered. They have so much to share. They’ve learned so much. It’s just a different slant. Even my listeners reach out to me and tell me how much they enjoyed some of those episodes.
One of the things that I find interesting is that, at the beginning I thought, “Maybe it’ll be difficult to find guests as time goes by.” That didn’t happen at all. It’s not difficult to find guests. People reach out to me, I meet people at events where I’m speaking that I think would be great guests. Basically, I could probably have a daily podcast and I’d still have enough guests. The thing that’s interesting is that I would like to have more women guests. It seems to be difficult to keep that balance. I enjoy having a balance between women and men, but I just notice that it just seems like I have more men guests. Then I think, “Okay, let it go. Let it be. It’s just the way it’s working out. Don’t worry about it.” I would like to have more women guests.
Interesting. The people who follow your podcast, do you know the demographic? Because you mentioned that you have more male speakers and experts on your podcast. Is your following more male or female? Do you know about that?
I don’t know what the balance there is, but I do know that more women have reached out to me for coaching. That’s interesting. They tell me they listen to the podcast. Just recently when I spoke in Orlando, I had some of my listeners go to the event because they heard me promo it on the podcast. They were women. They were telling me how much they love the podcast and so on. It’s interesting. I don’t know how many women I have compared to men listeners.
I know you also have a great gift for the listeners and the viewers of the Healing Pain Podcast, can you tell us about it?
It’s a PDF that you can just put up by the fridge and it’ll remind you about mantras and the value of mantras. It’ll remind you about exercise, it’ll remind you about the value of meditation. Just a visual that will keep you on track. You can receive that for free by going to MindfulnessMode.com/Calm and you can get that free download. I hope you enjoy it.
Excellent. It’s a great download. Please everyone, check out Bruce on his podcast at MindfulnessMode.com, as well as make sure you download the free gift, MindfulnessMode.com/Calm. I want to thank Bruce for being on the Healing Pain Podcast. He’s been a great guest. I think the importance of mindfulness, even though he has done a lot of work for the past three to five years, it’s still really just starting. It has a place in your life, especially if you have chronic pain or chronic disease. Check out his podcast and make sure each week to follow me on the Healing Pain Podcast at www.DrJoeTatta.com. We’ll see you next week on the Healing Pain Podcast. Thank you.
Thank you Dr. Joe, for having me on the show. Very much appreciated. It was a lot of fun.
About Bruce Langford
Bruce Langford is passionate about the power of mindfulness and meditation. He teaches, presents workshops and coaches people who long to be more focused. He is also the founder of the Mindfulness Mode Podcast on iTunes where he features interviews with successful people in many walks of life who use mindfulness and meditation to improve their lives. Once stressed out and filled with anxiety, Bruce searched for ways to become more content and truly grounded. As a result he began a personal practice of meditation. Gradually that practice became a daily routine which is part of what he teaches today as a mindfulness life coach and workshop leader.
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