In this episode we explore the use of mindfulness to tame your non- stop mind, experience relaxation and calm, manage stress and work pressures, deal with overwhelm, and achieve a greater sense of self!

Marie-Claire Krayenhoff is the founder of Zentre.

Zentre is an online platform offering mental well-being programmes for Modern Minds and Busy lifestyles. 

With over 9 years of experience in large corporations (L’ Oreal, Diageo, Beiersdorf), working in finance, marketing and sales roles, she has a deep understanding of the dynamics at play: the pressure on targets, tight deadlines, difficult conversations, and internal politics.

She will take us along her journey learning about, and developing concrete, scientifically proven tools and techniques to actualise your greatest Calm and Fullest potential.


Show Notes

Katherine Ann Byam 0:01
Let’s explore a little bit the principles and the science behind it. Because I know that this was important to your journey as well. And I think for for many of the people listening to this podcast, you know, it’s part of the questions around this. So can you share with us what mindfulness training really is?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 0:18
Mindfulness is like going to the gym for your mind. So just like you go to the gym for I don’t know, your six pack and your abs or big shoulders, whatever you want. It’s like going to the gym for the mind. And also like in the regular gym, you have this gym equipment, right? And this time you have gym equipment to train for your so called mental six pack. So if you look at what kind of gym equipment there is to train your mental six pack, it’s, is twofold. You can do meditation, and there’s a part of education and I think that together is what makes a mindfulness training.

Katherine Ann Byam 1:03
My name is Katherine Ann Byam, and I’m your host. What’s your purpose? And how does it integrate with sustaining life itself? For some of us this question is a deep ache that we spend a lifetime trying to find, perhaps shifting direction as we learn and grow from one path to another. For many of us our children give us a clear definition, providing for them becomes our reason for being. For others, it’s about enjoying the present moment; ever so fleeting, and ever so beautiful. For still others it can be financial, status, contribution or impact. In this podcast, my guest and I will share with you tips, ideas and methods on how to build a career that integrates with who you are and the life you want to lead. We will explore the social foundation on which to build your transition and an ecological ceiling, above which we need not climb, so that we live not just for ourselves, but for our collective ability to thrive. Welcome to The Purpose Driven career podcast: Do What Matters. Today, my guest is Marie Claire Krayenhoff, and she’s the founder of Zentre. Zentre’s an online platform offering mental wellbeing programmes for modern minds and busy lifestyles. With over nine years of experience in large corporations, L’Oreal, Diageo, Beiersdorf, working in finance, marketing and sales roles, she has a deep understanding of the dynamics at play, the pressure on targets, tight deadlines, difficult conversations and internal politics. She will take us along her journey learning about and developing concrete, scientifically proven tools and techniques to actualize your greatest calm and fullest potential. Marie Claire, welcome to; Do What Matters.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 2:46
Thank you so much. So great to be here.

Katherine Ann Byam 2:49
Really great to have you. I’ve had you before on my Courageous Career Club, and it was such a wonderful experience, I decided to have you back. So it’s really great that you’ve come to join us and to help us navigate this space of mindfulness for the uninitiated.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 3:04
Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me again. And yeah, I always love to talk about mindfulness. Of course, it’s my favourite topic in the world. And yeah, share what everybody deserves to know like how to feel good in the end.

