In the first of a series of interviews with individuals who practice mindfulness, we hear from Suzanne Lewis who has been Managing Director of EDM Media since 2009. Suzanne has always believed that success is only achieved through working with good people, in good organisations…
Q: Suzanne, how would you define mindfulness & its benefits for someone who was a complete stranger to it?
Suzanne: It’s a way to be more present in life, not on auto pilot, a way to pay attention to and appreciate the small things.
Q: Was there anything in particular you were looking for it to bring to your life?
Suzanne: A sense of inner calmness. I wanted to put myself back in control of my thoughts and feelings, create a more balanced, happy, contented and productive person. I can take things too seriously. I used to allow that to take up a lot of my energy. And I wanted to change that.
Q: How did you get into mindfulness?
Suzanne: My first job was working with an occupational psychologist so I got to really see the benefits of being aware of mental health and well-being in the workplace. I found it all really riveting. I also had a very progressive boss about 10-15 years ago and she bought someone into the organisation for individual and team development. I was really lucky because she let me have one to one time with them. So I’ve always had an interest in personal development. I started off using the Headspace app. It’s quite goal focused and though I hate to admit it, so am I. You get rewarded for meditating for 30 days straight. As it became a habit, I wanted to do it because I felt so much better; it wasn’t just about the goal. I get up at 6am and do my Headspace meditation first thing in the morning. I’m not a morning person at all but I like that the house is quiet. I also do meditations for 45-50 minutes at least twice a week. It’s the only way I can get my mind to be quiet and stop the constant chatter.
Q How would you say mindfulness has impacted on your life – personal and professional?
Suzanne: It’s changed some really long held views: glass half empty versus half full. It has stopped me wasting so much time worrying about things out of my control or things I can’t change. I put up with less “nonsense” from myself and other people in the nicest possible way. I’m calmer, saner; I don’t take things so personally. I don’t dwell on stuff that’s happened. I accept it and move on.
I’m so glad that I started practising mindfulness before the Olive Cooke story hit the headlines in the charity and fundraising sector. Some of the changes the industry introduced had a major impact on my business. And in the past I would have handled that very differently. I would have imploded in on myself. Colleagues who know me well can see how well I’ve coped with everything and are amazed. It wouldn’t have been how I would have coped with things prior to practising mindfulness.
Q: What would you say are some of the biggest myths or misconceptions about mindfulness?
Suzanne: That it’s only for hippy-dippy people, not high achieving individuals. But there are a lot of real high achievers who do meditation. Fortune 100 people who regularly meditate. This isn’t a coincidence. We all talk about time and energy – that we haven’t got enough time for meditation. But I now have as much time as I need and as much energy as I need. All the time you currently spend playing with your mind in a negative way is now put into more positive things.
Q: How could mindfulness benefit organisations?
Suzanne: How could having a happier, more focused and more adult team fail? There would be a move away from being so judgemental, there would be more tolerance, more mutual respect. The outcome being that teams would be more productive and individuals are happier, a win-win. Of course some will wholeheartedly embrace this approach and other will be sceptical, but if leadership can demonstrate the positive outcomes I think most people would be prepared to give it a try. You do have to put the time aside and of course there are a million other things you could be doing, but it’s worth it.
Q: If you wanted to give someone interested in meditation three reasons to practice, what would they be?
Suzanne: You’ll be happier and more content in yourself, more productive in your personal life and achieve far more at work.
Suzanne has been Managing Director of EDM Media since 2009. She has always believed that success is only achieved through working with good people, in good organisations…