Ali Roff Farrar has written and spoken about mindfulness and inner wisdom and is Wellness Director at Psychologies magazine, where she has interviewed world-renowned spiritual gurus, psychologists, doctors, and wise women and men including Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein, Byron Katie, Jon Kabat Zinn and Mastin Kipp.
In this week’s podcast we chat about:
- Ali shares her experience of anxiety and panic attacks and how she handles it.
- Why mindfulness is so much more than just ‘being in the moment’
- How we’re replacing our inner wisdom (and how to get it back)
If you would like free resources to help you to feel calmer and self-assured – visit calmer-you.com/confidence .
You can also find out about my app and my 121 sessions of hypnotherapy and coaching at www.calmer-you.com.
Get free resources from me to help you to regain control and become your calmest self, head to www.calmer-you.com/free
Chloe Brotheridge 00:02: Hello, and welcome to the Calmer You podcast. This is your host, Chloe Brotheridge. I’m a coach, a hypnotherapist, and I’m the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. This podcast is all about helping you to become your calmest, happiest and most confident self.
I’m talking to the really incredibly lovely Ali Roff Farrar, who is Wellness Director at Psychologies Magazine. She has interviewed world-renowned spiritual gurus, psychologists, doctors and wise women and men including Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein, Byron Katie, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Mastin Kip.
Topics we discuss
I absolutely love this conversation with Ali. She taught me so much. She really helped me to think about mindfulness in a different way. So one of the things we talked about is why mindfulness is so much more than being in the moment. This really shifted things for me. She also shares her experience of anxiety and panic attacks and how she handles it. And we talk about how we are potentially replacing our inner wisdom and how we can get it back. I think you’re gonna love this episode.
If you would like to be a calmer, happier and more confident person, I have a lot of free resources for you. I’d love to share these with you to help you to feel more in control and to take another step towards being your calmest self.
If you want to get those freebies, you can head over to my website, Calmer-you.com/free and enter your email address. I will send you all of those goodies straight into your inbox.
You can also find out about my app and my one on one sessions of hypnotherapy and coaching at calmer-you.com
More about Ali
Welcome, Ali, thank you so much for joining me How are you today?
Chloe Brotheridge 02:27: Can you share with listeners what it is that you do. Also, can you share a bit about your story of how you got to where you are today?
Ali: Yeah, so I’ve got my finger in a lot of pies actually. My main role is as the Wellness Director at Psychologies Magazine. That involves doing lots of research and writing about all of the new kinds of wellness trends out there.
My background really is in psychology. That’s what my degree is in. I’m really fascinated about modern science and psychology and seeing how they align so amazingly, with ancient philosophy.
I’m a yoga teacher and also a mindfulness expert. I’ve done two years plus of training in mindfulness training under some amazing people, including Jon Kabat Zinn.
My job allows me to write about all of that stuff. Last year, I just wrote my first book this year, which came out this year.
I also run yoga and mindfulness retreats with my husband. It’s quite exciting to have a few different things going on and, and just seeing where life takes me.
It all began really with Psychologies Magazine. Before that I was working at GQ, mainly writing about fashion. Then this job at Psychologies Magazine came up. It is so different to all of the other magazines out there. Jam-packed full of interesting things to read. It’s to the point where most of our readers say, Well, I haven’t even finished this month’s issue and the new ones out.
I’ve never read a magazine like that before usually you just like flick through them and then you are done with them in a couple of hours. Whereas Psychology is something that people hold on to for years and everything’s so relevant. You can pick one up from a few years ago and still find things that will help you.
I just loved how positive it was and how it was bringing modern science and psychology and all these studies to life.
Interviewing people like Deepak Chopra really sent me on my path to enlightenment, inner wisdom and going on retreats. I feel very grateful to Psychologies Magazine setting me on this path.
Psychologies Magazine is for anyone who is, looking to understand themselves better. There are so many avenues to explore like hypnotherapy and Reiki, yoga and heavy psychology.
Chloe Brotheridge 07:11: I was reading Psychologies Magazine and it really did stand out to me as being so much more positive, empowering, and smart. Not superficial. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional bit of superficiality, but it was a lot deeper than a lot of other magazines.
