Today’s guest is Evan Dunn.

Many of us identify so strongly with the thoughts that are running through our minds that we begin to believe those thoughts and sometimes it can be difficult to sort through all the doubts and uncertainties that you experience in the process. However, our thoughts do not define us and they are not always the truth. Mindfulness is a practice that helps us to dis-identify from those thoughts and manage our emotions so we can live a far more intentional life. Todays’ guest is Evan Dunn, who is a mindfulness coach for Take the Stage Coaching, a professional opera singer and host of Take the Stage Coaching podcast. Evan describes mindfulness as a way to discover who we truly are, connect to our deepest feelings, learn how to process these feelings and ultimately become more empowered in the future. Evan believes that we all have the power to design a life where we feel so much better than we at present and the only person who can make that happen is you. In this episode Evan explains the true meaning of mindfulness, he gives us some tools we can use to become more mindful and the benefits it can have on all us in our relationships with others as well as our own physical, mental and emotional health. The past lives as a memory and the future as thoughts. We all have a choice in life and you don’t want to miss Evan’s great advice for designing the lives we choose for ourselves.

In this episode

1:16 – Introduction

10:17 – Evan’s early performance career

11:58 – What is Take the Stage Coaching?

15:40 – Mindfulness explained

29:45 – Tools that Evan uses to teach mindfulness

31:28 – A mindfulness role play example

49:28 – Is Meditation a mindfulness tool?

53:45 – Resources available to learn more about mindfulness

1:01:40 – As voice teachers how can we help our students

1:04:51 – Evan’s personal mindfulness discoveries

Find Evan online

Podcast: Take the Stage Coaching


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:00

Hi it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Many of us identify so strongly with the thoughts that are running through our minds, that we begin to believe those thoughts and sometimes it can be difficult to sort through all our doubts and uncertainties that we experience in the process. However, our thoughts do not define us and they are not always the truth. Mindfulness is a practice that helps us to dis identify from those thoughts and manage our emotions so we can live a far more intentional life. Today’s guest is Evan Dunn, who is a mindfulness coach for take the stage coaching. A professional opera singer and host of take the stage coaching podcast ever describes mindfulness as a way to discover who we truly are as a way to connect to our deepest feelings, learn how to process these feelings, and ultimately become more empowered in the future. Evan believes that we all have the choice to design a life where we feel so much better than we do at present, and the only person who can make this happen is us. In this episode, Evan explains the true meaning of mindfulness. He gives us some tools we can use to become more mindful, and the benefits it can have on all of us in our relationships with others, as well as our own physical, mental and emotional health, the past lives as a memory and the future as thoughts. We all have a choice in life. And you don’t want to miss Evans great advice for designing the lives that we choose for ourselves. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:34

Evan Dunn, welcome to a voice and beyond. It’s so lovely to have you on the show. You are my very first guest from Idaho. And when I think of Idaho, for some reason, I think of potatoes like what is it about Idaho potato?

Evan Dunn 03:57

You are exactly right. So many potatoes in Idaho. In fact, when I was growing up my house, we bought a plot of land that was surrounded by a potato field. And I was well, when I was in high school I was released for two weeks out of the fall so that I could work in the potato harvest.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:22

Oh my gosh. So do people in Idaho eat a lot of potatoes or do you absolutely sick of potatoes?

Evan Dunn 04:32

You know, I think definitely in my family. We ate a lot of potatoes because potatoes that would fall off the tracks around the fields. The farmer said we could just go pick them up. So we had lots of potatoes and I was so spoiled like if I eat a boxed potato you know those dried potato pearls. I just want to throw up I think, what is this garbage? I want an actual potato.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:57

That is so funny. I love that I actually just threw that in, because my silly Ozzie you my thought it was something that appealed to me to ask,

Evan Dunn 05:09

you didn’t realise that I actually am a potato person.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:13

No getting to know you, Evan, you are a mindfulness coach for take the stage coaching, a professional opera singer, and host of your own podcast, take the stage coaching. Let’s look at where your journey began. You do some brilliant work, but I’d like the listeners to learn who you are. So when did you start singing? And when did you discover you’re actually good at singing,

Evan Dunn 05:45

I grew up in a, I guess I would say a somewhat musical family. My parents didn’t have any musical training. But my mom wanted. There are seven kids in my family. And she wanted all seven of us to learn how to play the piano. So she decided even though she didn’t know how to play the piano, that she would take us all to piano lessons every week. And she practice with all seven of us every day. And I don’t know how she did that. But that was something that was so important to her. And then I, you know, I met a few people along the way, who would say, Oh, come sing in This Boy’s choir, or you know, just like little by little, I just kind of was singing in some things. And then it was funny, because by the time I got to high school, my first year of high school, I didn’t make it into the choir. And I thought, oh, maybe I’m no good at singing. Yeah. And I had a student teacher who actually she is my dear friend to the state. And she is a life coach as well. Her name is Emily Rex, and she’s amazing. And she was a student teacher. And she said, come take voice lessons with me. And I just fell in love with her fell in love with singing. And just, that’s kind of how it started. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:01

So in terms of your family, I know that a lot of parents think that going into a performance career is rather risky. Because it’s such an unstable and unknown industry, where your parents encouraging a view to go into that field, or did they want you to play sports? Or did they think no, you need to go into a corporate job, such as being an accountant, or how did they feel about all this?

