I discovered meditation over a decade ago, after burning the candle at both ends, and hitting the wall. I couldn’t sleep and was totally stressed out, when a chance conversation on a night out led me to meditation. Two weeks later, my insomnia vanished.
I spent nine epic years traveling around the world, learning everything I could about meditation and how to create the best courses and classes for you. Now, by sharing my simple tools from our London meditation space, I want to help create a healthier, happier world.
Beeja: the mantra meditation for people who struggle to clear their minds
Stress is the “epidemic of the 21st century,” according to the World Health Organization. Yet many of us continue to do more in less time, despite by-products of our ‘always on’ society, such as brain fog and burnout, increasingly getting in the way.
Meditation, one of the oldest mindfulness techniques in the world, could probably benefit everyone right now.
As a self-confessed over thinker, prone to bouts of anxiety, I have always suspected that I would reap the benefits of regular meditation, but there’s one thing that always puts me off – the idea of having to empty my head of all thoughts. It doesn’t feel remotely possible.
Will Williams, founder of Beeja meditation, says he has the answer to this, and wellness warriors like Jasmine Hemsley and Madeleine Shaw credit his method for clearing their minds and helping them to unleash their best version of themselves.
Beeja meditation is inspired by the Vedic school of meditation, which is based on the power of sound (or mantras) and has been around for thousands of years, originating from the Himalayan region of Northern India. In his book, The Effortless Mind, Williams explains how he has “adapted” it for the modern world.
He discovered meditation in his twenties while living a hedonistic lifestyle in the music industry which involved lots of partying, late nights and, also, work stress. Ultimately, he says, meditation cured his chronic insomnia.
“I first started meditating in 2008,” he tells me from his plush flat overlooking Hoxton Square. “I spent the first year working hard and partying harder just because I could. I realized it was the best hangover cure.
“But It’s the best life tool I know of to make your story better. If you can access the right technique, that you find easy, and it’s something you can integrate into your life without much drama, it will help you to live your life in the best possible way.”
Williams runs in-person meditation workshops in which he selects a “personalized” sound for you from an ancient repository of “beejas,” which he says is also based on your own energy. This sound is supposed to resonate with your brain and nervous system and should be able to guide you into a peaceful and profound state, even if it’s full of stimulation and noise.
If you haven’t done one of his courses (me) you can use what he describes as a “generic sound” – incidentally the one he gives me to try when we meet is “Beeja”. This kind of mantra is available under the ‘learn to meditate’ function of the Beeja App. Users can choose a mantra that best resonates with them from a bank of options.
Once you have your mantra, you then repeat the sound softly to yourself in your head for 20 minutes with your eyes closed. And that’s it.
Unlike some other forms of meditation, you’re not required to do the impossible and clear your mind of thoughts entirely, you just let them drift in and out.
“You don’t have to try and force it,” Williams says. “There are all these people out there not being able to clear their mind because they’re trying to practice monastic techniques in a very non-monastic environment, then they get frustrated and most give up because it doesn’t feel good to be rubbish at something.”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to meditation is over complicating it, Williams says. That’s why children as young as five are “much easier to teach than adults,” he says.
Another, he adds, is that people tend to take a high performance approach to it. “Don’t try too hard. Learning to do it in a relaxed way generally tends to give the best results.”
Williams recommends practising this meditation for 20 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. To people who say they don’t have the time to fit 40 minutes of meditation into their day, Williams argues that committing to regular practice will mean you end up getting more done over the course of a day.
“You become so much clearer, you’re more productive, you don’t procrastinate, don’t get brain fog or tired in the middle of the afternoon, it makes finding solutions easier,” he says.”It can help your relationship food, even jet lag.
“When we live these stress y lives our brain starts to function in fight or flight mode, it can make us aggressive, irritable, angry, withdrawn, anxious. If you give your brain that consistent experience, then your brain can neuroplastically restructure itself and revitalize the nervous system,” he says.
This isn’t the first time mantra meditation has become popular in the western world. The Beetles famously took up Transcendental Meditation, which is also based on the power of sound, having met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who popularized the movement in the 60s. Williams argues that while the origins of the techniques are the same, the primary distinctions lie in how he and his team “intuitively” allocate sounds to make the mantras more personalized, so that it’ll resonate with your nervous system deeper.
