Mindful In May

Mindful in May is a global meditation challenge to get people meditating while raising money for clean water projects in communities in Africa. MIM is the brainchild of Australian Doctor, Elise Bialylew. Being an avid meditator, I was curious about how this movement all started with one woman.

Elise is a triple threat. A doctor, coach and wellness innovator with a background in Psychiatry. As an experienced health professional and facilitator of mindfulness meditation, Elise has seen firsthand the powerful effects that meditation can have, especially in our increasingly hectic lives. Combined with a fierce passion to make a positive difference in the world, Elise thought, “Why can’t I address these two ideas simultaneously?”…  the Mindful in May campaign was borne.

My chat with Elise about the Mindful in May

Before we get into Mindful in May can you tell us about your roots? What part of Australia are you from? Where did you grow up? DOB (if you’re cool with me asking)?

I grew up in Melbourne although have spent a lot of time travelling around the world – I love discovering new people, cultures and ideas.

I’m 35 (and a Virgo).

Dr Elise Bialylew- Founder of the Mindful in May campaign
Dr Elise Bialylew- Founder of the Mindful in May campaign

When did you decide to become a doctor, and why?

I had decided I was going to be a Psychiatrist when I was 16 years old (I know, it’s pretty funny in retrospect). I don’t think I really understood what Psychiatry entailed back then but I was always deeply curious about the human condition and the ingredients that are required to live a thriving life. At medical school, I remember being completely blown away as I held a human brain in my hands and wondered how a one kilogram mass could house a lifetime of memories, thoughts and desires. Studying medicine, although at times so difficult, has given me a deep appreciation for the miracle of the body.

How long have you been meditating for? What are the benefits you’ve found from meditating?

I was fortunate to be introduced to meditation by my mum who took me to conferences about mind-body wellbeing and who had shelves full of books by Jack Kornfield, Thich Nat Han and Jon Kabat Zinn. One of the first meditations I experienced was guided by a Tibetan Monk – a meditation on dying – the purpose of which is to connect you with the reality of impermanence. It sounds like pretty heavy going for a 15 year old, but it sparked my curiosity to learn more about consciousness.

Learning meditation has been one of the most valuable educations in my life. It has transformed me, and my career, in ways that have left me feeling a lot more aligned with my values.

So tell us about Mindful in May. What is it exactly?

Mindful in May is a one-month, global, online meditation challenge that brings the benefits of meditation together with an opportunity to contribute to a global cause. The one-month meditation program includes an accessible, well-researched program particularly supportive for time poor people that are new to meditation. It is delivered daily to your inbox and includes: weekly audio meditation downloads, exclusive video interviews with leading global Experts in the field and cutting edge science to keep you connected to your challenge.

The idea is that while you learn to meditate and be mindful, your donation and fundraising will ripple across the world to help improve the lives of the one in nine people on the planet who live without access to clean, safe drinking water.

How did you come up with the idea – meditating and raising money for clean water projects?

The idea of Mindful in May was really an integration of a number of different passions and influences in my life. Whilst training in Medicine and Psychiatry, I became a bit disillusioned as I felt there was something missing in the medical paradigm in terms of wellbeing. This led me to take time out to explore the world and work out if I wanted to continue in my training. My travelling took me to West Africa where I studied percussion, Cuba where I explored dance and then Sri Lanka following the Tsunami to work as a medical volunteer. Through these travels I was exposed to rich cultures, but also to the devastating reality and injustice of global poverty.

In West Africa, I remember watching in disbelief as women walked for miles balancing litres of water on their heads as a daily ritual for their families. Children were dying from preventable illnesses often associated with unsafe water and sanitation issues. Witnessing the way people were struggling to have their most basic needs met, had a profound impact on me. I have always been very sensitive to other peoples suffering. It’s been both a strength and an occupational hazard in my profession as a doctor working in psychiatry and so I’ve needed to learn skills to be present to peoples suffering without being overwhelmed by it.

This is where meditation came into the picture.

For me mindfulness meditation was life changing. It taught me so much about how to manage stressful situations and gave me ways to more skillfully manage my emotions both in my personal and professional relationships. As someone who thrives on doing and creating, it supported me in remembering to take time to be present, pause and literally catch my breath in the midst of the business of life.

It helped me find greater happiness and clarity around my purpose and direction and it opened me to a deeper understanding of the mind and it’s intimate connection to our wellbeing at a cellular and genetic level. Mindful in May emerged from all of those experiences. It is really about supporting people to feel a stronger sense of interconnectedness and meaning, offering them tools to be active participants in their wellbeing, and simultaneously making a difference in the world.

How long has Mindful in May been running? What are some of the results you’ve noticed both for the people that have participated and where the money goes?

This will be Mindful in May’s third year. It’s hard to believe it’s now a global movement with thousands of people from 28 countries around the world who have been involved.

People who have participated have expressed many different benefits including more focus, better stress management, a deeper sense of connectedness and appreciation in their lives, more kindness to themselves and improved relationships. Many people were surprised at the benefits gained from such a short daily ten-minute meditation practice.