Evan Dunn 07:31

I never felt pressure from my parents to be doing anything other than what I’m doing. And so I have to feel very grateful for that. But that, you know, the rest of the world has definitely given me so many messages about why not to do what I’m doing. And so I suppose in a lot of ways, I was lucky to have a support system.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:57

Now, I know that you’re a baritone, slash bass. Which you to me, I was surprised to hear that because when I speak, I can’t imagine you being either of those. So when you went through voice change, did your voice plummet? Like did you go from this really high voice to this base? Rather? Yeah.

Evan Dunn 08:26

Yes, I in fact, I was singing in The Sound of Music. And I was singing the good Bah, you know, the high G thing. I think, I don’t know, if it’s a GM making stuff up probably, you know, saying that kind of high part. And I remember my teacher who was kind of working with me on singing this, and she was saying, Oh, your voice seems like it’s starting to change. You got to hold on to it for a few more weeks. And then it was like, two weeks later, I was a baritone. And it was just like, so drastic. I don’t even remember thinking, Oh, my voice is really changing. It was just like, oh, all of a sudden, everything’s different.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 09:06

So when did you start your formal training? And was that in classical? Singing?

Evan Dunn 09:12

Yes. So I did take lessons all throughout high school and just kind of had fun with that. But when I was in college, I started college a little later, travelled around the world did some things and I, when I started college, I thought, you know, maybe I’ll be an orchestra teacher or a choir teacher because I enjoyed all sorts of classical music, especially classical music really spoke to me from a young age, okay. And so I was kind of setting there and then I had a teacher, Christine, Susan ski. And she kept saying, Oh, well, you got to be an opera singer. You got to be an opera singer. And I was like, I am not interested in opera. First of all, I did a musical In high school, and I really had a very challenging experience while doing I didn’t feel like I really knew how to act or what to do. And that was kind of terrifying to me. And I thought, I’m never wearing makeup and I’m never getting on a stage and getting into costume ever again. And she just kept saying, No, you got to sing opera, you got to sing opera. And I did a little opera scene with her. And I just fell in love with it. And I thought, oh, my gosh, I wonder if I’ve been an actor my whole life, and I didn’t really know it. Or like, maybe I didn’t have the skills or somebody there to help me to know.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:34

Sure. Yes. So yeah. So you, you had a performance Korea?

Evan Dunn 10:42

Yes. So I ended up after I graduated, I ended up getting into performing. And I got a master’s in performance. And then I performed around the country doing about half of my resumes, musical theatre, and about half as opera, which I really love doing both. And

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:04

yeah. Then you made the transition into coaching. So at what point of time in your career? Did you go from performance to coaching? Or did you have those careers running alongside of each other?

Evan Dunn 11:21

I feel like they’re definitely still running alongside of each other. In fact, my wife and I, and we have three little kids we’re planning. I can’t, I can’t say definitively when but in the foreseeable future to go to your app, that’s been our goal for a long time. But I would like to have, you know, my coaching clients alongside with my singing career.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:43

Okay, so that’s still happening. Your, your performance Korea, aside from COVID, shutting it down? Yes.

Evan Dunn 11:49

Yes, yes. In fact, I got to sing at a recital last night. It was so fun.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:56

Oh, so your coaching business? Let’s talk about that. Because I’m actually, I’m really fascinated in the work that you do. Tell us what take the stage coaching offers.

Evan Dunn 12:13

So I help artists to successfully navigate the pressures of their entrepreneurial careers there. And I love working, obviously, with singers since I’m a singer, myself, but I have worked with artists, actors, and it’s kind of expanded beyond that. I’ve worked with new mothers, I’ve worked with business owners and working with their mindfulness so that they can be more intentional about living the life that they want having less stress and more joy.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:47

Now, oh, that sounds amazing. I think we can I have that intravenously?

Evan Dunn 12:55

Yeah. Wouldn’t it be so nice if it were just like a little pill?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:59

I’m on a ride, I would be absolutely addicted to those pills. Let’s talk about one aspect, which you didn’t touch on. And then I will go into the mindfulness because that’s the part that’s really fascinating to me. Sure. And, and, and then we’ll talk about your business coaching. So with your performance coaching, you cover performance anxiety, I want to know, how did that come about? Did you yourself suffer from performance anxiety? Or what inspired you to help other performance with their anxiety issues?

Evan Dunn 13:40

Well, I don’t know that I’d say I have, you know, a lot of performance anxiety, except for just kind of the typical things I do. When I perform. I always have this fear in my head, you’re gonna forget your words, you’re gonna forget your words. You know what I mean? Yes, I do. And it’s this story that I tell myself. So I actively work through my mindfulness to disprove that story. So that I know that I don’t need to believe it just because it’s a thought in my head. But the reason I really got into it was because I been teaching more voice lessons, obviously, during the pandemic, and I just started noticing students of mine who have anxiety in their lessons, not even always just performance, anxiety, anxiety about their life, in general just stresses about so many things going on in the world. And, you know, there’s this joke that voice teachers or a therapist, and we all it’s not a joke. Yeah. But like, really? What tools do voice teachers have to offer? I mean, they we all do the best that we can when we’re teaching, of course, but I thought, you know, I had worked with a life coach, kind of mindfulness coach. And it was totally life changing for me. And I thought, I would love to be able to help my students with this. And then it just kind of expanded.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:07

So you use things that you’ve learned yourself around mindfulness to help your students and yourself. Yeah, yes. performance anxiety.

