In our modern world, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. The last several years have thrown us into a state of crisis where we’re left to deal with this new normal. How do we find peace and regain control amongst the chaos? The answer lies within. In this week’s episode of Breathe In, Breathe Out, my guest and I dive into what an enlightened planet could look like and why meditation is a beautiful, effective tool for absolutely everyone.
Tom Cronin spent 26 years in finance markets as one of Australia’s leading bond and swap brokers. He discovered meditation in the early stages of his career, when the anxiety and chaos he was experiencing had hit a crisis point, and it completely transformed his world, both personally and professionally. Founder of The Stillness Project, a global movement to inspire one billion people to sit in stillness daily, Tom is passionate about reducing stress and chaos in people’s lives. His ongoing work in transformational leadership coaching and corporate training has seen him working with some of the top companies in the world like Amazon, Qantas, UBS and Coca-Cola. He has spoken on stage at conferences and events like Adnews Summit, Afest, Wanderlust and Mind Heart Connect. Tom has six books published, a meditation app and produced the hit film The Portal.
Think meditation is hard? Do me a favor, take a slow deep breath in and now breathe out. Congratulations, you just meditated. Hi, I’m Krystal Jakosky, and this is Breathe In, Breathe Out: a Weekly Mindfulness and Meditation podcast for anyone ready to own their own shit and find a little peace while doing it.
Krystal Jakosky: Welcome back to Breathe In, Breathe Out. I’m Krystal Jakosky. And as always, I am so grateful that you’re here today. I’m so grateful that you’ve chosen to give yourself a moment to just breathe and relax. I’m really excited about today because we have Tom Cronin on from Australia. I want to tell you just a little bit about Tom before I bring him in. Tom spent 26 years in finance in one of Australia’s leading bond and swap brokers. He discovered meditation early on in his career. It completely transformed his world both personally and professionally as a founder of the stillness project, which is a global movement to inspire a billion people to meditate daily. Sit in stillness daily. Tom is passionate about reducing stress and chaos in people’s lives and his ongoing transformational leadership coaching and corporate training has seen him working with some of the top companies in the world like Amazon, Qantas, UBS, and Coca Cola. He’s spoken on stage at conferences and events like Adnews Summit, Afest, Wanderlust, and Mind Heart Connect Tom has six books published. He has a meditation app and he’s the producer of the hit film, The Portal, which I highly recommend that you watch. Without out further ado, just welcome to our show, Tom, thank you for being here today.
Tom Cronin: That’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me along. I’m really looking forward to our conversation today.
Krystal Jakosky: Yeah. I’m going to enjoy just listening to your voice and going on a journey with you. I really want to talk just a little bit more about the crisis point that your life hit in the finance world and what brought you to meditation.
Tom Cronin: Yeah, absolutely. The thing about the portal film is it’s all about crisis and how a crisis is actually not a mean horrible thing that happens to us. It’s happening to support us, to guide us. And for me, I didn’t realize this at the time, of course, but with hindsight, I can look back and see how it was such a critical moment in my life. There was this sort of guiding force to me being where I am today and how it looked was that I was in finance on a trading room floor, very much like Wolf of wall street. And I really fell into the patterns and the culture of the industry back then, it was the late eighties, early nineties. So it was a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs, a lot of partying, a lot of late nights, and a lot of hard work.Read More
Symptoms are signals for change, but I was ignoring the symptoms and the signals and just kept doing the same thing. And your body doesn’t give up when you are kind of just turn up the volume until we make some changes. For me, I wasn’t making any changes, if anything, things were getting worse. Then in February 1996, that morning things just fell into a heap. I woke up getting ready for work, and I remembered I was in the bathroom, shaving, looking into the mirror that I recalled. I had a really big lunch that morning with some of my major senior bankers at a large investment, and I had been getting these episodes. I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t know what an anxiety or panic attack was. I was getting these episodes and I had this fear in my head.