I’m really curious about what Deepak said to you. What was that like? What did he say that made you go on that path to wanting to learn more about mindfulness?
Ali: That is a special episode. I have to delete some of the interviews because they take up some much memory, but for some reason I just can’t get rid of that one. I need to listen to it again actually. It was only 20 minutes. I remember coming off the call and saying to my husband that I’d just had the most amazing experience.
Deepak was telling us to be a child and see see the world through a child’s eyes. It was just so lovely. Such an extraordinary man learning from his grandson. He was so open and there was no ego. And obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t be who he is. He’s just got a really amazing way of of speaking and being very inspiring and profound. He is definitely tapped into his inner wisdom. There is loads of free content out with him talking. Interviewing Megan Markel was the highlight of my career.
What is mindfulness
Chloe Brotheridge 10:00: What does mindfulness mean to you and how has mindfulness helped you in your life?
Ali: 10:08: I tried mindfulness for a few years and then I realised that there’s more to it than what we learn through the media. It’s so much more than being in the moment. That can only give us so much.
It allows me to stop worrying about the future, to stop regretting the past or fretting over what’s happened in the past and, and just be here. That does give us a certain amount of benefits. Just being in the moment can be kind of limiting. There are so many types that can be taught. They can be about the positive, loving-kindness and meditations. They can help us connect with everyone in the world and cultivate compassion.
Be here now
To be here and now without feelings, that’s really what mindfulness is. Learning to be here and now with our feelings, whether they’re good feelings or bad feelings, and just being with them in a non-judgmental compassionate way. Listening to your inner wisdom.
That allows us to begin to accept where we are and how we feel. For example, right now there is a lot of anxiety and bad things that are happening. I’m sure lots of people will be experiencing negative emotions. They’re really difficult to be with and our natural kind of way of dealing with that is to push them away.
Mindfulness is about acceptance
That doesn’t mean that that negative emotion goes away. It often just screams louder at us. That can be a really difficult place to live. Many of us will be living our lives like that on a daily basis for our whole lives. So for me, the revelation was that yes, this negative emotion is here, but also there’s some positive emotions. If I can just allow them and notice them with mindful awareness, they stop screaming so loud. That’s when the inner wisdom can speak.
If I can hold them in a kind of container of awareness, then I can begin to accept that they’re there and that’s how we find peace. Accepting that bad things are happening but it’s ok.
I’m feeling anxious. I’ve just had a 25% pay cut, which has happened to a lot of people. I can’t do anything to change that. So beating myself up more. Putting layers and layers of catastrophizing on top of that one problem isn’t going to make me feel any better. But if I can look at that, and go, yep, that’s rubbish. And it’s there and just allow it to be there, then it almost begins to shrink.
Mindfulness also helps us realise that one day we feel good one day we feel bad one day. The sun is shining one day it’s raining another. Life is always in transition between one day an another.
I’m very passionate about it, but in a nutshell, mindfulness really is about acceptance and acceptance leads to peace.
Chloe Brotheridge 15:12: That is so powerful. It’s really given me a different perspective on mindfulness. That’s such a good reminder
The Wellfulness Project
Your new book is called The Wellfulness Project. It’s such a lovely book. Really practical with loads of inspiring stories. I also love the fact that in the Kindle version, it has illustrations in it and pictures, which is quite rare for a Kindle.
Ali: The tools in the book are best as visuals. I had so much fun recording it for Audible. Going to the studio was really fun.
Chloe Brotheridge 16:48: What is wellfulness? How would you describe what that is?
What is wellfulness?
Ali: I made up the word. It’s basically applying mindful awareness to the wellness practices that we follow. When we think about wellness, it’s often quite easy to think it’s about diet and exercise. For me, wellness is holistic.
It encompasses our diet and the way you move, but also the way we think about our bodies. So body image, and then space. Those spaces that we spend our time in. Obviously, we’re spending a lot of time at home at the moment, and perhaps becoming more aware of how spaces make us feel, and missing spaces that we used to spend time in.
Impact of spaces on how we feel
I love to work in cafes. If I’m feeling a certain way, I can get a real energy from working in a cafe. Being mindful and noticing how different spaces make us feel.
