April's Conscious Interview has arrived!
This month features Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. Wendy Ann is a writer, artist and creative mindfulness teacher. She has been practising mindfulness meditation for twenty years and has worked with hundreds of people, helping them to rediscover their natural capacity for creativity and mindfulness. Wendy Ann is the author of Mindfulness and the Art of Drawing (Published by Leaping Hare Press) and teaches with the Mindfulness Project in London. She blogs on creativity and mindfulness here and shares her own creative mindfulness practice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information about Wendy Ann, visit here.
Where is home?
Literal home is between the South Downs and the sea, in Brighton, on the south coast of the UK. But my real sense of home is in my body, with my breathing. This is the place I come back to, once, twice, a dozen times a day; back to the breath, back to the felt sense, back to my experience just as it is right now, reconnecting and relaxing into a deep spaciousness that feels safer than any physical walls do. The more I become capable of holding any experience - 'A joy, a depression, a meanness,' - as Rumi puts it - in this mindful, embodied awareness then the greater my sense of homecoming is.
When did you first come across mindfulness / meditation?
My first experience of meditation was in a yoga class in my early 20s. After that I went and found some books about mindfulness meditation and started practicing at home. This was in the 90s, so there wasn't the vast array of secular mindfulness resources out there that there are now, and the books were mostly written from a Buddhist perspective, so this was also my introduction to Buddhist ideas and philosophies too. I practiced on and off, alone at home for some years, until I went travelling and found a wonderful meditation teacher, called Chimee Shore. I did my first retreat with him, in Australia in 2004, and ever since then it's been an integral part of my life.
Creative mindfulness, as a practice, was something that developed over time for me. My first experiments with meditation came when I was starting to study art at college, and so the natural links between the two practices - creative and mindful - began to reveal themselves to me then, and I continued to explore and experiment with both. I still am. What I teach has come entirely from my own experience.
Describe one practice you do everyday to keep calm and centred?
I sit for at least 40 minutes of meditation every morning. It's the first thing I do. I wake up. I sit. The day goes better for it. The occasional days I don't manage to do this I really notice the difference in myself. Those 40 minutes have a massive impact on the other 23 hours and 20 minutes of my day.
My sitting practice at the moment is strongly focused on the body and on letting go - I basically sit and do as a little as possible. The less my mind is involved, the less I try and control anything, the more I open to simply being in the body - the better. It's taken a long time to be able to do so little. I'm still practicing, and actually that practice doesn't end when my 40 minute timer goes of, it carries on when I get up and make my breakfast, when I sit down at my computer, when I teach. Keeping calm and centred everyday, is actually about coming home to the body as often and regularly as I possibly can in that 23 hours 20 minutes as well. I do this when I'm being creative too; drawing mindfully is one of the most deeply calming and centring experiences imaginable.
How can the business world benefit from mindfulness?
I think mindfulness benefits people, period. And people are the heart of every business. They're at the heart of every social system we create, business or otherwise. I believe it's people, their welfare and wellbeing that we need to be investing in. Our communities, our societies, our environment as well as businesses benefit from the increased capacity for focus, insight, empathy and creativity that a mindful way of living and working brings, and there's clear scientific evidence now that mindfulness, practiced over time, fundamentally rewires our brains, creating just these changes in us. We all benefit from that.
What does 'digital wellbeing' mean to you?
For me it's about finding balance. As a huge fan of social media, digital wellbeing is something I really try and be mindful of, because it's all too easy to 'just dip into Facebook for a moment before bedtime', only to come up for air thirty minutes later, having followed three links, read two articles, and with my mind whirring too fast to get to sleep. I try to mindfully check-in with myself around my social media use regularly; otherwise I begin to feel I'm more screen-time than real-time, and for me it's real-time that's most important.
Do you think technology will increase or decrease wellbeing?
Again I think it depends on how mindful we are. The problem isn't technology itself, it's the way human beings use it.
Paperback or kindle?
Paperback! I'm one of those people who smells books, runs their fingers over the covers, caresses pages. Books are things of beauty for me.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best piece of advice is also my favourite quote.
What is your favourite quote?
It's by Tilopa, who was a tenth-century meditation and mindfulness master. In English, it goes like this. (Translation by Ken McLeod).
"Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don't try to figure anything out. Don't try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest."
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Right here. Right now. Always best. Although if you gave me a time machine or a teleport, then I'd probably pop over to New Zealand, have a cup of tea and a chat with a dear friend who's expecting her first baby any minute, and be back in time to finish this interview. Now that would be a great use of technology!
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