What if I get one of those episodes at the table? Well, I’m stuck with these six traders and I can’t get out of that situation. What if I can’t breathe? What if this happens? And what if all of a sudden this army of fear and dread swept over me. What happened was I collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t stand up. I lost my footing and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like there was a sharp knife in my heart, a sharp pain in my chest. I had these pins and needles all over my body and had this cold flaming sweat, like a fever, sweat. I was nauseous. I wanted to vomit. I needed to go to the toilet. I needed to do all of these things. My body was all exploding.
And I had this sort of blurry vision. I couldn’t really see, I couldn’t breathe. And I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I was on the edge of death. I remember it still being on the tiles and really sort of not really caring. I’d really kind of been done by that. I didn’t see any light at the end of time, I become so dark and miserable at who I’d become and the lifestyle I was living, and the person, I was, I guess, representing. And if that was the moment, then I was fine with that. I kind of lost hope. Interestingly my wife picked me up and took me to the doctor. He explained I was having a nervous breakdown, which was something that really crushed me.
I thought I was hoping for a diagnosis of a heart attack. But mental breakdown – it was something that I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I was just crying in his clinic. And then he sent me to emergency sort of sent me straight to one of the top psychiatrists in Sydney. He explained to me that I have a nervous disposition and that I need to take pharmaceutical drugs to get better and stay better. So those two sorts of diagnoses were quite crushing for me. You know, I built up this sort of false facade about who I thought I was, this invincible broker, with all my money and all my accolades and everything, but this was like the rug being pulled out from underneath me. It was a very crushing time in my life at that point.
Krystal Jakosky: It’s amazing when we get to that point. When you’re laying on the floor and the cold tile just feels good and you’re like, I just don’t want to do anything else. And we think that we’re invincible until that moment that we really find out that we’re not. It’s almost like I’m ready to accept this, but I’m not ready to accept it. I’m ready to accept that there’s this horrible, horrible thing wrong with me, but I’m not ready to accept that there’s something a little bit different, but maybe my own behavior could make better if I shifted it. How did you get to meditation? You’re told that you’re having this anxiety attack that you need to be on medication that you need to change things. How did it go from, you’re gonna be on medication to let’s try meditation instead.
Tom Cronin: Yeah. This is 1996. So meditation, there was no internet. There was no Google. There were no apps. And meditation was, I’d never come across it in my life. You know, I grew up on a farm, went to an all-boys Catholic school, and then went to a trading room floor in finance that was filled with 150 testosterone field guys. So this had never come across my path. What had happened was I was seeing a psychiatrist. I’d seen the doctors, I’d seen therapists put on pharmaceutical drugs. I just felt inherently that there must be another part to this. I didn’t know what it was, but I really felt very uncomfortable not to dismiss pharmaceutical drugs for people who are on medication. But for me, I just felt that I had to succumb to this for the rest of my life.
I just felt that this was not a healing solution. So I really want to fix the pro and this wasn’t really fixing the problem. It was kind of like putting a bandaid on it. I just felt deeply that this wasn’t really the solution. And I didn’t know what the solution was, but there I was at home. I developed hydrophobia. I had to take time off work. I couldn’t really leave the house. Just the idea of walking out the front door was too overwhelming for my nervous system. The stress response was too big. So we tend to default back into our safe space, our bedroom, our cave, living room, something where we know we don’t have to face any demands that are going to overwhelm us. So I’m at home with acrophobia and the thing with AOB 1996, it kind of sucks because there’s no internet, there’s no Netflix.
You’re just watching a lot of TV. And there’s a documentary about a property developer that was very successful here in Australia. The story was really about his success, but there was a tiny sliver of that story, where he was talking about how we used a particular style of meditation, and it was actually transcendental meditation. I’d never heard of it, but they showed him while he was talking, sitting in a suit. I still remember it, it was like, a blue pinstripe suit. He was sitting in that suit meditating and just in a chair, not Lotus and not muds or anything. It was like this light bulb moment of like, wow, I want that. I wear suits. I sit in chairs, I want to have that experience. When they mentioned transcendental meditation, there was something I was really into drugs at that time.
