Jacqui Lewis is a powerhouse, to say the least.
Attend one of her high grade living talks in Aus and you’ll attest to the description of her being engaging, witty, and down to earth. She speaks with clearness, a calm eloquence, and takes her hands through delicate motions as she shares her story and speaks of wise ideas.
When it concerns coffee, projects at school, university or the workplace, how often do we strive for and demand ‘the highest grade?’ Some even treat it like it’s the pinnacle of existence. Jacqui seeks to expand our thinking surrounding such an ideal; to uncover, and better understand how we can implicate this standard in almost every area of life and be better for it.
And she only ever wears navy and white. How epic is that.
Is social striving and comparing ourselves to others (and even to ourselves) more of an issue in our Western society? If so, how come?
Social comparison occurs everywhere. In ashrams in India and monasteries in Tibet. Competitiveness seems inbuilt into humans. If we view this as wonderful fuel in which we light in order to elevate ourselves, then it’s great. Personal evolution comes from this. If we view it as a means to feel awful about ourselves, well, simply put that’s not evolution and has to stop.
What are your thoughts on the ‘enchantment of everyday life.’ Is there any wisdom you can share in encouraging us to indulge in the celebration of little daily miracles and moments more?
This is the majority of what I teach! I wish deeply for people to understand that a brilliant life isn’t just being happy on Saturday afternoon. It’s a constant experience of being true to ourselves all the time. It’s an appreciation of the every day, of little moments, all strung together. I mentor and teach on this subject constantly. My recommendation is to take lots of Joyrides daily. They are small, seemingly incidental things that bring us joy, like a bath, walking the dog, relishing a croissant, etc, and the only person in charge of this joy is us. So we have to claim it.
How has your practice in purposeful slowness and meditation facilitated your awareness and pleasure in such things?
My study and immersion in Zen has given me great foundation for slowing down. I hardly live ‘slow’ as I work constantly, teaching around the world, but I appreciate every moment I can. I used to blindly forge through, now I slow down enough to experience it all. My meditation practice and study of this knowledge has changed my life. My self awareness has grown exponentially.
Do you think that our culture has been guilty of fostering the idea that men are ‘unemotional’ and supposed to be equipped to handle stress and self doubt without expressing too much of a soft side?
I suppose so. It’s a hard thing for me to comment on as I teach so many men that are either so emotionally in tune, or become so under my tutelage. I do think if women and men continue saying and believing anything, we get it.
How have you witnessed this being challenged or eradicated in the men and women who have come along to your talks?
I don’t ever push any ideas that there are differences between men and women unless I am being humorous. I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up thinking like that. I do catch myself sometimes saying things that I realise have been conditioned into me, and I try to reframe it when the awareness strikes.
What light can you shed on the impact our thoughts and habits have on our nervous system and physical health?
The impact our thoughts have on our nervous system has a huge effect. This has been understood for thousands of years in the East, and in the West we are now starting to be able to prove this scientifically. Happy mind, happy body. Strung out mind, strung out body.
What does the concept of ‘quality over quantity’ and favouring high grade mean to you, and how does this influence your work, environment / space, and relationships?
This for me is the essence of High Grade Living. It’s a concept Arran and I continue to live, audit, edit and refine. It’s continually influencing my every decision, with the gentle evaluation of ‘is this elevating me? Is this connecting me? Is this creative? Arran and I really believe in quality over quantity with everything. We reduced everything we own down to a bare minimum of only the very best of what we can get by with. Quality over quantity influences the way we eat, and the way we fill our studios with art and furniture, etc.
What do you consider to be the most valuable characteristics of beauty and a well lived life?
The ability to be grateful, joyful and compassionate no matter what is happening. A well lived life is one where every moment is celebrated and none are resented.
More on Jac and her work – www.thebroadplace.com.au
(Original interview conducted in 2016.)