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The Meditation In Schools Initiative

meditation in schools initiative Sky News

 

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

Socrates

In February 2019, we were privileged enough to bring the transformative practice of meditation to children at Islington’s New North Academy. As part of an initiative to support and protect the mental health of children, who are under increasing pressure in the modern world, our meditation lessons for children were featured on ITV and Sky News – an amazing acknowledgement of the importance of stress reduction for children today.

 

Watch our Meditation in Schools Initiative segment on ITV news.  

 

It seems that we learn something new about the troubling impact of modern society has on the mental health of children on a near-monthly basis. Whether it’s the pressure of social media, family financial stress causing anxiety even for the smallest members, or issues such as bullying, children can have a lot to contend with. The knock-on effect on children’s (and the adults they grow into) mental health is profound, requiring urgent efforts across various sectors of society to relieve undue pressure on young people, help them manage their emotions and fully support them as they grow.

Research has found that three in four mental illnesses start in childhood, 10% of children aged 5-16 are suffering from a diagnosed mental health issue and – most worryingly – suicide is the biggest killer for both men and women aged 20-34.

 

The statistics are stark, but none of this is inevitable. We can work to change things for the better for our children and young people.

 

When we went into New North Academy, the children chatted a little to ITV news about the things that make them feel stressed. From saying “when there’s so much stuff I need to do, and I can’t do it all at once” to “I keep turning and it’s hard for me to fall asleep”, their experiences of stress are surprisingly adult for kids of just eight years old. The school is planning on making meditation a daily activity to try to reduce this stress, and help kids do what should come most naturally to them – to exist in the moment.

Will Williams, our founder and one of Europe’s leading meditation experts, guided these children in an age-appropriate meditation lesson but believes that the most important thing is rest, saying: “Even if children have a 10 or 15-minute break, they don’t have to meditation – if they just close their eyes and rest or breathe or anything like that, then it helps their brain reboot.” Meditation is a means through which children can find this rest, giving them space in the day where nothing is expected of them and they can simply be.

Teaching children practical skills such as Beeja meditation helps them to recognise and develop into their own unique essence and fullest potential. It helps to activate their creativity and problem-solving skills, increases their brains’ bandwidth and soothes their nervous systems so that they are more resilient when dealing with stress.

 

meditation in schools

Will Williams on Sky News discussing meditation for children

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When Will appeared on Sky News with Julia Riese, Head of Special Needs at Islington’s New North Academy, they spoke about the prevalence of mental health issues among children and how equipping them with meditation gives them practical tools that will make a huge impact in reducing stress, performing better academically, being more resilient, balanced and conscious and setting them up to thrive, and not merely survive.

It is our hope that we can teach as many schools how to meditate for free as possible. This is just the start of what is shaping up to be a huge project that will help our future generations be the happiest, healthiest and most balanced they can be.

 

 

 

 

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How to Stop the Winter Blues Overwhelming You At Work

how to stop the winter blues overwhelming you at work

 

At this time of year, we can all find ourselves a little bogged down in the winter blues. Waking up and travelling in the dark, niggly seasonal illnesses and the fact that Spring still feels very far away can make dragging ourselves out of bed to get to work feel like the last thing we want to do. With work-related stress, tiredness and even burnout a problem in our professional lives even at the best of times, issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and the winter blues can add that bit of extra strain.

The Health and Safety Executive reports that 40% of work-related illnesses were down to unsustainable levels of stress, and with so many of us feeling low when it’s cold and dark, it can be even harder to deal with work stress. But if we can’t run off to the Bahamas every winter for an extended holiday, what can we do to stop the winter blues from overwhelming us at work?

Look into Corporate Wellbeing.

Corporate wellbeing is no substitute for fair breaks, reasonable working hours and competent management, but when we are feeling stressed at work corporate wellbeing techniques can go a long way in making us feel better. The foremost of these is meditation, which can be easily practised in the workplace. We can use meditation to handle anxiety, up our productivity and reduce stress. Just eight weeks of regular meditation has been shown in brain scans to physically change the makeup of our mind and make us less prone to feeling stressed out, which can make the affect winter has on our mood less profound.

Other ways we can bring wellbeing into our working life during winter is making sure we get away from our work desk or station to get as much natural light as possible. Going on a short walk gives us the distance we need when work is threatening to overwhelm us, while also letting us see some daylight when it’s in short supply. This is particularly important if our winter commute to and from work takes place in the dark.

Push Yourself to Say No.

If we’ve found ourselves feeling constantly exhausted and overwhelmed at work during the winter, the likelihood is that we’ve taken on too much. It can be difficult to express ourselves when talking to those in positions of authority, but if our superior wants us to complete a task and experience tells us it will put too much on our plate, we can make sure that we communicate this.

If they insist, then the responsibility is on them to justify why the task isn’t complete satisfactorily, as they were forewarned and made their own decision. It’s important to stand firm, and to not take responsibility for tasks we don’t have the time or resources to complete.

This extends to our personal life. Lots of us can benefit from extra rest during the winter, so if we know that we’ve got a particularly demanding day at work lined up, we can make sure to turn down any social engagements that could add extra pressure, and let ourselves off any chores or life admin that day. We should also take extra care not to miss sleep when it’s dark and cold, so staying up regularly to get work finished is a bad idea – we should leave it to the morning.

Re-Prioritise and Switch Off.

If we are conscientious and prone to perfectionism, we can make our working life a bigger priority than it needs to be. It can be difficult if it’s not in our nature, but when we are struggling, occasionally shrugging our shoulders and thinking “never mind” when something doesn’t go to plan can do wonders for our state of mind.

