From Burnout To Mindfulness
This is the interview of Ela Amarie with Slow o lution. Slow⋅o⋅lution is a platform raising awareness of how stressful lifestyle affects our health and wellbeing and our mission is to create a community around mindful life.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Ela, the Founder of Mindful Brain, here in Switzerland. My passion is to teach Mindfulness and make people aware of the benefits of Mindfulness for Physical, Mental and Emotional Health.
What made you rethink your lifestyle?
In 2010 I was restructured from the company I’ve worked for so many years and this event changed my life completely. When it happened, I felt it as a major crisis in my life. I felt ashamed to be without work and I took it as a terrible personal failure. I was alone in Switzerland and had no idea of what to do with my life. I got sick and I suffered a burnout. I was in a deep suffering and this motivated me to look for help and support around. That was when I discovered Mindfulness and that was the beginning of a lifetime journey.
What changes did you make in terms of starting a mindful lifestyle?
It took me some time to have an understanding of what a mindful lifestyle means and in general to reflect on what is important to me and how I want to live my life. In the beginning I was surprised to realize how mindlessly I was living for so many years. I was very much on an autopilot, lost in thoughts, worries and anticipations. I was super reactive emotionally, and in a constant state of fear and anxiety. The first step for me was to calm my nervous system, and to bring some peace into my chaotic mind.
Every new beginning is difficult – how did you stay motivated?
What helped me was to have a combined approach. On one hand, I was interested to understand what mindfulness is, what are we talking about when we use this very buzzy word, and what is happening in the mind and the brain when we are mindful. On the other hand, I committed to a regular practice. Both perspectives are important. Understanding the mechanisms of Mindfulness helps you to reflect and to transfer this knowledge in different circumstances in your life. However, Mindfulness is rooted in experience, so only reading about it will not help you too much.
Did you have any setbacks, and how did you overcome them?
I do encounter daily setbacks. Our minds are quite some wild animals and require constant and careful supervision. We talk about mental habits, emotional reactions, mindsets, biases that are deeply ingrained in our minds. Just because you learn about mindfulness and you practice it, does not mean that they magically disappear.
Actually this is the game changing proposition with Mindfulness. We do not try to fix or repair anything. What we want is to be more aware of the content of our mind and to develop a wiser relationship with our thoughts, mindsets and emotions.
In other words, this seeing clearly into our minds helps us not to react blindly but to respond wisely to life’s circumstances and setbacks.
Coming back to your question, what helps me to overcome daily setbacks (those from the outside world and from my own mind) is this non-judgmental awareness and a kind, compassionate attitude towards myself and my own mistakes.
Do I always succeed? No. That is why it is called a Mindfulness practice and it is a life-time journey.
What does your typical day look like?
In the Mindfulness field, we talk about formal practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi. I have a regular formal practice of 10-20-60min per day. I believe that this is the foundation in Mindfulness and it helps us to experience and practice awareness.
Many people think that meditation or yoga is quite difficult and challenging. For me, this is the easiest part. The difficult one is the rest of the time. How do I show up to my life each day, each moment? How present I am with myself and those around me? How to be true to myself? What kind of values and ethics inform my life and how to cultivate them? This is what I call hard work.
What did you learn about you throughout this lifestyle change?
I’ve learned that suffering, challenges, setbacks are part of the human experience. When we suffer, we tend to believe that it is only us, we might feel alone, isolated, we tend to compare with other and to judge ourselves pretty hard. Pain, depression, anxiety, anger and other mental afflictions are not experiences that we want in our life but when they knock at our door we better let them in because they can be some valuable teachers.
The second thing I learned is that change and transformation is possible but it’s not a magical pill, quick fix or an untold secret formula. It is a lifetime process, not an easy one, but a very empowering one. It is a choice to live our life awake or asleep.
What kind of advise can you give to anyone looking to change their lifestyle to a more mindful one?
I would tell them that being awake and taking care of their own mind is the most radical act of kindness, not only to themselves, but also to those around them. After all, the peace in the world starts with the peace in our own minds.