Evan Dunn 15:19

Yes, totally even, you know, I said, I was singing at a recital last night. And I have, you know, a practice of how do I prepare mindfully so that I’m ready to, you know, have a wonderful experience and have my own back and support myself no matter what happens? And yeah, that’s what I do.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:40

Let’s delve into mindfulness. Because it’s a hot, it’s a hot topic. And it has been for some time now. And I don’t know that everyone fully understands what mindfulness is. And for some people, they may think, Oh, this is a new age thing. This is something that tree huggers. Do. You know, it’s for those people that grow hair under their armpits, that go around skipping through Daisy fields? It’s woowoo. So tell us what is mindfulness Exactly?

Evan Dunn 16:15

Well, if I could go around, and hug trees, and skip and daisies, I could probably just do that all the time. I think that sounds beautiful. But so mindfulness, for me, is a way of being able to understand that my thoughts are not myself. Mm hmm. There’s a separation so that when I have this kind of run, well, how do I describe it, it’s kind of like, just consistent thoughts, persistent that they just keep running through your mind, you know what I’m talking about. And we identify ourselves so strongly with those thoughts that are running through our brains, we think that we are those thoughts. And mindfulness for me is a way to step back. And dis, identify myself with those thoughts, so that I can start to disprove them and actually believe better thoughts that are more helpful for me. And that helped me to understand my feelings better create feelings that are more helpful for me. And, yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:27

so it’s more than just being in the present moment. It’s actually disengaging from the thought processes, or the belief systems that you have in your mind. In that, yeah, yeah.

Evan Dunn 17:42

Living in this present moment is definitely part of that. Because it I mean, if you think of it, this moment, this moment, right now with you and I, Marissa is the only moment wherever actually experiencing, and this next moment, and this next moment, and the past lives, as a memory and the future as thoughts. And so often we’re living in anxiety and fear about the future or anger and frustration about the past. So yes, learning to live in this present moment is so so crucial. But yes, if I can take a step back and recognise that those words running through my head are not me, and that they’re not necessarily telling me the truth, and that they’re not always helpful, then that’s a really powerful thing I heard it once described as if you saw someone on the street, you might have seen someone that we called, like, a crazy person, and you and they’re speaking, they’re shouting out. And they don’t really have a facility of kind of deciding what they’re going to say before they say they just shout out their thoughts. And we think, Oh, well, that’s crazy. How could you know, I’m so glad that I’m not like that. But here I am. And my brain is running 100 miles a minute. Of all these random thoughts that aren’t really helpful or true. It’s just that I have a little bit of a filter, and I can keep my thoughts inside most of the time.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 19:19

Yes. I heard somewhere that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day? Yes, exactly. And 70% of those are negative. And 70% of those are on repeat. So that’s a lot of negative self talk. So when we’re born into this earth, we were all born equally. We’re all babies. So how do we acquire all that, that those stories that we believe to be true? And those thoughts that come along with those stories?

Evan Dunn 19:59

I tell my class And some students that everyone struggles with it, there are definitely some people who struggle with it more. But it really comes down to, you know, learning to believe those thoughts and some people hold on to their thoughts in this. It’s like a story that you’re telling yourself in your, in your head. And some people hold on to those thoughts a lot stronger than other people. But we all do it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 20:24

Yes. We’re actually lying to ourselves in one way.

Evan Dunn 20:29

Totally 100%. Yeah, we’re just we literally are making up stories. And then we add meaning to each little story. It’s like, I had a student just today who told me, I’m not very good under pressure, I always crumble. And I was like, huh, let’s, let’s kind of break that down a little bit. So what does it mean to that you always crumble under pressure. And it’s like, as we talked about it, we realise that she didn’t really mean always, because sometimes she actually does say the right words, and she’s sometimes sings beautifully. And so when she’s using the word, always she’s making up a story and lying to herself. And then what does it even mean to crumble? Like, how do you define that in a court of law that you crumble under pressure? Well, sometimes I forget my words, well, is that really crumbling under pressure? Or are you just adding a lot of meaning to this story that you have in your head about your performance anxiety?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 21:28

That’s really interesting, because, in one sense, what you’re telling her to do, I what I interpret is that you’re telling her to mind her language to

Evan Dunn 21:40

write it’s its, first notice that you’ve got a thought. And then there are, you know, several tools that we can use to start inquiring after those thoughts, and deciding whether they’re really true, whether they’re really helpful. And if we really want to continue believing them and taking them into our future. Or if we would like to start practising a different thought that helps us to feel more empowered, and to feel more excited and ready to take on another challenge.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 22:16

And that’s a really good tool, also, that helps us to not be so reactive, if we take that moment to process and think about something before we open our mouths, because they say that that those few seconds before you respond can be so important to and that will help us in the way that we connect with other people, but also to the language that we use. And and you know, what is our true belief right in this moment?

Evan Dunn 22:54

Mm hmm. Yeah. I mean, it has been a game changer. As far as relationships, definitely, with my wife. I mean, how often is it that we’re, like, you know, for example, I might see her do something. And I just instantly could start making up a story about how she’s trying to make me mad, or she’s trying to whatever, I’m not even being very specific, but

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:20

I can. I’ll be I’ll share something right now. And then Okay, let’s get on to it. Yes. So, okay, at home with my husband. I, to me, I don’t believe he’s very mindful. Because if we’re sitting there having a conversation, we can be talking about something really serious. As soon as he receives a notification on his phone, his immediate reaction is

Evan Dunn 23:54

pick up the phone and look at it Sure. And look

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:57

at it and disengages from the conversation. And to me, I think, one who’s not being very present. And I’ll say to him, My, the language that I use, and the thoughts that come to my head in that moment, are, you’re not giving me a safe space to speak to you. I don’t feel that you’re listening to me. I feel that you’re not validating what I have to say. And I feel that what I have to say is not important to you.