I loved the nightclub scene, taking lots of drugs and getting really out of it. And there was this idea of this transcending meditation, because really what we’re doing with drugs and drinking or any addiction is trying to find some EC, ecstatic experience, some fulfill the experience, and to get beyond our current dimension, and this transcending means to go beyond. I love the idea of it. So I started to look it up. That’s when I did a lot of research into all the different types of meditation. Those a bit younger than myself might not know what I’m talking about here, but I picked up the phone book which has the directory of all the companies. It’s a big fat book that had all the companies in it with their phone numbers. So I went to M for meditation. I still recall going down the lists of all the looking for meditation centers in Sydney. And that’s how I came across transcendental meditation. It was really the starting point of a deep journey into Eastern philosophy, mind-consciousness, and spirituality.
Krystal Jakosky: So I want to remind all of our listeners that, as Tom said, there is absolutely a space where medication is beneficial. And if you are one of our listeners that needs that medication to help you be okay, then I encourage you to continue doing that and make sure that you listen to your doctor and work with them hand in hand. There are also other people that want to try something different and be able to shift things in a different way. Meditation can help them. Often meditation can work hand in hand with the medication that you’re on to try to make things better. So we are in no way shape or form saying anything against that. In fact, we highly encourage you to do what works for you and what’s right for you. So thank you for sharing that question with you prior to this moment where you watch this and you’re intrigued by meditation. What was your attitude towards meditation?
Tom Cronin: I actually had a couple of people recommend it because they knew I was in a bad way. And one of them my friends particularly had suggested I should try meditation a couple of times. She wasn’t actually using it but she thought it might help me. However, I was very dismissive so I had had it come into my field just very subtly when someone said, Hey, yeah, you think he really should drive meditation, but I just wasn’t ready. And I think this is the thing, some people are a lot more adaptable, a lot more intuitive. Particularly the less stressed we are, the calmer we are, the greater adaptability and the greater intuition we have. But for me being very, very stressed and having very limited, intuitive capacity or adaptive capacity meant that I wasn’t open to those suggestions.
Therefore what happens is the plight that humanities on, unfortunately, is the more stressed we are. Unfortunately, the more stress we have less adaptive capacity and less intuitive capacity. o I had to get to a breaking point for nature, the universe’s form of intelligence, of guiding mechanisms to make things bad enough that I would eventually wake up and listen to what I was supposed to be listening to. Unfortunately, we don’t want to get to that point collectively or individually, but more often than not surprisingly we do.
Krystal Jakosky: Yeah. We push ourselves to the point where we have to change. If we don’t change it’s that fork in the road where either you have to do something to make it better, or there’s just nothing else So what was the first thing that you noticed shifted for you when you started meditation and found someone that could take you through transcendental meditation?
Tom Cronin: The first week was actually really uncomfortable and it’s really healthy for people to hear this. I thought I was going to become a Zen monk, but the first week was very uncomfortable. I felt very unstable, I guess to some degree, a little bit unstable because there’s a lot changing, particularly on these deeper, more powerful meditation techniques, like TM, ORIC, meditation which is what I kind of call it these days, some sort of meditation. And, the first week is a little bit uncomfortable because you’ve got a lot going on Your body’s really starting to clear a lot of the stresses out. It’s a very powerful purging process of a lot of stress, so it can get a little bit uncomfortable. And that’s why it’s really important having a teacher or guide to mentor you through that process.
A lot of people kind of give up when they’re going through some stress clearing, because the thing with meditation is that it doesn’t just put peace and calm over the top of your existing state. The existing state actually has to clear out because peace and calm are already inside you at a deeper level. And so what we’re doing is we’re clearing that stress, layers that the anomalies that have been accumulating in the system, and there’s a real organization. I could renovate if we’re renovating a house, there’s a lot of stuff that gets cleared out, right? The kitchen sink and the curtains and the carpet and the finish and blind. So a lot of things get thrown out to make the transformation. So that was what was happening for me. But the biggest thing that I really noticed, which was phenomenal, as I started sleeping and I had chronic insomnia.
