Fear is an illusion, and it dissolves when we shine a light on what is usually kept in the dark. To illustrate this point, do you remember when you were a child, and you were afraid of shadow monsters in your wardrobe? When your parents switched the light on to show you nothing was there, they would all disappear, right? Well, there are a lot of adults in the world right now afraid of their shadow monsters — and all we need to do is turn the light on to feel a lot less fearful.
A a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Juliet Lever.
Juliet Lever is a licensed Resiliency Coach, Certified NLP Trainer and Hypnotherapist, and the author of the best-selling book ‘Relaunch My Life’. She has worked with hundreds of clients worldwide, delivering sell out personal development events and retreats.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Six years ago, I made an audacious leap of faith and completely relaunched my life and my career. I had reached capacity at feeling stuck and unfulfilled in a corporate job as a Sales Manager for a finance company. I was purposeless and passionless, not just in my professional life, but my marriage also. In those days, I found solace in short-term pleasures. I was a chocoholic, shopaholic, and borderline alcoholic, feeling lost in anxiety.
As a result of successfully overcoming my anxiety through meditation and other practices, I stepped into some intense and unexpected soul searching. Very quickly, I realized I had a profound desire to help other people find their real purpose in life.
Despite the momentum this desire sparked, my transition was not easy, I was scared. I was petrified of leaving the safety of my regular paycheck, and my husband, whom I had shared a life with since I was a teenager.
But what I’ve come to realize is that when you ignore particular ‘desires’ within yourself, then they get imposed upon you, and this is precisely what happened to me. I got to the point where I had no choice but to surrender and deep-dive.
I let go of all my labels, my job, my marriage, and completely relaunched my life. I gave myself a second chance at life — a life of meaning, a life of purpose and a life of fulfillment.
Right at the time when it seemed like everyone else in my life had everything figured out, I was on the brink of seeing everything around me collapse; a necessary undoing for what would eventually be my magnificent becoming. And now, in my work as a Personal Development Trainer, I help others transition and take that leap of faith to ‘relaunch their life’.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I set out on the journey to relaunch my life, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. I also knew that by leaving my husband, I faced the reality of possibly never finding another partner or having a family, and I was prepared to accept that reality. I surrendered to my fears and persevered despite them.
Interestingly, when I decided to align with my new choices fully, that’s when my soul mate showed up — quite unexpectedly.
I never believed in the concept of finding a soulmate until I met mine. Almost immediately, we resonated with one another and felt this incredible ease, which soon after translated into a beautiful life and business partnership.
We have now joined forces in bringing personal development courses to the world and having a blast doing this together. Aligning with my desires and surrendering to the growing pains of change was necessary for me to call in this type of relationship.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Do the inner work.
Your business reflects you. Doing the inner work will allow you to communicate more openly, vulnerably and transparently, and with human perspective, something which is highly valued in any work culture.
I would also encourage leaders to have more fun and take the time to get to know their team. Something magical happens in an organization when everyone understands and appreciates each other’s values and differences. You can work together without judgment or comparison and allow the work to flow more easily.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Without a doubt, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo.
I had wanted to read it for years, and as if by chance, it was the book on the nightstand of the short term holiday accommodation I stayed at, the night I left my marriage.
I read it from cover to cover, and it was the perfect confirmation that I needed to reassure me that I was on the right path. Its hidden meanings gave me strength at a time when I felt weak.
The chapter where the author reveals the meaning of the word ‘maktub’ (It is written… all of this life… it is written) gave me shivers of certainty down my spine.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
To me, the state of being mindful encompasses both an element of self-awareness and presence in the moment.
If our minds are full, then we are entirely at capacity and have no more space to give not only to others but also our selves. It means we have no more ability for output. We mainly need to empty what our minds are full of (e.g. fears, doubts, beliefs, judgments) so we can genuinely practice mindfulness and retain our wholeness.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
There are so many benefits to becoming mindful.
Physically, it has been proven that taking the time to breathe and connect to the present moment accesses your parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces cortisol and increases DHEA as shown by research conducted by the Heartmath Institute.
Mentally, it allows you to have a more sustainable flow of output, ideas, and access your higher brain regions and creative centers. This enables you to access metacognition (the awareness and understanding of your thoughts), which enhances your mindfulness. So the practice of mindfulness enhances your ability to practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the better you become!
Emotionally, mindfulness and presence allows you to feel what is occurring in the moment and respond with consciousness rather than reactivity that may be triggered based on past situations or repressed past emotions. It will also give you a general overall feeling of calm, which will create a positive flow-on effect to other areas and people in your life.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Step 1 FOCUS ON THE BREATH
This step is simple and yet so crucial because it’s physically impossible to focus on a past or future breath. When you focus on your breathing, you are present. This technique encourages the self-direction of your thoughts and inner strength, which can carry you throughout your day.
I learned during my Yoga Teacher Training in Bali, that ‘how we breathe is how we live’. We usually only breathe 1/3 of the capacity of our lungs, so training ourselves to breathe more deeply will expand our ability to live more deeply. Profound, right?
I used this technique years ago to help manage my anxiety, and there were many times I would repeat this mantra while in stressful board meetings or feeling overwhelmed and it would bring me immediately into my body and the present moment.
HOW TO DO THIS
As you inhale, mentally repeat the words ‘Breathe In Peace’.
As you exhale, repeat ‘Breathe Out Worry.’
Repeat for 60 seconds focusing on the breath and the words until you feel a sense of calm.
You can also focus on different words that are more meaningful to you. Eg. Breathe in Love, Breathe out Fear or Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Doubt.’