Evan Dunn 24:36

Right? Sure.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:39

So that and that all comes one as a society. In our relationships, we have become really disengaged. Haven’t we like because of technology too? How many people do you see sitting around at a dinner table or out for dinner and they’re on their phones? I go to regime and everyone’s on their phones on social media. And I I don’t understand that. So we’re sure. Why have we become so disengaged and not living in the present?

Evan Dunn 25:16

Yeah, well, I mean, it’s it is true that it’s especially hard with all the social media, and it’s just a really busy hustle bustle life. And that’s kind of what we’ve been raised to think that our life needs to be so is very tricky. And, and there are a lot of distractions. But really, it comes down to. If I think that mindfulness is important to be, then it’s a skill that I can learn how to do. And am I still going to be living with my phone? And with different things? Yeah, sure. But I can, you know, try to mitigate that as much as possible. So.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:00

So why is it important to be mindful? How does it benefit us? Mentally, physically, emotionally? And is there science to back that up?

Evan Dunn 26:14

Yes. So when I think of the scientific research for this, I first have to go to Dr. David Burns, and he’s one of the people who popularised CBT, which is cognitive behavioural therapy. And there were other doctors who kind of started that movement, but he popularised it with a book, feeling good and later, another book, feeling great. And cognitive behavioural therapy is essentially the recognition that it’s not our circumstances that decide how we feel, there really is another step in between the circumstances and the feelings. And that’s our thoughts. And so this research that was done is so helpful, because it helps people to realise I’ve experienced high levels of anxiety, depression, stress, frustration, all these different feelings. And all the feelings really are valid. I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t ever feel those things because learning how to feel your feelings and process them is also a super critical part of mindfulness. Like, oh, my gosh, I feel performance anxiety, okay, that’s okay, I’ve got some steps, I know what to do, and how to kind of embrace this feeling. But just because we can feel all those feelings, and we can have tools to know how to process them, doesn’t mean that they’re always very helpful, because the feelings that we feel really do propel us into the actions that we want in our lives. And if we’re always acting out of like, a fret, a state of stress or frustration, then we’re not really being as intentional. Or maybe we’re, if we’re always afraid that we might never, we might never take any risks that would help us to grow. So there are these feelings that we need to learn how to process and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which in my mind, is mindfulness. But for therapy, it’s really a way for people to recognise, I don’t have to always feel the way that I’m feeling just because my circumstances may seem to dictate that, if I and realise that I’m seeing the world with some distorted lenses, I’ve got some stories, I’m telling myself that aren’t necessarily true or helpful, and I can disprove them with my thoughts and create more helpful thoughts. I can have different feelings, and this will lead me to act more intentionally, in my life. So really, when you know, do you need mindfulness in your life? I mean, that’s up to you, right? You could, you could spend a gazillion hours and become perfectly mindful. And that’s a wonderful choice that you could make. But you could also continue to live exactly how you are. And or any range in between, that’s totally your choice. But if you don’t want to feel, you know, bogged down and overwhelmed and stressed as often as you are, and you think that maybe a little bit of joy could help you to live life a little more fully, and try some exciting new things and maybe not be afraid of your feelings. Then mindfulness is an amazing tool that anyone can learn.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:45

What are some of the tools that you use to teach mindfulness?

Evan Dunn 29:51

Okay, well, I use a lot of different tools that I’ve studied from teachers like Byron Katie. And the work. I also use tools that I’ve learned from Brooke Castillo’s and CTFA are, as well as so many mindfulness techniques from Eckhart Tolle, a David Burns all you know, just taking from all of these amazing teachers, and, and compiling them, but when I’m coaching somebody, it comes down to you start. And you start telling me your story. And I start helping you point out, the distortions in your thoughts and distortions are really just like, let’s say your glasses are really smudgy, or you’ve got, you know, you’re, you’re only seeing about 30% of the truth. And then the rest is kind of a story you’ve made up. We’ve got these distortions that we’re seeing in the world. So you start talking, I help you point out the distortions. And we try to discover how truthful your story is. And if it’s actually helpful to you. Ultimately, you get to decide the thoughts that you want to keep taking and believing. But we start coming up collaboratively with thoughts that could be more helpful for you. And then we start practising those thoughts, and we practice them through journaling techniques. They’re, you know, so many fun things that we can do. But yeah, that’s kind of what it looks like.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:26

Okay. Is it possible to do a little roleplay. Right now, I’m going to put you on where can we do that? So we can give our listeners and I’m going to allow myself to be totally vulnerable, and up for judgement by others by doing this. So let’s, let’s just give it a go and see how we don’t have to like, I’ll leave it with you. You can coach me?

Evan Dunn 31:53

Well, and you can tell me if there’s something else you’d like to coach on. But it was interesting. You brought up this topic of talking about your husband and his mindfulness and your reaction. Is that something that we could talk about? Sure,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:06

let’s do this. Yes. Okay. So

Evan Dunn 32:08

you started telling me a story. And I don’t want to put words into your mouth? No, I mean, kind of, say back what I thought I was hearing and you tell me if I’m right,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:17

okay. Yes, let’s do this. I’m up for it.

