The Arts Meet Meditation And Mindfulness: An Interview With Emma Mills

HOW POETRY AND THE ARTS CAN CONNECT AND CENTRE US IN THIS HECTIC WORLD

It's been a few months since the last interview here on the blog so today I'm excited to finally share a brand, shiny new one with you! An insight into the world and work of teacher and writer Emma Mills. With her expertise in psychology and training the field of mental health, Emma has uniquely combined her own passions for creativity, the arts and poetry with her continued work in wellbeing, meditation and mindfulness. With the world seeming like something of a turbulent place at times, I thought it would be a nice moment of peace to learn a little more about Emma, as well as pick up some advice on how to build a more peaceful foundation within our working and everyday lives. If this is an area you're interested in, or something you certainly feel that you need right now, then read on ...

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Hi Emma, could you begin with an insight into your training and career to date as well as what it is that you do now?

From a young age, I had an interest in spirituality. During my school years, I was also particularly interested in politics, and psychology. I would read a lot of psychology books and go to political rallies and protests keen to find out about how life worked and how to improve it. I studied both politics and psychology and worked briefly at the Houses of Parliament before deciding that psychology was the field that allowed me the best chance to offer and understand something good. I took a degree in psychology and then began to work and train in mental health at the charity Mind.

At Mind, I trained in several therapeutic mediums one of which was the use of poetry and classic literature as a wellbeing device. I'd always been a bookish person, but this was the beginning of my love affair with poetry which deepens every day and keeps on getting better. During this time I set up my own private practice in the city of London and began working with people sharing what I had learnt in group classes and one to one sessions; I also began blogging about my experiences and ideas. Now I consult, write and teach on the topic of meditation, working with companies and organisations, with individuals and in small groups as well as sharing written articles with magazines and publications.

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

You're an expert in the practice of meditation how did you train in this area and what is it about meditation that you love that you feel can be so beneficial for us all in our working and everyday lives?

During my time working in formal psychology, I had my own private interest in meditation and spiritual life. I was also studying with a very lovely teacher. I found during my years in mental health that meditation wasn't accepted or admired and so I kept it just as something I did outside of work. Things have changed now, and it’s all the rage, but back then it wasn't du jour! Whilst running my private practice I found myself increasingly encouraging people to meditate and to explore the inner world.

I felt that meditation, and most importantly what meditation points to - the experience and exploration of our nature, to be something that was quite in line with both my interest and my work with people. I still love psychology and think it's beautiful, a lot of my work is informed by the work I did in that field too. Meditation helps you to understand who you are and how you work which makes it fitting and helpful in many corners of life.

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

How can mindfulness help people - especially in the workplace?

I think meditation and mindfulness have great effects on a persons' orientation to life, and as work is part of life, it transfers over quite nicely. Stress is a big factor at work, and meditation and mindfulness can help a person to cope with that stress and make choices that are to their benefit. Aside from stress, meditation is tremendous for creativity, new ideas and innovation. If we imagine our work as a something we are putting out into the world it can help us to make that contribution great. 

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

How can people with hectic lifestyles make time and space for meditation and mindfulness so that it can be a helpful tool rather than just another item to add to the to-do list?

If the person has the enthusiasm to do it, then I find they usually make time for it. Because the enthusiasm or interest is natural and spontaneous, they find the time. Not in a regimented way, each day, unless of course that's what they find themselves doing and they enjoy it. But they do it here and there. They find within themselves a natural turning towards those sorts of things, a book here, a little workshop there, a little practice at the weekend. Also, if people start doing it and it feels good and they see benefits, just like with fitness, this usually brings its own motivation, albeit in waves.

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Where did your love of poetry and writing come from and how does this passion connect in with your work?

Poetry is literatures answer to meditation. I cannot invite enough people to explore poetry. I have always loved to read, but whilst working at Mind I was sent to study with Professor Jane Davis in Liverpool, to study this therapeutic application of literature. I then came back and set up a therapy system in Essex for Mind. We ran for several years, it took while to get going, as poetry is a bit niche, but eventually we won a lot of money, expanded the groups and served a lot of people. The people who came, as well as myself, benefited hugely from this type of work. It’s phenomenal.

I have carried this use of poetry into my meditation work because it fits well. Poetry, or certain poems, talk explicitly about the inner world, and those well-articulated poems offer people a route to understanding - a way of putting words around their own inner experience. Some poems offer wisdom, others are more about life, the bare bones of life. When it's hard, when it's ecstatic, and I find these honest poems help us to feel connected, part of life, to know we aren't an isolated person on our own.

What is it that you love most about the work you do and what motivates you on a daily basis?

