We had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Kate James, a mindfulness coach based in Melbourne, Australia, and founding member of Simple Habit. She started meditating over 20 years ago, and now runs meditation workshops for individuals and corporate groups.
How did you get into meditation?
I’d been interested in meditation from a very young age. Without knowing it, I was drawn to spirituality — I felt a very deep connection to nature and spent a lot of time in nature, even as a kid, and I was always looking to understand people and myself a bit better. Now, I reflect back and realize that these were my earliest forms of being mindful.
Around 23 years ago, I was going through a period of stress in my life. My husband had been out of work for a while, and we had two little kids. I started to notice that my stress levels were impacting not just me, but my family as well. So I thought, I can’t change what’s going on externally in my world — I’ve got to learn how to interact with this differently. Back then, mindfulness wasn’t even a word that was much used. You had to pay thousands of dollars to be taught to meditate, and I did that knowing it was bound to make a phenomenal difference in my life.
What did your meditation practice look like at the time, and how has it evolved?
I learned transcendental meditation, which is quite strict — 20 minutes, twice a day. I did start meditating exactly as they suggested for a few years. My kids were 2 and 5 when I started, so it was a pretty challenging thing to do. And when I realized I didn’t have the time to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, I just stopped completely for a little while, until I discovered how much I missed it.
These days, I’ve learned to be less rigid with my practice. I still meditate every morning as soon as I wake up — for the most part for 20 minutes, but if I only have 10 minutes, I’ll do 10 minutes. This is the beauty of Simple Habit. Inviting people to spend 5 minutes to meditate feels accessible.
When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
It happened organically. I was a business manager for creative people, but wanted to work more closely with people and their barriers on a personal level. I studied coaching and set up my business, and what I became aware of quite quickly was that many people suffer from different degrees of anxiety and stress.
I said to them, “You should meditate!” So I set up a little group thinking, I’ll just teach this group of people. They liked it, and I liked teaching, and later, I had people asking if I’d teach in corporates and run retreats and workshops, and all of that has just evolved.
What was your role as a coach for creatives?
Most creative people have a strong internal world — they do a lot of their creative thinking on the inside and are very good observers of the world. But that focus on the internal can also mean that they have really strong inner critics. What came up often was limiting beliefs. Lots of creative people think they’re not good enough, that their work is not good enough to put out into the world yet, so we were doing a lot of work with mental chatter. The brain’s got a very strong negative bias, so first of all, we have to understand, are those beliefs actually real?
The other thing is asking, what if some of that were true? Difficult emotionscan be true. They’re often real, and they feel real. Trying to force them away and change them is really where the main struggle lies. But we can make room for this experience, and say, “It could be true that my artwork is not amazing as Picasso’s, but does that mean I’m not going to do it? Or does it mean that I will notice that that could be real, and continue to move in the direction of my values?” It’s about noticing the thoughts that we struggle with and choosing action steps that will move us forward regardless.
What does it mean to you to live a purposeful and creative life?
I didn’t think of myself as a creative person when I started my business. It was only later when I started to realize that all of us are creative — we just need to find our own way of being creative. It can be as simple as applying creative problem-solving to the issues that come up in your workplace, or it might be learning how to dance, or learning how to paint or taking photos or cooking a different recipe every week. It’s about being open to the idea of doing new things that challenge you a bit, not just getting stuck in the same ways of thinking.
The purposeful part is understanding our unique strengths and values, looking at our life experiences and thinking about the issues that concern us most. Then, it’s about considering the impact that we want to make. From my perspective, when we’re living purposeful, meaningful lives, we are interested in making a contribution to others. That might be on a small scale, or a global scale.
For me, my purpose is recognizing and seeing people for who they really are, learning about what’s unique about them, appreciating everyone for their uniqueness, and helping them to realize their potential. And hopefully making each person feel validated and sane for being just who they are, without them feeling like they need to be perfect or different in any way.
Do you have a personal mantra or reminder that helps you get through daily challenges?
I remind myself that absolutely everything is solvable in some way. And if it’s not solvable in the way that I think it’s going to be solvable, then I’m going to be able to deal with that. Whatever it is. We have the capacity to deal with so much, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that we will deal with whatever comes our way.
What advice would you give to Simple Habit users?
Meditation changed my life, but I had to make a commitment to stick with it for a couple of weeks before I felt the impact of that. Find a set time each day and make a promise to yourself that you’ll do it for just a couple of weeks and see how it changes yours.
Try Simple Habit for free: goo.gl/oAqMd4