Meet Anna Black, author of a number of our popular books on mindfulness and living in the moment. In this author interview she tells us all about her latest book and role as a mindfulness practitioner, and gives us an insight into the things that inspire and empower her.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Mindfulness on the Go?
I wanted to create something that helped people integrate mindfulness into their everyday life. With Mindfulness on the Go you can pick a card randomly and it suggests one mindfulness practice or activity to focus on that day. This simplifies things I think. Having too many options and choices can be overwhelming and we end up doing nothing. This way helps us focus on different areas – whether that is something like practicing being curious or mindful listening or simply paying attention to your breath for a few minutes throughout the day – and just one a day.
What are your goals and intentions as a writer?
I’m always a bit surprised when people call me a writer. I used to write fiction when I was in my twenties and I think I have a misconception that that is ‘proper writing’ which of course is nonsense. However, I would like to go back to writing stories at some point. I’m really pleased how people have responded to my mindfulness books – and I think the way they are put together and illustrated contributes a lot to that and the message they are conveying overall.
Can you tell me a little about being a mindfulness practitioner?
I teach mindfulness meditation part-time – usually in a course format – to the general public and in the workplace - and I also do taster sessions and stand-alone workshops. I also supervise other mindfulness teachers. Mindfulness needs to be taught from your own experience so having a personal practice is fundamental to the teaching process.
What does that entail?
Working evenings and weekends! The course I usually teach is a couple of hours every week for 8 weeks so you are meeting up with participants regularly and I really enjoy getting to know them and supporting them in their exploration of mindfulness. A mindfulness course is very experiential so while I can guide people and show them the way I can’t actually do the practice for them. Practising mindfulness meditation regularly at home is crucial if you want to see transformational change.
Teaching also involves a lot of organization and administration – sorting out venues, enquiries and bookings, maintaining a website and social media etc. All of these things take up a lot more time than people realize.
You also need a good understanding of how a group works and be able to manage that and hold whatever arises – that is where a personal practice is so crucial.
For the uninitiated, what do you tell people when introducing them to the concept of mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply about training your attention – we do this by paying attention to what we are experiencing internally (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations) and externally (environment, actions and behaviours); but we pay attention in a particular way – without judging our experience.
I always encourage people to give themselves a reasonable period of time to give it a go (which is why doing a course is so helpful) as change takes time and we are working with habits of a lifetime. It is best to just view it as an experiment and after several weeks of practicing regularly – then review and see whether you are finding it helpful or not. Mindfulness isn’t for everyone and sometimes timing is everything too.
Who inspires you?
On a personal level, my parents. They both have constantly explored new challenges personally and professionally and continue to do so despite being in their eighties. In terms of mindfulness practice there are many teachers like Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, whose teachings inspire me but in terms of directly influencing me personally, particularly Melissa Blacker and David Rynick. I’m also inspired by the participants on my courses. They enrich and support my personal practice in so many ways.
Do you have a daily mindfulness practice?
I try and sit every day for 20-25 minutes. It doesn’t always go to plan but when it doesn’t I will still do informal practices through the day such as a breathing space. Walking my dog in the early morning in the park is a great mindfulness practice – a way to connect with nature and the changing seasons – and a dog is a great instructor of mindfulness.
What is your idea of happiness?
Being with people I love and care about and being able to do the things I enjoy that nourish me physically and mentally.
What empowers you in your daily work and life?
I feel very lucky that I’m able to do a variety of different things on the work front that complement each other and that I enjoy. My mindfulness practice underpins everything I do and the choices I make and helps support me in carrying those choices through.
What is your next project?I’m currently researching a book on sleep and mindfulness. I was always someone who fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow until my late forties when suddenly sleep become more challenging – combined with stressful building works. For the first time I realized how debilitating not being able to sleep regularly can be and so I’m interested in exploring how mindfulness can help with that – or more accurately, how it can help with our own reactivity around not sleeping. If we can change our relationship to sleep, whether we are actually asleep or awake becomes less important and so less stressful.
Visit Anna's websiteto find out more about her mindfulness meditation courses or check out one of her most recent mindfulness books below for mindfulness meditations that you can perform at home and on the go.