Shift your focus — stop looking outside yourself for validation, approval, opinion and guidance. Turn your attention inwards to what you would like to do for yourself to make yourself fulfilled and happy. We are so indoctrinated with needing this kind of external validation it can be very tricky to even know where to begin so you might start by taking a day and observing your every activity — do you actually like doing this? Do you like eating this? Do you like talking with this person? Does this activity give you more energy or is it draining? A simple daily account like this will begin to give you some insightful data.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Hamilton Grundy.
Elaine is founder of The Reiki Centre and author of two books; Reiki, Pure and Simple and Reiki — A Path to Freedom. Over the past 25 years she has trained thousands in the gentle art of Reiki healing. She works with individuals, communities and companies helping to bring more wellbeing and self-awareness into their lives.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you, it is lovely to be part of this interview series.
My backstory is pretty varied. I am a third culture kid being brought up in Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and working in London, New York, Singapore. I was a full on “go-getter” as a young adult and started my career in advertising before moving on to marketing and research. In my mid-thirties I moved into corporate and leadership training before setting up The Reiki Centre in 2007. In the midst of all this I also became a mother and tried for a while to do the super-woman thing. I was lucky to learn Reiki, a gentle energy balancing technique, in my mid-twenties and found it so useful to manage my rather hectic lifestyle. I have become pretty good at managing change as my entire life has been one big movement!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I gave up the corporate career after 10 years to focus solely on Reiki and spiritual coaching, it did feel like a huge change. There was a part of me wondering why I had just wasted 10 years of my life. What I have come to realize is that despite the seemingly enormous shift, everything I learnt in those 10 years have come in handy. From the marketing aspects of building my own brand, to the research abilities to design Reiki surveys and write reports. Even the fact I did History at university, a seemingly odd choice for an advertising cum Reiki teacher, has been extremely useful in helping me write my two books. Every skill I have picked up along the way of my rather disjointed work life has led me to where I am today. None of it was planned, but all of it is used. Kind of interesting, don’t you think?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
That’s a great question! As an advertising person I should have an answer to that, haha! I have been around a loooong time, 25 years working with Reiki and intuitive healing means I have developed a certain depth in my understanding and the teaching and materials reflect this. I think community is very important and I put a lot of time and effort in building and keeping communities flourishing. I have Reiki teachers who have trained Reiki teachers so I am also a grandma. Many of my students become lifelong friends so to me The Reiki Centre is not really a company, it’s a community of people all with the same philosophy and desire for greater self-awareness.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
So many people have been instrumental in my journey. I come from an entrepreneurial family — we are all pretty quirky. Growing up in the 70’s I think many girls were overlooked by society. My dad always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. I never thought myself different or disadvantaged compared to my two brothers. It actually never occurred to me that there was such a thing as a glass ceiling and to be honest I never experienced it. I believe I had equal opportunities in all the multi-nationals I worked for, all the jobs I took, and setting up my own business. When I speak to other women my age, I realize I was lucky. So many women are told they are “less than”, and the lack of confidence and entitlement plays out in all kinds of ways that leads women to make themselves small and less significant. I am grateful to my dad that he never discriminated and treated all of us as equals.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I prefer the scientific definition of resilience: “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.” (Google’s English Dictionary) This definition assumes that we have an original shape or form. Life events can dent, bang, squeeze and knock some of our form, but we can bounce back because we know our original shape. Resilient people know themselves intimately. They are not afraid of life or challenges because they know who they are. When you know your inner strength and your inner truth, life is just a series of interesting unfolding events. It is not personal. Challenges have no inherent power to damage your spirit. Resilient people are courageous, curious, open, optimistic and leaning into the future.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar yet different to resilience?