Impact of people on how we feel
Equally how people make us feel. The people that we either have to be around or choose to be around.
Routines and rituals
Routines and the rituals that we follow. How we go to bed, for example, can become, for many of us some kind of mindless routine that we’ve just kind of appeared out of habit, rather than paying conscious awareness to that routine. We can think about how it makes us feel and how it serves us. We can listen to our inner wisdom.
How our thoughts make us feel
It can be our thoughts that make us feel a certain way. We we are not our minds. If we just allow them to run the show, then, you know, we could end up thinking about things in a way that doesn’t really serve us. Our mind should nourish who we want to be and achieve.
Do what makes you feel good
Wellfulness is applying mindful awareness, noticing how the things we do make us feel and from there, we gain power. We can either choose to keep something in our life and there’s a reason for it being there. For example, a yoga practice. It works for me and I’m going to keep it in my life. But, I don’t really enjoy running. It doesn’t make my heart sing and it makes me really bored as well. So what am I doing that I can I replace that with. Can I replace it with something that does serve me on a holistic level?
It’s empowering ourselves to look at our lives and consider through mindful awareness whether we have things in place that are there because we want them and we chosen them, or if they’re just because they’re kind of appeared because someone else is doing it. Why am I wasting my time?
Chloe Brotheridge 20:00: That makes so much sense. It’s like going through different parts of your life and auditing them and just saying, why is this working for me? How can I bring more awareness to this area? What can I change?
I know that you’ve spoken about your own experiences with anxiety, can you talk a little bit about that and how you manage that yourself? What advice you would give other people who are experiencing anxiety?
Working with anxiety
Ali: In the past, I’ve had low-level anxiety, especially in terms of not feeling good enough. Also, negative thought patterns going on in my head. A critical narrative going on there. It’s only really in the past year that I have experienced anxiety that has been crippling and has actually profoundly affected my life.
It began to appear as panic attacks. That was really difficult for me for someone who had done so much work on myself, practicing and teaching yoga and writing about wellness everyday. and you know, does yoga and teaches yoga, who writes about wellness and practices mindfulness every day. To suddenly have this anxiety which almost felt like it appeared from nowhere and is showing up in this really physical way.
It was really scary. For a long time, I didn’t understand how I was feeling. I actually just felt numb. I wasn’t feeling happy or sad or excited. That was a warning flag. That lead me to wanting to be home a lot and just be quiet.
My first panic attack was in the car with my husband singing along to the radio. It was the noise. I don’t even think my husband really realised that I was having one. It was scary. That’s when I realised I think that something was really seriously wrong.
The guilt and shame
I put a lot of guilt and shame on myself. As someone who had been there for other people in the past dealing with anxiety and mental health issues, and now I was having a mental health issue and dealing with anxiety at a big level. I couldn’t hear my inner wisdom.
That was really difficult for me to honestly to admit to myself and to other people. I felt like a bit of a fraud, to be honest. The panic attacks lasted for a few months, quite severely. One night I had three in a row. Just relentless and they’re exhausting. I really found it actually very difficult to meditate at that time. Being with those intense thoughts is very hard to do.
I found myself moving away from those things that I’ve done in the past to support myself – yoga, mindfulness and meditation. I just wanted to lose myself in the day to day tasks. I needed to practice compassion and not put so much pressure on myself.
I did go to counselling
One thing I did start, which I’ve never done before, was going to counselling. That really helped me. She helped me realise that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in every area of life. We’re all striving for success and greatness . Striving to lead extraordinary lives and that can also lead to putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. And then one thing she taught me that has stayed with me is that it’s not a demand, it’s a strong preference. That really helped me start to navigate through life and take some of the pressures off and listen to my inner wisdom.
The gift in the anxiety
Gradually week by week I started to feel a bit better and understand myself on a deeper level and where my anxiety was coming from. After a few weeks of therapy, I was able to get back into yoga a bit and get back into meditation. Honestly, I feel like my anxiety and those panic attacks were one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. It allowed me to fully understand how severe anxiety can be in terms of a physical reaction and how it can manifest. I know bring that into my teaching and my understanding and empathy.
