Behind the scenes. Talking mindfully.
Where I talk Mindfully with the wonderful Jennifer Lynch from the Natural Co-Creator show. How and why did mindfulness become a regular thing in my life?
WOOHOO!! I also get to talk about my new Mindfulness through Meditation projects ‘9 breaths for a Calmer Mind’ and ’10 days to a relaxed and happy mind’ programme. Dear reader, read on!
(BTW, this interview has been edited for space and clarity)
Annya: Hello Jennifer! How many laptops does it take to link to Skype? More than you would imagine! I had a few technical problems getting connected up for this interview but they are sorted and now I’m here!
Jennifer: Tell us a little about your early career – you were a manager at Centerparcs…
Annya: Working at Centerparcs was an amazing time, especially as I experienced the opening of the totally new Thetford (Suffolk) site.
I recruited, trained and ran a team to take all of the bookings for activities, courts and events. The booking desk was one of the busiest places, especially first thing in the morning. People were so keen to play badminton or 10 pin bowling they would get up at 7am even when they were on holiday, just so they could be sure to get their slot! It was pretty intense.
Jennifer: That must have been a busy time for you – not much time to relax and think mindfully?
Annya: No! I remember coming home at the end of the day feeling so frazzled that I’d have to lie down on the floor for half an hour to get myself together again and act like a normal person. That was one of my first experiences of intense levels of stress with work and I really struggled with it.
Jennifer: You have trained both as a yoga teacher and as an acupuncturist. Tell us about that…
Annya: I wanted to do something where I could be active but which wouldn’t continually drain my energy; something that would build me up, nourish me and make me feel good at the end of the day. The answer was training and working part-time as a yoga teacher.
Near to the end of my training, I realised that my daytime job in education wasn’t fulfilling me. I needed to make a change and for a while, I pondered what was that change going to be? Then I read an article about acupuncture and had a light bulb moment! So, my final year of Yoga training was also my first year of training to be an acupuncturist.
Jennifer: You have talked about having experienced a lack of connection with your work and your marriage? How did you overcome this?
Annya: By nature, I am a driven type of person, sometimes I can work myself too hard and become too tired to think straight. I like to be busy and active but, as the saying goes, your strength can also be your weakness. The things you can do really well you do too much of, and that was me.
How Meditation helped…
I realised that being an employee didn’t really suit me – I like to do things my own way. Being self-employed (as an acupuncturist and now a meditation teacher) means I can make my own decisions and this suits me well. I hadn’t really understood that before. The quiet times within my yoga practice gave me the space to think this through and have this realisation – the start of thinking mindfully.
The same thing applied to my marriage – I was too tired to take care of our relationship properly. Things were not right between us and I couldn’t work out how to make that better. When I gave myself the time and space to be quiet and think calmly and mindfully, my intuition kicked in. I suddenly understood what I needed to do. I had a quiet discussion with Steve (my husband) about what wasn’t working in the relationship for both of us and, together, we decided what to do about it.
The quiet time that yoga gave me plus my acupuncture training helped me understand the effect my thought processes and emotions were having on my body. For me, stress was causing me to have persistent shoulder pain and problems with IBS – I was in pain with this condition every afternoon and evening. I now had clarity that when you calm your mind then your body will feel better, and when your body feels better it will calm your mind. A positive, virtuous circle.
Jennifer: You have done further training in meditation and mindfulness and have developed some new courses to train us to think mindfully. Tell us a bit about this.
Annya: I started my meditation training about 9 years ago, more or less at the same time as starting my acupuncture clinic. I knew I needed something to help with the stresses of setting up a new business. There was no mentor giving advice and support anymore – I was on my own – making my own decisions, and that is a scary place to be in. Using meditation helped me work more mindfully with my patients and in my business.
My teacher is a practising Buddhist (I am not). He teaches a very pragmatic form of Buddhism. It’s a very common-sense approach which asks you to try a practice to see if it works for you. You reflect on your meditation in the light of your own experience. If it does, then you can have faith in the teaching and you have the confidence to know that it will make a difference if you stick with it.
I like that you are encouraged to test out ways of thinking and being to see if they work for you. You are not just passively opening your brain and having information poured in. It means that you have to be pro-active with your mindfulness, to reflect and learn. Then you are more likely to integrate it into your own way of living, thinking and working.
This is the approach that I am bringing into my courses – I am teaching both a practical skill (thinking mindfully through meditation) and how to apply it to the problems in your everyday life.
Jennifer: Tell us about your new free download ‘9 breaths for a calmer mind’, which is now available on your website
Annya: This is a free video which teaches you the 9 breaths sequence. There are 2 extras as part of the download – a second video which gives tips about making the 9 breaths sequence even more effective, and an e-book in case you prefer reading instructions rather than watching a video.
It’s a really brilliant way of preparing yourself to think mindfully throughout your day. I use it nearly every day as part of my own practice.
Jennifer: Are you working on any other projects?
Annya: I have just finished recording my ‘10 days to a relaxed and happy mind’ programme. This teaches you simple techniques to make your meditation work even better. Then you’ll know how to calm down your busy mind or, if you have a sleepy mind, how to perk it up! We’re getting it ready for the launch, hopefully sometime in July.