When we are tired, suffering with a cold or just generally fed up, prioritising our most important tasks and letting the small things go is a pretty sensible strategy. We can’t always been at 100% productivity, and throughout our history those in seasonal climates have slowed down and rested during the winter – even our stone-age ancestors probably hid a cave with supplies created during warmer months when winter rolled around.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure that we do truly switch off. Getting home and reading our work emails may not feel like a bad thing, but it keeps work on our mind even if we aren’t stressing about it at that moment.

No job is worth our health, no matter how far we’re climbing up the career ladder or how much we need the money. Furthermore, stress negatively affects our work performance and can even lead to burnout, which makes it difficult to work at all. Putting ourselves first when we are suffering with the winter blues will not only improve our wellbeing, it could make us happier and more productive in our career as well.

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Modern Life is Stressful – Why Meditation is the Answer

Modern Life is Stressful - Why Meditation is the Answer

 

In many ways, it seems churlish to argue that life isn’t now is more comfortable, convenient and prosperous than it has ever has been. While our ancestors spent their days grubbing up roots for a mud-and-onion stew, getting tormented by Vikings or diligently developing scurvy, we get to sit around eating pizzas and watching Poldark. It’s undeniably fantastic! Yet with anxiety and stress swiftly becoming pressing health issues, it seems that despite our advantages there’s something amiss.

When we acknowledge that modern life is stressful, and ask if meditation is the answer, we need to consider exactly why society (as it’s organised now) is making so many of us feel so pent up. It seems clear that there’s something about we humans and the way we’ve decided to live that’s driving us to distraction. You can look at pretty much anything else in the animal kingdom and they seem more chilled, even the animals that have legitimate concerns about being savaged by lions – so where are we going wrong?

Life, stress and feeling the pressure

If you often struggle through work, think you can’t keep up with everything you have to do, and want the world to just stand still for a moment so you can collapse in a heap, you are probably one of the many people who is finding it hard to cope with the pressure of modern life. A thousand tiny worries create a haze of exhaustion and stress, something that has unfortunately been accepted as the new normal.

There is a variety of factors that contribute to this feeling. The drip-drip effect of small stresses all add up; from the moment the alarm shocks us out of our natural sleep, to reading worrying news stories on our smartphones before we drop off (often a little later than we planned to). This has only got more intense as technology has advanced, and we can often find ourselves receiving office emails at 10 pm, never getting the chance to truly switch off.

Modern technology means we are always socially “on”, checking social media profiles, maintaining an image of ourselves (known as our “personal brand”) and interacting with friends. The result is that we are always engaged with the world, performing socially even in moments where we are alone and seemingly winding down.  

The other aspect of this information overload is that we have become surrounded by advertising, perpetuating the idea that there’s always something that we need. Trying to measure up to an unattainable, marketing-born ideal can cause lots of anxiety and strain. Worrying about wrinkles, agonising over outfits and stressing out because we can’t afford a holiday this year may seem trivial, but it can place real barriers in the way of contentment and happiness.

Many of these issues are the result of the modern world evolving faster than our physiology. Our response to stress evolved in order to help us run or fight for our lives in times of danger, and our body reacts accordingly. It does this by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, raising our heart rate and redirecting energy to our muscles in order to cope with the immediate peril.

Because these threats were few and far between, our bodies were designed to have long periods of rest between stressful moments. Then the hormones and other bodily responses could dissipate and return to normal, but now we are eliciting this response more regularly than is good for us.

An overload of stress hormones makes us feel pretty terrible – negatively affecting our immune system, mental wellbeing and making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Our 24 hour, on-the-go world and all its attendant pressures means that it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves.

How Meditation Helps Us

Self-care in the form of meditation offers a profound rest and gives us a much-needed respite from the stresses of the modern world. Simply ensuring we know when to say “no” and take some time for ourselves is vital in a world where we are encouraged to be constantly busy, and can even feel guilty or lazy when we need to relax. Becoming conscious of our own stress levels and taking time out when they have become overwhelming is hugely important, and will help us find modern life much less stressful.

Meditation encourages a bodily reaction which is pretty much the exact opposite of the stress response. Instead of “fight or flight”, we foster “rest and repair”, finding levels of relaxation which can be extremely elusive in our society. With this, we can cultivate a calm and clarity that will help us work smarter, rest more often and make better judgements for ourselves.

When our thinking is clouded by stress, we can lack the ability to perceive situations as they truly are and find that we are so lacking in energy that with have neither the motivation or adaptability to change our circumstance. By becoming that little bit more relaxed and happier with meditation, it becomes much easier to consider change – for instance, by asking ourselves whether we’re really enjoying our current job role and if perhaps there isn’t some capacity to change things for the better with a couple of bold moves.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about meditation, however, is the potential to change the world we live in. There is nothing inevitable about structural problems we face – from rampant consumerism to climate change – and through meditation, we can begin to make more compassionate, long-sighted and thoughtful decisions for ourselves and the world around us. The small, individual transformations which are facilitated through meditation, such as a greater capacity for kindness and understanding, could have a huge impact on the way humanity operates as a whole – which we think is a pretty amazing prospect.

 

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Our Highlights of 2018!

 

Happy New Year everyone! We’ve got a very exciting year ahead of us at Will Williams Meditation, but before all that, we think it’s the right time to pause, reflect and look back over 2018.

For many of us, the New Year is a psychologically powerful time. We are irresistibly drawn to the concepts of rebirth, renewal and the chance to start afresh – casting off the baggage of the year that’s gone by and embracing everything that’s exciting as the new one rolls around.

But before we dive into all the “New Year, New Me” fervour and truly get to grips with all the hopes and dreams we have for 2019, we are going to take a peek at everything we’re proud of from the last year – and delight in some pretty brilliant memories too!