Katherine Ann Byam 3:19
Thank you for that. I’m keen for you to share your backstory. You were not always a Zen master. How did you come to this?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 3:26
Good question. Well, definitely, I’ve not always been a Zen master. I think also, if you would have asked me, I don’t know, 10 years ago, or you would have told me that I would have a business in mindfulness and meditation, I would have probably said, I don’t think you’re talking about me. Yeah, I would have always described myself as a go getter. sitting still was definitely not my thing, and very scientific. And even though I didn’t really know what mindfulness or meditation was, it seemed a bit vague and fluffy to me. So yeah, I would have never imagined. How it started for me. It started actually in a period where I was putting in long hours at work. Also, I had difficulties falling asleep, because basically, my mind was always on, and maybe you recognise that, and I would wake up at five in the morning, and then immediately, boom, my mind would be switched on again, and I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. And during that period, I had this little routine of going downstairs, my house to the coffee place there to get my morning fix. And it was super crucial for me in that period. And, yeah, that one, I remember it was this one cold spring morning that I went downstairs to get my coffee. And there, I saw this man that I had already seen on a few occasions and he was standing in front of me in line. And yeah, he asked me how are you? And I don’t even know why I told him but I said honestly, I feel so exhausted, I’m so tired, I’ve been working so much and being under quite a bit of pressure for deadlines, and I’m sleeping poorly. So yeah, that’s it. And yes, so he turned out to be a former investment banker, who was the first to bring mindfulness to the Netherlands. And then he said to me, why don’t you try meditation? And at that moment, I was like; meditation? I thought, in my mind, oh, my God, no, like, I really don’t have time for anything, and definitely not for meditation. And yeah, and then he just started to explain to me more about meditation and how it impacts the brain more on a scientific level, and then he challenged me to meditate and to start with three weeks, 10 minutes a day, and yeah, then I felt okay, well, I have nothing to lose, and how difficult can it really be? Like 10 minutes? So yeah, that’s where I started, I meditated, the first few weeks, yeah, these 10 minutes seem to last a lifetime, my mind was going all over the place, and it was so hard. And I would sit with two phones meditating, because I was afraid that maybe the timer wouldn’t go off, and I would sit there forever. And then yeah, and the third week, I remember I had this headache. And my eyes were kind of flickering in their sockets all the time after work. And it became more intense. And then after a few minutes of meditation, there was like, some like poof, like, in my mind, and it would feel like something in my head released, and my eyes started to water and my shoulders started to drop. And I felt more calm, after which I slept like a baby. And this started to happen also, the days after, and, and so for, so that was really the start of transformation. Like it really changed so much in my life, of course, to feel more calm and sleep well.

Katherine Ann Byam 6:50
So from from a coffee exchange, you decided to jump on this?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 6:56
Yeah, yeah, I just, I thought I have nothing to lose. And yeah, like literally what I said, how hard can it be? 10 minutes should be fine.

Katherine Ann Byam 7:06
I guess, I guess this speaks to something else. It kind of speaks to you being ready in that moment. Like, like, you know, the the teacher appears when the student is ready kind of thing. And it feels like that, right?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 7:18
Yeah, I think I was definitely really also wanting to find something that would help me to feel better. Definitely. Yeah.

Katherine Ann Byam 7:26
So what has mindfulness training brought to you in terms of real changes. I mean, you’ve talked about easing the headaches and being able to sleep. But tell me more about about what you got from, from doing this training.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 7:39
Yeah. So I would say, in the first period, it’s really helped me to, let’s say, to tame my non stop mind from going always like planning, thinking, worrying, going over the same stories over and over again, to actually be more calm. Also, it helped me to manage stress at work way better, because my energy changed. And I became so much more grounded during the day, and also able to have better, let’s say, cope with everything that would come my way during the day. So I would be less like impacted by it somehow, which was an interesting experience as it changes your work life, and people start to see it also, around you. And yeah, more on a personal level, I would say, it also helped me to manage better strong emotions. So maybe you recognise it or not, but when you have very strong emotions, such as I don’t know, sadness, anger, or fear, did you feel completely drawn into it? And that the whole world seems to be that, and mindfulness is really taught me to like step back and see it from a different perspective. So I could really more easily instead of staying in it to really step out of it, which I’d never had the tools or ability to do.

Katherine Ann Byam 9:02
That’s really powerful. Thank you. And what would you say is your biggest learning during this period?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 9:09
Of course, it has been quite a period now. But when I look back over the past, like eight, eight years, it has already been, I would say, that I came to understand that we’re really all mind made. And the things that we want most in life, we all want, like good health, joy, freedom, confidence, it all starts in your mind and learning to train and team up with your own mind. So basically, to team up with yourself, your own thoughts, your emotions and your character. That is, like truly the biggest gift you can give yourself.

Katherine Ann Byam 9:48
Yeah, you know, I’ve been thinking about something and as I’m going through a transition at the moment, in my own life, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from entrepreneurship and changing from the corporate space into this and spending all this time working on myself, right? And one of the reflections that came to me was this, this idea of what the ego is, and what it could become. And I don’t know if you can, you can speak to that with the practice of mindfulness and how your ego kind of evolves.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 10:23
Yeah, so I would say, of course, there’s many ways of interpreting ego. But in the end, it’s all these kind of internal thoughts and behavioural systems, right. We all have these pre programations as of how we ac,t and how we think, and what we do, according to maybe our past or also what we would have just got through nurture, let’s say nurture, and nature. So and there are what is so interesting, is that all these, like standard programming inside ourselves that actually we can sort of reprogram that, through the concept of neuroplasticity. So neuroplasticity is actually something that is quite new. We used to think that we couldn’t change but actually now we know we can, because we can actually rewire and reorganise our brains, so we can create new neural pathways, and we can deactivate old ones, which, which creates so much opportunity for us to actually transform within who we are, of course.

