One thing we all don’t do enough of these days is take time out for ourselves. We are a bunch of highly-stressed individuals who are overworked, overcommitted and overwhelmed. Individuals that play a juggling act between work, study and family and struggle to find any time for themselves. Individuals whose own health often takes a backseat. I know, i’ve been there. Hence why i’ve been drawn to the Mindful in May campaign.
Mindful in May is the brainchild of Doctor, mindfulness coach and meditation facilitator Elise Bialylew. Elise has trained in psychiatry and worked with some of the leading mediation teachers around the world. She aims to bring the transformative power of mindfulness to people across the globe, while at the same time raising money to improve the conditions of people living in developing countries.
Now in its fourth year, Elise and the Mindful in May campaign have raised over $300,000 for not-for-profit group Charity Water to build clean water projects in Rwanda, Malawi and Ethiopia. Through the money Mindful in May has raised, Charity Water has been able to bring clean water to over 5,000 people in these developing countries and change their lives for the better.
Clean water is something that we in the West often take for granted, however one in nine people on our planet live without clean water and every 20 seconds a child dies as a result of it. A campaign with a global impact is always one that resonates well with me and Mindful in May not only has a positive effect on your own health and happiness, but the health and happiness of thousands of others.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Melbourne-based Elise about the Mindful in May campaign and what she and Charity Water hope to achieve.
What is Mindful in May?
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 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.
What inspired you to create such a wonderful campaign?
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 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 and 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.
Why do you think it is important to take time out for yourself every day?
Actually I think mindfulness meditation is about “taking time in”. We spend so much of our days with an outward focus and it’s very easy to get disconnected from what we are feeling and lose touch with ourselves and what is most important to us. So practising meditation is a way of regularly touching base with ourselves and creating some calm amidst the chaos of daily life.
How do you define mindfulness and what are the benefits of mindfulness meditation?
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.
Just like our bodies, our minds need training to function at their best. Mindfulness meditation is a form of mental training that supports the mind to be more focussed, clear and effective. It’s often described as the practice of bringing your full attention, in an open, non-judgmental way to the present moment.
Mindfulness is sweeping across the globe and training has now been implemented in many different sectors including in schools, hospitals, corporations, and government. There is now compelling evidence supporting the fact that mindfulness meditation when practised regularly, can lead to:
- Structural changes in the brain associated with enhanced mental performance
- Reduced stress and it’s negative impact on the body and mind
- Improved physical and mental well being
- Reduced genetic ageing through it’s protective impact on gene expression and degeneration
- Increased happiness
- Enhanced immune function
There’s only one way to find out the benefits of meditation, give it a go!
What made you want to partner up with Charity Water?
Charity water is a really innovative not for profit that has a unique structure which allows them to put 100% of the donations they receive directly into building the water projects. They also help connect the donors to the outcomes of their fundraising efforts.
How can people get involved with the Mindful in May global campaign and what can they expect?
Just visit the website www.mindfulinmay.org and make sure you register by April 30th 5pm sharp. It’s a $30 registration fee which gives you access to the one month program including the weekly audio meditations and exclusive interviews with leading experts in wellbeing, mindfulness and mindset from around the world (the registration fee is not a donation but helps to run the campaign).
You are then invited to donate and get sponsored by friends and family to commit to the 10 minute a day meditation challenge and help make a positive difference in the world through bringing clean, safe, drinking water to those in need in the developing world. Thirty five dollars is all it costs to bring clean water to one person for life this May.
People 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 an improvement in their relationships and ability to communicate amidst negative emotions. Many people were surprised at the benefits gained from just a ten minute daily meditation practice.
What does the Mindful in May campaign hope to achieve in the coming years?
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.
Elise Bialylew 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. An out of the box thinker, doctor trained in psychiatry, and mindfulness meditation teacher, she brings her diverse training to coach people around the world in supporting them to reach their full potential www.mindlifeproject.com. Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times, the United Nations and on National Australian Television. When she’s not catalysing transformation in her clients lives, you can find her dancing, reading non-fiction or brainstorming her next creative project.