An interview with Joey
What started your passion for meditation?
I had been curious about meditation and knew it would be good for me for around 2 years before I gave it a go, many years ago now. I just couldn’t seem to find an opportunity to learn more back then. Going to a Buddhist centre felt too much and the super spiritual approaches to meditation felt off putting. At the time meditation was still considered a little “woo-woo”, especially amongst most of the people I spent time with. Apps weren’t accessible yet and it didn’t get the exposure it does today in mainstream culture.
But like most stories of life transformation, my relationship with meditation really started after a breaking. I was stressed, anxious and felt completely trapped by the life I was living and I reached a breaking point. I quit my job, put my house on the rental market and had my own ‘Eat Pray Love’ experience. I went searching for myself. I headed to a remote horse ranch in Mexico and then a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I had never done any yoga or meditation before and remember so clearly the first time I thought ‘right! I’m gonna give this a good go’ after attending meditation classes where everyone seemed so serene (I wasn’t. I was hot, sweaty and peeking at everyone wondering how the hell do they just sit there?!) I sat down to meditate by myself on a beach and within seconds, Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ came into my head. That was it, I thought I sucked at meditation, meditation was a load of rubbish, it didn’t work and I gave up.
It wasn’t until I moved back to London after my ‘find myself’ adventure that I really started practicing more regularly and really started to notice the benefits.
Image: John Hersey
Why is meditation important?
Without a doubt, for me, meditation has changed my life. It sounds dramatic but it is genuinely true. I experimented a little while ago and stopped my daily practice to see how I felt; consumed, confused and with a head full of fog. It’s not that anyone else would have noticed the difference on the outside but my experience of my day to day felt drastically different. Meditation is scientifically proven to have incredible effects on our mental and physiological health, including changing the structure of our brain, boosting the immune system and regulating emotion.
An incredibly simple practice, just sitting quietly with my eyes closed for 5 to 20 minutes every day, helps me develop a sense of self awareness and connect in with how I’m feeling that day. I feel more grounded, less frantic (a somewhat natural state for me) alert, at peace inside myself and aware. Meditation helped me shift from a victim state mindset to an empowered one, where I don’t believe or attach myself to my thoughts – they are not who I am, they are just thoughts. I have been able to truly forgive others and myself. It helps me to really feel all emotions and to let them pass through, without judgement. It’s not about getting it right, doing anything perfectly or not letting yourself fail or make mistakes, it’s about a practice, it’s about showing up and finding a deep sense of fascination with this life long learning. We’re all just human.
What does meditation involve?
I like Dr Joe Dispenza’s definition of meditation which is something along the lines of ‘to become familiar with’.
Depending on who you ask, you would receive a different answer to that question.
I’m a bit of a rebel meditator to be honest and struggle with the word ‘teacher’ when it comes to my offerings. I consider what I am is more of a ‘facilitator’ – I help facilitate the state of meditation through creating (hopefully) a safe and welcoming space for people to sit quietly with themselves and look within. There are many different approaches, schools of thought, methods and practices; some taught in a very strict and rigid manner, some you have to pay a lot of money for. Some are ‘trendier’ than others but the truth is, they all are different paths that lead to the same destination. It’s just about finding a path, an approach, a teacher or a guide that feels right for you and always trusting your instincts.
Small parts of all approaches make sense to me but restricting myself to choose just one, just doesn’t work for me personally. I believe that meditation and mindfulness are the most natural settings in our programming as human beings, it’s just our minds/life/society has gotten so busy and distracted that we have forgotten. Therefore, for me, meditation and being present isn’t something we can ‘learn’, but rather, something we remember.
Image: Emma Macdonald
For those new to meditation how would you suggest starting?
Start somewhere, and in many ways, start when life is going great for you. What I often find is people, like me, wait until they are at breaking point and then turn to meditation in a hope it will fix them. Which of course it, in itself, won’t. But it is a tool to help us become self aware, feel more connected and empowered to choose loving, wise and consciously for ourselves, others and the planet. There are so many apps, free resources on the internet, books and courses out there. I’d start by using an app called ‘Insight Timer’ which is free to download and has thousands and thousands of meditations, courses and good quality content. Starting with ‘mindfulness’ is a great place to start, as it is somewhat the gateway for meditation. So searching for mindfulness meditation or a course within that app, or on youtube is a good place to start. The challenge then is finding a voice that is soothing, rather than grating!
I also offer a course which is an introduction to mediation, taking a broad look at all approaches, different styles, philosophies alongside the science to help people find what is right for them
What are the common misconceptions about meditation?
The biggest would be that you have to sit there with a completely blank mind, without thinking, in order to meditate. As complex, thinking, human beings who lead busy or complicated lives, or who are faced with the challenges we are as a collective at the moment. It would be near impossible if you sat down to meditate, especially for the first time, and thoughts or distractions didn’t appear. I consider the art of meditation as becoming the witness to the coming and going of thought, sensations, distractions and in awareness choosing to return to the focus of your meditation. Every time you notice, that’s a good thing! Not a bad thing that you thought. But in awareness of the thinking, rather than getting caught up in the thought or distraction, let it go and return to your focus of the meditation; be that someone guiding you through meditation, your breath, a mantra or to rest in expanded awareness.
The idea that you have to believe a certain thing, look a certain way or add bells and whistles to a meditation practice is also a myth. Simply showing up to meet yourself in a quiet place, to become familiar with your internal world and to offer unconditional love, non-judgement and compassion to whatever you find is what is important.
How often and how long should I meditate for?
Depending on the approach you follow or which scientific study you read, you would get a different answer to that question. I think one simple mistake so many of us make when it comes to most things ‘health’ or ‘wellbeing’ is to create ourselves a mountain to climb. Just like a running race you have to train. With the mountain to climb approach, some days the mountain seems too hard, too big, too tiring so we don’t show up… until we give up altogether. So my question would be – how long could you, personally, find for meditation a day? Could you take 5 minutes before climbing into bed to sit quietly with yourself? Or as you swing your legs over the side of the bed in the morning, could you take a 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes to gather yourself, drop in or practice a deep and healing meditation?
Showing up every day is what is important and making it soooo simple for yourself is how a habit forms… and then you can build up from there. We don’t see brushing our teeth twice every day as a tiresome chore, we just do it in good knowledge that we are caring for our teeth. Meditation is the same for our minds and bodies.
Why is Boconnoc a great venue for meditation retreats and events?
It is a perfect venue. PERFECT – The house, the grounds, the tranquility, the staff. I have both been on a retreat and led a retreat at Boconnoc and fell more deeply in love with the place during both experiences. Despite her grandeur and sense of luxury, it really feels like there is a strong, maternal, healing, protective energy about being there. Despite its size it feels like being in a loved home. I see Boconnoc almost as a lighthouse for healing, strength, hope, beauty and kindness. It’s a powerful place and honestly I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Image: Emma Macdonald
Thank you to Joey for sharing her experiences with us. Please take a look on Joey’s website for how to sign up to her online meditation sessions and courses.