Alfred James was born in London, England, in 1978. He is a mindfulness coach, author and founder of the globally popular Pocketmindfulness.com
James teaches mindfulness as a pathway to self-acceptance and inner peace, a pathway that helps release the attachment, aversion and desire responsible for the day-to-day suffering of mind that prevents us from discovering true contentment in life.
We have asked Alfred James some questions about his journey into mindfulness.
What inspired you to teach mindfulness?
I didn’t really set out to teach but rather just share my experiences and tips to help others deal with life’s obstacles. So I started PocketMindfulness.com as a little corner of the web where I hoped my posts would resonate with a few people and help them find more happiness and contentment in their lives. Since that time the reach of the blog has grown beyond anything I initially imagined, I’ve written two books and connected with lots of wonderful people.
Do you use your mindfulness techniques yourself regularly?
I use mindfulness techniques all the time, and not always on purpose either. That’s the beauty of learning to understand the mind; you naturally become more present and mindful in everyday interactions. It becomes second nature to accept what is and release yourself from the negative cycles of stress, fear and anger. But sure, whenever I sense/feel the need to find mental spaciousness, I’ll take action. This could be taking a long walk, putting on some soothing music, immersing myself in a simple game with my daughter, writing down my thoughts on paper or taking time to to meditate.
What benefits have you found from doing them?
The benefits can be summarised quite simply as a more contented life, which to me equates to being less stressed, less fearful, having fewer insecurities, improved personal relationships and being a generally happier, more accepting and compassionate person. Of course, like anyone else, I have bad days and I’m as imperfect as the next man or woman, but mindfulness equips you with a better understanding of the way the mind works, and in turn gives you the tools to better deal with the challenges life throws at you.
Where do you get your inspiration from to produce new mindful exercises?
My inspiration for new mindfulness techniques comes from my own life experiences and ways I have learnt to understand and temper my mind when it begins to cause me stress, anxiety and general suffering. The mindfulness exercises you’ll find in my book of the same name are my personal creations, with of course some influence from traditional practices and past teachers.
To those who are sceptic about the benefits of mindfulness, what would you say?
I’d say to them to look no further than the hundreds of studies and articles that have come out over the past two years supporting the positive benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness works wonders for those suffering with stress-related illnesses, anxiety problems, anger-management issues, low confidence and self-esteem and more. From a personal point of view, I’d say to skeptics that the mind is extremely powerful, and if we don’t understand the way it works then it has the potential to delude and mislead us, and for some people this causes lots of unhappiness, fear, insecurity and disappointment. There’s no denying this, as it’s something we all experience to some degree in everyday life. Helping people understand the way they think and feel, and teaching them how to manage their thoughts and feelings to create a happier life, can only ever be a positive thing.
What is your favourite mindful exercise and why?
That’s a hard question to answer, because the type of exercise depends on my feeling at the time. But I really love being outside among nature, especially by the sea. I think we all do, and mindfulness really leads you back to that innate connection we have with the natural world. So I’d have to say that my favourite mindfulness exercise is walking along a beach, starring out at the vast sea and losing myself in its wonder. I just love being near the sea, there’s something so liberating about it that puts life into perspective.
How would you like to see mindfulness being used in the future?
I’d like it to see mindfulness being used to help people reconnect intimately with the world. While I think computer technology has made wonderful advancements and continues to bring so many benefits to our lives, I think it has the potential to negatively impact our social interactions and cause us to become somewhat isolated and detached. So I’d like to encourage people, kids especially, to get outside and start playing, sharing, discovering and connecting with the natural world and all other sentient beings. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this post: http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/a-new-mindful-exercise-for-the-modern-world/
For someone who is new to mindfulness, what advice would you give them on initial exercises and locations to do them and when should they start to experience benefits from doing them?
There’s a list of 6 easy exercises listed here that you can try: http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/6-mindfulness-exercises-you-can-try-today/ These are simple starting points that will help you understand what it means to be truly present for a while and not have your mind constantly scattered by thoughts of the past and anticipation of the future. In terms of benefits, while there will be plenty in time, I encourage people not to start out with any expectations of benefits or rapid change. Mindfulness is about accepting how you feel and letting go of the grasping and desire that causes us to feel anxious, stressed, insecure and fearful. If we anticipate all the time, if we expect and desire, strive and grasp, we will experience disappointment at what isn’t rather than seeing the beauty and potential in what is. Accept what is here now, let go of what has been and what might be, unchain yourself from the expectations of yourself and others, and be present to enjoy the moment and its possibilities.
Do you have any new ideas for pocket mindfulness.com that you can share with us?
I’m currently working on a mindfulness meditation audio series which I hope to finish in the next two months. There’s also a couple of new books in the pipeline. Apart from that, I will carry on penning posts when I feel inspired and interacting with all the wonderful people that email me and message me through Twitter and Facebook. If you haven’t done so already, I’d like to encourage you to sign up for my Mindful Bites newsletter, which is easily done by visiting: http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/