Recently Elizabeth Jewell Stephens spoke with Elise Bialylew the founder of Mindful in May about the difference she is making worldwide in many people’s lives.
Mindful in May a one-month online global 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 who are new to meditation. It is delivered daily to their inbox and includes: weekly audio meditation downloads, exclusive interviews with leading global experts in the field of well-being 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.
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 these two issues could be addressed
- to bring more contentment, meaning and connection to those in the developed world
- and to 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.
The response has been truly inspiring. It has turned into a global movement that has spread to over 25 countries and seen thousands of people learning to meditate each May. It’s even attracted the attention of corporates, including Google, who were our biggest fundraiser last year. It really has developed into a global community of people who share a similar desire to bring more consciousness and well-being into their lives and take part in having a positive impact in the world.
Mindful in May has been featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times, and on National Australian Television.
Elise Bialylew –making a difference
Elise is the founder of Mindful in May, an online global mindfulness campaign that’s taught thousands of people around the world to meditate, while raising funds to build clean water wells in the developing world.
She started meditating when she, like so many of us, found her work very stressful. “I was training in psychiatry and facing high levels of stress and trauma on a daily basis in the psychiatry wards. As someone who is sensitive, I found myself being very affected by the suffering of my patients. I realised I needed to find a way to more skilfully manage the high levels of work stress or I would inevitably get burnt out.”
Elise was surprised that it worked so well for her: “Not only did it provide me a powerful way to manage my stress levels, it really transformed me into a more self-compassionate, resilient, courageous person. It became an anchor for me while I continued to work in the high stress environment of the public mental health system and I also began to introduce it to my patients and witness the power of the practice.
“Mindfulness meditation has been an education in how to live with more wisdom, navigate the inevitable challenges that arise and be more grateful and present to the beauty of life in each precious, fleeting moment.”
I asked her what gave her the idea for this sort of program. “The idea actually came to me one day while I was in meditation. I have found that it’s not uncommon for creative ideas to arise while people are meditating. Taking a pause through meditation gives our mind more space for creative thoughts to bubble up from our unconscious.”
Before the idea can pop into our minds though, we have to have the fertile ground. So I asked Elise about her background: “I was fortunate to grow up with a mother who was passionate about personal growth and development and who introduced me to meditation when I was very young. I remember reading books by Thich Nat Han, Jack Kornfield and Sogyal Rinpoche and being curious about how to bring more presence and meaning to life.
“I was always quite focused on the big existential questions and determined to live my life in the most authentic, meaningful way possible. I think one of my greatest fears was reaching the end of my life and feeling that I hadn’t lived as courageously and meaningfully as I could have.
“Although I knew meditation was so valuable, like many people find, 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 who felt the same way, and I felt inspired to create a global community that could learn and practise 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 travelled 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.”
You may find, like Elise, that meditation and mindfulness will support you to live a healthier, happier life. She says that it has also supported her to be more courageous and connected to her purpose. I think we would all love to have more of that –her upcoming program could well be the impetus you need to either start or to stay engaged daily. Magda Szubanski has been an ambassador for Mindful in May each year and she says that it was because of the program that she is still practising meditation every day.
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