"Practice mindfulness first. We can feel incredibly discontented in our jobs/careers, but if we can connect with the root of what’s really holding us back or making things difficult, it can completely change our perspective."
- Autumn Totton, Co-Founder of The Mindfulness Project
In the below interview, Alexa Frey and Autumn Totton, Founders of The Mindfulness Project, reveal how they’ve established a business teaching busy Londoners how they can experience more mindfulness in their lives and all the benefits this brings such as more happiness, better sleep, productivity (yes I know- who doesn’t want more of that!?) Read on to soak up their pearls of wisdom to help you shape your most inspiring business vision and to find out more about how mindfulness can help you on your career and business journey….
Can you tell us more about your business The Mindfulness Project?
Through our secular courses in London, we teach people the act of being mindful. We have this natural tendency to either think about the past or the future. This is because we grasp after what is pleasurable and try to avoid what’s uncomfortable. Mindfulness is about training our attention to stay in the present moment – the only place where life really happens. We teach mindfulness as a skillset to help people feel good, be more productive, be better in relationships, kick bad habits and unleash creativity.
Tell me more about your careers before starting The Mindfulness Project?
Autumn: I used to do asset management and investment analysis for commercial real estate assets on behalf of institutional and private investors. I loved it in many ways, but ultimately wasn’t satisfied with the day-to-day work.
Alexa: After studying Social Sciences and History I found meditation and immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After a three-month stay in an Ashram in India, I decided to move to London to study Psychology. After that degree I worked as a freelance journalist for a German teenage magazine, writing about mindfulness and compassion and taught mindfulness to individual clients until I had the idea to start up the Mindfulness Project. Two weeks later, Autumn called me. She wanted to learn more about mindfulness. I started teaching her over Skype (she lived in NY) and she started helping me with the business plan for TMP. We had in fact met 11 years before though when studying in Switzerland!
What inspired you to start The Mindfulness Project?
Alexa: I used to suffer from anxiety and mindfulness really helped and changed my whole life for the better. But I always wished there was a dedicated space for secular mindfulness in London, where fellow minds could meet and practice mindfulness together – and at some point I just figured that I just had to set one up myself!
How did you manage building your businesses alongside your full time careers?
Alexa: I still continued working as a journalist and mindfulness teacher in the beginning when starting up TMP, but after a while I had to dedicate all my time to TMP – it just became too much and I wanted to really dedicate myself 100% to the cause.
Autumn: I always had dreams of building a business parallel to my full-time career, but to be honest in the midst of trying to be amazing at my day job,I found it hard to make the space to figure out what I really wanted to be doing, let alone pursue it at the same time. I found it really hard to have a healthy work-life balance. It took quitting my job all together and dabbling in other things to find what I really wanted to be doing. And in the end, even that kind of found me. But only after I found mindfulness (with Alexa’s help!) and started to really embrace the opportunities that presented themselves to me.
What’s been the biggest highlight?
Autumn: The relationships that we’ve built. Starting with our own. We have way too much fun working together. Partly because we allow each other space to just be human and vulnerable at work. We have really become best friends in this process. We are also so lucky to be working with an amazing group of teachers and advisors, who inspire us and are really breathing life into the project. Now that we’re actually up and running, it’s been amazing to connect with the people who are ready to be learning mindfulness.
Alexa: In the beginning, we spent a lot of time traveling around the US and meeting important people in the field of mindfulness such as Christopher Germer and Tara Brach. They have all been super supportive and inspiring. And since we were in the US anyway, we did a few side trips such as visiting Detroit and Disneyland!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Alexa: Starting up a business is a rollercoaster ride. One day is great, the next one everything seems to fall apart. Fortunately, mindfulness helps to surf those waves. It’s also been hard for me to spend so much time at work. I used to be a social butterfly. My diary used to be full with electro parties, gigs, dinners with friends etc. Now I spend most of my evenings in front of my computer. But to be honest, it’s totally worth it! Because I get to spend my time spreading mindfulness and working and laughing with Autumn! The two best things in my life!
The Mindfulness Project has built up a prominent profile and now associated with some fantastic names such as the Huffington Post. What’s your secret?
Autumn: We have really taken a personal approach to connecting with people, whether it being journalists or social media followers. We’re very lucky that the Huffington Post is such a huge advocate for mindfulness and feel honoured to be able to work with them on helping spread mindfulness.
What advice would you give to other women who dream of starting their own business?
Autumn: Start practicing mindfulness first. Sometimes we feel incredibly discontented in our jobs/careers, but if we can really connect with the root of what’s really holding us back or making things difficult, it can completely change our perspective. That might mean not leaving a job or pursuing a career that you hadn’t considered.
Alexa: I once read that the most important thing when starting a business is finding a great business partner who you also get along with. The article said that finding the perfect business partner is like finding your soulmate. To be honest, I’m convinced that I couldn’t have started up TMP with anybody else other than Autumn. Yes, she is the best businesswoman I can imagine! But that’s not enough; I can be real with her. She’s like my sister.
What’s next for you?
Autumn: We want to continue to grow The Mindfulness Project to become an international platform for teaching mindfulness. We have lots of plans in the works for how we can make the whole mindful lifestyle more accessible and popular.
What’s your favourite quote?
Autumn: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” ―John Milton, Paradise Lost
Alexa: “In this choice-less never-ending flow of life, the is an infinite array of choices. One alone brings happiness – to love what is.” – Dorothy S. Hunt
To find out more about The Mindfulness Project including upcoming mindfulness courses, just hop on over to their website here
Want to hear more inspiring stories like this, including our top tips to style a career and business you love? Join our growing tribe here.