And look, this is very science-based. It’s not where we were. It’s really just simply science-based. If we get our body out of the sympathetic nervous system state, which is the stress response, and we move our body into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the peace response. We have these two mechanisms or nervous system states. We oscillate in and out for very good reasons. If we’re in a stress response, it’s because it’s a dangerous situation. Our body needs to survive at that moment. Your body’s trying to protect you by keeping you awake. So it pumps cortisol and adrenaline into your system. It reduces the melatonin, which is biochemical to enable us to sleep. So I had very little melatonin in my system because I was continuously in the sympathetic. Another system state, that meditation gets this very quickly into the parasympathetic. What started to happen was I was producing a lot of melatonin because my body was trying to correct the imbalance of the huge amount of fatigue that was built up. And so being able to fall asleep was phenomenal in the first week or two, I was like, wow, this is amazing. I could fall asleep within minutes. Me hitting the pillow was quite remarkable.
Krystal Jakosky: That’s amazing. They’re just these little things that you don’t realize are an issue until they’re not an issue anymore. It’s like when you’re starting to lose weight and magically, you can walk up those stairs and you’re not as winded. And you’re like, oh, I didn’t realize that 10 pounds did that to me. Or I didn’t realize that the stress caused me not to sleep or that I wasn’t able to digest my food. And so I was really struggling that way. So I love that sleep is the first thing that your body said, oh, yes, please. We’re ready to do that. You mentioned the different types of meditation that you did research on, to understand meditation and that you came across different types of meditation. Can you go into that a little bit?
Tom Cronin: I went to many different classes. My stylist did research and make sure I’m choosing the best thing. If I’m going to buy a car. I do a lot of research into cars. When we got a dog I researched for a year on which type of dog was going to be the best dog to have in our house. I did that with meditation. I went to a lot of different centers and tried a lot of different practices and there were crystal bowls and there was chakra clearing, and there were all sorts of, different stuff aisles that I, know, dabbled with. But I just found that I wasn’t quite getting the immediate benefit that I was hoping for.
I know meditation’s meant to be a long investment, but one thing that I’ve learned over time, particularly now that I’ve been teaching this for many, many years, and particularly with the lifestyles that we’ve credit here in this world is we’ve created very charming lifestyles. We like to have a lot of pleasure in our life. We have a lot of pleasure in our life and if something’s not charming and blissful and enjoyable, it’s very hard for us to prioritize that or make it a preference over all the other preferences that we’ve got in our day. I’ve found this team technique to have greater, tangible, and quantifiable benefits and also pleasure in the experience. It was very, blissful, it wasn’t like a lot of work and it wasn’t hard. I didn’t have to focus and concentrate and try and get my mind or body to do something I didn’t want to do. For me, that was the power of the mantra that the mantras are a very charming proposition for the mind. Therefore it’s a very effortless process. Whereas if I try to tell my mind to not think, then that requires a lot of effort, and it requires the mind to resist doing its natural tendency, which is to think, and there’s conflict and it’s uncomfortable. So we don’t want conflict. And we don’t want discomfort.
Krystal Jakosky: You founded the stillness project. You want to inspire people to meditate. How did you go from, I’m gonna meditate and now I can sleep, to everyone needs this, and I’m going to bring it out to the world. How did that come about?
Tom Cronin: The change for me was significant very quickly. I noticed profound shifts. Within weeks the anxiety, the depression, and a lot of the addictions had dropped away. And I went back to work just to cut a long story short. I went back into my job as a broker. I’ve been there for 10 years when I had the breakdown. And I went back into the same seat with the same clients and the same company for 16 more years. So the job itself wasn’t a stressful thing. It was my response to the job that was determining whether it was stressful. And this is the thing we’ve got to understand about life, self-life, present circumstances, and situations that need the stressful or not. It’s just how we respond to them, that will determine whether we have a stress response or not. When I learned this technique and had these significant changes and managed to function very well in that industry and in that career, I just felt this, why is the world not doing this?