Courage is an important quality of resilience but being courageous doesn’t necessarily mean you are resilient. Courage is required to step into something unknown or out of your comfort zone. It is the quality required to start a new project or try something new. Resilience is the ongoing movement of growth that happens once you have stepped into the newness; the bouncing and continued learning that happens once the path has been stepped upon, the walking of that path.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Pretty much every client that walks through my door has some difficult story or other, it’s why they come to see me. I am awed by my clients and students. Many of them have terrible backstories, unthinkable challenges of abuse, loss, abandonment. When they come to me they can be in all sorts of emotional and physical difficulty. But one thing seems universal. When they have reconnected with their inner light, the stories are just that, events unfolding. Their inner light holds something far more eternal and undamaged than any story, event, or trauma. It is incredible, magical, and so empowering to see people wake up to their inner light. Once you see who you really are, it changes the way you see things forever.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
In the Reiki industry there is an ongoing debate around online teaching. Many Reiki Associations say that online teaching just isn’t possible. I had been receiving many requests to go online from people without access to Reiki teachers in their area, or people who could not take the required time off and wanted to learn in their own timeframe. I was quite anxious going against the tradition but in my heart I knew it was possible. I carried out a lot of independent research and encouraged feedback from my students when I first ventured online, to ensure it was working as well as the face to face workshops. I officially started offering online courses in 2012 after 2 years of vigorous testing. This foresight set me up perfectly for the Pandemic as it has Covid-proofed my business and allowed me to continue working when many Reiki teachers have been unable to contribute for the past 2 years. It hasn’t been without difficulty. When you go against any tradition you can expect some backlash. But when my message to my clients is “you do you” then I have to model that also!
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
After the birth of my first daughter I fell into post-partum depression. I was filled with shame and guilt, especially considering my role in my community as “the one who had it all together”. I struggled with depression for two years, all but stopped my teaching and healing sessions throughout this period, and spent a lot of time crying in a bathrobe. My bounce back came from hitting rock bottom. I remember the experience so starkly. I was lying on the bathroom floor wanting to give up. I had this physical feeling of falling into a deeper and deeper darkness, and instead of trying to fight it, as I normally did, I just let it happen. I had no strength or energy left to continue to fight. But there was also this quiet alertness thinking “I wonder what happens next?” Then I had a feeling of hitting a bottom. Then the thought “oh, that wasn’t so bad”. I lay there, at the bottom and on the floor, for some time. Then I got up and carried on with my day. Things didn’t get all magical pink fluffy joy after, but it was a definite turning point. I had hit the bottom and survived. Now whenever I feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious, I bring in that same inner voice that wonders “what happens next?” and then I relax and see. True enough, it’s never actually that bad if I am not trying to fight and resist it all.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Since I can remember I have been quite spiritually motivated. Not in the religious sense, more in terms of wanting to know the truth about my own experience. Wanting to know my own form and shape — what is really true and what is just opinion. Growing up we moved around a lot, countries, schools, houses, so identifying with something outside myself like a group of friends, or a particular geography just wasn’t possible. In a sense my lifestyle forced an inner enquiry in order to anchor myself in some form of stability. Every time I moved, I notice that I was still the same person. As I moved through the world I was having all these experiences that I could keep or just let go. Experiences are much like physical possessions, you can hang on to them, or you can just move on and leave them behind. Over the years I find I enjoy traveling light. I pick and choose carefully what I hang onto and what I let go.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Resilience comes naturally when you know yourself as an undamageable spirit, not as a fragile ego. What I mean by this is that under all your layers of beliefs and emotional baggage lies an eternal and immense spirit. When you find this within yourself it changes everything. My five suggestions would be:
- Shift your focus — stop looking outside yourself for validation, approval, opinion and guidance. Turn your attention inwards to what you would like to do for yourself to make yourself fulfilled and happy. We are so indoctrinated with needing this kind of external validation it can be very tricky to even know where to begin so you might start by taking a day and observing your every activity — do you actually like doing this? Do you like eating this? Do you like talking with this person? Does this activity give you more energy or is it draining? A simple daily account like this will begin to give you some insightful data.
- Take personal responsibility — it may be that once you have done your activity review you find a bunch of things you do that you really don’t want to do. This is where the courage comes in to either a) stop doing it or b) accept responsibility that doing it outweighs the benefits of not doing it. For example, if you have to interact with a toxic boss in order to keep your job but you don’t want to change jobs, then have the courage to admit that you are choosing to stay in this job, toxic boss and all. Taking responsibility and not allowing yourself to feel like a victim will greatly help your energy levels and also allow more courage to resource you for a future possible job change.