 

The Will Williams Meditation Podcasts – February

https://willwilliamsmeditation.podbean.com/will williams and howard donald

Early in 2018, we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing some very wonderful people for the Will Williams Meditation podcast, listening to their favourite songs while exploring subjects close to their hearts – and meditation was a common theme!

With the very knowledgeable and always amiable Jasmine Hemsley, we discussed her journey to Ayurveda, favourite songs and totally delicious golden milk recipe. Touching on subjects from industrialised agriculture to the danceable tunes of 2003, it was a fascinating chat. Madeleine Shaw was also a wonderful interviewee, talking about her pregnancy with insight and honesty, while also giving great advice on finding balance and how to cook the yummiest healthy food. 

Super entrepreneur Sam Branson was equally candid and perceptive, exploring an issue which affects many of us – anxiety – and the power of meditation to overcome it. Chatting with Will about the power of business to do good in the world and the way forward for education, this conversation gave us plenty to think about. Take That’s Howard Donald joined us to take us through how meditation (a practice he was relatively new too) increased his creativity and helped him with the rigours of touring while managing his responsibilities as a dad of four, as well as offering us his refreshing and thoughtful perspective on many other subjects.

 

 

will williams los angeles sunset sound

April – Shavasana Disco Breaks America!

For the first time ever, in 2018 Shavasana Disco (our meditation and music event) left London and winged its way to Sunset Sound Studio in the USA! A truly iconic location, Sunset Sound Studio was where Prince recorded the sublime album Purple Rain – one of our absolute favourites! So we packed our bags, jumped on a flight to Los Angeles and lead a guided meditation in this most inspiring of settings, before enjoying a full album playback of Purple Rain in the very place that it was created. How can life get any better? 🎵🎤🎸

 

 

 

 

the effortless mind

In May, Will Williams Published His First Book, The Effortless Mind

A huge personal achievement for our founder and a source of pride for the whole team, The Effortless Mind was published with Simon and Schuster on May 3rd and documents the personal stories of those whose lives have been transformed by meditation, as well as the science and history behind this ancient technique.

The Effortless Mind is a fascinating exploration of the problems we are experiencing in the modern world due to stress, overwork and constant activity, and how meditation can be a compelling antidote to these problems. Eye-opening, honest, down-to-earth and potentially life-changing, The Effortless Mind is both a must-read and one of our fondest memories of 2018!

 

 

World Meditation Day, May 15th

Akala World Meditation DayWe had an absolutely amazing time at Fabric in London on World Meditation Day. Taking this marvelous location – famous for late nights, dancing, music and indulgence – and creating an evening filled with a different kind of hedonism was perhaps the most fun we had all year!

Cutting out the booze, adding a touch of meditation and preserving everything that makes Fabric special all formed an occasion where people could have a Big Night Out, but without the hangover. The super-talented DJs and musicians B.Traits, Jordan Rakei and Akala kept us all entertained, while Jasmine Hemsley’s Sound Sebastien opened the evening with a beautiful sound bath.

The performers and attendees all did so much to make this a unique and completely positive event – chilled out yet vibrant, and full of music, laughter, fun and relaxation. And our very own Will Williams didn’t only lead a guided meditation, he shared a poem with everyone!

 

June/July – The World Cup! Will Williams young

No football fan can mention the highlights of 2018 without a nod to The World Cup. The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final this is what Will looked like (which may give some indication of how long ago that was! 😉😂) and wasn’t it fantastic seeing the whole country get ridiculously excited over the nation’s favourite game?

 

Moving to Shoreditch

shoreditch meditation space

 

It’s always been a dream to open a centre in Shoreditch, so this year we decided to make the jump and move our main centre East. We headed to 45 Hoxton Square in the wonderful area of Shoreditch, and absolutely love the look of our new meditation space – as well as its vibrant new location! It was only a few years ago that we opened our meditation centre, and seeing how much it’s grown is a lovely thing, with our team having taught over 3000 people in the art of meditation since then.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all the wonderful people who were part of our 2018, it’s been an absolutely lovely year and we can’t wait for the next one! Happy 2019 everyone!

This entry was posted in blog.

The Most Stressful Things About Christmas (And How Meditation Can Help!)

most stressful things about christmas

 

As it does every year, December has raced past in a most inconsiderate manner. All those preparatory days have gone, and Christmas is waiting excitedly round the corner to rugby tackle us into a world of festive joviality and endless cheese boards. It goes without saying that Christmas is wonderful, but these last few days before it truly gets underway can feel a little stressful at times, and many of us still have a to-do list as long as our arm.

Of course, there will be those of you who graduated with honours from the University of Organisational Wizardry and had everything sorted for Christmas sometime in August last year – but others will be staring down the barrel of last minute shopping and general festive panic. So what do you do when faced with the twelve most stressful things about Christmas? What even are the most stressful things? Look no further than this list for the answers!

There’s. People. Everywhere.

Usually when you go to the shops there is a normal amount of people in them, but not at Christmastime – then shops are about 98% people, and it’s a nightmare. Oxford Street on Christmas Eve resembles some kind of commercial Mordor, as thousands of people realise they’ve forgot to get something nice for their sister-in-law and rush out in a tizz and bother. All this is very stressful!

Coping with crowds and not letting things bother you is something which gets easier as we meditate and our stress response isn’t triggered so easily. Take twenty minutes out (perhaps in a coffee shop, or quiet corner at home) to meditate and you will find that you can breeze through the crowds without a hint of bother.

There’s No Time!

Argh how has this happened! There’s sprouts to peel, presents to wrap and excitable children to herd into some semblance of order, and no time to do it in! Christmas is an inevitably busy time and every adult will have things to do, from tying up those last loose ends at work to planning a feast for the entire family.