“The ancient Indians were masters at knowing how different sounds activate different parts of your brain,” he says. “We know listening to music and certain frequencies does something to your brain, but our understanding still feels quite rudimentary compared with what the ancients understood.”
There is something to be said for taking an ancient practice and making it accessible, which is clearly why Williams is resonating with stressed out London bankers, lawyers and creatives, which form the majority of his clients.
Once we’ve finished our chat, it’s my turn. Having never properly meditated before, I’m apprehensive about whether I’ll manage to quiet my racing mind or if this might be slightly awkward. While sitting on opposite mustard sofas, eyes closed, shoes off, Williams guides me into a meditative state and gently whispers “Beeja,” which I then silently say over and over in my head.
Having something to loosely focus on did seem to help me gradually let go of other thoughts, and my eyelids start to feel heavier and heavier. The 20 minutes pass in a flash.
I leave his flat into a sweltering East London and decide to walk home, mood lifted. It’s left me wondering, what would my own “personalized” mantra sound like? But Williams tells me that will remain a mystery, unless I do a workshop, he is very firm about that.
We tried a Beeja Meditation course with Will Williams
Are you curious about meditation but don’t know where to start? We sent Sam to learn how to become a modern-day meditator the ‘Beeja’ way…
I was stood in a room holding a bunch of flowers watching our meditation teacher chant over some nectarines wondering what on earth I had signed myself up for. However, I would soon learn it was all part of a very well-thought-out process that would unfold over the next three evenings.
So what am I talking about? The beginner’s Beeja Meditation course, which is run by meditation master Will Williams. Will is a former party boy who used to rely on every stimulant imaginable to keep himself going before he discovered meditation nine years ago. Now, he shares his wisdom and experience with thousands of students.
I’m not new to meditation, however, my previous experience has been using breathing techniques rather than a mantra, which is the centerpiece of the Verdict-inspired Beeja method. I decided I would put everything I thought I knew about meditation aside and go into the first session with an open mind.
I’d received instructions that I’d be meeting with Will for a one-hour 1:1 session and should bring six flowers and two pieces of fruit for the ‘ceremony’. I arrived at the Beeja base in Hoxton with my bunch of tulips and punnet of nectarines and sat down to talk with Will about what I hoped to get out of the course (to maintain a daily meditation practice). Then came the chanting, which to be honest felt a little bit uncomfortable but I watched as Will got ‘into the zone’.
The most important piece of the puzzle: my mantra. There are over 100 mantras (or sounds) and Will told me to keep mine a secret before whispering it into my ear. I was interested to know how they were assigned and Will explained the next day he just gets a feel based on a person’s energy – I think this was the point I started to think he had superpowers or at least he had tapped into something rather magical.
The next session was a three-hour open group forum where we sat in the living room drinking Pukka tea and fired our questions at Will. It turned out, most people were there for the same reason – they were curious about meditation and were looking for some sort of answers.
Will is incredibly engaging and I hung on his every word as he talked us through the method. One of the biggest takeaway points was that you really can meditate anywhere – even on the tube. We were told to scrap the idea that to meditate you must sit in lotus position on a hard floor.
Keep it chill
The other was that you should have a ‘nonchalant’ attitude towards your meditation and just let it flow. The mantra should be repeated softly and float at the back of your mind – there’s no such thing as a perfect meditation, he told us.
But there is an optimum time: 20 minutes, which is the time it takes to ‘de-excite’ the central nervous system. You can time yourself using the new Beeja app or should open one eye to peek at your watch. Crucially important is also taking two minutes at the end to stop saying the mantra and just be, so you can assimilate what has just happened.
In our final session, we went deeper into the practice and talked about the benefits of meditation and how the body may respond and why. I was particularly interested in what Will had to say about how meditation can be difficult in the early stages as the body ‘purges’ itself of negative emotions.
However, he assured us there were lots of wonderful things to come. He said people commonly notice they start being kinder to strangers, stop eating junk food, become more efficient at work, sleep more soundly – and just generally become better versions of themselves.
What is Beeja Meditation and how does it differ from other forms of meditation?
