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Kim Fuller is two-time award winning author, TEDx speaker and owner of Kim Fuller Photography. She’s also the creator of P.A.U.S.E., a mindfulness practice she teaches to business owners, professionals, parents, caregivers and students. She shares how P.A.U.S.E. helps business owners become better leaders.
SBT: Kim, what inspired you to create your P.A.U.S.E. mindfulness method and integrate it with your photography work?
KIM: I’ve been a photographer for many years and the real pleasure has been through my portrait work. So really connecting with people through the lens of my camera. A few years ago, I was having a challenging relationship with a family member and then a business partner that I was working with. And I just realized that I didn’t really have a spiritual grounding of any sorts, something that I could really turn to. Right about that same time, I began studying Buddhism and mindfulness. And that came because I was on assignment to photograph the Dalai Lama at Salve Regina University. I was hired to photograph his lecture to more than 2,000 people. When I showed up I was thinking about how I would take the pictures, what kind of pictures I could get, almost projecting myself into the future of what the images would look like. I essentially ended up having to sit down the entire time because another photographer was hired who to move around with the Dalai Lama. So my ego was all in a twist. I thought, well, why don’t I get that assignment? I’ve been shooting for Salve Regina for a decade. Who is this guy? So I’m sitting in my seat thinking, well, what am I going to do now? I’m not going to get any shots except of the Dalai Lama standing at the podium. That’s so boring.
SBT: What happened?
KIM: What ended up happening was that two students sat behind me and they were the ones who would presenting the Dalai Lama with Salve Regina gear so I thought, if nothing else when the Dalai Lama comes in, I can get a picture of the two of them greeting him. So sure enough, that’s what I got. But right after he greeted them, he walked across the other side of the aisle. As I continued to watch him, I realized how present he was being for so many people in that tent. He didn’t know anybody, this was his first time visiting Salve Regina, yet he had this way of making people feel like they were the only one in the tent with him, just by being present for them in each moment. It was a really beautiful thing to see and it got me really curious. I remember thinking “How does he do this? What is he actually doing every day that allows him to be like this?”
As I’m watching him, he turned back from the other side of the aisle. I had my camera down at this point because I was just so fascinated. I mean, here he was right in front of me and the pictures I could have taken would probably be great but I kept my camera down. When he turned back towards me, reached out for my hand and connected with me, I was so moved by that experience. I felt something that I’d never felt before and I think it was pure love. All the stuff that I was worrying about before just faded away and I was held in his presence in a way that was really, really special. It was as if he was looking right into my heart. And I thought “What the heck just happened and how can I get more of that?”
Ultimately, what I walked away with that day was the realization that my happiness was in my own hands and that my mind was the key to finding that happiness. The Buddhist tradition is a path to getting to this of place of non-suffering and inner peace so I began my practice in mindfulness study and meditation right then. The interesting thing about it was that I realized that the practice of meditation reminded me of the presence that I practiced in my photography all along . . . the act of slowing down, looking very carefully and watching each moment with care and non judgment. As a documentary or journalistic photographer, it’s important to do that same thing.
SBT: Wow, what a powerful story. How does mindfulness help your clients?
KIM: When photographing, I need to be able to see my clients for who they are and not who I expect them to be for our shoot. This tends to give them the acceptance they need to be authentic. Often we conjure up our stories, our thoughts, our experiences that we remember and project them on to our relationships. Meditation is the practice of watching my mind and how it can take me out of the present and into my past or future expectations so I recognize I’m doing that and shift back into the present. That’s when the two practices started to merge for me. I saw beauty in this presence that I could even bring up more when I was with my clients. Taking the time to put my camera down like I had for the Dalai Lama and really connect with the person a little bit more before we started shooting.
SBT: Tell us more about P.A.U.S.E. What does it stand for and how does it work?
KIM: It’s a five step mindfulness technique that you can put into action quickly, or it can be a practice that you go deeply into with each step. The ‘P’ means pause, which is the first step. The second step, the ‘A’, is becoming aware of how you’re feeling emotionally and physically, and what’s happening. So in this moment, what is happening? Maybe it’s “Someone’s yelling at me” and you become aware that you’re angry. You become aware that you’re feeling threatened, your body feels tight, your heart is racing and you’re breathing heavily. ‘U’ is a deeper piece but essentially its about understanding that everything is impermanent. The ‘S’ is the practice of shifting your perspective. Maybe now looking through the lens of compassion or something a little different than you’ve always done. The ‘E’ means to explore what that is and putting into action what you’re intentionally wanting to do.