Luckily, however, meditation makes us super efficient and very cool under pressure, so we can swashbuckle our way through that to-do list and defeat every task with aplomb!

Shopping Shopping Shopping

There are those lucky people who seem to be able to step into a shop, glance around and then pick out the most perfect thing within 20 seconds flat. Or even rarer, the virtuosos who can enter a supermarket at 2pm on December 23rd and whizz through collecting sprouts and mince pies without even breaking a sweat. For the rest of us, however, last-minute Christmas shopping is akin to being led by the Duke of Wellington into enemy cannon fire, except without the sense of camaraderie.

Unfortunately, no matter how unmaterialistic we are, Christmas tends to include an element of shopping – bad news for everyone who’d rather be pelted with haggis than step into a shopping centre. But with a meditation session, we can become far more quick-thinking and productive, getting everything we need in double-quick time.

Everyone Has Become A Much Angrier Version Of Themselves

By Christmas Eve, everyone and everything is delightful, wishing each other seasons greetings and being generally glorious. But in the days before the big day – perhaps in that moment when you find yourself eyeing people aggressively because they’ve grabbed the last stilton in Tescos – you realise that Christmas stress can make us pretty angry.

Meditation is a wonderful and soothing thing to do, which will stop any rising irritability and have us feeling much more like ourselves again. And when we feel happy and calm, the people around us start to feel happier and calmer too, and all that built-up frustration simply ebbs away.  

Suddenly I’m Popular!

Because humans are lovely sociable creatures, we all like to see each other around Christmas. But between work parties, family gatherings and trying to catch up with friends, things can get pretty busy! Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed by social anxiety, or something as simple as experiencing one too many hangovers, this isn’t always fun and we can start to feel bogged down by it all.

By helping us see clearly and calmly, meditation makes any social scheduling stress much easier to deal with. It’s also a powerful way to ease our anxiety and grow our confidence, so any social nerves aren’t quite so much of a strain.  

Oh Wait, Maybe I’m Not  

We’re all so used to being rushed off our feet socialising at this time of year that, in those quiet moments when we are alone, we can feel quite lonely. This is especially true if, for whatever reason, we can’t see friends or family at Christmastime. The atmosphere and expectations of this season can make us keenly aware of any loneliness or disappointment we feel, especially as it seems as if everyone else is enjoying themselves.

Sadness around the festive season is common, especially as we get older and the nostalgia of Christmases past sharpens the ache of old griefs and family dynamics change and evolve. Meditation is a comforting self-care practice that lets us acknowledge our feelings of sadness and loneliness without becoming overwhelmed by them.

It’s So Much Harder to Clean

There are decorations in every corner of the house, everything is in chaos, and the time and inclination to tidy up is simply non-existent. We have lots to do and little time to do it in, so getting stuck into the cleaning doesn’t seem all that appealing – even if your dirty laundry could fill the Grand Canyon and the carpet has become a scientifically fascinating ecosystem .

When all we want to do is collapse into a heap of tinsel, meditation provides a real boost to our energy levels and will kick-start our motivation to get everything done.

Why Is It So Cold and Dark Outside?

After many years, it’s become clear that having a white Christmas is about as likely as the Queen declaring a one-woman war with Finland, and it tends to be rather cloudy and rainy this time of year. Many of us are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, while many others simply don’t enjoy the cold and wet, and we can all start to feel a bit miserable during winter.

The hormonal imbalances which are exacerbated by lack of light are greatly reduced by regular meditation, helping us keep a sunny disposition all year round.

Driving, Flying, Catching the Train

Getting home for Christmas is the subject of lots of festive films and songs, and there’s a good reason for that. With our roads, train stations and airports subject to a mind-boggling hubbub at this time of year, even a simple journey can feel like a epic saga. Friday 21st in the busiest travel day of the year, and people are often subject to delays and cancellations which pretty much kills any festive joy they may have been feeling.

While circumstances like these are always going to be annoying, the fact that we can meditate anywhere means that we can find some rest and escape even when sitting in a hectic airport lounge – so we can get home for Christmas and into the embrace of our loved ones without threatening to explode with irritation on the way.

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Calming Christmas Gift List for Meditation and Wellbeing

calming christmas gift list

 

To paraphrase the eternal words of Slade, IT’S (nearly) CHRISTMAS! Christmas is an excellent time of year, where everyone gets to sing about reindeers and indulge themselves in the manner of a slightly less restrained version of George IV. But unfortunately, drinking cream for breakfast and raucous carolling aren’t the whole story. We have responsibilities too at Christmas – and if there’s one thing that can make the festive season more stressful than attempting to ace a yodelling competition while soothing an angry ostrich, it’s buying gifts for our friends and loved ones.

Don’t get us wrong: when everything falls into place it can be lovely buying presents, warm in the knowledge that whoever will receive them is going to be bowled over by our thoughtfulness and impeccable taste. “I always knew they were a fabulous and also very attractive person” our friends will say to each other, nodding wisely as they admire their new toe-warmers. But what happens when you can’t find anything to buy and there are only a few days left until Christmas? That’s when the Yuletide nightmare begins.

Luckily, this list is here to provide you with last-minute present ideas – and not any old presents either! These are the most calming, meditative and wellbeing-boosting presents anyone could wish to receive. During the festive season, when our heart aches in anguish to see hours of careful wrapping ripped aside in seconds, and cooking the Christmas dinner becomes an arduous yet ultimately doomed task akin to Napolean invading Russia, we can all feel in need of a little pick-me-up.

So take a peek at our calming Christmas gift list for meditation and wellbeing, and help someone you know find some much-needed relaxation.

