The Inevitability of Change - Learning to be in the Moment

By Ms Ali V Flint

They say “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”, but there’s another - the inevitability of change. The fact that nothing stays the same is something that bears thinking about as a human being in a temporary body, with to-do-lists that are never completely done, existing on a planet that we have a complicated relationship with.

One of the reasons I cherish the Buddhist teachings is their timeless relevance and universal applicability to all. A deep dive in to the topic of impermanence during a recent study module left me processing long after the weekend Zoom lessons concluded. The need to absorb these teachings via my laptop in my lounge room rather than taking a flight to Sydney and being with my Sangha was another lesson in itself – acceptance of unwanted changes, of yet another frustration associated with Covid-19, of finding peace with what is, and appreciating that technology can let us connect in alternative ways.

Some people might find impermanence and change confronting or saddening - and there definitely is that element within the teachings. The fragility of life, and the search for meaning while we live it, are not easy issues to meditate on. Considering impermanence and change however powerfully promotes the preciousness of each experience we have, honours each connection we make, and reminds us that the memories we collect may be all we have at the very end.

It’s understandable to fear change, protect the perimeter of our comfort zones, and grasp at the familiar. We cling to everything from our youth, identity, beloved pets, friendships, jobs, health, societal expectations and rapidly-growing children who will at some point look down from the mountains they too have climbed.

A lot of my work involves supporting teenagers with mental health issues – which simultaneously keeps me connected to my younger self and shines a light on every day (and the lines on my face) on the planet so far. There is nothing like a teenager to give you brutally honest feedback or remind you of how ancient you seem. In other words, everything is relative, depending on where we personally sit on the spectrum of what is being considered.

Consider for a moment a golden sunrise gliding its way across the backdrop of a pink dawn sky. As the flaming globe keeps ascending, the sky dances through a colour wheel of pinks, purples and blues. Now imagine that you are a teenager late home for curfew again and every star that disappears is replaced by a cloud that spells out the trouble which you will face when you get home to your angry, worried parents. Take this moment instead to daydream that you are feeling weary at the end of your long life, but also grateful to be surrounded by your loved ones. Someone opens the curtains for you so you can enjoy nature’s lightshow. This sunrise may very well be the last one you experience. The opening scene on your final act. Perspective-taking can be reality-making

We rely on the beauty and awe of the natural world to comprehend and describe lofty concepts that occupy our busy minds and fill bookshelves, theatres and song lyrics. Poetry tugs at our heart strings in the same way – so I appreciated the threads of Zen poetry that were woven through the recent weekend module. For the keenly observant, layers of deep complexity are seemingly hidden within most simple reflections, in the same way that a moment can hold incredibly varied meanings depending on the context and attitude of the perceiver.

Below is a classic Japanese poem that can be seen at Sarusawa Pond – by a beautiful Buddhist temple in Nara Park, Japan (ironically translated as ‘monkey swamp’). What an insightful way of highlighting how the same event can affect each of us in different ways:

At the clapping of hands
The carp come swimming for food
The birds fly away in fright, and
A maid comes carrying tea.

It sometimes takes a startling wake-up call in the form of the death of a loved one, a health scare, being made redundant, a soul mate asking to separate, or the loss of possessions in a house fire or natural disaster to remind us we are on borrowed time and nothing really lasts forever. Don’t wait for such a day. If you are reading this, part of you already knows that it is within your power to stop sleep-walking through your life.

The present moment is all we have. Wishing away our struggles and chasing the next goal is literally erasing the precious time we do have. Being mindful of the moment you are currently experiencing is a mindset and a habit that can be practiced. We are all weavers. Humankind and the rich ecosystems we are part of are undeniably interconnected. Our lives are a myriad of unique tapestries. Truly noticing and appreciating the various threads within the tapestry - that is the way to truly see all the colours and textures of your life.

I extend an invitation to you - to meditate on the following:

Death is certain.
The time is uncertain.
What will you do with this one precious life

About the Author

Ali is a compassionate, highly intuitive psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experience. Friendly, down-to-earth and practical in her approach, Ali seeks to truly connect with her clients and support them to tap into their own inner wisdom and strength.

Three of Our Favourite Science-Based Self-Help Books

Live a More Meaningful Life – Right Here, Right Now

The right book at the right time can completely change your life. A science based self-help book can be a fantastic aide to therapy with a skilled professional psychologist, and can help grow the skills learned in sessions of ACT therapy. Research shows specific ACT self-help actually helps, and even more so with the aid of a skilled coach.

Our psychologists, being passionate about helping others, have examined dozens of psychology and self-help books so as to give the best possible care to their clients. We present three of the best which explore popular myths, and examine these myths can constrain and limit us. Here’s three of our favourite ACT oriented self-help books.