“Beeja means the ‘seed of infinite potential’ and Beeja meditation is simple, effective, fun and based on ancient wisdom as well as scientific research,” he explains. “Beeja meditation is different from anything you’ve seen before. Whilst conventional mindfulness reduces stress by eliminating thoughts, Beeja meditation is based on the Vedic principles, which help you to release thoughts, to reduce stress and heighten experience. Your body is given a chance to reset and reboot, as Beeja meditation takes you 33% deeper into relaxation than even your deepest sleep.
“Beeja meditation is incredibly effective at getting to the root of your stress response and calming your body down, so you are less reactive, more energized, and ultimately more productive. It uses sounds, allocated by a teacher, that will interact with your nervous system to give it the bandwidth it needs to deal with all of life’s dramas, and all of your tasks.
“It is a 10,000 year old technique from ancient India. The main point of difference is how easy it is – it doesn’t require any form of concentration, and can be done anywhere you like, so it makes it hugely practical. Its also personalized to each individual, which makes it much more powerful.”
What are some the major benefits of this form of meditation?
“The beauty of this technique is that it puts you in such a deep place of equilibrium that the effects ripple out into every area of your life. But the main ones are – better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, more creativity, being able to focus much better, and feeling much more positive.”
Many people say ‘meditation isn’t for me’ but it can be so beneficial to people from all walks of life. Is that right?
“Yes that’s correct,” says Will. “Most people say that because they hold assumptions about meditation which are aren’t always true. You don’t have to become a hippy, a monk, or a zombie. Quite the opposite. This is for everyday people, living everyday life.”
What tips do you have for getting the best out of your meditation?
“A common misconception about meditation is that you have to be in total silence. You can in fact meditate anywhere: sitting on the bus or the tube, at the beach, in a park, in the cinema before a film starts, at your desk before a big meeting, on an airplane if you are a nervous flier. Most people will just think you’re asleep!”
Try to meditate on an empty stomach
“It’s best to allow 1.5 – 2 hours after eating before you meditate so your body isn’t too busy digesting food that it can’t slip into relaxation mode. It’s also best to avoid having caffeine before, as it’s very stimulating for your nervous system and can also delay your body’s relaxation response.”
How long do you suggest meditating for?
What would you say to those people who say they don’t have time to meditate?
“Then they need meditation even more!” insists Will. “They are probably overlooking the fact that meditation makes you far more productive. So instead of being busy, you become effective, and the meditation ends up paying for itself.
“But if you really can’t find the time, just try it for 5 minutes.
“Sit down, close your eyes, and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Feel both feet on the floor and let your awareness drift across all parts of your body. Now start gently repeating the sound ‘Beeja’ in your mind. Be soft and slow and faint and relaxed. Beeja means the ‘seed of infinite potential.’
“Do this for 5 minutes, coming back to whispering the sound in your mind every time you lose track of it (which will happen lots, and that’s ok!). After 5 minutes, stop repeating the sound, and then take 30 seconds with eyes closed, and think of someone, or something, that you love. Hold that feeling in your heart for this time, and then go about your day feeling a little bit better.”
Some people may give up because they either don’t think they are doing it right or aren’t seeing results quickly enough. What would you say to them?
“Find a teacher who can work with you on a personal level, its usually far more effective. And if the first one or two you try doesn’t work, keep searching – there is always a technique that will rock your world if you stay diligent.”
Tell us about your new book ‘The Effortless Mind’.
“It’s an attempt to tell the story of meditation through other people’s stories – it shows people that normal, every day people do this, and it shows the human side of life when you reconnect with yourself again, and connect with those things that are most important. It also shows how easy it is to bridge the scientific and the spiritual, and inner happiness and outer fun, so that you can begin to live a full spectrum life. Each chapter has an exercise to help you with specific needs too.
“Supported by scientific research, The Effortless Mind explains how Beeja meditation soothes and calms both the mind and the central nervous system – with fast-acting, tangible results. Each chapter in the book is dedicated to a different problem created in our increasingly pressured and demanding world including addiction, divorce, and work-related stress. Compelling real life stories reveal how Beeja meditation can help overcome these traumatic situations and help improve relationships with both ourselves and others, with chapters on family, anger management, digestion and overeating.”