“PPeople talk about stress as something we have to learn to live with, particularly anxiety, ”he says. “Actually we can do something about stress. “She believes we need to change our thinking around what she sees as one of the biggest causes of suffering today. There is no such thing as” good stress, “she says.” People are tired , exhausted and stressed. And they make up for it with all kinds of behaviors and habits. I want to take us to a normal state, a balanced state that is healthy. “
Lavender is the least guru-like guru you could hope to meet. Born Kiwi, she speaks with the no-nonsense style of the Editorial Executive Director which was, “Rest is the funding mechanism for everything you do,” before discovering Vedic mediation in Sydney in her early 20s. In 2008, he created the London and New York Meditation Center with his American partner, Michael Miller, whom he met at a retreat in India. The couple, now 50, live in Notting Hill with their young daughter. They give off the kind of glow that is generally reserved for the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s not for nothing that they’ve built a following among burned-out celebrities and stressed-out executives, with fees operating on a sliding scale of £ 400 to (you may need to sit quiet a bit) £ 2,000 based on salary; his unabashed approach draws those who would run a square mile with the scent of an incense stick.
“There is nothing strange about us. We really love what we are doing. We are here to help people, ”says Lavender. “It’s that easy.”
From the London Meditation Center It started, meditation has gone mainstream, and subscriptions to apps like Headspace and Calm soared during the pandemic. Lavender wrote Why meditate? locked away (ironically, she had been too busy teaching people to meditate before). The book is his attempt to correct the “carelessness” and misunderstandings surrounding meditation, to distinguish it from all the buzz around mindfulness. He also wanted to reach a wider audience, “to make the message spread widely and in an honest, clear and accessible way.”
As she makes clear from the beginning, this book no teach you to meditate. It is a book of why, not how to do it, the clue is in the title. As anyone with a shelf full of unread meditation manuals will know, learning from a book is not a start (reading with your eyes closed can be tricky), and the prose style can generally be relied on to put you to sleep. We already know many of the why: meditation makes us happier, healthier and more pleasant to be around: broccoli for the brain. But Lavender follows the science to back it up: During meditation, our metabolic rate drops much faster and deeper than during sleep, cortisol levels drop, serotonin levels rise. My favorite conclusion is that long-term meditators have been shown to be 12 years younger than their actual biological age.
Most of us are spending our days with what she calls “arousal chemistry,” stress hormones, sugar, coffee, and alcohol. “Life is hectic. There is no doubt about that ”, especially in recent years. In her work, she sees that the burden falls most heavily on women, mothers in particular, for whom each day is often a caffeine-filled race from the school race to the night you find yourself trying to open a store. bottle of wine with some Lego. “People are recognizing that they need a counterweight to all of this.” I’ll drink for that.
This is where Vedic meditation comes in, a mantra-based technique (very similar to transcendental meditation), which Lavender believes is nothing less than “an antidote to stress.” “Why is Vedic meditation so powerful?” she asks. “Because we get off so quickly, so efficiently and so deeply, so much more deeply than in a night’s sleep.” So what’s the catch? You can only learn it from a specially trained teacher, not from a book or an app. As she says, you wouldn’t expect to learn to play the piano by watching YouTube videos.
Students in Lavender’s most recent course included a nurse, a mother of three, and a former venture capitalist. People come to mediate for many reasons. “It may be that they are not sleeping, that they want to stop the medication, that they are going through a difficult time and everything is turned upside down,” he says. “People are desperate for change. They are desperate to feel better. And they want to do it in a natural way. “Learning is” a really life-changing moment. I don’t mean it lightly. I see it in everyone I teach. “
Jo, a city attorney and mother of two girls in their 30s, She learned to meditate with Lavender in 2017. She had recently lost her father and was recovering from breast cancer surgery. “I was absolutely devastated. It would take me a few hours to get up, get dressed, and start to function properly, ”he says. But when he began to meditate, he felt better almost immediately. “I was able to get up in the morning. It was just amazing. ”Clara still meditates religiously every day as it makes her feel more in control and that“ nothing is impossible. ”She just sent a friend to a course who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“People think it is going to be hard work. They say, ‘I couldn’t sit still,’ ‘I couldn’t silence my mind,’ ‘I don’t have time to meditate,’ ”Lavender says. “You can! If you’re curious and willing to sit down and follow directions, you can!”
