Kate James is the director of The Change Project, an online resource centre creating positive change in people’s lives. In addition to running The Change Project, Kate coaches leaders and business owners on important career issues such as developing emotional intelligence, building confidence and the art of mindful leadership. Kate is a speaker in the areas of mindfulness and meditation. She runs annual retreats in Byron Bay and Bali. She is regularly quoted in the press, radio and television on a range of topics from career satisfaction to mindfulness.
What led you to meditation?
I started meditating around 20 years ago when my husband (who works in the film industry) had been out of work for around six weeks. It was, and still is, the nature of his work to have busy spells and then stretches of time without work and at the time, I was finding it pretty stressful. Our daughters were just two and five years old and I was only working a couple of days a week. I had long been interested in learning to meditate but as my anxiety levels escalated I realised I needed to do something about it so I enrolled in a Transcendental Meditation (TM) course. My beautiful sister who had done the course some months earlier shared the cost with me because she was such a passionate believer in meditation.
What value has practising meditation brought to your life?
It was about three weeks after starting that course and having committed to my twice-a-day-for-twenty-minutes practice that I really noticed a difference – I remember waking up one day and realising I just didn’t feel anxious any more. The best way I can describe it is to say it’s like someone has turned the volume down on worry, anxiety and fear. Nothing had changed in the outside world but the way I was responding was almost magically different.
How has meditation supported you in your professional life and thriving business?
I started my coaching business ten years ago and one of the first things I discovered when working with clients is that most people suffer from stress. I recommended exercise and meditation and referred people to the course I had done. It wasn’t long before I decided that I could teach people myself. Because it’s something I’m truly passionate about, teaching meditation is a pure joy for me and in recent years it has been the basis of the annual retreats I run.
What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?
Probably the same as everyone – discipline, time, a busy mind. Mornings aren’t naturally my preferred time to meditate but I wake up half an hour early every week day to make sure I fit the practice in. Nothing gets in the way at 5.30am. I try to fit a second session in at around 5pm or before going to sleep but that doesn’t always happen.
What is a quote that most inspires you and why?
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows.’ Buddha
I think this is so true. I have always been fascinated by the human mind. Maybe the greatest lesson I have learned through meditation is that happiness really depends on the way that I think.
What is a book that has opened you to new ideas and inspired your growth and why?
Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson. Rick is a neuropsychologist from the US and his book cites some excellent research into the benefits of meditation. I love anything that’s backed up by science and Rick is a gifted and engaging writer.
What Mindful Music do you listen to (ie. music that grabs your full attention and brings you into the moment.)
I love so many different kinds of music and I’m happy to listen to them all mindfully but the truth is, I don’t make enough time to do that these days. It’s probably the only thing I miss about being a teenager – having hours to lie around on the floor with headphones on with the music really loud. A piece that I often come back to is Bist Du bei Mir by Bach.