I felt this incredible passion to make a difference in people’s lives. Because I could see how much it simply changed my life. Like we said, if you are on medication, continue on and consult your doctors. But one thing I found was that if we’re taking tablets to try to make a very stressful system to not have stress responses that are naturally going to happen in that stress system, then it’s putting a bandaid on cancer. We’re just not going to get to the root cause of the problem. I know some people have certainly some deeper challenges that they have to overcome. But for a lot of cases, what I’ve found was, and I’ve been working with a lot of clients here, we need to get the body out of that stressed response.
And when we do that, we see phenomenal changes happen. Then we can address things because the body’s operating in a much more orderly way. I really wanted to get the science and the technique into the households of the world. Now there was a bit of a problem here because traditionally the technique was only taught in a traditional way. It was taught thousands and thousands of years ago pre-internet and so it was only ever taught in person. You couldn’t teach it on zoom. You couldn’t teach it on Skype. You couldn’t teach it in a prerecorded online program because it never was done. So I found that I had this dilemma where there’s the tradition that was taught in a particular way. It was always that way. Then we had technology that allowed us to reach the masses. I was in this conundrum of do I break this tradition with some respect and try to get it into a digital format. That’s what I decided to do. We created an online version of that program. Now we’ve got people all over the world that are able to access it, which is a big phenomenon that we weren’t sure how it was gonna play out. And that’s what the stillers project was all about.
Krystal Jakosky: So what are some of the myths or beliefs that you’ve encountered when people say, oh, I can’t meditate.
Tom Cronin: A lot of people think that meditation is an experience. That it is going to be all Zen, like, and they’re going to have no thoughts and it’s going to be them sitting in some Buddhist-like pose for 15, 20, 30 minutes. That’s not what meditation is. There are states we can get into overtime when our system is very clear of the stress that allows us and enables us to sit in. What’s called a state of deep stillness. But for us, we start with a lot of stress in our system. We’re going to get continuously bombed down. That bumping out is literally the stress clearing out of the system. Our vessel plays a big part in meditation. A lot of people don’t realize this, and this is just one of the myths that I want to break the stigma that’s associated with meditation is that it should be completely still with no thoughts. It’s like you said, thoughts will come and you’ll have body sensations. You’ll have thoughts in your mind. We take it as it comes. And we know that this is an ongoing process. So just helping people have a better appreciation of the process and acceptance of the process rather than attachment to a particular experience.
Krystal Jakosky: If someone says to you, I don’t have the time to meditate. What’s your response.
Tom Cronin: We have 24 hours in a day and each hour has three portions of 20 minutes. What do we do with those 72, 20-minute pieces of pie? Do we allocate our time and attention to finding fulfillment? That’s whether we’re cleaning the bathroom floor, whether we’re sleeping, going to the gym, listening to a podcast, scrolling through Instagram, or going to work. Every single action is motivated by the same thing and that’s to find fulfillment. I realized, myself included, when the teacher said, we highly recommend you meditate twice a day. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon for 20 minutes, I nearly fell off the chair. I thought, there’s no way I could do that. But the science stood up and showed that if I did meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, I would be literally much happier. It was clear as day that this was what was supposed to happen.
We have all heard of enlightened monks, which, blissfully, know enchanted and full of almost an ecstasy of love. Here I was contemplating whether I wanted to keep living in life, suffering from anxiety, depression, and seeing therapists. So I obviously wasn’t allocating my time, my 24 hours, my 72 portions of 20 minutes to successfully find fulfillment, because I wasn’t very fulfilled. So I needed to change. What I did was assess my 72, 20-minute pieces of pie and realized that I could keep doing what I was doing with the other 70, if I just took two out and parked them on the side for meditation. And I thought, at least the one thing I could do was do the research. The science said that I would be happier, but I needed to find that out myself. What I say to people is you do your research, learn to meditate, do two out of 72, 20-minute pieces of pie, and put them into meditation. I can assure you within six months you will actually be a lot happier, calmer, and healthier. And if that’s not where you are now, then maybe look at a turn. And if you are there already, now, then just keep doing what you’re doing.
Krystal Jakosky: I have this poster on my bathroom wall that says, are you happy? Yes or no, if you’re not, what do you want to change? And if you are great, keep doing what you’re doing, and keep going exactly where you’re at. I was watching one of your other videos and you actually talked about some tips on how to get into meditation, but then how to encourage yourself to continue doing that. I was just inspired by the whole concept of making it approachable.