Step 2 FOCUS ON WHAT YOU DESIRE
This is vital because fear only exists when we focus on the future and what we think is going to go wrong. It is a way of using our creative potential to produce suffering in the present moment, even though there is none right now. Our subconscious mind needs clear directions to support us, and often if we are feeling fear, it is because we have not created certainty for ourselves in the future. To overcome this, we need to develop a projection of confidence for the future.
HOW TO DO THIS
Any time you feel fear or uncertainty, ask yourself ‘Am I focused on the outcome I want?
If not, create a visual and mental projection of the outcome you desire. You will notice that the more you focus on the result you want (the positive outcome), the less you’ll fear. Some fear is useful, and it’s there teaching you what you may need to overcome. So in this instance, you can ask yourself a further question ‘what do I need to learn to let go of this fear?’ And be sure to activate the learning so that you can relax.
Step 3 MOVE YOUR BODY
Research conducted by Dimberg in Sweden shows that our mind influences our body, and our body influences our perception. To give you an example, if it’s safe to do so right now, stretch your arms out and up and smile. A big goofy smile, with teeth! Do you feel different?
We are even less active now than ever before. And with the lack of physical touch and hugging during social distancing measures, it’s also vital to connect with yourself and give yourself a gentle arm rub and hug to foster the endorphins we receive from physical touch.
Moving your body is a form of internal massage, and it is impossible to feel miserable if you have a goofy smile on your face. The mind will be tricked into feeling good if you smile.
Step 4 EXPLORE YOUR SPIRITUAL BELIEFS
What are your spiritual beliefs?
This might seem irrelevant, but it is an essential question for self-awareness. Research shows that suicide rates keep rising. I’ve worked with numerous suicidal clients in my career as a life coach and personal development trainer and one of the questions I always ask anyone who is feeling suicidal is ‘what are your spiritual beliefs?’
The vast majority of clients have replied with either ‘ I haven’t thought about it’ or ‘nobody has ever asked me that question’.
The pandemic is making us all acutely aware of our mortality.
This is positive because our society has a somewhat unspoken fear of death.
Fear is an illusion, and it dissolves when we shine a light on what is usually kept in the dark. To illustrate this point, do you remember when you were a child, and you were afraid of shadow monsters in your wardrobe?
When your parents switched the light on to show you nothing was there, they would all disappear, right? Well, there are a lot of adults in the world right now afraid of their shadow monsters — and all we need to do is turn the light on to feel a lot less fearful.
HOW TO DO THIS
One of the exercises I take my readers through in my book “Relaunch My Life’ is a process of writing your eulogy; in other words what people will say about you before your last physical farewell, at your funeral.
This is not at all intended to be morbid; it’s a valuable and realistic exercise that helps us all realize the things that matter most so we can gain perspective on what we may want to change in the present, while we still can. If you’ve never written your eulogy, I’d highly recommend it; you may be surprised by what dreams and ideas surface as a result!
Step 5 DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
The current pandemic has forced us to learn to connect with others more virtually and through devices. We can enhance our mindfulness by learning how to disconnect from the virtual world and reconnecting with our inner world.
In his enlightening book ‘The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying’ Sogyal Rinpoche explains that our mind can do two things — look outward and look inward. Our lives currently operate on default by looking outward. What are others doing, what can I do for others? What are my external successes?
To create true resilience and mindfulness, we genuinely need to learn how to look inward.
I have hosted women’s retreats in Bali, Indonesia, for years, and as part of the seven-day program, I always scheduled a full 24 hours of silence.
The magic that came from that time for my participating guests was profound. People had book chapters written; they drew incredible artwork and even had new business ideas. They learned to communicate with their inner world by closing off the outer world. If you’ve never given yourself a full day of silence, consider starting with an hour of silence once a week. You’ll be surprised what you reconnect with.
HOW TO DO THIS
Designate one hour each day (or each week if daily is too much) for silence and for ‘going offline’ to connect with yourself. Simply tune in to what you feel like doing. Notice what arises.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Listen to one another. Right now more than ever, people need to feel heard. Rather than try to fix anything, give someone the space to be heard.
- Learn to listen for the unspoken. Body language reveals unspoken words. Pay close attention.
- Live by example. We are energetic beings and positive energy is infectious, so if you are calm and happy, people will not only gravitate toward you, they’ll also want to know how you do it!
- Create a fun support network. My friends and I all catch up on Video Chat over a cup of tea for half an hour and take turns giving each other 15 minutes of value. In other words, air time to focus on whatever is important to us at the time (relationships, work, personal challenges, family). This could also be extended to a round table of holding space for a few close friends, virtually. And once life is back to normal again, this can even be continued in person.
- Send people things that will make them smile. Memes can make someone’s day. When someone smiles, their entire emotional state follows that smile.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
95% of our thoughts, emotions and habits are outside of our conscious awareness, so by keeping a journal, you can notice insightful patterns about yourself. Hayhouse meditations and podcasts are real favourites. My clients have also enjoyed the free journaling guide featured on our website.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” — by Jack Canfield.
When I quit my high paying job to start my business, the fear almost paralyzed me — but I realized it was scarier in the long-term not to take that leap and stay in my current situation.
A lot of people are facing uncertainty right now, which makes them firmly grounded in reactivity. It’s essential to think about what you truly want, what you truly desire, deep down, but perhaps haven’t permitted yourself to explore before now. The discomfort of this global uncertainty is the perfect launchpad to catapult new ideas and new desires that can be implemented over time. I love remembering ‘the hard road gets easier, and the easy road gets harder”, which always reminds me to overcome challenges and fears in the short term for the long term benefit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
It might sound slightly ‘cheesy’, but I’d love to start a simple ‘Make Me Smile’ movement, where we all start each day with the primary intent, to make as many people as possible, smile! It will be a movement focused on the immediate altering of ones’ emotional state.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!