Katherine Ann Byam 11:29
Yeah. And I feel as though, like I can tap in better to the roots of my ego, now that I’ve spent this time working on myself, and I think this is all part of the process of mindfulness. So yeah, I love this. I love this concept. Let’s explore a little bit the principles and the science behind it, because I know that this was important to your journey as well. And I think for, for many of the people listening to this podcast, you know, it’s part of their questions around this stuff that sometimes can be perceived as woowoo, if you haven’t tried it, right, so ,so can you share with us what mindfulness training really is?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 12:07
Yeah. So, of course, I can make it quite complex. But how I always explain it is that mindfulness is like going to the gym for your mind. So just like you go to the gym, for I don’t know, your six pack and your abs or big shoulders, whatever you want. It’s like going to the gym for the mind. And also, like in the regular gym, you have this gym equipment, right. And this time, you have gym equipment to train for your so called mental six pack. So if you look at what kind of gym equipment there is to train your mental six pack, it’s, is twofold. You can do meditation, and there is a part of education. And I think that together is what makes a mindfulness training.

Katherine Ann Byam 12:56
Well, this is so fascinating. I want you to go deeper on this. Tell me more about how to separate those two, the meditation and the education, how to approach that.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 13:06
Yeah, so I would say meditation, of course, there’s different forms of meditation. So to train your focus, to handle better emotions, but in general, meditation is really the part that can change the blueprint of the brain. And it can do so in many different ways. But I can just highlight a few so you have an idea. So the first one would be that it changes the frequency of the brainwave. So maybe you’ve heard some time that we have brainwaves running on a certain frequency. And mindfulness allows these brainwaves to go from like beta waves, which are between 12 and 35 Hertz to alpha and teta waves, which are only about four to eight hertz. So basically, what it does is that these alpha and teta frequencies, they really promote relaxation, positivity and reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety. So that’s already one part. But also in the long term, it really changes the brain from the inside, for example, it shrinks the amygdala. And the amygdala is a little knob in the back of the head that is responsible for stress and anxiety. And it also on the on the other side of shrinking this amygdala, it grows the grey matter, which is for emotional regulation, it helps us to plan and to problem solve. So it really helps us from both sides to deal better with issues but also to become less stressed less quickly. Then I would say as a fourth important one, it also helps to grow the cortical thickness, which is for learning and memory. So that’s also a great plus point. I would say that it helps us to learn and grow in whatever we do.

Katherine Ann Byam 14:54
Well, this is really important stuff and especially today, because today, the average manager is faced with far more challenges than perhaps 10, 20 years ago, where we’re dealing with so much weight, I would say, of things like climate change, have issues with the economy, of the war that’s happening, you know, we’ve just come out of COVID, we still have more viruses going around, you know, there’s a lot that people need to deal with, in addition to supply chain pressures and everything else that’s happening to businesses today. So I feel as though there is so much of a desperate need for, for all of us to sort of roll this into our lives. What are your thoughts on whether or not companies are doing enough, in your mind, to really integrate this in their workforce?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 15:46
Yeah. So I mean, always the question is, of course, what is enough? I do see a really positive development in a lot of organisations. There’s more and more budgets for, let’s say, personal development, that the companies also start to see that there’s a lot of burnout, right? We’ve heard it in the last, I don’t know, 10, 20 years so much, what is, what is this term, like burnout, what is it? And yeah, so it’s clear that there’s just too much impulse around us and too much pressure. So I do see that companies start to take it more serious. And they start to do more with mindfulness training and meditation. Some companies start programmes, or they use apps. So I do see a positive development, but it’s still, yeah, of course, there’s still a lot of work to do here, in this area.

Katherine Ann Byam 16:36
Yeah. You mentioned about education. And we haven’t dug into that one yet. So tell me, oh, education is part of that sort of psychological gym that we talked about?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 16:47
Yeah. So yeah, just exactly as you said, there’s these two parts, like two gym equipment, tools, the meditation and the education, and education, you can see, if I put it very simply, within mindfulness training, it’s really different themes for self development and getting to know yourself better because that’s, of course, what it’s about creating this awareness, that you can actually see your maybe also less functional patterns, thoughts and behavioural patterns, and actually change them to actualize your greatest potential, and also to experience your fullest calm. So if I give a few examples of the educational topics that would be treated in a mindfulness training, they would be around, let’s say, energy management; how do you work energy wise, it’s a big part in our lives to actually have this consistent energy during our day and there’s so much behind it. But it’s also stress management, how does stress work? What can I do to experience less stress? Let’s look at also emotions management; so what can I do with my emotions? How can I feel less drawn into them and step out of them? Perhaps, how to deal with obstacles and challenges? So it’s areally full on, let’s say, self development kind of programme, I would say.

Katherine Ann Byam 18:11
Yeah, it’s really powerful. This is all great. And I feel excited, like I’m thinking about my transition. And I’m thinking, Okay, this is going to be something that I want to integrate more into my life. I mean, I’m not, how to explain myself, I’m not someone who meditates today. But at the same time, I do spend time on my personal development a lot. And I work on myself, I spend that alone time to write and writing is a big part of the way that I process and evacuate and, and manage the emotions and stuff like this. But, how the heck do we get started? Like, how much practice before meditation actually gets easy?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 18:51
I can really imagine your question. First of all, I think also, it’s always a package of things, right? We have to figure out what works for us. So yeah, coming back to your question, how to get started? The first thing is just to do it, right, just like I did so many years ago. You just started, and then you ask how? So there’s a few ways to do this, you could maybe download an app. I’m always quite a fan of calm and headspace. They kind of yet give you guided meditations. You can also go maybe to your local gym, where they have a mindfulness class and ask the teacher ,yes, see something like this. Or of course find a mindfulness trainer or coach. And that is quite a different approach. Because in an app, of course, you will be guided and you will experience the calming of your nervous system. But very, yeah, almost never they touch on also the educational part. So it’s only like one part of the gym equipment let’s say, So yeah, I think these three things would be a great start. It would be, yeah, it’s very helpful if at least someone that knows about it tells you what to do and how to meditate. Also, good to know is I do have an ebook on my websites. And there it also provides some steps to get started. So that could be helpful.

Katherine Ann Byam 20:13
Now perfect. I want to, I want to ask one more question before we wrap up today. And as we touch on this topic of apps and coaching, etc, I wanted to get your thoughts on basically how we can integrate more support for ourselves in how we, how we manage our lifestyles, right? So my, my perception, having gone through these, these last four years, is that it’s been really helpful for me as a business owner, for example, to have time off, right. So having, having time when I just completely stay apart from work, not just a traditional holiday, but really just, you know, that sort of midweek even time to just separate myself from my issues. It’s also helped me to incorporate coaching, right to have someone who’s there, either on my sort of mental side, or on my business side, or even on my physical well being. It’s also helped me to have apps that helped me manage some of the difficulties. Do you think that this is a recommended approach to people in careers now, so Gen Z, just joining the workforce, or even more mature, people who are experiencing some of these complexities for the first time? Do you think that marrying up all of these things will have the best results? So what are your thoughts? I know this is not a scientific question, you’ve done the research, but what what are your thoughts on this?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 21:42
Well, first of all, I think carving out time for yourself is truly the biggest gift you can give yourself, and working on yourself development, because you’re going to be with you until the last day, so you better like make it the best. So getting to know yourself, as what I said before your own character, your thoughts, that is so helpful for the rest of your life. So I think it is really invaluable to make that decision. Okay, even if it’s 10 minutes a day, to start doing some self development work in whatever area. And also what I learned because I was so much into self development always, is to stick with something for a while. So whatever you feel is most important for you in that moment. Whether it’s something in the area of meditation, or mindfulness or maybe NLP, neuro linguistic programming, or mindset, it doesn’t matter. But actually to fully embody that one practice first before you go to the next. Because what we often see is that we start to read so many books, but actually what changes us, is the practice. So we need to really consistently for a certain time do this to allow our brain to rewire to allow our new habits to be created. So that is what I would maybe, yeah, recommend for that.

Katherine Ann Byam 23:05
Yeah, perfect. So how can my listeners get in touch and engage with your work?

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 23:10
Well, of course, first of all, via my website, they can always have a look there if they feel free to send me an email, drop me a message, I always respond to anyone happy to, to hear, yeah, their stories and through Instagram, or LinkedIn, whatever they prefer. And always love to get into touch with anyone interested in a topic. And if there’s any questions, happy to share.

Katherine Ann Byam 23:38
Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us, Marie Claire.

Marie Claire Krayenhoff 23:41
Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me again.

Katherine Ann Byam 23:47
This episode was brought to you today by the Courageous Career Club. Have you picked up your own copy of; Do What Matters: The Purpose Driven Career Transition Guidebook. To find out how you can get your copy, as well as resources that go alongside it, visit my website, www Katherine Ann or engage with me on the socials. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.