Top self help and psychology book recommendations Brisbane1. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harriss

The simplest, bestselling and most practical ACT self-help book from Australia’s foremost ACT trainer Dr Russ Harris. A famous book in the ACT community, the Happiness Trap debunks popular myths around happiness and coaches you in useful skills based on sound scientific evidence. If you read only one book on this list, it should be this one!

Russ has created an 8 week online program based on the Happiness Trap.

From the book’s website “The Happiness Trap is a unique and empowering self-help book – now published in 30 countries and 22 languages – that will enrich your life and fundamentally transform the way you handle difficult thoughts and painful feelings. The title reflects a key theme in the book: popular ideas about happiness are misleading or inaccurate, and will make you miserable in the long term, if you believe them.”

As the founder of ACT Steve Hayes says: “The Happiness Trap carefully and creatively presents techniques that anyone can use to undermine struggle, avoidance, and loss of the moment. Russ systematically explores how we get into the ‘Happiness Trap’ and then shines a powerful beacon showing us another way forward.”

2Self Help Psychology Book Recommendation Brisbane Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong, by Kelly G. Wilson & Troy DuFrene

A superb, touching book exploring anxiety. Using ACT theory and practical exercises, Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong approaches anxiety very differently to traditional self-help. Instead of pushing away our difficult thoughts and feelings, Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong suggests we learn to gently, kindly touch (and learn from) our difficult thoughts and feelings, to make space for them and maybe even in doing so find ourselves within them!

Awarded the “Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies Self-Help Seal of Merit”, this book is one of our favourites to share with our friends, clients & colleagues.

3. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly - Self Help psychology book recommendation BrisbaneA charming, inspiring book by research professor, Brene Brown, Daring Greatly is an exceptionally well-reviewed book on the importance and power of vulnerability. There’s a common myth that showing vulnerability is a weakness, while in contrast should project a perfect exterior at all times. Taking normal risks in life naturally make us feel vulnerable, and we equally naturally push back those feelings. In this book Brene challenges this tendency and shows us that being able to embrace and show our vulnerability can prove to be a great strength.

Brene Brown’s 2010 TEDx talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is a charming and funny introduction to her work.

Please check out these 3 wonderful books, the links above and let us know what you think! In comments, on FB, or with your Brisbane ACT Centre skills coach.

Can you do Great Things, Even When you Don't Feel Great?

By Tomas Tapper

Have you ever seen a toddler throw a tantrum? I have. Just last night in fact. And again this morning. Our home is entering “the terrific twos” (a phrase my wife uses).In these last two tantrums, I noticed something pretty awesome.

Imagine an exhausted almost-2-year-old, clearly needing to go to sleep, but not wanting to miss out on more play time. As the emotions get stronger and the tiredness (and stubbornness) overtakes, the stomping feet, the rubbing eyes, it all gets louder, and then the tears start. I’ve worked extensively with parents and children, and I’ll readily admit it’s quite a bit harder when it’s happening in your own home!

Here’s where ACT comes in. A bit of grounding work for myself, and then a gentle touch of compassion and an explanation “You need to get your pjs on so you can give yourself some rest” brings an interesting realisation. No, the crying doesn’t stop, the screaming doesn’t subside – but the arms go in the sleeves and the feet miraculously walk towards the bed. It’s an amazing thing to witness. Despite everything likely going on in my toddler’s mind, the anger, the sadness, the raw emotions, there’s still the ability to physically do what’s needed to complete the bedtime routine. Even at just 2 years old we can already practice taking action towards what we want, even though our emotions are seemingly getting the better of us.

Somewhere along the way in our “growing up”, we start to see our emotions as things we shouldn’t express as much, and in turn, often things we should control. We have “adult tantrums”, usually within ourselves and sometimes towards others. We express our anger, frustration, and disappointment through self-criticism, arguments with loved ones, disengaging from work, etc. The result:

We start to tell ourselves, and even believe, we need to feel better to do better. 

Then we take it a step further, and we stop doing the things that help us get what we want from life like self-care, engaging with others and performing our best. I see it everyday, and I’m guilty of it sometimes myself, after all, we are only human. Luckily, our emotions don’t actually decide our actions, even if we sometimes let them. On the contrary – if emotions always dictated our actions, imagine the road rage we would see!

So what makes us sometimes take action, and sometimes be dictated by our emotional state of mind and body? Well, just like a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum, it may be circumstances we don’t like, or things happening that feel too hard to cope with. Either way, when we do work in ACT, we build stronger skills and increase our psychological flexibility so we don’t get caught up in our own inner tantrums. Working on getting untangled from the mess of emotions, and regaining control of our actions so we can be free to engage with a life that we want to live. So even though we might feel like throwing our arms in the air and crying because life is pretty cruel to us sometimes, we can put one foot in front of the other and walk towards something that will help make things better.