I love to connect with people, to share and share life, improve our lives together. In myself, I find the expression of the creative spirit makes me very enthusiastic. I have an interest that I follow, and the following of it feels good, and that brings its own motivation. For example, there are a few poets I really like, and I want to go and sit with them to understand their work better, so I email them and ask, and try to meet them. I’ve not got any intentions really, for it to go anywhere specifically or become something pre-defined. I just feel drawn to do that, and thrilled at the thought of spending time with them talking about poems. It brings its own motivation. You just keep following the thread - like this poem: The Way It Is by William Stafford.

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

For readers interested in learning more about meditation and living more mindfully do you have any tips, tricks or resources that could help them to get started?

On my blog Emma Mills London there are over two hundred articles along with helpful videos and audio which you can begin using and exploring at home. Alongside that, I also have a new book entitled Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. In it, we explore meditation over the course of a typical working day. It has a section called ‘at the office’ where we explore work, creativity, co-workers and finding balance. I hope that sharing meditation in this way will make the insights very usable and relevant to our lives. I would also recommend reading books, visiting teachers you like and connect with, following your own path and interest in the subject.

When it comes to looking after your own work-life balance and wellbeing how do you like to unwind after a busy day and make sure you feel refreshed and refocused for the rest of your week?

I like having a bath or two, reading a book, going for a bike ride, doing a little yoga and being with my loved ones.  

 
Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Photo Credit: Emma Mills London

Thank you to Emma for sharing an insight into her career and her brilliant work. I hope you've found it as fascinating and inspiring as I have. As a lover of the arts I can totally understand the connection between creativity and our wellbeing. If this is a passion of yours, albeit an alive one or a lost one, I hope that this interview sparks in you the desire to seek out that creative, artistic side and in doing so, find greater expression, peace and understanding. For more motivation and ideas you can also find Emma over on Twitter and on Instagram.

Thanks for tuning in lovely people and see you again very soon.

Louise

 


Street Art, Beer And Pizza In And Around Hackney

With the weekend ahead of us I feel today is a good time for a little Friday inspiration! There's so much to explore around the area of Hackney and I've only really just begun. I've long been a fan of the brilliant Hackney Empire Theatre having been both a viewer and an auditionee there many a time back in my performing days! But I'd never really had the time or chance to venture any further than that, and the area has changed so much in recent years that there's a whole lot of exciting stuff to take a look at. Today I have a few haphazard but nonetheless fun photos to share from a recent quick visit, a dog-walk, a hasty street art snapping session and a whole lot of unbelievably tasty locally brewed beer (and wine) and pizza. So why not come take a stroll with me ...

Hackney Wick Street Art

We began our walk at Hackney Central station after hopping onto the London overground on a drizzly January day with a soggy cocker spaniel and a willing to take a wander somewhere different to our usual North London stomping ground. The thing with having a dog is that you cover a lot of ground every day and the usual walking spots can get a little boring pretty quickly! Luckily our beloved hound loves a trip on the train so she's more than happy to head off on new adventures, even if it does mean some very awkward 'our dog's staring at that strangers' sandwich' moments for us! From the station, we made our way onto Mare Street, past the beautifully restored and aforementioned Hackney Empire and headed into nearby London Fields where the pup happily ran riot for a few minutes finding furry friends at each turn.

Hackney Wick Street Art

Strolling through and out of London Fields we eventually found ourselves on Broadway Market a beautiful shopping street full of independent shops and suppliers, coffee shops and restaurants and somewhere that we have to head back to on a day when we are less rained on, muddy and with said soggy dog in tow. I really loved this street and can't wait to head back and see more. Here I hastily snapped my first street art picture of the day. Not really having planned to turn this trip into a blog post some of my snaps are a little skewiff and taken at speed before the spaniel pulled me hastily away and further down the road! But any regular readers will know I have a thing for street art so I like to capture it when I can to read about it when I get home. The art photographed above can be found just off of Broadway Market and is by French Street Artist, Zabou. It's entitled 'Summertime (yay!)' and with the colourful raindrops, brolly and less than impressed faces, this seems to me to be an accurate portrayal of the infamous British summertime!

Hackney Wick Street Art

From Broadway Market, we took ourselves along the Regents Canal and then up into beautiful Victoria Park. My only previous experience of this park was a visit many years ago for the first ever Lovebox Festival that's held there every summer. But to walk around, even on a gloomy, rainy day, and see more of it was a treat. Canals, ponds, pavilions and pagodas make this huge open space in London well worth exploring, a welcome break from the city bustle - and a great place to walk your dog.

Walking along the canal side also offers more street art gazing opportunity, like this flamingo by Frankie Strand whose work I often also see on my many walks around Camden. At this point all of the walking was leading to some serious hunger pangs so we crossed out of the park and made our way towards Hackney Wick where a little place I'd heard of called Crate Brewery was beckoning with the lure of beer (well white wine for me) and freshly made pizza.

