Those of you who’ve been following my recent posts on Vedic Meditation know I have a new-found love for the practice ever since I met James Brown. After taking a 4-session course with him, I wanted to find out more about how he came to teach Vedic Meditation. After all, one of the reasons his class is so accessible is because he’s just like us. Interestingly, it was only after he’d received a killer job in SF as Creative Director of a hot ad agency that suddenly his call came to teach. And when the idea first arrived, he laughed. But it kept coming until he finally approached his teacher saying that he’d been getting these “weird ideas” about becoming a meditation teacher. His guru simply said, 'Yes, I’ve been expecting your call.'
Fast forward to today. Not only does James lead Vedic Meditation workshops and in-office seminars, but he often does so with former clients and colleagues, who are able to look at him and say, ‘If you can do it, then maybe I can too.’ And for James, teaching the person who thinks meditation is difficult or even impossible is a great passion. Because he’s not unfamiliar with the feeling of 3pm office lag, he knows what it’s like to bring work stress home to your spouse (or room-mate or dog) and then bring the resulting spousal stress back to work the next morning, and then spread it to colleagues who pass it back to you. And for that reason, he’s highly motivated to break the cycle. In fact, one of his goals is to help build a meditation practice into our culture. He muses, ’Smokers have been taking breaks to kill themselves for years - what if we could make it ok for people to take meditation breaks instead?’
For his in-office workshops, which he does for both large companies and start-ups, he’ll typically do a short workshop in the afternoon to demonstrate the benefits of the practice - i.e. increased clarity, fluidity, flexibility, trust, collaboration, and the list goes on. James tells me that in speaking with HR departments, they often acknowledge afternoons can be a waste of time - people are crankier, tired, and ready to go home - so there’s an interest not just from employees, but from management to see how meditation can help. Jay Bryant, a designer from Seattle who took his workshop said, ‘I used to spend a huge amount of time second-guessing my ideas. After practicing meditation, I have the ability to trust myself.’ Thus, people tend to be more efficient as as result of the practice as well. As James puts it, ‘Meditation is a tool that can sharpen you.’ Teams spend less time deliberating, are less fearful of perceived negative consequences, and feel more confident about their decisions, which often translates to better returns both personally and for the group. And I should also mention here that it’s exactly this type of self-trust that helped James listen to his inner voice leading him to leave full-time ad-work and embark upon this journey of service.
Because he’s so interested in the topic of stress and how to help people through it, James makes an important distinction. There is Eustress, that which is deemed healthful and gives one the feeling of fulfillment, and Distress, which refers to being in a state of danger, suffering, and anxiety related to extreme necessity. It’s the difference between perceiving a high-stakes situation as a challenge that we can rise to, or a threat we have to run from. When we are in a constant state of stress, like so many of us are, it becomes difficult for our body to tell the difference. When we can welcome the jittery feeling that comes before a big performance or presentation that helps propel us forward, we not only do better but we feel calm and accomplished afterwards. And though it’s an oft-used buzzword, I’m going to remind everyone that this is called being more mindful, a state that comes about naturally with frequent meditation.
As James has been teaching for some time now, he’s noticed something important: ‘the thing that stands in the way of us being the best, most realized version of ourselves is ourselves. We undermine ourselves, second-guess, doubt, become attached to story-lines that don’t support our evolution but take us in the other way. And have such an intimate and often abusive relationship with our inner voice.’ Through meditation, we can allow the mind to settle enough so that we can take notice of when this is happening and turn it around. ‘Meditation is a way of arriving at a state in which you are simply more mindful without trying, because you’ve been able to strip away the stress that’s really underneath what causes people to not be fully present in the first place.’ And when I ask if him about it, he says, ‘sure winning awards in advertising was great, but the feeling of knowing I’ve helped improve someone’s life is infinitely more rewarding.’
To learn more about his upcoming workshops, in-office seminars, donation-based classes which go to fund at-risk youth training, and his FREE upcoming info-session, please visit his website.
Photo: Courtesy of James Brown
Post written for SFYogaMag.com