You don’t need to feel good to run good. You don’t need to feel great to do great parenting. And guess what, you don’t need to feel happy to engage in something that can bring happiness or meaning to your day.

You can still do great things, even when you don’t feel great.

My extensive work with parents is actually not too far off from my work with elite athletes. It comes down to doing what matters most and performing at your best. The tough part is – You need to perform on a given day, whether you want to or not. 

Where’s Your Head At? Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important (Video)

Where’s Your Head At? (Video)

Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important

Would you like to improve your performance, reduce feelings of stress and increase your satisfaction with life and work? These are the three key benefits offered by mindfulness practice, and are well supported by scientific evidence. Mindfulness practice has exploded in popularity. Major tech companies offer mindfulness training. For instance, Search Inside Yourself (SIY)  was developed at Google along with some of the world’s leading neuroscientists. The benefits of meditation are taught and studied in academic institutions across Australia and are the subject of ever more articles and think pieces.

In late September last year the Brisbane ACT Centre’s own founder & director, Dr. Rob Purssey, presented at QLD TAFE Brisbane’s inaugural TAFE Services conference. Rob presented a warmly received talk to over 200 attendees with the title “Where’s Your Head At? Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important”. You can download the slides here.

The conference was held for TAFE’s education and business staff with a theme of ‘Making Connections’ – connections with students, educators, colleagues, industry partners and community. To make a genuine and authentic connection to someone we have to be present, we have to pay attention – and to be mindful. Rob’s talk aimed to give participants the tools they need to practice mindfulness in their professional & personal lives.

The slides above show the progress of the talk, Rob starts with an explanation of mindfulness and mindfulness practice and moves into using the ACT matrix as a simple and effective framework for noticing our own behaviour more purposefully.

Here’s some highlights:

Slide 3: “Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”

Slide 6: Benefits of Mindfulness in Life + Work 

  • improve focus and concentration
  • increase self-awareness
  • reduce the impact of stressful thoughts and feelings
  • build better relationships
  • catch self-defeating behaviours, and do more effective ones
  • be aware of self-defeating thought processes, and ‘let them go’

3 KEY BENEFITS: improve performance, reduce stress, and more satisfaction in work and life. (c/- ACT Mindfully training by Russ Harris)

Slide 8: “Consciously bringing simple awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness.” (The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris)

Slide 14: Mindfulness (& meditation) isn’t about relaxation. It can be boring, frustrating, anxiety inducing – which is normal and ok – just notice and refocus. Simply focus on something (eg the breath), when you notice that you’ve wandered bring the focus back. It’s a skill, like anything else.

Why is breathing so often used? Convenience, simplicity & cuts down distraction.

Slide 25: Introducing the ACT Matrix

The ACT Matrix is a tool, a simple point of view, used to help you to be the person you want to be more often, even when you’re under stressful situations. You can use the matrix point of view to notice and sort your behaviour into the matrix. Simply pause and notice then sort your behaviour into 4 quadrants – values and purpose, hooks that are showing up, towards moves that are moving you towards the kind of person you want to be, and away moves that are normal actions to avoid painful stimuli – but which we can overdo.

Slide 30: Mindfulness (be here now)
+ Values (know what matters)

+ Action (do what works) = Psychological Flexibility

(living your life more freely, fully, and effectively)

Being where you are and
doing what’s important… to YOU!


Mindfulness & ACT are valuable tools to help you be the person you want to be more often. By taking just a little bit of time to focus on the here and now you can get some fantastic benefits. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly staff at the Brisbane ACT Centre.

Where does Suffering Come From?

By Dr. Rob Purssey

The ACT model predicts that a lot of suffering is caused by becoming entangled in difficult and painful thoughts and feelings, and then is further exacerbated by trying to push those thoughts and feelings away.

In ACT terminology getting caught up with difficult thoughts is called ‘cognitive fusion’, and trying to push unwanted thoughts and feelings away is called ‘experiential avoidance’. Fusion with difficult thoughts and struggle with painful feelings are very likely to be key processes in all human psychological struggle. What can we do to keep moving forward when facing pain and suffering in our lives? More than a thousand studies suggest that a major part of the answer is learning ACT – psychological flexibility skills.

An exciting recent study of a large sample of community adults recruited via the internet (N=955) examined the interaction between cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance in relation to psychological distress – and found, as predicted by the model:

“The predicted interactive effect was found across all four symptom measures, with the significant positive association between cognitive fusion and symptom measures being strongest at higher levels of experiential avoidance. These results provide support for proposals that individuals with high cognitive fusion and high experiential avoidance may be particularly prone to experiencing psychological distress.”