Evan Dunn 32:21

Yay. So um, yeah, the interesting thing is, is that you are experiencing one thing, and you’re watching your husband. And basically, you’re interpreting what you think is going on. Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Sure. You said he’s that he is making you feel. Maybe that you’re not in a safe place. Is that? Does that sound familiar? Yes. Okay, and what else?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:58

That he is not interested in what I have to say, and what is going on in my life is not important to him?

Evan Dunn 33:12

Sure. So what I would ask is, can you know, with 100% certainty that what you’re saying is not important to him? No. Right. And when you think that, how does that make you feel?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:36

When I think that he’s not listening to me?

Evan Dunn 33:41

Right? He’s not interested, that he’s not interested, hurt, hurt. And when you feel hurt, how do you act in that situation? What does that

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:54

my immediate reaction is to? Well, I suppose in one sense, yet pull him up on it. I want to pull him on it. And I want him to know that he’s hurt me. And that what he’s doing is not like, validating me or it’s, it’s that safe space. comment is that it’s making it more difficult for me to share my feelings, and that next time, I will be less inclined to speak up. She because I feel that that I don’t have He’s not holding space for me to speak okay.

Evan Dunn 34:46

So this is this is where it can be very tricky, because in the long run, we can only be empowered by our own thoughts and our own choices. And if he is acting like this, I’m not condoning him because he, you know, if you’re telling him something important, and he’s not paying attention, you know, that’s something that you definitely should be able to speak to him about. But what I would want you to start thinking about is whether it’s actually possible for him to hurt you? Or if it’s your thoughts about him that are hurting you?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:37

Hmm. That’s a very interesting question. And when you put it like that, it’s my thoughts. I mean, yet I’m choosing those thoughts, because I know my husband loves me very much, and how, and he would never want to hurt me.

Evan Dunn 36:00

Right. But in that moment, you have a story in your head, that he’s disinterested, it causes you hurt. And then you said that you kind of want to, you want to make sure to address it with him, which is a wonderful thing, addressing things with each other is great. But it also kind of makes you feel like you want to shut down more in the future, which is less communication in the long run. Yes. So I’m just starting. And we could go on and on and on. Of course, we could talk for hours about this. But just recognising that tiny little thought that, first of all, I’m believing a thought that I can’t even know is 100%. True. And that’s the thought that’s causing me this hurt. Rather than giving him all the power, like, Oh, he’s the one who gets to decide how I feel, he decides if I’m happy, he decides if I’m hurt, he decides if I love myself, or if I hate myself, instead, hopefully, as you know, working on your mindfulness, you can start taking that power for yourself, which is the most amazing thing that I get to see as a coach.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:17

That is so cool. Because I didn’t think that, essentially, I’m giving him power over my feelings. Right? And, you know, I brought this up, because I suppose, you know, use the example of my husband earlier, because I think there’s a lot of women, and there’s probably a lot of males in relationships that feel that they’re not being heard, for whatever reason. So, I mean, that’s really helpful for me, and I hope that it’s helped other people that feel that they’re being silenced, or they’re allowing someone else’s behaviour, allowing someone else’s behaviour. Just silence them.

Evan Dunn 38:04

Right? Course. Yeah. Sorry. And of course, if they’re doing something that you don’t want to continue to live with, like, if someone’s being abusive, or even, there are a lot of steps between what you’re talking about and abuse,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 38:19

obviously, he’s not, he’s not Yes.

Evan Dunn 38:23

And you always have the power to choose to live with the things that are going on that the choices that someone else is making or not, that is like you always have that option. And we are not condoning what other people do. But when we start to realise that no matter what someone else does, or what they say, or a circumstance in the world, I always have the power to step back, recognise my thoughts, choose thoughts that are helpful and powerful for me right now. And then I get to move forward with whatever decision I want to make. I maybe I want to talk to my husband, just like you’re saying, I want to talk to my husband and tell him that I would really appreciate if he would put his phone down. But hopefully I can do that. With a little bit more authenticity in the moment rather than like with a blame thing of You’ve hurt me.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:21

Yes, yes. So that immediately puts you into almost a victim mentality. Exactly. I don’t like victims. And I mean, one.

Evan Dunn 39:34

Well, all of us are victims sometimes. And that’s why it’s so helpful to have a coach when you need one. It’s not like you need a coach hanging around you all the time. But it’s like a voice teacher. If you go to a voice teacher, they hear things that you can’t hear, and then they help you to figure out what to do differently. And a coach can really help you to notice those distortions. Yeah. They’ll be like, hey, wait a minute, I heard something. And of course, lovingly, you know, help you to, to discover a better truth. And then ultimately, a way that you would like to be acting and feeling that’s more helpful for you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:17

And most of us, our feelings and our reactions are distorted in our decision making, making can often be distorted by emotion. Exactly, yeah. And I know myself that if a situation arises, and I have to make a decision, and I’m highly emotionally charged in that moment in time, I will not be pushed into making a decision, I have to step away because my decision can be so off, because my emotions are running Bramford, I have to say, No, I’m not deciding right now I have to either sleep on it. I had a situation arise a few weeks ago, that was so stressful, and brought a lot of anxiety into my life. And I had to make a decision around the situation. I actually took a month before I made a decision, because I just couldn’t, I couldn’t do it and, and know truthfully, that what I was doing was the right thing to do. Right. And I think that there’s, and that’s learning about yourself, too, isn’t it? I think we can all learn about ourselves a lot more to