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery

Set within the ground floor of The White Building a centre for art, technology and sustainability in East London, this heavenly little place greeted all three of us inside with their welcome one and all policy which meant a nice warm spot indoors not out in the rain, a happy spaniel in tow and some time to sample some of their food and beverage offerings, and sample we did. 

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery

Cue delicious pizza made to order with unique and fresh flavours. We went for the middle eastern lamb and the courgette, feta and red onion and yep, they were so, so good!! A warm and inviting treat away from the grey day outside. Seriously tasty ingredients, a base that was soft and crispy in all the right places and flavours to totally die for! This was an unexpected treat of a find and somewhere I'd highly recommend that you visit if you're ever in that part of town.

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery Pizza
Crate Pizza

After suitably satisfying our taste buds and warming ourselves up at Crate we decided it was time to make our way home and headed off in the direction of Hackney Wick station, passing some more amazing works of art as we went. I'll leave you with a final few snaps, a small sample of all that there is to see. If you enjoy street art like me then they'll provide you with a little colourful gazing and wonderment I'm sure but I'd recommend checking them out for yourself if you can. Head to the area and take a look around someday!

Hackney Wick Street Art
Hackney Wick Street Art
Hackney Wick Street Art

I need to go back to Hackney and look around more, in fact, I'm heading that way for a terrarium building class next week, more on that to come! Despite the gloomy day, this was a walk well worth having with so much to see and enjoy. I always feel that if you're in need of a break, need new inspiration or just need to get yourself moving more, then heading out for a walk (dog or no dog) and exploring somewhere new is one of the cheapest and simplest things that you can do - and can ultimately end up being really, very rewarding. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

Louise

 


Embrace Your Not So Perfect Life!

FORGET FOMO, EMBRACE JOMO AND RESIST THE URGE TO COMPARE

We all know the saying that 'comparison is the thief of joy' and it truly is. The only problem is, in the modern world we live in, we are bombarded with imagery of seemingly perfect lives to compare with on a daily basis. A deluge of reasons to feel rubbish that can make us feel like we aren't doing well enough or living up to the careers and exciting lives displayed by our peers. So I thought I'd share a few thoughts on how to combat the urge to compare. Some tips and places to turn to inspire you out of the negative, and into a more positive frame of mind on the days when everyone else seems to be having more fun or doing better, brighter things than you!

Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

"Everything you need you already have. You are complete right now, you are a whole, total person, not an apprentice person on the way to someplace else." Wayne Dyer

 

5 THOUGHTS ON HOW TO STOP THE COMPARISONS AND FOCUS ON BEING YOURSELF

1. Forget About FOMO And Embrace JOMO Instead:

I think I actually realised quite early on in life that worrying about missing out is a complete and utter bore and a waste of time. I'm really not one for dallying on the fear of missing out, rather I much prefer to embrace JOMO - the JOY of missing out! There's nothing that pleases me more than not worrying about what other people are doing and instead just doing what makes me happy when I want to do it. Whether this be in a work capacity or even if it just means sitting at home on a Friday night with a good movie and a glass of wine, knowing that I didn't have to get all dressed up to go out in the cold just so I don't feel like I'm 'missing out' on something. Absolute bliss!

2. Focus On Finding Real Life Inspiration:

I'm a little bit obsessed with the podcast Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon, as you may remember if you read my recent post on 5 Podcasts To Inspire, Intrigue And Motivate. In a recent episode, Emma interviewed bestselling author Sophie Kinsella whose newest book My Not So Perfect Life focuses on social media and how it's making many of us feel inadequate and inconsequential in a never-ending feed of unreachable perfection. The podcast episode is well worth a listen as amongst other very interesting topics, Emma and Sophie discuss the role of social media in our lives and the whole issue of unhealthy comparison that it can breed, you can find the episode here.

Sophie Kinsella has also created an Instagram account to accompany her book and I love it. Real life photos of real life situations behind the daily life of the successful author. Take a scroll through photos of her dogs ripping up a tonne of toilet roll, burnt cookies that got well and truly forgotten about in the oven and that moment when you're caught in the rain and your umbrella decides to forsake you and turn inside out in an unforgiving gust of wind! Moments that we all recognise but hardly ever see on our social media feeds. A nice change from the picture perfect, and a reality we could all do with seeking out and sharing more of - myself included.

3. Remember The Great Things You Have And Don't Keep Worrying About What You Don't:

Everything you need you have! There's a reason people keep talking about the benefits of gratitude and it really can help to take a moment each day to think about what you have instead of worrying about what you don't. Find out more about my thoughts on gratitude and how to embrace it in this post: Counting Our Blessings: The Benefits Of Gratitude.

