Michael James Wong: Meet The Californian Master of Calm
The Notebook | 28th November 2018
The mindfulness guru and master of ceremonies at The Quiet Club shares his personal journey into the yogic way of life and tells us why doing less can achieve so much more
Michael James Wong is the founder of Just Breathe and Boys of Yoga, and currently hosts his hugely popular Quiet Club at Mortimer House, which brings people from disparate disciplines together to explore the benefits of calming the mind. As a teacher and writer, Michael is devoted to inspiring mindfulness, bringing people together, and supporting various charity initiatives that work to make the world a better place. At the core of everything he does, from meditation symposiums to yoga classes, is the pursuit of real human connection–helping us to tune in with ourselves, with each other, and with the flux of the world around us. Just Breathe, for example, is an ever-growing community that strives to support real people in the real world as they evolve their practice of mindfulness in their everyday lives. Here, the master of calm talks to Maslow’s Notebook in-depth about his personal journey into the yogic way of life, and explains why the most important journey of all is the one towards the simple joy of being.
What first attracted you to yoga, meditation and mindfulness?
Growing up in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to be surrounded by yoga and meditation. However, I never really engaged until my early 20s. I lived a fast-paced childhood, and in my teenage years–LA will do that too you–but I found these practices at a time in my life when I needed a big wake up call, and an opportunity to reassess certain ways I was living. When I started these practices, I not only truly found myself, but I found my people, a community of people that were loving, supportive and exactly what I needed to grow into a worthwhile life.
David Lynch famously wrote Catching The Big Fish about the creative benefits of meditation–what is your personal opinion of the notion of a collective creative space we can all access?
I truly believe that creativity only occurs when we make space for the mind and body to breathe; both literally and figuratively. Through the practice of meditation we allow the body to cultivate ease by de-stimulating the thinking mind. And in doing so, we allow the space for spontaneity and creativity to flourish. I speak only from personal experience, but can readily say that these practices have supported the creation and growth of my ideas, projects, and the communities that I’m inspired to be a part of today.
How much of our day-to-day thought processes are simply intrusive and reactive–is ego always the enemy?
We all have an ego, and, in many ways, it is what drives us to action, or more specifically, to reaction. Meditation helps to ease the itch of the ego’s need for attention, and in doing so, resolves our reaction state. All too often, we let the ego make our decision, but the aim with these practices is to cultivate our ability to consciously and decisively make the choices that benefit us.
Is creating a wider community in yogic practice and meditation core to your mission?
I believe that yoga is for everyone, and these days the benefits are increasingly undeniable. For many the physical benefits are essential to ease pain in the body, to age elegantly and to rehabilitate injuries. But going deeper, the spiritual and energetic practices of yoga can be so healing to so many who deal with stress, strain, anxiety, depression, or the general burdens of the everyday. For me, we must continue to build community, share and showcase the benefits, and ultimately, embody what yoga can do for those of us who practice. By living our yoga, we allowed others to see the benefits in us, and enquire for themselves how the practice will serve them.
Do we focus too much on 'doing' rather than 'being'? What would you say are the key criteria for being more in-the-moment?
We live in a society where we are celebrated for our state of ‘doing’ or things that make us ‘busy’. The first step to doing less is simply becoming aware about that which is taking up your time. Cultivate your attention to doing less is both a skill and an art form, and we must become far more interested in establishing our presence with our time, relationships and experience. Only then, will we truly begin to move away from the need to be busy and truly embody simply the joy of being… a human being.
Interview John-Paul Pryor
Read Michael James Wong’s exclusive guide to meditation in the print edition of Maslow’s Notebook