A trained doctor, psychiatrist and meditation teacher, a published author and the social entrepreneur behind the world’s largest online mindfulness movement, Elise Bialylew is accomplished to say the least. To celebrate the ninth year of Elise’s global mindfulness programme Mindful In May, we’re featuring Elise as this month’s Conscious Curator, and will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the topics of mindfulness, meditation and holistic happiness.
Before diving deep into her work, we spoke with Elise about her approach to health, home life, travel, food and style (her thoughts on shopping and consumerism are a perfect reflection of the Mindful In May ethos).
Where would you say you feel most at home?
Camping at music festivals. Picnicing at the beach on a warm summer night. The botanical gardens. My living room on a Saturday afternoon with salsa playing and golden afternoon light streaming in through the window, on a dance floor, on a meditation retreat. In Byron Bay at the top of the lighthouse walk, at a dinner table with friends having interesting conversations.
We’ve all spent a lot of time at home over the past year, what’s your approach to space-making?
With two young kids at home during lockdown, my focus was and still is on providing an environment that meets their needs and offers them invitations to play. Our living room looks more like a child care centre then an adult living space, but for the moment I’m okay with that. Indoor plants are a must and adding colour and warmth to our spaces is a crucial ingredient for me. Our living room is filled with relics of a past life of travelling the world: colourful rugs from Morocco, Djembe drums from West Africa and big framed photos of faces and places from all of our adventures.
A loaded question in these slightly restrictive times, but what is your relationship with travelling? Is travel something that has guided a lot of your work?
It was travelling that really opened my eyes to the striking issue of global poverty and fuelled my interest in wanting to make a difference in the world. My travels through West Africa were without doubt formative, and had a huge influence on the direction of my career in running a social enterprise that aims to teach people meditation, and invite people to connect with issues bigger than themselves, specifically the global water crisis.
Is there a certain place you love to revisit, or is there one place you’ve been to (even just once) which will always be your special place?
I’ve been going to Byron Bay for more than 20 years. It feels like a home away from home and although of course things have changed, that lighthouse walk and the nature and light in the Byron Hinterland are still magical.
Another more distant place that has a special feeling for me is Havana, Cuba. It is a place I visited a few times which was where my passion for dance and documentary film making began.
Where’s on your wanderlust list – any hotels or spaces in particular that you want to visit?
Brazil has always been on the bucket list. Places that have a strong music culture are what draw me.
And now to food – what would you say is your food philosophy?
In a family with Eastern European ancestry, food was a central part of my family life. In many ways it was the glue and centrepiece of our lives and represented love and care.
With a background in health, and an understanding of the crucial importance of a healthy microbiome, I’m also committed to eating in a way that supports wellbeing (having said that I’m by nature a sweet tooth, so I’ll let myself have the occasional sweet treat).
Do you have a signature dish? If so are you willing to share the recipe?
These days it’s all about simplicity with young kids and a busy life. At the moment it’s been a quinoa salad with okra, asparagus and goats cheese, topped with Sumac and a lemon, dijon mustard, maple syrup dressing. There’s no recipe I just throw it all together.
What is your approach to self-care?
It’s wholistic. It’s about attending to all domains of life including: eating well, exercising, sleeping enough, ensuring there are good doses of connection with friends and family, meditating, and watching my mindset to ensure I’m being as self compassionate and gentle as possible, with myself and those around me.
Is there one mindfulness or meditation practice that brings you the most comfort/ from which you’ve seen the greatest benefit in your life?
Over the years I’ve gravitated more and more towards the heart practices: compassion, loving-kindness, gratitude and empathic joy meditations. However, the simple practice of focusing on breath is definitely my go-to.
How would you describe your personal approach to style?
I’ve always been more interested in the inner world of ideas, learning, spiritual practice and meaningful relationships.
I’d love to be more stylish on the outside but my attention always seems to be focussed on other areas of life. I dislike shopping immensely and feel with the minimal time I have to myself, walking around the botanical gardens or down the beach, wins over shopping every single time. So you could say my approach to style is a “not so stylish style”.
Do you have a favourite clothing brand or a favourite place to shop?
My local bookstore The Grumpy Swimmer is a real treat to explore and my local organics store Leaf makes me smile everytime I walk in there. I really love good produce.
Describe your work day – how is it structured? Is it structured?
I work from home and from cafes at the moment. I tend to work around the routine of my youngest daughters sleeps and share the parenting role equally with my partner. Mornings are definitely my most productive time, and when I sense I’m wasting time I generally get up and take myself for a walk to get the energy flowing again.
How do you find your flow when working?
Over years of working alone I’ve discovered my natural flow and worked out when my most productive times of the day are and try to match the work content with my energy. Deep work and writing happens in the mornings, admin is for the afternoon.
What are you excited about at the moment? This could be a current project, something in the pipeline or a far away future dream.
I’m excited about the evolution and growth of my social enterprise Mindful In May and discovering new possibilities for collaborations and growth of the business.
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