Evan Dunn 41:42

Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. And I love how you talk about kind of taking time for yourself, I always call it giving yourself space. And that can be just like, even if it’s just a couple of seconds, instead of immediately reacting to whatever thought is running through your brain to be able to step back, take a break, recognise that the thought exists? And then give yourself some space to say, Do I believe that thought, Is that helpful? Is there something else I could believe that’s more helpful, and then I can move forward.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:23

I know I’m sharing a lot about my relationship here. And I want people to know that my husband is a wonderful man, and we’ve been together for over 31 years, we have an amazing relationship we really do. But like all relationships, we’ve had to work and we’ve had to learn about each other. And I’m so grateful that this person has come into my life. And one of the things that talking about what you just said, that we do is if we feel that we are entering into a place in a discussion that it becomes really heated, you know, it’s starting to escalate. And you we can predict that it’s going to be a no win. If we continue on this way. We will call five minute timeout. I love it. We go five minutes, timeout, go into another room, one of us take ourselves off and go, what is the outcome that we’re wanting to achieve here? What is really going on here? Take a breath and go back. And that helps so much. And it’s once again, it’s been mindful, isn’t it?

Evan Dunn 43:47

Right, yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:49

So there are a lot of little practices, therefore that I’m already kind of incorporating without realising that I’m doing it.

Evan Dunn 43:57

I know, it’s so funny, as we talk about mindfulness and your thoughts and your feelings. Because when I explain it to people, it feels totally new, life changing. Like it’s kind of mind blowing, the more that you think about it, and the more that you practice it, you’re like, oh my gosh, I’ve been letting the government have power over my emotions. I’ve been letting the weather have power over my emotions. I’ve been blessed with all these things. And it’s, you know, it’s just kind of an amazing thing. But you also start to recognise, hey, I have practised this before, at times, like I think back to a time I was living in Africa. And it was the traffic in Africa is so crazy. Yeah. And and I was driving around in Africa, and I remember other people who were there with me, who would get so stressed about driving and it was just like anxiety inducing. And I remember Seeing them and thinking when I drive here, I want to feel calm. And so I just kind of embraced the fact that that’s what traffic is like. And no amount of me stressing about it is going to change what traffic is like in Africa. And I remember feeling totally calm, the whole time I was driving no matter what other, and I. And so looking back, I’m like, that’s what I did I practice mindfulness, I decided that they didn’t want to believe what I was currently believing, and they chose to believe something else. It took some practice, it created a lot of peace and joy for me, instead of stress and anxiety. And so why is it so mind blowing, when we all have done it before, we just don’t really realise that we have that power within ourselves. And that’s what I’m like trying to help to pull out of all of my clients. And then there’s these moments where they come to me, and it’s like, the weight of the world is on their shoulders. And they’re, they’re carrying heavy burdens, and they, they feel overwhelmed. And within moments, they’re usually laughing, and they’re like, oh, my gosh, I didn’t know that I was thinking this way, and that this other way of thinking feels so much better. And that is the most exciting thing that I get to do as a coach, and I kind of witnessed it with you. I mean, we were talking for about three minutes. Yeah. But it starts to feel like I have power in this moment. And that’s an amazing thing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:35

And what you’re doing is liberating your clients to you’re removing some of the shackles that are keeping them from living their best life. Have you noticed through COVID and beyond that people, people have changed, the people are more stressed, they’re less mindful or defined, the overall demeanour of people is different.

Evan Dunn 47:03

I think that some people have allowed COVID to bring them more towards mindfulness and wellness. And some people it has made them much more stressed and anxious. And but again, you know, just because that’s kind of maybe your natural thing. I feel like I was kind of naturally a negative person. Yeah, I mean, I’ve kind of always been like a smiley guy. But, you know, my wife knows that my, the people close to me know that I was kind of a complainer. Oh, you know, like when behind closed doors, complaint, complaint, complaint complaint. And that was kind of my natural state of things. And so no matter what your kind of natural inclination is, maybe, you know, you, you have always blamed your feelings on everyone else. And it’s, you know, it’s kind of a learning curve. Just start, quote, unquote, blaming it on yourself. But I don’t mean to blame it on you. It’s not your fault. It’s just that you don’t, you know, like, if I say, your, your stress or your anxiety is caused because of your thinking, some people might think, oh, that’s because it’s me, it’s my, you know, they start being overwhelmed by it. And that’s not what it means at all. It really just means you have the power to learn how to a new skill, which might not feel natural to you. But you, you can totally do it if you want to.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:38

When you were saying that you’re a complainer, and you complain about everything, you know, when I call those people?

Evan Dunn 48:45

What all means? What, what does that mean? Who me

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:49

and all me is like, all me back. Me boss, or me? Life is miserable on me. And I learned that from a girlfriend of mine. She calls them all me’s. And I think it’s hilarious. And you’re with COVID? Yes, I suppose if people have a certain predisposition to a personality type that you have swung further that way, perhaps. And I believe that COVID has brought out the best and the worst in everybody. Definitely. And what about meditation? Because to me, I always associated meditation with mindfulness. Okay, sure. So that’s just one of the tools in a big toolbox that we can use to become more mindful.

