At Asquith we love all things ‘wellness’ but one of our favourite things to practice is mediation. Our founder Alice swears by Vedic Meditation which is why we had to interview one of the most inspiring meditation teachers around, the lovely Jillian Lavender.
Jillian Lavender is the co-founder of the London and New York Meditation Centres. She has been practising Vedic Meditation for over 20 years and teaching for over 15 years. Before teaching meditation Jillian was leading global publishing companies. Jillian was born in New Zealand and is now based in London with her partner Michael (both personal and professional!) and four year-old daughter.
As a New Zealander have you adapted to living in England, What do you love about it? What do you love less about it?
I love living in London. I love the history and the diversity and the proximity to so many interesting people and places. We don’t have that in NZ. Having said that, I do miss the ocean. I grew up by the sea and it’s very deep within my DNA.
What are your 3 favourite places in London?
Kew Gardens is amazing – we have a family membership and we find it’s a great place to relax and there’s always something interesting going on. I love London café culture – hanging out with friends in some funky place watching interesting people go by is always fun. And I love the parks – we’re so fortunate to have so much green space. It’s very invigorating to be in this city.
How do you relax?
Besides meditation? Walking (my favourite is by the sea) and cooking (my favourite is Indian food).
Yoga or Pilates?
What’s your favourite yoga pose and why?
Cobra – after sitting in front of my laptop for a few hours my back always feels happier.
What character trait do you love?
What character trait do you loathe?
What is your proudest moment?
Giving birth to my daughter 4 years ago. Loie came late in our lives and it has been an enriching experience on all levels.
Why did you first start meditating?
When I learned to meditate I was a bit of a stress-bag. Working long hours, travelling long-haul every few weeks and not taking care of myself. I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know anything about meditation, but a friend whom I trusted had learned and he experienced such noticeable and positive changes very quickly. That got me inspired and intrigued.
Why did you set up London Meditation Centre?
Having personally gained so many benefits from meditation, I could see how much of a need there was for what I was experiencing. The more I learned about consciousness and the power of the mind to create our experiences, the more I was convinced that this ancient knowledge was relevant for today’s fast-paced world. Every time I thought about how I could help others, I came back to the power of meditation to upgrade quality of life.
How has meditation helped you?
I’m healthier, calmer, happier, more aware and more effective. Relationships are smoother and I feel I can bring my best to situations. I’m more adaptable and open to change. Increasingly I find myself making decisions based on an intuitive sense of what’s right, rather than being at the mercy of an over-thinking, competitive and worried mind.
What is Vedic Meditation and how does it differ from other types of meditation?
Vedic Meditation is one of the oldest techniques of meditation, originating from the Veda – the 5,000 year old body of knowledge from which yoga, meditation and Ayurveda are derived.
It involves sitting comfortably and thinking a personalised sound (called a mantra). As you think the sound silently, the mind spontaneously begins to de-excite and very quickly steps beyond thinking.
When the mind reaches this least-excited state, the body rests much deeper than sleep. Automatically the body throws off stress and fatigue that have built up over time.
Vedic Meditation is different because it is effortless. There is a state within you of inner quietness, knowingness and bliss. It lies beyond your thoughts. It’s the baseline of your existence. It’s the fountainhead of your creativity and energy. It is a state of Being and it is ridiculously easy to access when you know how.
Vedic Meditation is an easy way to transcend your thoughts and access that state.
People often find meditation hard to learn. Why is Vedic Meditation any different?
Yes – I hear it a lot. “I tried to meditate but I couldn’t stop the thoughts” and/ or “I couldn’t keep up a regular practice each day”.
It’s a common myth that meditation is difficult. It comes about because people are using effort to try and quiet down their mind. And there’s too much mood-making around meditation – putting on an act of being mindful and calm won’t work. The mind needs to be charmed into that quiet state, not forced. This is where the right mantra is so important.
What are the greatest benefits from studying meditation?
• Energy and resilience
• Clarity and increased awareness
• Balanced health and slower ageing
• The capacity to be kind and loving
What do you enjoy most about teaching meditation?
Watching people transform before my eyes.
What is your daily routine?
With Loie on the scene, my routine has changed a lot in recent years. And yet there are some non-negotiables: tongue scraping, oil pulling, oil massage, meditation, sipping hot water throughout the day (so good for you!). As much as possible, I make lunch my main meal of the day and I’ll make sure I sit down and put my attention on that.
How do you switch off and relax?
Hanging out with my family and friends – the simple stuff of cooking and eating and playing together.
Motto to live by?
How can I help?
What would you say to young women who want to start their own wellbeing business?
Do what you instinctively love and care about. If you have to think too much about what you want to do and how you want to do it then you’ve lost your connection to your inner wisdom and enthusiasm. Successful people are those who are enthusiastically resolute – they’re not swayed by the hypnosis of social conditioning. Success will come when you can find genuine ways to meet genuine needs.
What is your quote of the day every day?
It’s not the unknown we should be afraid of – it’s the ever-repeating known that we should be worried about.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
I was based in Paris and was CEO of a large publishing company. I was young, female and I spoke very average French. I (somewhat naively) embarked upon a restructuring project and it didn’t go down well. I felt very alone and it was a very tough time. When I was in the midst of a particularly rough patch, I made the decision to resist my desire to lock myself in my office each day. I forced myself to get out and speak with everyone in the company each day and things began to shift. I also found myself a very good, female coach and we worked intensively over those months. Most importantly it gave me an immense amount of emotional support and I had an outlet for my own frustrations and insecurities.
What is it about Asquith that you love?
So much! I love the fabric – I recently wore your organic activewear on a flight back to New Zealand (34 hours door to door!) the bamboo yoga pants felt so comfortable and it still looked amazing when I landed at the other end. I think the styling is amazing – when I put it on I don’t have to keep futzing about with it which is so often the case with other active leisurewear.
Who is your Wow Woman?
My grandmother – wise, kind, unpretentious, and loved by all who met her.
And in the public sphere, there are many: Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Byron Katie, Naomi Klein, Rachel Maddow to name a few. Smart, gutsy, strong women who are committed to stepping up, speaking up and making a difference.