Himalayan Salt Lamp

https://www.glowhimalayan.co.uk/

We like salt, enjoy the Himalayas and absolutely LOVE lamps – so what could be better than an amalgamation of all three! As pretty as your favourite Hollywood starlet wearing a gown made of tinsel and as wholesome as a raft of avocados, this lovely gift comes with benefits galore – from providing a relaxing glow to its air purifying properties.

Some Fancy Teaware

Something like this!

 

 

Whether it’s a Matcha green tea set or a classy, calming blend from Whittards or Fortnum & Mason, giving someone more ways to stick on a brew is a guaranteed way to improve their life and lower their stress levels. Years of scientific research have proven that no one ever has been angry or upset while drinking tea (citation needed), so tea-themed Christmas gifts are always going to be a winner.

East by West

Jasmine Hemsley

http://www.jasminehemsley.com/read/

Jasmine Hemsley is a fantastically dressed wellness wizard, and East by West would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf. This particular book is focused on the ancient art of Ayurveda; with plenty of advice on how to tailor your diet to your body type, simplifies the philosophy and practicalities behind eating to nourish, sustain and repair. What’s more, given the 140 delicious recipes, there’s the added bonus that you can drop heavy hints about popping round for dinner to whoever you give it to.

The Worry Box

Like this one

There’s quite a lot to worry about in the modern world – from scraping together the rent to puzzling over the exact meaning of covfefe – and having an outlet for all these worries can be a very helpful thing. There are lots of variations on the concept of the ‘worry box’, which allows people to write down their concerns and put them away, and they can make a brilliant gift for someone who needs to put a little bit of space between themselves and their worries.

 

Buddha Board

Take a look!

 

One of the less meditative aspects of painting is trying to make it look good. That disappointing moment when you realise you’ve not so much captured the beauty of your subject as crushed it in your clammy hands is enough to ruin any relaxing afternoon, so it can be useful to distance ourselves from this stress.

Buddha Boards are an awesome solution to this issue. A ceramic plate that you paint onto with water, your creations appear as black as ink for a few minutes before slowly fading away, giving you an endless opportunity to doodle and create – but with none of the pressure. As a medium where we can enjoy the process of painting rather than the result, a Buddha Board is the perfect meditative gift.

The Effortless Mind

Will Williams

Get your copy.

We can’t very well do a Christmas gift list without plugging our founder’s first book (let no one say we meditators aren’t PR-savvy), and it really is a must-have for anyone interested in meditation. Framed around the personal stories of people whose lives were transformed by meditation, this book explains exactly how the technique can help us become the best version of ourselves – and who doesn’t want that?

Ayurvedic tongue scraper

Learn about the benefits.

The words “tongue” and “scraper” may sit a little queasily together (we promise it’s not like anything from Saw), but if you have a loved one who is interested in wellness, they could really appreciate this gift. From promoting oral hygiene to enhancing our sense of taste, this daily ritual is both a form of self care and a traditional element of Ayurvedic practices – should someone you know happen to be into that kind of thing.

Tabletop Zen garden

Buy one here

Gardening isn’t all trowels and turf. For the Japanese, the Zen garden is all about simplicity and elegance – making it easy to replicate in miniature on your desktop. Therefore, you don’t have to be a Borrower to enjoy an implausibly tiny garden, and you’ll struggle to find a more relaxing bit of decor for your desk at work. Some come with candles, others with mini water features, and raking the stones into patterns or contemplating a nice pebble is a genuinely enjoyable way to while away a few idle minutes.

Singing bowls

Find some here.

Singing bowls come in many shapes, materials and sizes, and they have the enviable Beyoncé-esque quality of being beautiful to look at as well as to listen to. For spiritual types, singing bowls are credited with all sorts of mystical benefits, but for others they are a pleasant way to make soothing sounds that relax and unwind us.

Prices vary immensely for singing bowls, so they can be everything from a stocking filler to a not-so-subtle way of telling someone you intend to marry them. Whatever the price, however, they all make a brilliant and calming gift.

We hope this list has provided you with some Christmas inspiration. There’s not long to go now – we hope you have lots of fun counting down the days!

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Getting Back to Basics: Simple Self Care for Tough Times

simple self care beeja meditation

 

It’s been wonderful to see, over the last few years, just how much self-care has become part of the conversation – in the media and beyond. For many of us, embracing the concept of self-care has been a vital part of tangible improvements in our lives, as we are better able to manage everything from daily stress to chronic conditions.

However, as self-care entered the common lexicon, the concept naturally evolved to something more complicated and aspirational than perhaps first intended. Beautiful online imagery and the consumer culture connected to self-care can make the concept appear dreamy and far away (and even out of our price range), rather than something that’s achievable for everyone.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with aspiration or inspiration – and a bit of retail therapy, a trip to the hairdressers or other consumer acts can fall under the umbrella of self-care. However, at its heart, self-care is about uncomplicated actions that protect your health and wellbeing, and this is hugely important when life becomes harder than usual.  

Getting back to basics with simple self care can make a huge difference when it feels like everything is going wrong, and is vital in making sure you can through to the other side as unscathed and ready to move on as possible.  

Why we need self-care

For a long time, we’ve been taught that success comes with self-sacrifice, that the person who does the longest hours will reap the biggest rewards. But as it became clear that mental health issues were rising, and that often the only thing we were achieving was stress and burnout, we became increasingly aware of the hazards that are inherent to these “you win or you lose” attitudes.

It’s unfortunate that this overly self-sacrificing, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends culture has dominated our working and personal lives for such a long time. While being dynamic, ambitious and hardworking is all laudable, there has to be a balance in life. Without balance, this unforgiving lifestyle can be overwhelming, especially when combined with our modern 24/7, non-stop schedule.

