DR ELISE BIALYLEW IS A CALM, CREATIVE & CARING CHANGE-MAKER. SHE'S A DOCTOR, A MEDITATION TEACHER AND THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR BEHIND THE GLOBAL MOVEMENT 'MINDFUL IN MAY'. BRINGING CONSCIOUSNESS AND COMPASSION TOGETHER INTO ONE TRANSFORMATIVE ONLINE CAMPAIGN, SHE'S HELPING PEOPLE TO FEEL GOOD AND DO GOOD AT THE SAME TIME. ELISE HAS CHANNELLED HER PASSION AND TALENTS INTO TAKING INSPIRED ACTION TO BRING MORE CALM AND KINDNESS TO THE WORLD FOR A COMPELLING CAUSE.
MEET ELISE FROM MINDFUL IN MAY …
What is the Mindful in May campaign all about, and what inspired you to start it off?
Mindful in May is a one month, global, online meditation challenge that brings the benefits of meditation together with an opportunity to contribute to a global cause. The one month meditation program includes an accessible, well researched course particularly supportive of time poor people that are new to meditation. It is delivered daily to your inbox and includes: weekly audio meditation downloads, exclusive video interviews with leading global experts in the field of wellbeing and mindfulness and cutting edge science to keep you connected to your challenge.
The idea is that while you learn to meditate and be mindful, your donation and fundraising will ripple across the world to help improve the lives of the one in nine people on the planet who live without access to clean, safe drinking water.
The idea actually came to me one day whilst I was in meditation. I’d been meditating for many years and was discovering that meditation was supporting me to live a healthier happier life, supporting me to be more courageous and connected to myself and my purpose. Although I knew meditation was so valuable, like many people it was not uncommon for me to fall out of the routine especially at times of high stress, when I actually needed it the most. I imagined that there were many other people out there who felt the same way and I felt inspired to create a global community that could learn and practice together doing something deeply worthwhile for ourselves and at the same time contribute to a greater cause through fundraising.
There are so many issues that need addressing in the world but I wanted to connect it to a global issue that could unite people all around the world, something that was not too political, that would help men, women and children, and something fundamental and basic. Apart from breath, water is one of our most basic needs and for one in nine people on the planet it remains a daily struggle to access.
I had traveled in West Africa many years ago and during that time I was deeply impacted by the extreme levels of poverty, people dying of treatable diseases often caused by water related illnesses, and often struggling each day to meet their most basic survival needs, food, water, health, I lived in a shanty town with a family who had the bare minimum, yet who would always offer me food, and take care of my needs often before their own. I was truly amazed by this spirit of generosity amidst absolute poverty.
In the developed world we have so much yet so many of us are unsatisfied, isolated and depressed and in parts of the developing world people are living in community and struggling day to day with such profound levels of poverty. It made me think how can these two issues be addressed - bring more contentment, meaning and connection to those in the developed world, and support those in the developing world to get better access to their most basic needs like clean, safe drinking water. Mindful in May emerged as an answer to these two global issues.
How do you teach people to become more mindful?
Being mindful, really means being aware of what is happening in this moment – both within yourself and in relation to the world around you. From my perspective the best way to become more mindful is to start with a regular mindfulness meditation practice.
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool that can help us upgrade our inner technology – the mind, to keep up with demands of our increasingly complex world. It is a form of mental training that supports the mind to be more focused, clear and effective. It’s the practice of bringing your full attention, in an open, non-judgmental way to the present moment. Our minds are so often planning or worrying about the future or reflecting on the past, we miss the place where life is actually happening, here, in this moment.
Is it true that mindfulness is good for you?
Yes without a doubt. You only need to commit to trying it for a few weeks and you will notice the benefits it has. However, these days there is also compelling science to motivate people to start practicing. I have written about the science supporting the benefits of mindfulness here.
What impact has Mindful in May had on the lives of others?
The impact has been truly inspiring and is what gives me the energy to keep doing the work. Through the Mindful in May online meditation program thousands of people from over 30 countries have learned to meditate. Of course there is also the huge positive social impact on the thousands of people in African countries whose lives have been completely transformed through the funds raised through the campaign and the water projects that have been built. I love that it really is a win, win situation for people who participate.
What tips can you share with those who would like to give meditation a try for the very first time? ... And those who tried it once and gave up!
I think if you have never tried meditation before the most important thing to know is that meditation is not about stopping or getting rid of thoughts but rather about developing a more wise relationship with our thoughts. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is also not about trying to create a particular state, but rather about becoming aware of whatever state the mind-body is in from moment to moment.
For those who have tried and given up I’d suggest revisiting why you wanted to meditate in the first place and making sure you have good support and teaching (there are many great free apps around these days but I don’t think this replaces the importance of working with a teacher in some way). Finally, I always advise my students to remember that its important to start small. Just as you wouldn’t start training for a marathon by going on a 20km run, so too when learning how to train the mind through meditation, it can often be really helpful to start small and gradually extend the duration of your practice.
Life can be so hectic, what other strategies do you use to stay calm and stress less in life and at work?
For me it’s physical exercise and talking it out with my family or close friends.
What’s your #1 reason for doing what you do?
I think life is so precious and I feel a very strong imperative to make sure I am living my life as meaningfully as possible. I feel so fulfilled knowing that the work I am doing in this life is truly making a positive difference in the lives of thousands.
How did you create a global community to support the pioneering work you are doing?
Ha Ha. It’s a long story. The short story is - I acknowledged that what I was doing before Mindful in May was not fulfilling me enough, so I let my curiosity lead me and took measured risks along the way. I started off with a big vision but enjoyed the process rather than being fixated on the outcome. I found that sweet spot where my passion, purpose, skills and strengths met a big need in the world.
I had the idea at the right time. I worked harder than I could have ever imagined I was capable of working over the five years of it’s development. I also have an incredibly supportive family who have been there by my side when there were the inevitable moments of doubt.
How has mindfulness changed your life?
Mindfulness meditation has been a fundamental education for me. Not only has it provided me a powerful way to manage my stress levels, it has really supported me in becoming a more self-compassionate, resilient, courageous person. Mindfulness meditation has been an education in how to live with more wisdom, navigate the inevitable challenges that arise in life and be more grateful and present to the beauty of each precious, fleeting moment.
What does the future hold for Mindful in May?
I started Mindful in May because I was deeply interested in using my skills and passions to contribute to the world in some meaningful way. I truly believe that being connected to ourselves and to each other with more awareness and kindness, is the key to increasing our individual wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.
The mission of Mindful in May is to teach 1 million people the skills of mindfulness and raise 20 million dollars by 2020 which will transform the lives of 600,000 people living without access to life’s most basic need - clean, safe, drinking water.
Meditation has taught me to be with life one breath at a time. So I’ll keep breathing and working and hopefully by 2020 we will have transformed lives and spread the mindfulness ripple far and wide.
Ready to take a mindfulness journey right now? Start with The Mindful Month E-book created by Dr Elise, a one month digital guidebook including downloadable meditations - perfect for beginners!
Join Mindful in May 2017 > CLICK HERE!