Guest of the Month: Dr. Elise Bialylew of Mindful in May

By Amy Crawford

It is with absolute delight that I introduce our April 'Guest of the Month', my very special and hugely inspiring friend Dr. Elise Bialylew, founder and director of the one month global meditation campaign, Mindful in May. Now in it's third year, Mindful in May is gathering huge momentum across the globe. I am honored to be an ambassador for this fantastic cause and am donating my time to help spread the mindfulness message as far and wide as possible, and of course ultimately, to help bring water to those in need. Without further ado, I welcome Elise. 

"Technology is developing exponentially, and at the click of a button we can access an infinite amount of information. With this privilege, comes the potential cost of information overload, increased distractibility and low-grade background anxiety as we try to keep on top of things.

With invisible umbilical cords connecting us to our devices, staying focused is an increasing challenge. Our attention buzzes around with the restlessness of a mosquito fluttering between, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages. Many of us are suffering from what Dr. Ed Hallowell, specialist psychiatrist in ADHD, coined as Attention Deficit Trait. He describes it as "a condition induced by modern life, in which you've become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving. In other words, it costs you efficiency because you're doing so much or trying to do so much, it's as if you're juggling one more ball than you possibly can."

If we wish to remain healthy, happy and clear-minded we need to upgrade our "inner technology" to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. We are standing on the precipice of a potential paradigm shift with an exciting dialogue unfolding at the intersection of science, technology and the world of wisdom. Leaders in the field of science, technology and meditation are coming together at extraordinary gatherings like Wisdom 2.0 conference or the Mind and Life institute, to explore how we can bring more mindfulness into the digital age. There is a rapid growth of scientific research, revealing what the Buddhist monks have known for generations but couldn't measure with machines: Meditation is a powerful tool for enhanced well-being and mental focus. Meditation teaches us how to use our inner technology to understand the workings of the mind and in so doing resculpt our brains for the better." - Elise Bialylew, founder and director of Mindful in May.

Thank you Elise, for joining us today, can you tell our followers more about this powerful global campaign?
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 program particularly supportive for time poor people that are new to meditation. It is delivered daily to your inbox and includes: weekly audio meditation downloads, exclusive interviews with leading global experts in the field 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.

So, how did you come up with the idea to use meditation as a way to raise money?
The idea of Mindful in May was really an integration of a number of different passions and influences in my life. Whilst training in medicine and psychiatry, I became a bit disillusioned as I felt there was something missing in the medical paradigm in terms of well being. This led me to take time out to explore the world and work out if I wanted to continue in my training. My traveling took me to West Africa, Cuba and then Sri Lanka following the Tsunami to work as a medical volunteer. Through these travels I was exposed to rich cultures, but also to the devastating reality and injustice of global poverty.

In West Africa, I remember watching in disbelief as women walked for miles balancing litres of water on their heads as a daily ritual for their families. Children were often dying from preventable illnesses often associated with unsafe water and sanitation issues. Witnessing the way people were struggling to have their most basic needs met, had a profound impact on me. I have always been very sensitive to other peoples suffering. It's been both a strength and an occupational hazard in my profession as a doctor working in psychiatry and so I've needed to learn skills to be present to peoples suffering without being overwhelmed by it.

This is where meditation came into the picture.

For me mindfulness meditation was life changing. It taught me so much about how to manage stressful situations and gave me ways to more skilfully manage my emotions both in my personal and professional relationships. As someone who thrives on doing and creating, it supported me in remembering to take time to be present, pause and literally catch my breath in the midst of the business of life.

It helped me find greater happiness and clarity around my purpose and direction and it opened me to a deeper understanding of the mind and it’s intimate connection to our well being at a cellular and genetic level. Mindful in May emerged from all of those experiences. It is really about supporting people to feel a stronger sense of interconnectedness and meaning, offering them tools to be active participants in their well being, and simultaneously making a difference in the world.

Can you tell us about how the money raised is spent?
Ninety-four percent of the donations and fundraising are directed to the water projects. In 2012 the donations went to Ethiopia to build three water projects and provide clean water to nearly 1000 people. In 2013 the money raised went towards water projects in Rwanda, which are currently being built.

Who has joined the Mindful in May campaign to date? And what results have you seen in those who participated in the past?
There have been thousands of people from around the globe who have taken the challenge. It really is a mix of people including busy tech entrepreneurs who are searching for ways to improve their focus and reduce burn out, well being seekers, and people who want to have a positive impact in the world. Last year we had businesses sign up and create their own meditation teams at work - including five:am Yoghurt, Loving earth, Lululemon and Google! We have Magda Szubanski as an ambassador and she’s shared that MIM supported her to create a habit of meditation which she has sustained way beyond the campaign.

Those who have participated have expressed many different benefits including more focus, better stress management, a deeper sense of connectedness and appreciation in their lives, more kindness to themselves and improved relationships. Many people were surprised at the benefits gained from such a short daily ten minute meditation practice.

So how can YOU get involved?
We here at THI have set up our own Mindful in May team and we'd love you to join our team challenge so that we can support each other through the experience.  You can sign up to 'The Holistic Ingredient' team here.

Then you simply give a donation and get sponsored to raise money whilst receiving a daily 10 minute guided meditation to your inbox across May.

Or, if you'd just like to donate and not commit to the team challenge that is of course fine too. You can support our team here. Sarah and I will be posting updates as to our progress across the month. Please join in on this awesome cause. It'll be mindful, fun, peaceful, rewarding and the best bit? Collectively we'll be making a huge difference to the lives of others.

Elise Bialylew is a doctor, coach and wellness innovator with a background in Psychiatry. She is the founder of Mindful in May, a one month global mindfulness meditation campaign. Mindful in May has inspired thousands of people around the world to learn how to meditate, whilst raising money to build clean water wells in the developing world. When she’s not teaching mindfulness she’s often losing herself in salsa dancing or african drumming.

Read Amy's thoughts around meditation in her Mindful in May interview here. How do you stay mindful every day?

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April 11 2014

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