All this is at least partly responsible for our lack of happiness and fulfilment, and the very real impact this is having on our mental health. For those with pre-existing mental issues, chronic illnesses, a loved one they have to care for, or a thousand other pressures, it’s even harder.

Simple Self-Care Techniques

It’s often said that advice regarding self-care can be a little unrealistic – with spa days or salon trips barely accessible for lots of people and big lifestyle changes completely infeasible. This is why simple self-care isn’t about a lifestyle overhaul – becoming yet another thing to feel guilty about not doing – it’s essential maintenance to keep up health and happiness when we need it most.

There are realities in life we just can’t avoid. For example, you are likely to sacrifice time spent “me-time” if your kids are particularly demanding that day, you may have a partner who suffers from depression or anxiety and often have to cancel plans (like relaxing over a coffee with friends) to provide emotional support. We don’t always have the capacity to look after ourselves coherently, which is why it’s important to fit self-care into life as it is, rather than an idealised time where everything falls into place.

So for the times when money’s tight, time is short and you just don’t have the energy, here are some simple self-care tips that should make big difference to how you feel without too much expense or effort.

Minimise comparisons.

Life is invariably complicated and stress can affect anyone, but circumstances can make things particularly difficult at certain times. It isn’t always possible to be our best selves, or to find time to really give ourselves the time and care we need, and comparing how well we’re doing with other people in these moments is unhelpful.  

For example, looking after a new baby is always hard, but it will probably feel a lot harder it also coincides with having no money, a relationship breakdown, or flare-up of mental illness. The people who seem to breeze through, looking fantastic and barely ruffled, might be having a completely different  – in other terms, easier – experience to you, and they may even be secretly struggling.

These are the times when we need to put aside how everyone else may or may not be doing and congratulate ourselves on simply making it through the day. Giving yourself a break from self-criticism and comparison during low points in life (and we all experience them) is really important.

Recognise the things, people and activities that boost your mood.

Even when we’re super busy or experiencing a rough patch, there’s always little moments of calm or happiness in life. For instance, pets can be a real mood-booster – taking the dog for a walk or having your cat fall asleep in your lap may be a highlight in even difficult days. Alternatively, your highlights may be grabbing a latte from your favourite coffee shop before work or catching up with a good book during your lunch break.

Taking these moments and focusing on them – trying to maximise the happy times if you can – can make things feel a little less bleak, and doesn’t involve the extra pressure of trying to allocate more time or money to something new. If there are any other times during the day that you can commit to these happy-making activities, you can bring more positivity into your life.

Recognise what’s adding unnecessary stress.

There are lots of things that may be creating unnecessary stress. For example, you may leave your work email notifications on, forcing you to think about your professional life when you could be relaxing. Or it might be that you have a good friend who is more demanding than you can always cope with. Regular habits may ignite a flicker of happiness or comfort, such as smoking or ordering takeaway pizza just that little bit too often, only to be followed by guilt and stress.

When times are tough, stepping back a little can make a huge difference to our peace of mind. In the example of an overbearing friend, it’s ok to set some boundaries (such as turning off your phone in the evenings) while still being a good mate – you can just explain you won’t be available as often because need a little me-time. The same applies to work. If it’s become an unspoken expectation that you monitor your emails outside of work hours, you can make it clear that there are times when you turn off your phone and won’t be contactable.

The bad habits which make us feel guilty are also pretty easy to identify. It may be hard during a rough patch to stop doing them (you might simply lack the motivation if it’s all being spent elsewhere) so it’s probably more helpful in the short term to stop telling yourself off and set the long-term goal of cutting down or giving up.   

Stick to a digital detox

As we’ve already mentioned, turning off your phone can be an important way to set boundaries at work, but it can also be invaluable when it comes to protecting mental wellbeing. While there are times in the modern world where we have to have our phone on, (for example, if it’s how your child’s school would get in touch with you during an emergency) but we have developed an expectation – both for ourselves and others – of constant social availability which is both unreasonable and impractical.

Sometimes, it’s OK to be out of the loop for a little bit. That WhatsApp conversation that jingles every 30 seconds, those social media updates which provide a constant scroll of content – we can switch off from them and spend more time in the moment. It doesn’t matter if we leave a message unread for an hour or two and removing this pressure to be constantly socially “on” can be a really powerful form of self-care.

Make small but steady changes

Sometimes, the only realistic option is to keep your head above water and wait for the storm to pass, but you can still do small things to help yourself. When you are really struggling, it’s the little things that count, and you can take baby steps in creating a life where stress becomes a little less overwhelming. Meditation is a wonderful form of self-care that’s easy and accessible, and will help you cope with stress better in future.

At the most basic level, simply finding time for the tiniest of actions which remind you that you still matter – such as spending an extra 5 minutes brushing your hair, or picking out your favourite pair of shoes, or cooking yourself a nice meal – can give you the small boost you need to get through the day. When times are tough, self-care can be as simple as you need it to be. 

We are always happy to chat if you want to discuss how meditation can help you. Get in touch whenever you need

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How Do You Find Time to Meditate?

how do you find time to meditate

 

Recently, we’ve been thinking about the barriers to meditation. Many people intend to make meditation a habit, but sometimes even the most motivated of us can find our practice slipping – despite quickly feeling the benefits.

We explored in a blog post last week some of the common stumbling blocks people can encounter, but we’ve come to conclusion that the biggest issue is a perceived lack of time. So how do you find time to meditate in our busy modern world?

 

Why Do We Feel So Short of Time?

 

In a Facebook survey, we asked our little community (Like our page here!) what has stopped them from meditating every day, even when they wanted to. We picked the two things people tend to report as a problem most often, and the results are pretty clear!

