Life can you do your head in. This is so obvious it’s barely worth mentioning, but for meditation coach, Will Williams, chronic stress isn’t something we should just put up with. ‘Stress of all forms has its roots in the mismatch between our biological makeup, and the intensity of modern life,’ he says.
‘The workplace is obviously one of those places where we feel stress most acutely, staring at screens all day, with deadlines, and responsibilities putting us under pressure. This occasionally causes our biology to react in ways which surprise, bemuse and confuse us, and ultimately cause us to feel less good about ourselves and the world.’
Rather than fighting against the flow, Williams uses 10,000 year old ‘beeja’ meditation (which means ‘seed of infinite potential’) to build micro moments of mindfulness into a hectic schedule. ‘It’s different from anything you’ve seen before. Whilst conventional mindfulness reduces stress by eliminating thoughts, beeja meditation is based on the vedic principles, which help you to release thoughts, to reduce stress, ease anger but also heighten experience.’
Use these life hacks, from Williams, to turn meditation into a daily, stress-busting habit, without sacrificing hours of free time.
1. Get Creative
If the idea of sitting and doing nothing is already boring you to tears, then you’ll be pleased to hear that meditation doesn’t have to be a passive activity. Williams says you can use exercise to stimulate right-side brain activation as a means of targeting your more creative side, which in turn can ease the stress symptoms. ‘Getting lost in an activity is usually an excellent way to get your creative mojo flowing.’
‘One simple way we can do this is to use our non-dominant hand to write, or draw, for five minutes. It’s a surprisingly effective way to activate your right brain and with it your creativity. By using your ‘wrong’ hand and doing this in a focused way, you will find yourself more creatively and emotionally attuned. You’ll also be more intuitive.’
2. Meditate On An Empty Stomach
A common misconception about meditation is that you have to be in total silence. ‘You can, in fact, meditate anywhere,’ insists Williams, who suggests performing short moments of meditation at your desk, during down time and even on the train. ‘It’s always best to allow an hour and a half to two hours after eating before you meditate. This way your body isn’t too busy digesting food, when it can’t slip into relaxation mode. It’s also best to avoid having caffeine before, as that’s very stimulating for your nervous system and can also delay your body’s relaxation response.’
3. Breathe Your Way Forward
Meditation is often most effective – or most needed – when you’re having a particularly bad day, or when your mood is reaching breaking point. Williams believes that we go through waves of heightened emotion throughout the working day but that by trying a Beeja breathing exercise you can help to restore calm and focus on the task in hand.
‘Take a moment to close your eyes and inhale,’ advises Williams. ‘Count slowly to three or four as you do so, then gently exhale for twice as long as you inhaled (counting to six or eight, depending on what’s comfortable). As you’re exhaling, imagine all of the tension and stress that you’re carrying melting away into the atmosphere.’
4. Feel A Healing Hand
If the situation allows, Williams believes that meditation can be more effective with some targeted self-massage in conjunction with the breathing hack. ‘If you can feel your stress located in a certain place – in your chest, your stomach, your liver or your lower back, for example – then gently tap or do a clockwise circular rub on the area as you inhale and exhale. Doing this for three to four minutes will slow you down, help you see through the distractions or the red mist and stop you saying something that you might regret.’
5. Practice Stress Dissipation
To trigger the benefits of Beeja instantaneously, Williams teaches his students to practice a move each morning or evening that they can all upon when stress, or even anger, rises. ‘To do this place your fingers around your wrist, with your index, middle and ring finger on your pulse. Feel the artery pulsing beneath your fingertips.’ (According to Ayurveda teachings, it’s best if men place their left hand around their right wrist.)
‘This creates a feedback loop, tuning your tactile senses into your cardiovascular system, which in turn will help to dissipate the emotion. Now, while you’re feeling your pulse, begin to breathe into your chest. Count to four on every inhale, and again on every exhale. Do this ten times, putting as much of your focus as you can on your breathing, your chest and your pulse.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch this interview to find out more about how Will William’s battle with insomnia led to his no-nonsense approach to meditation practice, and how you can own your own internal space with beeja meditation.