Empowered Women Interviews: Anne Alexander
Anne Alexander is a dynamic entrepreneurial leader who is driven by the desire to empower people – and businesses — to realize their full potential. Author of two New York Times best-sellers, brand-builder, and turn-around specialist with an international track record of success, Anne has led creative teams at Rodale, National Geographic, and internationally. She is currently the Editor of Mindful Magazine, an international non-profit sharing the best of secular mindfulness.
Anne is a passionate yogi and meditator, writer and editor. She recently earned her 200-hour yoga teacher training and is starting to share gentle yoga/meditation classes at Living Room Yoga in Emmaus, PA, for anyone who wants to pause, breathe and explore their inner world. Her goal is to start a radio show and podcast exploring spirituality.
Tell me a little about your path and who you are…
Wow, that’s a great question. I think that my path has always been as someone exploring and endeavoring to find a sense of why we’re all here and who we are and to encourage the highest expression of that.
I’m currently working as the editor for Mindful which is part of a non-profit dedicated to sharing the best of mindfulness. It’s a great opportunity and I’m getting to work with amazing mindfulness experts. The Mindful approach, however, is purely secular. To me, that’s good and very interesting since mindfulness has so many benefits in emotional intelligence, psychotherapy, healthcare and the workplace. But secular mindfulness can also be very limiting. To me personally, the whole point of being alive and waking up through mindfulness is to explore our own experience and connections with others, but also to delve deeper into connecting with our higher Self and ultimately to God, however we choose to define or understand that (or choose not to). To me, that’s the real juice, so I am currently looking for ways to bring more and deeper spiritual exploration into my life. I just went through yoga teacher training and that course included some marvelous spiritual work so that’s been really interesting.
I think that’s important to me because I grew up – as I am sure many people did – in a home that was filled with isolation and despair; there was a lot of anger and verbal abuse. I remember, as a child, going to other people’s houses and they felt so light, bright, cheerful, even playful; there was a kind of homey, relaxed, yummy warm feeling that I could sense and feel and observe, but I didn’t really know what that was or where it came from myself. So, I spent a long time looking for that, feeling like an outsider, looking in, ashamed of what I didn’t have. I feel like my life has been a journey to discover the source of that radiance, to feel it, know it personally, and to grow from there and to recognize and empathize with others on similar paths. One of my goals is to provide hope and inspiration to keep going to anyone feeling that way, to provide encouragement, that there is more and it’s good and they are OK, just keep going, keep trying, they can do it.
Mindfulness can be a wonderful resource on the journey, along with meditation, contemplation, prayer, yoga, walking, hiking, anything that allows us to go inward and connect with our higher Self and sense of the bigger purpose for why we’re here.
What’s your biggest life lesson/challenge right now?
My biggest challenge right now is going to sound ridiculously egomaniacal, but I am just going to say it and own it. My biggest challenge is allowing myself to express the full range of my talents and gifts – and I think that’s true for so many of us. We hide, we wait, we don’t do the dreams that are locked up inside of us. We have been given these gifts and we don’t use them! We don’t believe in them or act on them. We just allow ourselves to live partially and not take up the full spectrum of our magnificence. There’s so many amazing things to do, so many visions that I have of things that I want to create and make that I truly believe would be amazing….I’m a great “helper” at building brands for other folks – I’ve created things that have sold in the millions and millions and millions of dollars! – and I need to allow myself to give my own ideas the level of nurturance and attention that they deserve. That’s where I struggle and where I see so many others struggling too.
There’s that amazing quote from Marianne Williamson and I think it’s so true for so many of us:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.
What keeps you grounded?
Staying grounded for me is not a problem. Staying uplifted is where I am challenged. My kids ground me, my work grounds me, my bills ground me, the dog needing to be fed grounds me…..the day to day realities of living ground me, keep me in the here and now. Otherwise, I can very easily take flight into a delicious amazing world of fantasy and dreams and hope and inspiration and I just want to run off into world of anything is possible ……staying inspired and motivated and energized to keep on moving, putting one foot in front of the other, and keep on believing, that I can accomplish those dreams is, for me, the hard work.
Sometimes we practice present-moment awareness without necessarily calling it mindfulness. How do you use mindfulness in your life to contribute to your success?
I’ve been using a form of mindfulness – although I never called it that – for decades and I think it’s really helped me on multiple levels. In my early twenties, I learned about a practice called Morita that has three basic tenets: 1) Accept your feelings, 2) Know your purpose and 3) Do what needs to be done. I used to walk to work in New York City and I would go through each of the three steps in my mind every morning – and I still do thirty years later!
