The following is the first interview in our new series called Free Thinkers. Here we celebrate those creative and inspired minds who are doing more and being more, challenging established ways of thinking, making an impact today and improving the lives of others in meaningful ways. Meet Fern Taylor, Free Thinker and author and illustrator of Here and Now.
1. Tell us your story
What was your inspiration for creating this book?
In 2011 I was working as a primary school teacher, a job which I loved, when I developed an autoimmune condition. For a long time, I ignored my symptoms and battled on, trying to keep up with the pace of life I was used to. Eventually, my body couldn't keep going anymore and I was forced to take time out and rest.
During this time, my doctor recommended that I try mindfulness as research has shown that it can strengthen the immune system as well as improving over-all health and well being. I decided it was worth a try.
After practising mindfulness for a while, I began to notice benefits. My endless thoughts seemed to become quieter and the tension in my body eased. I began to feel more connected to myself and to the world around me. It was as though I was coming in to land: finding a home in myself once again. There was a feeling of being more 'alive' and I noticed I was finding enjoyment in things that I wouldn't have noticed before. I have continued to practise mindfulness since that time and I definitely feel more balanced and more at ease in my life as a result.
I feel inspired to share what I have learnt in the hope that it might be of benefit to others. My book was really made with love and very much from the heart. Sometimes we just need a bit of support and encouragement to come back to the space of stillness and peace that is there within us, all of the time. I like to think that my book can offer to others that little bit of comfort and guidance when it is needed.
2. How are you challenging established ways of thinking?
There are lots of mindfulness books at the moment - what makes yours different?
'Here and Now' is an experiential book that I hope is simple, clear and works straight away. Most importantly, I hope it is fun to use!
The book contains 25 activities that bring about a sense of mindful awareness as you touch, swipe, turn, stand on or otherwise engage with the page. I've tried to share all of the practices that have helped me, including breathing meditation, mindful movement, compassion and gratitude, in a fresh and accessible way.
3. How can we all improve the lives of others in meaningful ways? How do you think we all can create a positive and lasting legacy?
How do you think the book can help people?
I know from experience that it can feel difficult to fit meditation into a busy life or to start something new at a time when we are feeling over-stretched or low. I wanted to show that mindfulness does not have to be another job to add to the 'to do' list, but that it may simply involve a slight shift in your attention to help you feel lighter and more connected to yourself straight away. This can be a fun and enjoyable experience from the start.
I hope that the book embodies a playful approach and provides an easy and effective way into mindfulness, planting seeds that will blossom and grow over time. The activities are all based on well established and researched practices. They might seem small but I know from my own experience that they can have a really powerful impact and vastly improve the way that we relate to our minds and bodies and to the world we live in.
4. Did you have anyone in mind when you wrote the book? Who is the book's intended audience?
The activities in the book are like little mindfulness experiences or active 'meditations' that can be done in a couple of minutes straight. They don't require any preparation or prior reading. For this reason, the book works well for people who aren't able to sit and meditate for a long time.
The book has received really positive reviews from people of all ages and levels of prior mindfulness experience. Someone shared with me recently that the book has helped her get back into mindfulness after having a baby, (and so no longer having the time to meditate every day). The book has also been used successfully by teenagers and I know of parents who have shared it with their children, which is always lovely to hear.
5. What inspires you?
How has mindfulness had an impact on your life?
I practise mindfulness because I enjoy it and because it is good for me. It helps me to feel relaxed and at home in my body. When I am centred and calm, I am able to see more clearly and to make decisions from a balanced and stable position. This means I feel more confident in myself. I am also more able to accept things that I can't change and to have compassion towards myself and my experience.
I have noticed that when I take care of myself, I am able to be much more present and caring towards those around me. I totally agree with the belief that underpins the work you do with the Happiness Compass that when we are happier within ourselves we are better able to act with love, compassion and clarity to be there for others and for the world.
My mindfulness practice is an ongoing journey for me which is continually unfolding and teaching me more and more about myself and the world. I love sharing about mindfulness with others; I think that when we can all learn together it adds so much to our experience. My book is my offering towards this intention and I hope that it may help others on their journey towards being calmer, healthier and happier.
You can find out more about Fern and her new book at ferntaylormindfulness.com and her social handles:
Here and Now: Out now, published by HarperCollins UK.
The book depository (free worldwide delivery):
Dymocks (AU) https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/here-now-by-fern-taylor--9780008216580/#.WOkl5_nyvIU
WHSmiths (UK), Waterstones (UK).