Tom Cronin: I think meditation, we have a, a lot of people, some sort of resistant to it because we think of enlightened monks and we think of something very esoteric and something very far fetched. The first is to understand that this is just a very simple, scientific, lead-based, and, a validated technique that can make a huge difference in your life. We go to Instagram and scroll through our feeds or watch Netflix or go to the movies and do all the things that we do to find pleasure because we want to add value to our life. We’ve got to, firstly, start to realize that one of the great ways to add value to our life is to stop being distracted and to put time aside to go within. We don’t need large amounts of time, but just to find a window of time where we can prioritize and have a higher preference to stimulate ourselves and to put some time aside to just sit in a chair quietly and it doesn’t have to be complex.
It doesn’t have to be on some beautiful Hilltop in the Alps or something like that. Just simply, for me in a parked car. I pull my car over sometimes in between meetings, pulling into a side street and I’ll close my eyes and I’ll start meditating. In my lounge room, I’ve done it on trains. I’ve done it on park benches, anywhere we can close our eyes and feel safe and secure. I do recommend trying to find a teacher that’s qualified in the art of meditation. If that’s possible if you’ve got one in your area, really learning from someone that’s qualified in this space, I think learning the mechanics and deeper understanding about the techniques that you’re learning, whichever one that is, to shop and find a technique that works best for you.
Tom Cronin: There are many different techniques out there. I’ve chosen one that I teach and one that I use predominantly because I found the most effective. But what I say to my students in so many different ways you can learn to meditate and find one that resonates with you. When you find a technique that resonates with you find a teacher that resonates with you because there are different teachers in different traditions and different modalities. Some people get drawn to me in our modality. Some people get drawn to someone else. They might want a younger woman teaching them, or they want might an older woman teaching them, or they might want a, a different type of dude teaching them. So find a teacher that resonates with you. And then we don’t have to make it complex. It’s just sitting comfortably in a chair and letting go of your attachment and the story of the outside world and letting yourself start to explore it in a world. In a world of quietness.
Krystal Jakosky: I say that meditation is a little bit like a buffet. You get to pick and choose the things that absolutely work for you and fill you up and make you just love life and being right there. You get to leave the rest. Not everybody likes cherry cheesecake. Not that everybody loves ribs, but you find what works for you and you find that piece and it just transforms so many different things and makes life so much better for you start. Forget everybody else. Forget the external world and look at where you are and what you have the ability to do and change and shift because you’re amazing. We’re all amazing. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing with us. We’re big on self-care and we like people to explore something new. You obviously do meditation, which is a beautiful part of self-care. Is there another unique hobby or thing that you like to do for personal self-care?
Tom Cronin: I do a lot of saunas. I love to sweat in the sauna. So I do three saunas a week. I really find grounding with heavyweights for me personally, particularly. I’d like to ground myself by doing, a gym workout with weights, and building that muscle tissue and bone density. I find as I get older, it’s a really important part of my self-care and then stretching. I’m a big, big fan of yin yoga. So those three components with my meditation, then the saunas, the heavyweights at the gym. And then the yin yoga and the stretching in yoga is for me a beautiful combination of helping me stay young as I get older.
Krystal Jakosky: Nice. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. You guys check him out on Instagram. It’s at Tom Kronan and his website is www.tomkronan.com. And I’m telling you, the film that Tom produced is absolutely fantastic and it’s inspiring. You go watch it and just be inspired by yourself. The website for that is www.entertheportal.com. So thank you again for joining us this week and you guys come back next week because Tom is gonna take us through a guided meditation. We’re really excited to share that one with you. So thank you, Tom. And again, we’ll see you here next on Breathe In, Breathe Out.
I hope this moment of self-care and healing brought you some hope and peace. I’m @krystaljakosky on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube and I hope you check us out and follow along for more content coming soon. I look forward to being with you again here on Breathe In, Breathe Out. Until next time, take care.