Evan Dunn 49:47

Definitely yes and and meditation can look so different. I started learning about this, from Laura Arapaho at the maps Institute. So identity recommend anyone looking up the maps Institute, you can register for all of their articles for free, actually, and, and I write occasionally some articles for them. But she did a mindfulness or sorry, a meditation kind of challenge, I guess you could say. And was, and it was teaching seven different types of meditation in seven days. And it was so eye opening for me to recognise that, yes, I do like to meditate occasionally lying on the floor. And I definitely love my shavasana at the end of yoga, that’s super important to me. But I don’t always love to lie on my back and meditate. And I kind of realised that it’s okay because there are so many other ways for me to be mindful, I actually love kind of creating a meditative state for me, myself, as I’m making my breakfast in the morning, I make oatmeal every morning, and, and I try to go around the kitchen, just like really mindfully thinking about each thing that I’m doing, creating feelings of peace and joy for myself. You know, it’s just a beautiful way to start my day. And you know, people do walking, they do walking meditations, there’s so many different ways to do it. And definitely tools in the toolbox. However it looks for you, that’s wonderful.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:27

I’m one of those people that I, I find it difficult to switch off in meditation as well. Sometimes, in a 10 minute meditation, the first nine minutes are spent thinking about my day ahead. And then the last minute is when I finally go, Oh, okay. But I love, I find that the place where I’m the most mindful, is in Pilates. It’s the only place for me where I all I’m thinking about is what I’m doing right in that second in time. And I love things like doing sudo ko or Wordle, where you totally switch off from everything to

Evan Dunn 52:14

Yeah, and and in, you know, speaking of Pilates, and kind of that focus mind or whatever activity you’re doing in yoga, and from this is from the Bhagavad Gita, you know, they call it biasa. And firaga, obviously, is focused attention coming to the mat. And breathing and your mind really does focus on the movement the whole time that you’re doing it. And then there’s this joyful, meditative aspect, which is for Rocky, where you are releasing any expectations, and just kind of feeling joyful. And I, I love that too. I love doing yoga for so long, I would do yoga, and they would just kind of I would suffer my way through my yoga practices. And, you know, it’s been such a joyful thing for me to realise that I can feel happiness and peace throughout and make my yoga practice my own focus in my own way. And, yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:19

we had a guest just recently who spoke about, she’s a yoga instructor, Jen. And I shared with her that I don’t do yoga, because I’ve only been twice and both times. I cried like a baby. Oh, and she, and she said, That was fantastic. And I said, Well, I’m not paying someone to make me cry. Right? Yeah. So if someone wants to delve into mindfulness, where can they start?

Evan Dunn 53:52

Yeah. So like I said, you know, you don’t have to go to 100 miles an hour, ever in your life with mindfulness. But you know, little by little, you can definitely learn some tools. And I would recommend, especially for maybe some of our artistic friends out listening, I’ve got an Instagram page, take the stage coaching, where I love talking about mindfulness. There’s also some fun silly classical music, humour. But that’s maybe a place to get started and of course, the my podcast take the stage coaching, but there are so many books. I recently did an episode about the four books that I would recommend to get started. And I do know some people don’t really consider themselves readers. Yeah. And so you know, if you write and that is like totally fine. If you want to read a gazillion books like I have done and go through trainings and you know, that is an option for you, but that takes a gazillion hours, right And that’s not always what everyone wants to do. And that’s totally good. And so that’s why coaching with someone is a great option where you can just sit down with someone, learn the techniques, and kind of help them guide you through pushing you, so that you can learn the skills and start applying them in your life. And it’s not just because I want to feel peace in this moment, that’s amazing, you should be trying to find ways to feel peace and joy in this moment. But also, I push my clients to come up with intentional plans, from this place of peace and joy in your life so that you are leaning into the future of your choice, it turns into action actions that accumulate over time, you know, it’s like that 1% rule, accumulating over time to literally create the future of your dreams.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:58

Yes, and we have the power to design our futures. And yes, we do much about creating. It’s it’s a it’s about setting intentions and not leaving our lives to the randomness of the world, and the randomness of people around us. And you know, what,

Evan Dunn 56:19

30, but you know, it is crazy because things do happen in the world that we don’t control. And I can’t always imagine what is going to happen in the future. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. But if I can master the skills of mindfulness, it doesn’t really matter what the world throws at me, I’ll have the emotional resilience, to have my own back, to be able to care for myself and face anything that the future does bring to me as well as thriving in this kind of intentional choice making that I’m doing for myself.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 56:57

Yes. And that’s a really good point that you make, because what you’re doing is planning for the future, in a way that you can protect yourself from living a life of disharmony, or whatever you want to call it, of anxiety of high stress. Most people wait till it’s too late to seek help. But this is kind of pre preparing yourself for no matter what happens to you. Yeah, you’ve

Evan Dunn 57:29

definitely there could be a point in your life, where you just really have a breakdown. And that that’s also fine, because I am here ready to help you if you have a breakdown and you need help. But I definitely prefer that I’m going to maintain, I’m going to learn the skills. Now. I’m going to take care of myself, and develop it so that I don’t know. You know, it’s like, do I really want to be putting out fires around me all the time? Or do I want to be prepared so that there are fewer fires to be putting out?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 58:03

So rather than walking around with a fire hose? You’ve got the suit that’s fireproof.

Evan Dunn 58:11

Yeah, yeah, I think I think that that’s there’s some truth to that. But also, stop lighting fires all around yours.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 58:18

Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, yes. So true. And I love people that gaslight too. Oh, my gosh, don’t even get get me started on that one. So what do you say to the sceptics? People who think this is woowoo? What would you say to those people?