It’s also allowed me to understand myself and it’s given me resilience. That has prepared me for the Coronavirus pandemic, which is extremely anxiety-provoking for many of us. I’ve got the tools to deal with it.
I did have a panic attack when this all started again. I had to tell myelf that this is completely normal. It’s okay that this is coming up again for me.
I now have first hand experience coming through it and speaking to so many people that have come through anxiety. I’m still living with it. I think most of us are still living with it. Hopefully it’s reduced a bit.
Anxiety can make us stronger
Anxiety can empower us and can make us stronger. It can serve us in a strange way. I’m actually very grateful for it. If anything, it’s just enhanced my compassion, inner wisdom and so much more.
Chloe Brotheridge 28:39: Thank you so much for sharing that. I think lots of people listening can relate to that. I can relate to how often we beat ourselves up about how we’re feeling and make ourselves wrong. It’s important to have compassion for yourself. If you’re feeling anxious is not your fault. Life can be challenging. We are here to learn. It can teach us about ourselves and come out stronger on the other side.
Ali 29:35: Anxiety is actually our superpower?
Anxiety can be our superpower
Chloe Brotheridge 29:41: I love that idea. I’ll go with that.
I wanted to ask you about something that I read in your book. You wrote that we replacing our inner wisdom.
Ali 30:12: I feel quite passionately about this.
Where does our inner wisdom come from in the modern world?
We are replacing our inner wisdom with the wisdom in our pocket. And by that, I mean, our phones. It’s not just our phones, but if we have a question, we consult our phone. For example, Why am I always so thirsty? The natural thing for us to do nowadays is Google it. Why do I keep feeling thirsty? And, you know, we’re just bombarded with information. There’s so much out there.
Is too much information a distraction to inner wisdom?
There’s so much information out there. Even passive information, let alone the information that we’re seeking. Say for example, I want to boost my immunity. I can go online and I can find anything for free and to help me learn about what I can do to put to boost my immunity. All of that information can be very valuable.
We’re losing touch with the information inside of us. Information attained from the outside world is knowledge, whereas the information inside of us is wisdom. We so rarely consult that wisdom.
What I can do is start to take that information and consult with myself and ask myself, okay, well, what, what does my body say about that? For example, I’m coming up to my mid 30s. And I’ve got really dark hair. Six months ago I noticed that I had a couple of Gray’s coming through the front. I thought, Oh, my God, I don’t want to go grey. There’s nothing wrong with going grain. However, that was my immediate kind of reaction.
It was a reaction. It wasn’t a response. Using a mindfulness technique. I thought, well, okay, what are we going to do about this? I Googled ways to deal with gray hair. Google suggested copper tablets so I ordered them. The pills made me sick. My body and inner wisdom was saying, nope, this copper tablet is not for you. It took me two days to figure that out.
This was a very physical reaction and I just had such empathy for my body in that moment because it tried to tell me. This doesn’t feel that great. I didn’t listen to my inner wisdom.
Consulting with ourselves
I would love to see us start to consult ourselves as much as we do our phones. If we can combine the two, then that gives us so much power. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. It’s not that easy.
I live in Greenwich in an area where the London marathon passes through. Afterwards my friends and I say we are going to run it next year. But I don’t enjoy running and I don’t see results from it since it isn’t enjoyable to me. The point is we need to do what works for us, not what might work for somebody else.
Does it make your heart sing?
Does it make my heart sing? If we can find things that support our body and our mind then we’ve got a much greater chance of building a life full of things that are going to be easy for us to follow. We can only do that by looking within and consulting that inner wisdom and asking ourselves. It’s applying mindful awareness to the things that we do and deciding whether they work for us.
Chloe Brotheridge 37:07 That is so important. Many of my clients will always be asking other people’s opinions about things. Looking outside of themselves for the answers. The best answers can come from tuning into ourselves and mindfulness.
Ali: We’ve been conditioned to think that is something doesn’t feel right we need to go to the doctor. When we start to look within, we also start to give ourselves permission to say what we do or don’t want to do. In 10 years time, I might love running, and that’s okay as well. So, to constantly listen to ourselves and allow ourselves to change and give ourselves the permission to do that, I think is a very loving thing.
