1) Katie: Tell me a bit about yourself and how and why you got into practicing mindfulness.
Alexis: Firstly, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed on your blog. I love web sites that rest on the practical application of mindfulness and well-being in general. As for me, I’m a London born country bumpkin. I spent the early part of my life interested in meditation, yoga and esoteric philosophy. This lead me to Nepal and Tibet at the tender age of eighteen. Shortly thereafter something happened and I spent over a decade away from my intuition, believing that ‘man was the master of his own fate’ and all things could be logically progressed without listening to one’s ‘gut feeling’. Just under a decade ago I sustained a serious injury. This forced me to look for alternative medical practices because Western medical science was not able to help me as much as I would have liked. This process of healing led me back to my original interest in ‘mindfulness’.
2) Katie: Describe mindfulness for those who aren’t familiar with the topic.
Alexis: First of all I believe everyone’s interpretation will become different; but to get someone started I would say it is a particular method of meditation.
3) Katie: What do you like most about mindfulness?
Alexis: It’s practical application in the real world. The enormous weight of scientific research behind it for those who feel they need convincing. And the expressions (verbal and non-verbal) that people make when trying it for the first time.
4) Katie: What are the most important skills in mindfulness?
Alexis: Well the seven skills are there for all to see: non-judgment, non-striving, trust, attention/awareness, beginner’s mind, letting go and patience. Non-judgement could well be the highest on the list. It comes up again and again. People are always judging themselves. Everyone benefits from letting that go.
5) Katie: How can one practice and get better at mindfulness? Why should they?
Alexis: I think the word ‘better’ is perhaps bested by the word ‘trust’. The more you practice (and there is no such thing as a failed practice) the more you build up ‘trust’ in your ability to embrace the still point or calmness that exists inside you. In yoga we say, “You wake up with a different body every morning,” well in mindfulness, “You wake up with a different head every morning.” So once you have built up ‘trust’ in your ability, you are better placed to calibrate your headspace at any given moment. One day you might say, “Wow, my head’s really busy today!” or, “Wow, I seem really peaceful and focused today.” Either result gives useful information and both practices (the busy day and the calm day) are equally valid because of your ‘trust’ in your ability to embrace a certain still point or calmness on an ‘average day’.
6) Katie: How has mindfulness helped you through a struggle or difficult time in your life?
Alexis: It’s a constant thing for me. I can’t imagine life without mindfulness. Someone once said to me, “Life is a meditation,” well I think there is some mileage in that.
7) Katie: How can we apply mindfulness to everyday life in the modern world?
Alexis: I get asked this all the time. I think Lady Gaga’s mindfulness instructor has her drink water mindfully. We are surrounded by wonder every single moment of every single day, so why not absorb every atom of it in every single moment. This is your life. Live it!
8) Katie: What advice do you have for those just starting out?
Alexis: Start small. You only need to try two 60 second pauses a day to get started. One of my students called mindfulness, “making time,” so go ahead and make some time. If you have kids, lock yourself in the toilet. Set the timer on your iPhone for sixty seconds. Switch it to aeroplane mode and see if you can observe your breathing coming in and going out nice and slowly for sixty seconds. If you get distracted don’t fight it, allow yourself to be distracted just long enough to label what you are being distracted by, then once you’ve labelled what your being distracted by, bring your entire cognitive process back to your breathing. Oh, and it’s much easier to do the less hard you strive to do it. Think of it as ‘letting go’ rather than ‘trying’.
9) Katie: How do you practice mindfulness daily? What do you do in your own life?
Alexis: Everyone has different ways of practicing mindfulness, but mine involves meditation followed by yoga followed by meditation and its usually early in the morning. Everyone is different. Everyone will find a practice and even a time of day that resonates with them to start with; and then everyone will adapt that practice and change it over time as they continue their journey.
10) Katie: How does mindfulness fit into the larger picture of a healthy lifestyle?
Alexis: I think mindfulness underpins everything. If you start to practice you find your lifestyle changes slowly, organically and naturally. We do a workshop on diet which involves looking at the concept of food, understanding what the opposite of food is and then retraining your holistic self to literally redefine what you ‘like’ eating and what you ‘don’t like’ eating. This has extraordinary results.
11) Katie: If there’s one thing about mindfulness you want the audience to embrace or understand, what would that be?
Alexis: Let go.
12) Katie: What keeps you grounded?
Alexis: My sisters. No matter how successful I become (as a filmmaker for example), they always tell me, “Yeh, but you’re still a prat.” What are family for if not for bringing you crashing back down to earth with a bump?! But seriously, life keeps you grounded. Think about it. Look around you. Stomp your feet on the ground. Suck fresh air into your lungs. Watch, smell, listen, taste, touch, smell. Open yourself up. Where are you? Are you here? I hope so.
13) Katie: What’s the hardest part about practicing mindfulness?
Alexis: For me, there is no ‘difficulty’ I associate with practice. I’ve organised my schedule and if I miss a practice that’s absolutely okay. For many, I believe they associate the difficulty with ‘finding time’. Well, I would say this. Remember when you hated cooking? Remember when cooking was a chore? Now remember when cooking became an aspect of the quality of your life. Holding the raw fresh food in your hands. Thinking about where it came from. Combining it with something. All aspects of cooking. That analogy won’t work for everyone, but I hope you can see what I’m getting at. Practice is something you will eventually look forward to. You may start with discipline, but eventually it is my belief that you will look forward to it and honour the time and the space it creates in your day-to-day life. Frankly, it gives back much more time than it takes.
Note about the author:
Alexis Bicât designed the Mindfulness in a Day course run by Calmworks in London to great success and demand. Please check it out if you’re interested.
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