I believe everyone walks into your life for a reason. When I first met mindfulness expert Neil Seligman at the Central School of Speech & Drama during a course we took together this summer I had recently come to the conclusion that I felt disconnected from my spiritual side. Like many of Neil’s clients, I had been very “in my head” as of late, rather than in my heart where I function best, having worked on a big corporate writing project earlier that year and finding myself constantly agonizing about what I was going to do next. After Neil, a Renaissance man who is also a talented actor, and I were assigned to a scene together, in which we played a grumbling husband and wife, I decided I wanted to know him better. I looked him up online that evening and was immediately taken by the consistency, quality, and breadth of his work, all of which was geared towards teaching others how to incorporate mindfulness principles into everyday life. (A passion of mine as someone who tries to meditate every morning for at least a few minutes.) Of course, I asked him to lunch the following day during which we bonded over our mutual passion for bringing self-help type practices, for lack of a better term, to corporations.

Since founding his company The Conscious Professional in 2012, Neil, a mindfulness expert, author, life coach, and inspirational speaker, has developed a client roster that includes CEOs, celebrities, and global firms. He uses his own experience of leaving a successful career as a civil law barrister to help others through their transformations. At workshops, corporate trainings, and seminars Neil translates how one can express and embody their highest potential while still living in the real world. He shows how mindfulness can be a practical antidote to common predicaments such as coping with the anxiety that comes from a chaotic political climate (see his brilliant article on how to best deal with Brexit here.) Neil reminds us that while we may have no control over outside circumstances, by staying connected to self we can thrive even in the midst of insanity.

Can you tell me a bit about your back-story?

I grew up in Berkshire in a small village. As a teenager, after thinking for some time I would be a doctor because my parents thought I would have a good beside manner, I decided to become a lawyer. I liked collecting stationary and knew lawyers would have loads. (Laughs)

What was it like to be a barrister in London?

I had to be different to fit into that world however, even as a barrister I practiced Reiki on evenings and weekends. After the first year of studying law, I worked during summer holidays in upstate New York as a tennis coach, which is where I met an Australian named Paul, the nature guy at camp, who was also a Reiki master. He taught three of us the first two degrees of Reiki, which made me pursue it.

Was spirituality and self-help a part of your upbringing at all?

My dad was a pilot and mum a stewardess, both conservative Middle England type of people, who went on nice holidays and to tennis club. I had a stable, happy childhood yet, as a teenager became interested in UFOs and crop circles. Back in the 90’s, the section of the bookshop that housed those interests also encompassed meditation and yoga. {Laughs} I bought a book on those practices and started teaching myself how to do them as a way to find truth. The world didn’t make sense to me in the way that it was being presented in terms of school and education.

When did it first click that you wanted to and would make a career transition?

At the early stage of my barrister career I also modeled. I had a website that housed partly my modeling portfolio and Reiki services, which was an odd mix. {Laughs} I would be at a party where people would ask me questions about being a barrister. All of a sudden, the Reiki stuff would come up and they would say to me, “You completed shifted.” It was like I went between modes and had a split life. I’ve always felt very guided. I trusted that both were professions I was born to do. I never questioned “why” or how it all came together. However, I did know that I wouldn’t be a barrister for very long. It was Plan B and A would come along.

At what point did you actually decide to make the leap into your next life?

One regular afternoon at work, I was walking through the car park and a friend came up to me who I had went to bar school with but hadn’t seen in a few years. He said, “I heard you’re one of the rising stars of the civil bar” and I was taken aback. Then an insight came in, crystal clear, that my star was rising in the wrong world. That career ended before the second one came along, which was the shitty bit. A pretty painful metamorphosis next occurred. I left in May 2009 and founded my company in the summer of 2012 so there was this three-year period called “what am I doing?”

What got you through that phase of uncertainty?

I met my current meditation teacher around 2008 and one of the first things she suggested was that I let go of all of the discipline and get back in touch with what made me joyful. She kept banging on about self-nurture, which at the time seemed indulgent however, getting back to what I needed was beneficial in the long-term. I experienced a new level of my dedication to my inner work, which involved moving house, traveling, and trying to make money. In those years were many joys and tears, lows and great highs. Fortunately I had a partner who was fully supportive of me leaving instead of pigeonholing me into a solid, income type of existence.

When did the idea for your platform, The Conscious Professional, arise?

The idea for the business and subject matter came to me in a meditation one day. Once an insight becomes clear, I’ll move worlds to put that idea into action. However, at the time, in 2012, mindfulness was still new rather than a part of mainstream culture as it is today. I believe the fact that my business came from a dedicated space of quiet, the pure spark of creation, is why it’s been so successful. When you listen, that is when the universal powers of serendipity come into play. Even if no one showed up, I’d still do all of this because it’s the song my soul sings. It’s wonderful that others want to dance along but if they don’t, that’s okay too.

What practical steps did you take to put your practices into action?

The first thing I did was teach a drop-in course called “Mindful Mondays” at the Law Society. From a commercial standpoint, it was financially unsuccessful but I learned how to put myself out there as a teacher in a secular, rather than a spiritual, way. The corporations initially rejected the first course that I developed around mindfulness and, after listening to their feedback I developed one focused on resilience. Into that, I snuck modules around mindfulness. That course has become my calling card. Over time I started bringing in other courses around communication, presenting, interviewing, and negotiation. I’ve learned how critical language is to introducing courses and getting people on board with your teachings.

What is the feedback you receive most often from your students?

“I want what you’ve got,” which I think alludes to the vibration of calm that I have cultivated over the years—I try to be stable, grounded, and open hearted. I believe people want more of that in their lives. However, I’ll be the first to admit that it takes a lot of work to generate that energy.

You have to want to invest the time.

Exactly. The tipping point where I could live exclusively from my business felt like a big achievement because it was touch-and-go for a while. I have learned to let the doing come from being. One of my primary energies is transformation and The Conscious Professional isn’t a container for all of my desires. Branding my name, writing books, speaking, and presenting on television is a part of the next stage. I want to have a relationship with the public. I have actively allowed the next chapter to open and waited patiently for the right vehicles to teach my practices to arise.  

You work in many mediums. How do you know when a project feels “right?”

I had been trying to write a book called The Conscious Professional for years and had hoped it would flop out of me. {Laughs} I would push stuff out but it never felt right. One day, in 2015, I remember I said to my partner, “I have an idea for another title—a recipe book of meditations.” Six months later, it was done and the creative experience was joyful. What that taught me is certain creative projects are ripe and others are great ideas that are still circling. I listen carefully to what is ready to be in output mode and what is simply a cool idea. There’s a stack of six or seven books swirling in my mind right now. I put my attention on the one that is ready to land.

Learn more about Neil Seligman here

Subscribe to Neil’s Youtube Channel where you can view a new mindfulness video every Monday

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Lily C Hansen

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