Chloe Brotheridge 39:00: Yeah, it’s very empowering. Like I like that a lot. I wanted to ask you about success anxiety. Not many people know it’s a thing. It’s definitely a thing.
Ali: I’ve done quite a lot of research into generations around success anxiety as well. It’s really fascinating.
My generation is very much crippled by it. Simon Sinek is a really great person to kind of look into this idea. It’s almost crippling this idea of needing to be successful. The thing is the goal, yet the goalposts always moving. Before we achieve one goal we are planning the next one. That’s very much the opposite of mindfulness because it’s constantly doing and striving and never actually allowing ourselves to be here now and just enjoy what’s happening in our lives at the moment.
I think it’s very easy to look to the future a lot and have a goal in sight. And of course, that’s such a big part of life. It helps us. It has given me so much happiness and got me to where I am today. It can also be crippling because where does it end? It’ a ladder there is never any end to.
I think that through our generation, people in their 20s to early 30s feel exhausted. I do have friends who have quite their jobs and are doing work that allows them more time. Their goals are on hold but they are happy. They’ve learned that all this striving doesn’t bring them as much happiness as they thought it would.
It all comes back to looking within and asking yourself what do I need? And what are my values? What’s serving me and my body, mind and heart. That might mean a change. It’s okay to change your mind. Especially when you tap into your inner wisdom.
There was a time where I wanted to be a magazine editor and now I know that that’s probably not where life is taking me. It’s something that I’ll probably keep asking myself over time. It’s important to check in with through mindful awareness. What’s happening inside. Mindfulness is important. What is my heart telling me? We don’t always need to do what our friends are doing. It’s no always what is right for me.
Chloe Brotheridge 44:30: Totally. Yeah, going back to what you said about success anxiety. I think there are some who believe you can do anything, like be a pop star or a millionaire. It’s amazing to, to give ourselves permission to do that and to go after what we want to do. If you don’t achieve that then you can be left with a real sense of failure because you’ve been told that it’s possible. It obviously can’t be possible for everyone to be a millionaire and everyone to be a pop star. It’s about finding that balance between going for your dreams, while knowing you’re valuable. No matter what.
There is more to life than promotions and book deals, although that’s brought me so much happiness. I’m sure you felt the same when your book came out. This dream of having my name on a book was like a bucket list. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity. It also came with a lot of success anxiety because what if it? What if it crashes? What if no one buys it?
I’d love to write another book. But not if I ruin it for myself by making it about success. I want it to express what’s inside of me so people can apply it in their lives
Doing it with love
I went to India earlier this year and one thing that I learned over there is that they do everything with love. During the massage, they put all of their love and energy into it. Not because they want to be a famous masseuse or get rich from it. That’s their ethos. Do everything with love and shift the focus away from success. Every success that comes from doing everything with Love is a bonus. It comes back to mindfulness and inner wisdom.
Chloe Brotheridge 48:04: That’s such a beautiful idea. I really appreciate that. There is truly something to enjoying the journey. Having a book out might be nice, but if you hate writing it and it ruins your life for nine months maybe that’s not best. It could be worth it, but you need to ask yourself. We need to enjoy the ride and make sure it isn’t just about the goal.
Chloe Brotheridge 48:58: You’ve shared so much I can’t wait to listen back to this episode when I’m editing it. Can you share a little bit about where people can find out more about you and where they can buy your book.
How to reach Ali
Ali: The book is about mindfulness and is called The Wellfullness Project. And it’s out now so it’s on Amazon, Waterstones and when all the shops open, it will be available in the shops again. My website is https://www.aliroff.com/wellfulness-podcast You can find my writings in Psychologies Magazine, which is out every month. So yeah, and still in the shops and stuff at the moment and can buy that online as well.
Chloe Brotheridge 49:51: Amazing. Thank you so much for talking to me,
Ali: 49:55 Thank you for having me.
Chloe Brotheridge 49:58: Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode. Come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode. Find me at Chloe Brotheridge.
I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app on iTunes, subscribe to the podcast, leave me a rating. If there someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast, you can let them know by sharing this podcast. I’d be so so grateful. So I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead, sending love.