Evan Dunn 58:41

You know, it’s so funny because especially when I’ve come home from a day, and I’ve coached some amazing clients, and I just go to my wife, and I’m like, always glowing, because I just, and I just want to shout to the world that you can feel so much better than you’re currently feeling. And of course, the only one who can make that happen is you. Absolutely and if you really believe that it’s always this I just especially I have to say, especially in this operatic community that I find myself a part of, and I’m so grateful that I’m a part of people are very sceptical, and and there is a lot of sentiments going around about like, the government will make me happy, my partner will make me happy, or they won’t, right. Like, I’m going to continue being miserable because of whatever is happening. And it’s like it again, it’s just a thought. It’s just a thought that’s going through people’s heads. And I just want to like reach in and just say, oh my goodness, there is so much in this world. to thrill and to, to feel joyful over and to feel peace over. And, you know, there are some big feelings out there that you’re probably hiding from, you’re probably buffering by like, you know, I’m going to social media way my feelings, I’m going to sex away my feelings, I’m going to drink away my feelings. And of course, you know, sex drinks, all of those can be a part of a totally healthy, healthy lifestyle. But I’m just talking about like, Yes, I can. Yeah, yes, I cannot deal with the emotions that are going on with my life. And so I’m just gonna hide on Instagram, or Facebook or Netflix. And I’m not going to experience the broad range of emotions that I could have as a human. And I’m just like, people. There is so much more out there for you if you were just willing to believe it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:56

Yes. And what you said about the, the classical world, I think that I think it’s true to say, and it’s fair to say it’s across all genres. It’s not just the classical world, I think performing artists can have that feeling of woe is me. And unless I’m in that woe is me mentality, I can’t be creative, either. It’s when I was me mentality, that when I’m at my best, and I’m performing at my best, because I’m that diva who’s been crucified or whatever you want to call it. And as voice teachers, I know there are boundaries that we have to set in our teaching studio. And we have to be mindful of boundary violations. But if a student comes into to a session with us, and we can see that they’re very anxious, or there’s something not quite right with them, is there something that you believe we can do to help our students in that moment, that doesn’t cross that boundary?

Evan Dunn 1:02:18

Yes. Well, first of all, I have to say, I’m becoming a very big proponent of asking some hard questions. And this is not me as a mindfulness coach. But this is just me, as a human, I’m really starting to feel strongly about how are you? Are you? Are you? Like, do you have a support team around you, I can tell that you’re kind of stress, have you considered seeing a therapist, and even saying heavy if, especially if I can tell that they’re really stressed, something might be going on? I asked the hard question. Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself? Have you had thoughts of going to sleep and not waking up? I just dig into it. Because I don’t want to play around with real mental health. So I, I do, I asked my students and I have had, or, you know, even just people around me, I ask them, and I want to be kind of like a first responder. Well, when Ah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:17

wait, people share with us because once again, it comes back to creating that safe space, where we’re listening to them, whether we’re listening to them sing, or speak when they’re able to open up and express themselves than they do share. So I call us frontline workers.

Evan Dunn 1:03:39

So yes, yes. And then making sure that you have a list of local resources where somebody could, you know, very affordably go and get help if they need to, that’s, you know, amazing, if you just kind of have that handy. But yes, just being able to lend a listening ear, give some lovely support. And then if they are open to a recommendation to possibly read an article, maybe or listen to it, a podcast episode, if you have something that you think might be helpful, that’s, you know, obviously up to them, but just them knowing that you’re there that you love them, that you’re willing to look them in the eyes and say, I really care about you, and I want to make sure that you’re safe. And that’s important as well.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:32

There’s so many things that I would love to continue talking to say no, because we haven’t even talked about your business coaching and maybe, maybe we will have you back and we can talk about business coaching some other time. Great. So we’re down to the last few questions. And you, Evan, what have you learned about yourself throughout the process of Discovering mindfulness

Evan Dunn 1:05:05

I have discovered that I am worthy of taking care of myself. And that I am so much more powerful than I ever imagined. And I, I feel so much better. Yes, I feel all the feelings that I ever felt, I still feel frustrated, and they still, but when a feeling hits, I can slow down and they have the tools, I know how to process it. And I’m just so happy that I have those skills. And that I know how to lean into a better future for myself. And it’s just the most amazing thing that I could imagine for myself.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:00

That sounds so amazing that I want a cup of all of that. Here it is here. Thanks.

Evan Dunn 1:06:08

I’ll just send it through the computer to you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:11

Yay. What’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to offer? Our voice community and beyond?

Evan Dunn 1:06:22

Okay, hmm, that’s a good question. I want if I have one thing, for each of you, I want to sell you on the idea of yourself. And your worth your value. Maintaining your wellness, emotionally, now. And, you know, I am definitely not the only person who could possibly be of help to you, there are so many resources. And I would love to be able to continue to point you to those resources in any way that I can help. But I would go to and sign up for a totally free, no pressure. Just a chance to chat with a mindfulness coach who can help you to see if you if you are having distorted thoughts note to help you to see your distorted thoughts so that you can start making better intentional choices for yourself. That is the most amazing gift that you could give yourself.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:35

That sounds amazing. And we are going to share all your links to your website, to your podcast to anything that you would like us to share with the listeners. We’re going to put all those in the show notes. So people can refer to those links and find you and discover the joy of being mindful. And everyone living their best life in the here and the now. Yes, yes, Evan, it has been such a joy having you on the show. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us. There’s some really powerful stuff and thank you for guiding me through my own distorted thoughts. They’re on my relationship and I hope my husband doesn’t kill me. No, thank you so much. I wish you all the very best. And we will have you back on the show sometime. You’ve just been brilliant.

Evan Dunn 1:08:36

Thank you so much. And until next time Mirza.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:40

Thank you. Bye. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of A Voice and Beyond.

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