Over the years, I have held my breath in yoga studios all over London, sang in a love circle in Ibiza and participated in a moonlight meditation in the Austrian Alps (the moon was not appearing) . And I subscribe to so many mindfulness apps that my phone should be on permanent sleep. None of them have stayed. I still have the excitement levels of a young child at a birthday party that, as we all know, only ends in tears.
And so I find myself one afternoon in late November in a cold Unitarian Church in west London, sitting with my eyes closed in a room full of strangers in woolen scarves and masks. The course lasts four days over a long weekend, each session lasting no more than two hours. It opens with a short ceremony, which, as Miller informed us in Zoom’s free introductory talk, “You’ll like it if you like that sort of thing, and it’s very short if you don’t.” Nobody runs to the door. Then we get down to work, each of us is called individually to an even colder room, to receive our mantra, a meaningless sound, our key to Vedic meditation and lasting serenity. We’re so far away now, we all go back to our seats like kids who just met Santa.
As Lavender promises, the instructions are few and seemingly straightforward. One of them is: “Don’t try it.” As one of life’s pathological over-testers, this is up there with “Don’t breathe.” And you should practice for 20 minutes twice a day; obviously if someone had 40 minutes to spare they wouldn’t be here in the first place. But one of Lavender’s goals is to help people find ways to adapt meditation to their busy lives. If the nurse who works 12-hour shifts is going to do it, then so am I. We began to meditate.
The first thing to say about Vedic mediation is that you don’t need to stop your thoughts. Purifying my head is a bit like emptying my purse. The things that come up (gritty lip balms, pebbles, headless toys) are messy, useless, and weird. I try not to try. Really difficult. I repeat my mantra silently over and over again. I’m not sure I remembered it well. Within minutes, my head begins to move strangely, on its own, like one of those nodding dogs you see in the back of car windows. All the knots on my neck and shoulders magically unravel. It must be working! I wonder if the same thing is happening to everyone else, if we are all sitting rocking like we are listening to music with invisible headphones. I do not open my eyes. Then eventually there is a strange kind of silence. Really, really quiet, like the sensation of floating before recovering from anesthesia. It works! Damn, the moment bursts like a bubble when you poke it. I leave church feeling lighter, taller, and more rested than I have for years, joyful even. Later that night, a friend says I look good, official confirmation that I have indeed started to shine.
It is still early, but I haven’t missed a session. My kids are delighted, not just because I’m less loud, but because they watch TV for 20 minutes before tea, when I sneak away for afternoon meditation. It has become my secret superpower. That nice swimming sensation (and the nodding thing) comes faster and I get better at not driving it away. I hope the benefits are incremental and by the time I read this I’ll be well on my way to enlightenment and a little younger, biologically speaking. If you’re looking to “update” – Lavender’s word – your life this year, you can start by doing nothing.
Do Lavender and her partner ever have a moment to empty the bins, or who has been putting in more hours? Lavender hesitates. “No. There’s a kind of softness,” he admits. “We’ve both been meditating for a long time. Don’t some things piss me off? Sure. But not in a way that stays.” And that’s why he wants more people to meditate: “Because I know the benefits of this for those people and I know the spillover effect it has on families, in workplaces, in society,” he says. “That’s why I do what I do.”
Why meditate? Why It Works by Jillian Lavender (Yellow Kite Books, £ 14.99) is available at guardianbookshop.com for £ 13.04. London Meditation Center fees start from £ 400 with a free online introductory talk (londonmeditationcentre.com)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism