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Take a pause: Mindful in May

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by Marianne Elliott

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Is it just me, or has life got a bit crazier than usual lately? Somedays I feel like I’m on a roundabout that keeps speeding up, and I’m not quite sure how to slow it down or get off.

The beauty of meditation is that it can help us find a little pause in the midst of the frenzy. Which is why, this May, I’m taking part in Mindful in May. To explain more about why I’m doing this, and why I’d love you to join me, here are some questions I answered for the founder of Mindful in May, Elise Bialylew.

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What led you to meditation?

I was living and working in Afghanistan and suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. I didn’t want to give up the work I loved, so I decided to give meditation a try. After my first 21 days of a daily meditation practice, I knew I was onto something big. Meditation was changing my relationship with my own thoughts, and helping me find ways to remain open-hearted without being overwhelmed by the suffering around me.

What value has practicing meditation brought to your life?

It has helped me see that my true nature is compassionate, grounded, courageous and curious – and has given me the ability to return to that ‘home base’ when I find myself drifting away from it.

Maybe the most powerful insight my meditation has given me is that I don’t have to ‘make myself’ more compassionate, or calmer. I don’t have to fix myself.

Instead I can find my way back to the compassionate, grounded centre that already exists at the core of me. Somehow, seeing it that way transformed things for me – life was no longer about ‘improving’ myself, but rather about accepting myself and coming back to who I already was.

How has meditation supported you in your professional life?

My work relies more than anything else on my ability to listen well, to pay careful attention to the person right in front of me – whether that person is a victim of human rights violations or a politician or business person who has the power to make decisions that will improve the protection of human rights for others. In order to be able to serve others, I need to be able to listen. Meditation has helped me cultivate my own capacity to listen well – which requires being present, paying attention and being open to what other people feel – also known as empathy!

Meditation has also helped me cultivate a greater ability to focus, being able to bring my attention back – over and over again – to the person, task or issue I want to focus on at any given time.

This is an essential skill in most professional settings, and it has certainly helped me in my work – especially as potential distractions increase daily (hello Twitter and Facebook friends!).

What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?

My own resistance. Which is triggered largely by my own inner critic. The more critical I am of my own efforts (and failures) to meditate, the more I resist meditating. I think it makes sense, really. My own inner critic can be a really harsh taskmaster, and a meanie, so it’s not surprising that the rest of me wants to resist it.

The best way I’ve found to move beyond resistance is to approach myself and my meditation practice with kindness – the more compassionate I can be towards myself in my meditation practice, the more I find I want to do it.

Is there a book that most inspires you, and why?

I’m inspired by so many books! Certainly all of Pema Chodron’s books – and at the beginning of my meditation practice The Places That Scare Us in particular. I also love Sharon Salzberg and Susan Piver’s teachings on meditation and on life generally.

What mindful music do you listen to? i.e. music that grabs your attention and brings into the moment

I’m a chanter. If you had told me five years ago that I would say that, I wouldn’t have believed you! But the first time I tried chanting I felt immediately transported – not away from, but into the present moment. I call chanting my ‘shortcut to meditation’ because it helps me get out of the really sticky thought patterns and into my body and breath so beautifully. So when it comes to music I love to listen to, and join in with, chanting like Snatam Kaur and Deva Premal.

Why are you going to be Mindful in May?

Because a daily meditation practice makes a noticable difference to my life and yet I still struggle to be consistent. This gives me a reason, and a community, to be consistent. I also honestly think that everyone on the planet did a little bit of meditation every day, we’d live in a very different world. So any opportunity to share my passion for meditation and encourage others to give it a try is something I want to support!

Want to join me?

I’ve set up a Zen Peacekeepers team for Mindful in May. There is a small registration fee to join the challenge, and the money raised will go to CharityWater.org an organisation working to bring clean, safe drinking water to the nearly 1 billion people who currently live without it.

Why not join me this May and add a little pause & inner peace to your day. It’ll make a difference not only to your own physical and mental well-being, but also to your ability to do your best work in the world and make a difference in the lives of the people you care about.

 

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