The “Accept your feelings” part is really a form of mindfulness. Feeling, identifying, naming, accepting your thoughts and feelings, becoming very aware of what is going on and passing through, like the proverbial clouds in the sky. Feelings, thoughts come and go, you don’t need to act on them. You can just observe them, listen and hear what they are trying to tell you. Allow them to float and settle, like snowflakes in a snow-globe, and learn from them. This is really a form of emotional awareness or intelligence – and frankly, it’s a powerful form of internal reconnaissance, straight from the old adage to Know Thyself.
The second part, “Knowing your purpose” can be as short-term as what you need to do that day. Or, it can be longer term – what are your goals for the year? Or it can be even bigger – what is your purpose here on earth? What is the purpose that God has in mind for you? It’s like that famous phrase: the most important thing is to know the most important thing! I love having the big overarching goal in mind and living in alignment with that: what’s my purpose and why and I am I here. It’s very clarifying when you know your true priorities and it makes the third step – “Do what needs to be done” – self-evident. You just get on with it.
What are your thoughts about balance?
My thoughts about balance are that every person needs to find what they consider balancing and healthy and restorative to them. I love living life at full-tilt, crazy busy, during the week, then absolutely cocooning into as much intimate, introverted family time as possible on weekends. It’s figuring out what fills you up on the inside, and doesn’t deplete you, so that you have a steady stream going in that matches the amount of energy flowing out. I don’t always get it right….. I usually err on the “too much” side of the equation and then need to withdraw and restore and then re-emerge when I’m better recharged.
What’s your superpower?
My superpower is a kind of energized optimism that almost everything and everyone can be better if we just allow ourselves to sense the possibilities that are here. When you sense what’s possible, there’s almost an irresistible urge to go for it. I love showing what’s possible. In my work, creating programs, stories, layouts, design, covers, magazines, books, websites, programs, you name it, I am always looking to create a bold, energizing message that says: “Look at what you can do, look at what you can create, this is possible for you, it’s within your reach. You can do it. Yes, yes, yes!” I want my work to feel like a transmission of positive energy that awakens a sense of hope and possibility in people.
At the end of the day, I believe that there really is light and goodness and love and more and more and more, that inside each of us we have amazing capabilities and gifts and talents and experiences that are possible, that each of us can move closer and closer to that vision we have of who we want to be and are capable of being. Life is not unicorns and rainbows. There are some really really really dark sketchy, scary, terrifying and potentially immobilizing patches. Places that will test everything you’ve got and then some. And you have to choose carefully what you focus on and it’s hard. I know it’s hard. But staying stuck is hard too. So, I’m just trying to help light a path out and into the bigger world.
Tell me about your relationship with fear.
My relationship with fear is that fear is my co-pilot but only I get to touch the controls of the airplane. Fear is a constant companion. I want to keep pushing the boundaries, stay on the edge of my comfort zone, that’s the only way that I am going to get to do new things, to express myself fully while I am here (live the answer to question #2).
Being real and honest in this interview is scary. Exposing myself is scary. I could just spout off a bunch of happy platitudes and pretend like everything is perfect. So fear is telling me I’m going to look like a big lonely awkward sad-sack pathetic loser dork if I answer these questions truthfully. I listened to that fear, thought about it, slept on it, and decided to keep writing truthfully. So fear is always there. That’s fear’s job. To be there, like a shadow at your shoulder, but it can’t take action, only you can take action. The best book I ever read about fear is The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield. It’s superb. I’d recommend it a trillion times over — it might just change your relationship with fear.
What do you think women are craving (besides chocolate)?
Another great question! I think women are craving permission to pause, breathe, and to go inside of themselves long enough to listen to their heart AND then just as important as listening, is to ACT on those dreams and inner nudges. We run our days at top speed, accomplish herculean tasks, meet everyone else’s needs and yet our own needs – our own basic needs – to be loved, nurtured, encouraged, heard, seen, felt, affirmed, validated, loved into being — go unanswered. We hope someone will recognize our amazingness, we hope that someone will see our worth, we hope someone will read our minds and fulfill our inner vision of who and what we hope to be….but really that is our work. And our work requires us to do it. It takes us loving ourselves enough to make time to listen and to make our dreams a priority to act on. I don’t always do this. I talk a good game and every day I still struggle. Every day, I check in with “Know your purpose” and I can feel dreams that are still inside of me, dreams I need to allow to grow, to be born, to see the light of day. I’m craving that constantly and I suspect a lot of other women are too!
Thank you, Anne, for sharing your wisdom with us!