How much of the dosh goes to communities and where is it going in Africa?

94% percent of the donations and fundraising are directed to the water projects. In 2012 the donations went to Ethiopia to build three water projects and provide clean water to nearly 1000 people. In 2013 the money raised went towards water projects in Rwanda, which are currently being built.

So how can people get involved?

Just visit the website www.mindfulinmay.org and make sure you sign up before May 1st, donate to the cause ($25, which gives you access to the one month online meditation course) and inspire your friends and family to get involved by joining your meditation team or sponsoring your challenge.


The ten-minute-a-day Mindful in May campaign kicks off on the 1st May – get involved! Register here by April 30th.

Want more?

Watch an animation on the Mindful in May campaign here

And follow the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Australian Artist, Lisa Mitchell is presenting a talk and taking part in an interview on some of her interests; the feminine and connecting to the sacred at The Brainery Store. Tomorrow, this Weds 13th November from 7.30pm in Kyneton Vic. Tickets are $22.

Intrigued I asked Lisa if she could take part in a Q&A about the talk over email. Here it is.

Hi Lisa! Tell us about your connection to the Brainery Store – how did this link come about?

Sarah contacted me after I started following The Brainery Store on Instagram. LOVE social media for that! I saw Dumbofeather ( amazing magazine) mention them a few weeks back when they did their ‘Backyard Party’ together in Geelong so I followed them.

You’re talking about your interests. I know they’re vast. You mentioned on Instagram your talk will involve the feminine and connecting to the sacred. Firstly, the feminine. Here’s a big call. I personally believe it’s the strongest energy on earth. Agree? What will you be exploring about the feminine. 

Firstly, totally grateful for this interview already, but now I’m even more grateful as it’s helping me prepare soooo much for this talk!!!! ( Thanks Fuzzy! ) I don’t usually do presentations like this, so I am feeling so challenged, but also SO GLAD that I am being asked to share in this format as well as through my music.

The Feminine: yes, HUGE topic. HUGE! What is the Feminine? She embodies the mother, the lover, the gardener, the one that tends, the one that shows compassion, who nurtures – herself, himself or others – she is fierce and she is all power too. She is death and she is life. She is in man and woman. I am in process, like all of us, so this is a talk from someone that is on a path, not at a destination.  I will share about my experiences with her, and how I connect and remember her love.

Connecting to the sacred. This would naturally interlink with the first topic. Can you explain a little more what you’ll be talking about with the sacred?  

Yes, connecting to the sacred for me is interlinked to the Feminine as the Feminine is sacred to me. Everyone holds different things and aspects sacred. Even if they don’t realise… Ritual is SUCH a powerful way of connecting to the deeper tides that are going on within us and around us and I really feel SUCH a craving to bring more ritual back into my life and hopefully the lives of others. Yes, making a pot of tea can be a ritual. Ritual is basically ‘doing’ something – from drawing a picture to holding a dinner party to making a cuppa – and consciously attaching an intention to it. ‘This circle that I draw around myself in the dirt will make me feel safe’, for example.  I will share about the Women’s circle that I started with my friends and family as well as other ways that I connect to these deeper tides.

Does this also mean you’ll touch on some of the ideas you learnt about Bio-Dynamics while working on a farm this year? 

I spent some time at a an incredible bio-dynamic farm near Melbourne earlier this year. Bio-Dynamics is a school of thought and a way of organic farming that was developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. (Yes, the same guy that created Steiner school). I saw the tip of the iceberg in terms of Bio-Dynamics, but I was delighted to catch a glimpse of such a multi-dimensional way of looking at how the earth interacts with itself and the cosmos. Once, at the farm as the sun rose we hand-sprayed a fine mist of carefully prepared ground quartz & water all over the fields to help stimulate the light energy available to the plants, assisting photosynthesis and giving the faeries some special sparkles in their morning dew-tea! Bio-dynamics is an intensive way of farming and way of life that seems full of intention-filled rituals like the quartz-spray.

I love listening to a great talk and having fruitful conversation. What encounters have you had that have left a lasting impression on you and why?

Me too! I have realised I retain SO MUCH more through conversation and listening to people speak than I do through books. I buy so many audio-books now! I’ve been so lucky to have spent some time with Ben Lee this year and his talk at The Conscious Club in Melbourne earlier this year was a memorable talk that stands out to me. He spoke so openly of his experiences with the powerful plant medicine of the Ayahuasca vine. It is well-worth looking up some of Ben’s interviews on his latest album, ‘Welcome to the Work’.

One of my main sources of inspiration in terms of story-telling is Jungian psychoanalyst, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her most famous book, perhaps, is ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’. She has written many many other books. She is a story-teller, a keeper of the old stories of her families, being raised in the oral and ethnic traditions. I highly recommend listening to her voice – wow, what a voice. So low and wise and of a trillion lives. She has many audio-versions of her books – get on the audio-book train!

Thank you Lisa

Thanks Fuzz, was so chuffed to get your email.


Get tickets to Lisa’s talk here


Follow Lisa Mitchell