4. Appreciate That Which Makes YOU Unique: 

In a world where so many seem preoccupied with looking, sounding and achieving the same, take some time to understand and embrace the things that make you stand out from the crowd. Stop trying to be the same as everybody else and focus on being and loving the unique wonder that is you. 

5. Take A Break And Walk It Out:

When all else fails, take a break from the things most likely to be making you feel inferior - usually technology in some form or another, and go outside, get some fresh air and walk it out. It will do both your mind and your body the world of good I promise you.

 

Do you often find yourself negatively comparing notes with other people's highlights reel? How do you switch off and focus on what makes you feel good instead? Share your own thoughts and tips with me below.

Louise

 


Understanding How Food Can Make You Feel

COOKBOOKS TO KEEP YOU INSPIRED FOR A TASTY, HAPPY YEAR AHEAD

I'm often on the lookout for healthy inspiration in the kitchen but also on my mind is ease and cost effectiveness. I've been on my fair share of faddy diets in my time, and my relationship with food hasn't always been a happy one. Not only that but the information out there on what we should and shouldn't be eating can often be overwhelming and all consuming with conflicting and misleading messages backed by pseudoscience that renders us completely and utterly confused! Anyone who watched the recent BBC Two Horizon Documentary on "clean-eating" will know what I mean. So these days I'm far more concerned with cramming the good stuff in than I am with obsessively cutting stuff out and punishing myself. I refuse to give up my love of cake entirely, but it's all about finding a balance and still ensuring that amongst the odd treat here and there, you're getting in the goodness too.

Understanding How Food Can Make You Feel

Using food as fuel and understanding how it makes you feel both mentally and physically has become something of an interest to me and this month I've made a couple of fab foodie book discoveries that have been helping me to learn more and cook good, (mostly) quick and tasty food to boot. Goodness doesn't have to be boring, nor does it have to take ages or involve a load of expensive ingredients. Two books that I've discovered this year so far have been teaching me just that.

Understanding How Food Can Make You Feel

Personally I find cookbooks so useful for inspiration, even if I don't fully follow every morsel of a particular author's philosophy and perhaps don't always follow each and every recipe to the latter, I still enjoy using books to inspire and encourage me to step out of my comfort zone and to introduce me to, or perhaps even just remind me of, some different ingredients for my usual weekly shopping list. Using a book to inspire and learn doesn't mean you have to be rigid with your food or diet, I still believe it's important to be creative with the recipes in order to make sure you're getting the most out of what you have in your cupboards and avoid unnecessary waste. With almost 50% of food thrown away each year in the UK being domestic* it's important to work with what you have and try to make small, healthier choices and changes along the way.

*Source Olive Magazine Jan 2017

Understanding How Food Can Make You Feel

Two books that have been offering up some delicious, healthy and achievable recipes for me this month have been The Medicinal Chef: Healthy Every Day by Dale Pinnock and The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food by Rachel Kelly and Alice Mackintosh. I've spent much of this month trying many recipes from both and have enjoyed each and every bite! I also love how each book celebrates food rather than making it seem like a complicated chore. Fresh recipes that use everyday ingredients and invite you to view food in a positive light, for all of its benefits and abilities to enhance our sense of well-being. To enjoy food without feeling guilty whilst still understanding the effects that it can have on the body and to use that in a positive fashion. 

Understanding How Food Can Make You Feel

When it comes to busy lifestyles both also offer up quick and easy recipes alongside recipes that you can take your time over at the weekends, or whenever you have longer, and want to enjoy the process of creating something mouth-watering just much as you want to eat it - because the act of cooking in itself can be incredibly therapeutic and calming. 

In Healthy Every Day you will find a little run down on each recipe that explains the benefits of the ingredients that you are using. Three of my all time favourite recipes so far from this book have to be the cold-busting wasabi salmon skewers, can-do chicken kebabs and the feel-good fish pie.

The Happy Kitchen has been collated into sections that depend on what you might be looking for your food to do fo you. For example, choose from recipe sections such as beating the blues, balanced energy and sweet dreams to find a suitable recipe that's right for you at that particular moment. I've recently made the zingy courgette, pea and coconut soup and the kedgeree and have totally delighted in the warming, tastiness of both during this chilly winter that we've been having.

So those are two of my favourite, totally personal (and not sponsored!) picks for a thoroughly appetising New Year! I love to share the things that have been making me tick and with New Year being a time that many focus on healthier habits, I feel that these books offer up useful, non-faddy advice that's just made to make your mouth water!

Let me know where you like to get your feel-good and actually actionable foodie inspiration from too? It's always good to know where my next source of foodie fun might be coming from!

Louise