SBT: What are the advantages of mindfulness in regards to leadership?
KIM: There’s this piece around being present to what is working and what is not working, whether it’s your business, your life, a personal relationship. [Mindfulness] helps you be open to the outcome of a situation or problem rather than be attached to that outcome. It’s about letting go of this ultimate control of forcing something to work that wasn’t supposed to work, didn’t make sense or needed to shift in some way. It’s important to have a strategy, goals and a plan, but it’s also important to be present to what comes from those plans and strategies without this tight grip around it.
SBT: What’s the outcome your clients achieve by working with you?
KIM: When I have my coaching hat on, most of the people that have come to me are stressed out and overwhelmed. They are bombarded by other people who are stressed out so they come to me feeling stuck and not knowing how to feel better. They can’t seem to clear away the web. They don’t even know where to begin. I help them open and make some space for clearer thinking and more focus. I give them a lot of tools on how to shift their perspective so they can let go and design their life the way they really want to. As a photographer the outcome is authentic images because my presence gives them permission and guidance to be that way.
SBT: Can you share an example of how you help your clients overcome these obstacles?
KIM: Here’s an example of the P.A.U.S.E. method in action. There was a psychotherapist doing a patient intake. The patient was very resistant to the questions, so the psychotherapist took a deep breath and paused. She became aware of the fact that she was becoming very judgmental and anxious about this person not wanting to answer the questions. She understood that this woman was having a difficult time and, as a result, the psychotherapist shifted into compassion and began to explore working from a place of compassion versus a place of frustration and anger. That allowed the patient to relax and answer the questions with less fear and struggle. It changed the whole situation quickly.
SBT: We’ve touched on the power of mindfulness on the inside and I know that’s just one piece of the work you do. Let’s explore how mindfulness impacts outer expression. What is the most important thing that business owners and leaders should consider when authentically expressing themselves?
KIM: If you’re not in alignment with who you are, you will not attract the clients that you work best with and your business will feel like a struggle. If whatever you’re doing is feeling forced and it’s not flowing from your real true passions, then the way you speak, listen and connect is going to be a struggle. You want to be able to tune into what you’re passionate about and share what you believe. If you, your brand, your business is not drawing clients who also are passionate and at least willing to be authentic, or willing to dive into their mess as well as their joys, then they’re probably not the client for you. If you’re working with people who really are meant to be with you, then it’s going to be amazing and they’re going to keep coming back. I can help you express that with your pictures (as a photographer) as with your relationships (as a coach). You’ll be able to tap into your authenticity because you’ve learned to tune into who you are and you’ve released some fears and resistance around [authentic expression].
SBT: What else would you like people to know that we haven’t yet covered?
KIM: I love human beings. I’m fascinated by the human mind and if somebody has any hesitation working with me because they feel like they’re going to be judged you can let it go because I love to hear people’s stories. I love to see where you are and help you move through whatever it is you want to work through. Whether it’s seeing yourself in a new light in a photograph or being able to see yourself in a meditation.
SBT: How can business owners find out more about Kim Fuller, your photography and your workshops and retreat?
KIM: KimFullerPhotography.com. There’s a link to the P.A.U.S.E. Retreat for Community Leaders and Coaches at the top of the website. My upcoming events and my contact details are on the website too. You can also sign up for a free meditation and get updates by email.
Kim Fuller is two-time award winning author of her memoir “Finding: The Story of a Young Boy Who Becomes His Adoptive Mother’s Greatest Spiritual Teacher,” TEDx speaker and professional photographer. She’s also the creator of P.A.U.S.E., a mindfulness practice she teaches to business owners, professionals, parents, caregivers, and students through workshops, retreats, coaching and photography. She specializes in helping her clients find more peace, creativity and possibility in their business and life through authentic self-expression.
Gayle Nowak is a contributor to Small Business Trendsetters and Business Innovators Magazine covering influencers, innovators and trendsetters in business, health, finance and personal development. She also has contributed to Founderswire.com, an American digital news magazine and video channel that provides in-depth analysis and reporting on modern entrepreneurship and technology that solves global problems. She was previously a staff writer and contributor for several local newspapers in the Boston media market including the Ludlow Register, Ashland and Holliston TABs, MetroWest News and Taunton Daily Gazette.