Meet our featured guest meditator for the month of July, Jillian Lavender. Co-Founder of London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center, Jillian believes that meditation is fundamental to staying energised, calm and well in the 21st century. She talks to us about her journey from stressed out city flyer to meditation master…
1. Tell us about your life before finding meditation
Wow – it seems like another lifetime! I learned Vedic Meditation nearly 25 years ago when I was living in Sydney. My life was full-on. I was starting up a division of a global publishing company and I was flying long-haul to the States and Europe every few weeks. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed and not living a very healthy lifestyle. I found out about meditation via a friend who had taken the course and was noticing such positive changes (he had been an insomniac and was now sleeping much better). I knew I had to check it out. I had a strong feeling I had to do something – my life had ‘unsustainability’ written all over it.
2. Can you describe a typical day in the life ‘then’ and ‘now’
Before meditation I struggled with my energy levels. Even after a so-called decent night’s sleep, I did not want to get out of bed. I would prop myself up with caffeine to get going. I was working long hours, across different time zones so I wasn’t eating well – snacking, too much sugar and eating out a lot. And I was drinking too much wine. I always felt like I was chasing my tail – I never felt like I had enough time and was always scrambling to get stuff done.
When I learned to meditate I’d get up and the first thing I’d do was meditate for 20 minutes. Very quickly, I started waking up before my alarm clock (which had never happened before!) and I was actually feeling like I needed less sleep over time. I noticed how much clearer I was feeling and my anxiety levels dropped very quickly. I started exercising and making much better choices about what I was eating and drinking. In the late afternoon I would sneak away to a meeting room and meditate again for another 20 minutes. It was like a shot in the arm – I was re-energised and ready to go. I often had to be on a conference call with the States in the evening and I was more alert and way less resentful!
It’s interesting, because when I heard that I’d have to carve out two sessions of 20 minutes per day to meditate I freaked out a bit because I was already feeling overloaded. However when I started meditating I soon felt like I had more time even though I was sitting around with my eyes closed for 40 minutes. I see this a lot with our students – the clarity and energy mean you are much more efficient and able to prioritise in a better way.
3. How has meditation helped you?
In so many ways. More energy, more clarity, less anxiety, feeling more calm and grounded. I know I make better decisions now because I’m not worked up and out of balance. (We never make our best choices when we’re tired and cranky!)
One of the big changes is the way I deal with the demands of life. I have a lot going on and yet I see myself handling it in a way that’s not draining me or causing me to be stressed.
I feel well and I take care of myself in a way which seems to work better for me. I gave birth to my daughter in my mid-forties and I know that process was natural and smooth in a way that was directly affected by meditation.
The biggest gain has been the improvement in my ability to trust my intuition. I see meditation as a perceptual sharpener – you’re able to cut through all the noise and tune in to that quiet inner wisdom. It transforms the way you make decisions and your sense of self-confidence.
4. Why did you set up London Meditation Centre?
Because I could see the need in people all around me. And I felt that I could make something which is so ancient and possibly a bit weird, more accessible and inspiring in our modern times.
We’re living in a world where stress levels are off the scale. The pace of change is intense. People are struggling with lots of demands and lots of uncertainty. The majority of mainstream coping mechanisms are not working in a natural, sustainable way.
With Vedic Meditation there are no negative side effects. When you take care of your mind, your body will also be in better shape. When you rest deeply you clear out the stress and fatigue that’s getting in the way of who you really are. You’ll be much happier and more able to deal with stuff in a good way.
5. What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
I was transferred to Paris with work after my time in Sydney. I threw myself into a major restructuring process and it meant many people left the company. There was a huge amount of change in a short space of time and that was very tough for everyone. I was alone, not speaking great French, a young woman in charge of a very male oriented environment. It was tough and I very nearly walked away from it all. One of the things that changed it for me was that I worked out I needed to get some good people around me for support. People who I could be honest with, and who were able to help me. It was a big lesson. Reach out and don’t try to go it alone.
6. What do you love most about London?
The diversity. I come from a relatively smaller town in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s beautiful and yet it doesn’t have the cultural variety and the history of London. I love that I can walk down the street and hear many different languages and that people are safe and free to wear what they want and be who they are.
7. What are the greatest benefits of learning to meditate?
There are so many – energy, clarity, better health, slower aging, better decision making.
Most important of all is you learn that fulfilment is not something you’re going to find ‘out there’. Trying to gain stable happiness via acquiring people, things, money and experiences is a mistake. Sustainable peace and happiness is an internal, self-referral process. Meditation helps you find that inner source.
8. What are three things you wish you could tell your younger self?
– It will pass – change is the only constant.
– Be kind to yourself and the people you meet.
– You can do it.
– Learn to meditate.
(sorry – that’s 4!)
9. Favourite dish at Yeotown Kitchen?
Compassion Wrap – love the combo of avocado, courgette, cheese and mayo in the lightness of a wrap
Jillian Lavender is Co-founder, London Meditation Centre