 

finding time to meditate

 

Not having enough time to do the things we most want to do isn’t something that only impacts a meditation practice – it’s a pervasive obstacle across our whole lives. Between rushing to work, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, sleeping at night (if we’re lucky!), taking the kids to school, catching up with life admin, seeing friends; it’s easy to become lost in the hurry.

A major benefit of meditation is that, when practised regularly, it slows us down and helps us exist in the present moment. Think of it like baking – we are constantly whisking away, moving as quickly as possible to keep everything on track and making sure the mixture turns out right. Meditation is like pouring in melted chocolate, you get to stop whisking at a mile-a-minute and fold it in slowly, taking the time to appreciate everything coming together. And what’s more, the addition makes your efforts richer and more deeply enjoyable.

By meditating, it’s as if we actually make more time – even if it takes up 20-40 minutes every day. We become more efficient, more aware of the “now”, and are filled with energy and motivation. However, it is easy to de-prioritise meditation when we first begin our practice, falling instead into old habits. We humans are very prone to repeating patterns of behaviour and we can cling to a way of life that we are used to, even if it isn’t ideal.

Here’s find tips on finding the time to meditate, allowing you to cement your habit and start reaping the rewards.

 

How to Find Time To Meditate

 

Be Opportunistic – When you are a very busy person, you have to grab slices of “dead time” where you can. Waiting at the doctor’s, the commute to work, that twenty minutes while dinner is cooking, your lunch break at work, the time you spend scrolling through social media before bed: it can all be utilised as space in the day to meditate.

Meditating twice a day for twenty minutes is ideal, but if you can only squeeze in one meditation that’s vastly better than none – and once you’ve got used to meditating every day for a month or two, you’ll find keeping up the habit comes naturally to you.

Minimise distractions – The wonderful thing about Beeja meditation is that you can do it anywhere, no matter how busy or noisy. From the morning tube to a bustling coffee shop, Beeja meditation can help you transcend the everyday no matter your surroundings. Therefore, noise and activity aren’t distractions you need to worry about too deeply; but having a pet jumping in your lap, your child tugging at your hair, or a phone that just keeps buzzing might be just that little more noticeable!

Allocating points in the day where there are few other demands for your attention (such as your commute) and turning off your phone can make getting into the flow of daily meditation far easier, and will help the habit stick.

Set a reminder – Setting a reminder ten minutes before you want to meditate on your phone is a great way to remind yourself that this is a practice that – no matter what is occupying you at that moment – that you want to prioritize. It’s easy to get caught up in tiny diversions through the day and keep putting meditation off. No matter how inconsequential a current activity actually is – whether that’s seeing who unfollowed you on Instagram or organising your spice rack – if we’re more in the habit of doing it, it’s going to seem compelling.

A reminder brings us back to the moment and our broader intentions for life, allowing us to put meditation first amongst everything that clamours for our attention.

This entry was posted in blog.

Difficulty Meditating: The Barriers To Meditation & How To Overcome Them

difficulty meditating

 

The benefits of meditation are something that, in recent years, have become very well known. From managing anxiety to increasing our levels of productivity, there are scores of reasons why we may want to make meditation a daily habit. Beeja meditation is an effortless technique that can seamlessly fit into modern life, but there are times when we experience difficulty meditating and making this amazing practice part of our day.

As meditation teachers, at Will Williams Meditation we’ve either experienced personally or witnessed through our students pretty much every stumbling block to meditation there is. Sometimes even the best of intentions can’t stop us from falling off the meditation wagon, and you may have found that despite your sincere desire to practice meditation it’s been days, weeks or months since you last meditated.

There are various reasons why this might be. This guide is here to take you through the most barriers to meditation and help you to overcome any difficulty meditating that you may be experiencing.

Falling Asleep During Meditation

Everyone’s done it – you sit down somewhere comfy for a meditation session and before you know where you are, you’ve drifted off. Not every meditation is going to be an amazing, transcendent experience (although each one is important) and sometimes reaching for that lovely space between focus and relaxation can be pretty soporific!

Finding yourself snoring in your favourite meditation spot isn’t anything to worry about on the odd occasion, but you may have found that snoozing when you want to meditate has become a big barrier between you and your practice. A few practical tips to keep yourself firmly away from the land of nod are:

 

  • Get some fresh air: Now, this isn’t to say you should meditate in Arctic conditions (you will want to stay comfortable), but opening a window or heading outside to meditate so you are just on the other side of “sleepily warm” can be a big help in keeping you alert.
  • Mix up your routine: We think, generally speaking, that meditating at the beginning of the day is a good idea. However, if you get out of bed, sit down to meditate and immediately doze off, there’s no reason not to mix it up a bit. You might be too sleepy at the beginning or end of the day to meditate effectively, so meditate in your lunch break and before cooking dinner instead – anytime when you feel at your most awake. It’s also a good idea to avoid meditating immediately after a big meal, as the energy expended in digestion can make us feel sluggish.
  • Don’t get too comfy: One of the most wonderful things about Beeja meditation is that it doesn’t require any special poses or physical discomfort – something which some meditation techniques rely on. But if you are falling asleep with bothersome regularity, you might want to take a look at your favourite meditation spots, and make sure they are as unconnected to your “sleep spaces” as possible. This may mean eschewing blankets and your squishiest armchair, but there are plenty of ways to be comfortable in meditation without the danger of getting that bit too comfortable.

 

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still falling asleep during lots of meditation sessions, you may want to assess what it might be that is making you so tired. Meditation can help amazingly with sleep and energy levels, but if you are chronically overworked or living with an underlying health issue you may still struggle with fatigue and find it difficult to meditate (and therefore feel the benefits) until you address the problem.