- Be curious — I have a belief that “everything in my life is unfolding perfectly”. This doesn’t mean my ego always gets what it wants, and it doesn’t mean that my life is not without challenges. It means that everything is evolving and much like driving in unknown territory, you never know what is around the corner. Sure, it may be a 10-car pileup. But it may also be the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. I have an intense curiosity about how my life is unfolding and I find it fascinating whatever it is. Whether it is good or bad is equally interesting to me. If you can keep this kind of anticipation around your own life, then it doesn’t really matter what shows up around the corner. It is all of equal interest, and value.
- Be open — this goes hand in hand with curiosity. Openness is the willingness to accept and work with whatever shows up. It may not be what you had hoped for, or what you had worked for, but in my experience, there is always something wonderful about working with adversity to find the goodness. Whether it is a new friendship that blossoms, a new avenue for your work, a new skill to learn. When you are open you don’t have resistance to what life brings, so your frame of mind tends to be very flexible and “bouncy”. This is when your inspiration and intuition work best, and solutions to problems or your ability to adapt becomes very creative. It helps me to journal. When things happen that feel “wrong” I will write down what I am worried about, and then flip it around to brainstorm what might be “right” with it. I always find my “right” list is longer than my “wrong” list. If it isn’t, then I don’t stop opening to possibilities, until it is.
- Breathe — watching your breath is one of the oldest meditation practices, and with good reason. I regularly sit and watch my breath. 10 plus times a day. Not changing it or making it “better” or more relaxed but simply watching it, as if it is an occurrence independent of me. I may do this for a minute or less, or for 40 minutes. Our breathing happens without our conscious effort. It is the deepest and most profound truth that life unfolds around us without us having to make the slightest effort. When I watch my own breath I am struck with awe. I feel deep connection with something extremely expansive. Call it spirit, or awareness, or presence. It connects me immediately with my original shape or form. If I am struggling with resilience in that moment it acts like a magical reset switch. The key to this is to watch with 100% focus, not mindlessly breathing while thinking 101 different thoughts. Watching your breath is an art form, but once you crack it, you will become very hard to shake off your axis.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I have been working towards all my Reiki teaching life is helping others find their inner truth. I believe that if every individual had personal autonomy to think for themselves, the majority of us would be amazingly caring and compassionate. Most of my students and clients come to me in various states of depression or anxiety because they are living lives that they have been sucked into, through some expectation they have that this is what life should be like! Get educated, get a good respectable job, start a family. Then they wake up in their middle years and wonder what happened, and who they have become. They are projecting their unhappiness onto others, making others miserable, expecting their own children to go down the same soul-destroying line of thinking. It is utter madness. Yes, some people are perfectly suited to the traditional pathway but for others, it is a complete disaster. Learning to navigate your own life on your own terms as guided by your own inner light not only seems perfectly reasonable to me, but a no-brainer.
Society is fixated on gaining approval and validation from others. But if we drop this and do just what brings us joy, we would probably live more modestly, more quietly, and less aggressively. We would take care of our own needs without burdening others with our emotional baggage. We would know how to manage our own stresses and fears without dragging others into it. When “you are being you” and “I am being me”, there really is no need for conflict.
I’m certainly not alone in this movement. It’s an idea that is already evolving with the younger generation — thank goodness. What I do is continuously give people permission to keep going, keep exploring themselves. Like a cheerleader!
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Wow! Difficult question! But ultimately it would have to be Adyashanti. He is an amazingly compassionate spiritual teacher and I am deeply touched and inspired by his outreach. For decades he has been single-mindedly delivering this message of self-awareness through meditation and inner contemplation. I’m not sure I have anything to discuss with him, but I would love just to sit with him, and be in his energy!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is https://www.reiki-centre.com, I run an online community and various online groups.
I also have a YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1KxBYlL9t0vtqJgSoauBDQ
And I am here on Medium! https://medium.com/@elaine_reikicentre
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!