You can check out the study here:

ACT aims to help people to more effectively handle difficult thoughts and feelings by learning key psychological flexibility skills, and with self compassion and resilience, keep doing what is important, even with their  tough inner experiences. Our skills coaching at the Brisbane ACT Centre directly addresses both cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance, and our resources page is a great place to start.

Directly undermining fusion with defusion, and directly increasing psychological flexibility with willingness and acceptance – key ACT skills – can quickly improve your life, easing struggling with suffering, enhancing more vital living. If that interests you get in touch with our friendly staff at the Brisbane ACT Centre today.



Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a popular transdiagnostic treatment approach, is based on the central tenant that human suffering develops and is exacerbated by psychological inflexibility. Cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance are two interrelated processes central to psychological inflexibility. Despite substantive theoretical rationale that these two processes impact one another’s association with emotional distress and psychopathology, the interaction between cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance in relation to psychological distress has yet to be empirically examined in the extant literature. As such, we examined this interactive effect in relation to four indices of psychological distress (anxiety, depression, stress, and posttraumatic stress) in a large sample of community adults recruited via the internet (N=955). The predicted interactive effect was found across all four symptom measures, with the significant positive association between cognitive fusion and symptom measures being strongest at higher levels of experiential avoidance. These results provide support for proposals that individuals with high cognitive fusion and high experiential avoidance may be particularly prone to experiencing psychological distress.

From Struggling to Striving

ACT can quickly transform struggle into thriving, as it completely changes the psychology agenda. We drop the struggle to rid of difficult thoughts and feelings. We coach skills to quickly handle them more effectively, emphasising living the kind of life you want. There are six core psychological skills to ACT, grouped into 3 simple and powerful processes: be present, open up, and do what matters.

Have a look at the six processes in really cool visual form here:

4 & 1/2 Steps to Vitality

By Nikita Kotlarov, learn more about Nik at his website mindzone.

Ever had a day when you woke up and things seemed just right? You couldn’t explain it. The world hasn’t changed. But you felt just good. What if there was a reliable way of producing this effect? Wouldn’t you want to take advantage of it?

Today, we identify a number of things that an individual could do to feel better. Some of these are ‘magic pills’ in that they work better and have fewer side effects than any of the non-magical pills we are aware of. Chances are, as a Psychologist, I will be closer at putting myself out of a job if you did these things:

  1. Nutrition – our brains consume great amount of energy. What this means, there is a need in having the right fuels to power this incredible machine (and the rest of your body too). It also means that similarly to any machine there are by-products (like exhaust fumes) that need to be cleared out. We’ve all heard ‘what you see is what you get’ – with your body and mind it’s ‘what you put in is what you get’. Want to feel great? Give your body and mind the building blocks of feeling great.
  2. Exercise – should I stop here…? Ok, by now you probably have heard something positive about exercise. Probably heard about the recommended daily exercise routines. You probably tried to put your mind at ease by saying that you cant afford it or that there is no time, etc. Especially in young families where the demands of work and parenting can be quite overwhelming it is particularly difficult. I am not an exception and also go through periods of time when I struggle to stick to regular exercise. I do believe that you are wonderfully creative. So creative that if you put your mind to finding 30mins per day to have a leisurely walk/jog, you would do it. If you haven’t, something else is holding you back – what is it? What can wonderfully creative person do about it?
  3. Social participation – we are group animals. We do not thrive in isolation. Some very powerful biological (yes – hard wired) processes are involved here. Consider how painful isolation (exclusion, ostracism, banishment) is for us. Some very weird processes take place when we are alone. And it is unfortunate that we live in a culture that frowns upon anything that is not strength, pushing us to hide when we don’t feel well. Isolating makes us feel even worse. The opposite is also true – our experiences of stress, pain, healing, trauma, etc – all improve when we are connected with others.
  4. Hobby – interestingly, we feel better when we have regular times to do things for no other reason but because we find them interesting/fun.

4½ Finally, at any of these points, you could say to me – well Nik, that’s easier said than done! Chances are, I will agree with you – you are completely right. It is easier said than done. At any of these ‘magic pills’ you may find things that hold you back. For example, after an injury – what can you do to exercise safely? Or, what is the right nutrition? What if I just moved to the area and don’t know anyone, how can I participate socially? Every one of these questions has merit. My ½ input here is: ‘not knowing gives you the first step’ – finding out, problem solving, brainstorming, etc. Finally, if you are feeling stuck – consult someone – friend, spouse, therapist, etc. I hope that every therapist’s goal is to put themselves out of the job. To work with their Clients in such a way that they will not need therapy anymore.