Since founding The Broad Place in 2013 in Sydney, Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell have helped people across the globe live less stressful lives. The couple launched the school after finding personal success with meditation, and wanted to help bring the practice into the mainstream, especially for people who hadn’t already tried it.
“I was often mystified by people thinking you had to become vegan or only wear linen or not drink alcohol to meditate,” Lewis writes in The Broad Place’s new book, High-Grade Living.
The beautifully designed hardcover is described by publisher Thames & Hudson (known for its illustrated titles) as “a handbook for shifting from stressed, anxious and overwhelmed to creative, grounded and happy”, and is filled with facts about the history and science of meditation, as well as practical tips for starting your own practice.
It builds on the couple’s work of breaking down common misconceptions about meditation, and shows that through simple “edits” of your life, you can find clarity, increase your creativity and improve your wellbeing. Here are some tips and suggestions by Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell.
Seeing the big picture
The key to any meditation practice is discipline. You simply won’t experience anything new if you don’t apply yourself. We like to teach students that meditating twice a day for 20 minutes accounts for three per cent of their day. We meditate to enhance the other 97 per cent.
Remember to approach your practice with patience and a willingness to learn, but also give yourself a break if you don’t feel like you’re connecting with it just yet. Let go of excuses and the idea that you’re not doing it enough or not doing it right. You’ll find that you’ll see results much sooner this way.
You can never master meditation. We meditate to master life, not the other way around. Meditation is about discipline, consistency and dedication, and there are no shortcuts to a truly committed meditation practice.
Living with peace
There is an ancient Zen story that we can all keep in mind when thinking about how we live: There was once a person who was considering relocating to a new village. He approached the Zen master who lived there and asked, “Do you think I will like this village? Are the people nice?”
“What are the people like in the village where you come from?” the Zen master replied.
“Well, they are nasty and greedy. They are angry and live for cheating and stealing,” said the newcomer. “Those are exactly the types of people we have in this village,” replied the master.
Later, another newcomer to the village visited the Zen master and asked the same question. The master replied again, “What are the people like in the village where you come from?”
“They are sweet and live in harmony. They care for one another and for the land. They respect each other and are seekers of spirit,” said the newcomer. “Those are exactly the types of people we have in this village,” said the master.
Your attitude determines your life experience. You create your reality from your own perspective. At some point, you will probably think there is somewhere better you could be living – a more interesting location, a nicer house with a prettier garden. However, working with what you have in this moment is the essence of high-grade living. Pining for an imaginary future strips you of joy for the now.
Eating constitutes such a large part of our health, both mental and physical. We nourish our bodies through what we eat, and much of our health is directed by our gut and what we consume. But we don’t give this much credit or thought when we are rushing about, barely present. Here are some things to consider.
High-grade eating, or mindful eating, is simply paying attention to what you are doing. This is critically important for physical and emotional health. Ask yourself why you are eating. So often we use food for comfort. We eat because we are angry, lonely, stressed and tired. Recognise the reason for eating, and the enjoyment and benefit it provides. Work out what foods make you feel grounded and what foods make you feel anxious. Does eating make you feel sleepy or energised?
When you eat with intention to nourish your body – when all your awareness is aligned with nourishment, and you chew and swallow with presence – your body can digest the food much more easily. You aren’t what you eat; you are what you digest. Slow down and be present for all of it.
Preparing food with meaning
How we prepare our food informs the experience of the person eating it. At Zen monasteries in Japan, the mindset of the tenzo (head chef) is incredibly important. A calm mind results in calm food.
In India, the birthplace of Ayurveda, creating nourishing environments in which to prepare food and avoiding cooking when angry is seen as just as necessary as having a pot and a stove at hand.
One of the most wonderful things about eating in countries such as Italy and Spain is the simplicity. A few ingredients of the best quality – one or two tomatoes, some basil and a ball of buffalo mozzarella, or a soft peach, a hunk of goat’s cheese and a piece of freshly baked baguette – make the most magical meals. When you are working with excellent ingredients, there’s no need to trick things up. So source better quality and serve it simply.
Eating with meaning
When eating, simply eat. Don’t watch television or scan the newspaper or read a book. Be completely present for the experience of eating – the scents, the flavours, the textures. Absorb them all. With each mouthful, chew slowly. Feel the food in your mouth and how the texture changes with each bite. Ensure each mouthful is ready for your digestion.
Take the time to consider what’s on your plate – the time it took to grow, to source, and to make its way to you. Is it a deep-sea fish? Where was it caught? What kind of water does it live in? How long did that vegetable take to grow? Was it above ground, deep in the soil or on a tree? What country and region did it grow in? This thoughtfulness creates an incredible reverence and sense of awe and gratitude for each meal.
This is an edited extract from High-Grade Living: a guide to creativity, clarity and mindfulness by Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell, published by Thames & Hudson Australia ($49.95). Buy it here.