Struggling With Feelings of Frustration

Beeja meditation is, in our opinion, the most effortless form of meditation. You simply repeat your mantra, and when your attention wanders, gently redirect to your mantra once more. You really can’t go wrong! However, it is possible to get yourself in a bit of a rut if you start beating yourself up for not meditating “properly”, becoming frustrated with the chattering thoughts that, really, are natural and unavoidable.

Putting yourself under too much pressure can make meditation an exacerbating experience, especially if you have lots of expectations for yourself and are rushing to feel the benefits. For instance, if you want to start meditating to offset working an extra couple of hours every day, you may become annoyed with yourself for not becoming instantly more productive and begin battling your mind rather than relaxing naturally into a meditative state.

In Beeja meditation, you just need to let the mantra – effortlessly – do it’s work. The key thing is to make sure you don’t start labelling your own wandering attention as the enemy and pour lots of mental energy into suppressing your thoughts. This can make meditation unenjoyable, becoming less about “flow” and more about “fight”, and sitting down to meditate with goals in mind can be a barrier to actually achieving them.

Experiencing Discomfort – Both Physically and Mentally

The things we experience when we go into a meditative state aren’t necessarily going to be pleasant. Meditation brings us to the very root of our beings in an extremely powerful way, and it helps us untangle a lifetime of stresses, hurts and even psychological trauma. As Brigid Moss reports in The Pool, this isn’t always going to be easy. While many of our meditation experiences will be beautiful and dreamy, and a few rather unremarkable, we are sometimes going to encounter long-buried emotional wounds.

This is all part of the process and ultimately extremely healing, allowing us to break free from unconscious patterns determined by fears and bad memories. However, it can also be off-putting for some people, especially if they are reluctant to seek out guidance and discuss their experiences. Another discomfort some meditators report are aches and pains during meditation, which are distracting and annoying – but generally short-lived.

To understand more about the psychological disquiet we might face when working through the traumas which are encoded deeply in our nervous system, we recommend reading Will William’s The Effortless Mind, which explores the science and psychology this phenomenon. But in the meantime, letting yourself meditate through these experiences will be a major step towards moving on from them, and if you learnt with us, you can get in touch with our teachers at any time for advice and support.

Final thoughts

These are, in our opinion, some of the major stumbling blocks to meditation, and if you get through these niggles it’s likely your meditation practice will last a lifetime!

However, there is one influencing factor which perhaps trumps them all when it comes to making meditation part of our day – and that is feeling as though we lack the necessary time. This is something we thought warrants a blog post of its own, so watch this space to find out more!

 

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How Meditation Can Help New Families

how meditation can help new families

 

One of the things you notice, as you advance through your early life, is a marked changed in the content of your Facebook feed. Photos of neon-waving nights out start slowly disappearing, to be replaced by squishy newborns, perfect and glow-worm like in blankets.

It would be easy to think, looking at such benign little beings, that they don’t have it in them to utterly transform someone’s life from top to bottom, but that’s exactly what they do – barging into the world in perhaps the least considerate of manners before demanding all the love and attention that their precious and beautiful little souls deserve.

But despite the fact that our friends – and often our own parents – do their best to warn us about the realities of having kids, few people are truly prepared for the profound change that is unleashed when they start a family. For most, the transition can be a bit of a shock.

Add to this the pressure and worry that comes with having children, and the situation can become a strange and exhausting mixture of stress and elation. Once upon a time you could leave the house without so much as a second thought, but now you need an accessories bag roughly the size of Bermuda and a hefty dose of steely determination. Sleep also becomes a newly fraught activity – mainly in the fact that you’ll never actually get to do it

And it’s not like the never ending advice you can find on the Internet is much help either. Even he most innocuous of activities seems to be met with a chorus of “you shouldn’t be doing that! Do it this way!” and many people seem keen to parent from a distance, with the barrage of advice often becoming confusing and contradictory.

In all the maelstrom, meditation can be one way to find your place of calm, and give you the confidence to forge ahead in the way you think is best.

During Pregnancy

The benefits of meditation and pregnancy can positively influence both mother and baby, as meditation reduces stress hormones which can be picked up on by an unborn child, and it also makes you feel calmer and happier.

Any woman who’s been pregnant will know that hormones and moods can get – well, it’s probably best to say “distinctive” – during pregnancy. Meditation can balance you out, lessening the understandable stresses and worries that come with the prospect of motherhood.

And meditation can be a big help for expectant dads too. It isn’t always easy for soon-to-be fathers and their concerns can often be overlooked. The prospect of a huge life change looms large over every parent, and for men there’s the additional anxiety of seeing their partner and unborn child at this most vulnerable of moments – without being able to do much to help. Meditation can help you keep a lid on their fears, while also giving you the inner strength and stability needed to support your partner.

It Needn’t Take Up Too Much Time

In the hectic weeks after a birth there’s it can be hard to find the time to brush your teeth or wash shampoo out of your hair, so taking out time for meditation seems impossible. However, much like exercise, however much you can do will help. If the baby is off your hands for a little while, 20 minutes of meditation here and there can work wonders.

Feeling Calmer

The “fight or flight” response is our bodies’ evolutionary method for dealing with life-threatening situations, and it sets off in times of stress. However, in the modern world this response is triggered more often than your body is designed to cope with, making your heart beat faster, flooding your system with stress hormones and neglecting non-essential functioning such as digestion to go into emergency mode.

This happens with even small stresses, and there are fewer times in life more stressful than new parenthood. Meditation calms down the area of the brain that initiates the fight or flight response so it reacts more appropriately, and lets you feel more serene.

Your Kids Can Join In

Once your kids get older, meditation is a great habit for them to practice. The ways in which it makes adults calmer and happier works for children too, and picking up such a healthy and beneficial practise early can stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

 

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