Is Meditation All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Okay Potatoheads, full disclosure: Even though we get slightly sick of everyone talking about meditation, we have always liked Andy Puddicombe’s meditation app Headspace, which makes it easy for beginners and naysayers. The app has garnered investors like Jared Leto, Jessica Alba and Ryan Seacrest, and Puddicombe’s way of meditating is not what most of us probably think of when we think meditation. As he says, “no chanting, no sitting cross-legged” but rather just a really a quick and easy way to de-stress, focus and improve your relationships, sleep and overall way of living.

We are always looking to feel more centered (especially in this crazy city of New York) and Puddicombe has no doubt made meditation and self care something we look forward to incorporating into our daily routine. Read below for his tips on mindfulness, resetting on the go, and making time for meditation. 

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

Idli Sambar with mung beans (one of my favorite Indian dishes) for breakfast. Orange, carrot, ginger and tumeric juice, with a homemade protein ball as a mid-morning snack. For lunch, a grain-based salad with corn, apple, seeds, nuts and a sprinkling of green leafy stuff – but not too much kale! A Protein shake – plant based – and chocolate flavored whenever possible as mid-afternoon snack. Thai tofu and vegetable curry with wild rice – and lots of chili for dinner! Homemade coconut ice-cream (dairy free) and one square of the finest dark chocolate I can find.

Why do you believe meditation is so important? 

Because it teaches us how to find calm and clarity in our lives, giving us the space for happier relationships, too. The mind is our most precious resource, responsible for our experience of life in each and every moment, and it needs looking after if we want to feel content and fulfilled in our life.

Headspace has over 9 million users; were you surprised by how much popularity the app has gained? 

I’ve been surprised and delighted in equal measure! These techniques have been around for millennia and at Headspace we know firsthand how effective and beneficial they are. But reaching this many people, in just a few years, is a beautiful thing. I think it’s largely down to the style of the app, and the accessible nature of being able to do it on your phone, whenever you want and wherever you are.

What are your words to yourself upon waking up in the morning?

I believe that silence is far more powerful than any words I could muster up at that time of day, so I choose to sit and meditate when I wake up.

What advice do you have for people looking to reset, and feel less stressed? 

Well, I’m a little biased, but learning to meditate is the best place to begin. Try the app and see how you get on doing just 10 minutes a day. If you like it and want to explore further, then you could maybe try the stress, anxiety or sleep packs. Or you might like to keep it short and sweet and use the three minute SOS exercises to pause and reset throughout the day. Needless to say, you’ll get the most benefit from meditation when it sits alongside an active lifestyle and healthy approach to nutrition.

How did you initially get into meditation?

I was very fortunate; my mum got me into it when I was about eleven-years-old. It was so helpful, even back then. But it was really in my late teens or early twenties that I pursued it more passionately. Eventually, I decided to head off to Asia and ordain as a Buddhist monk – as you do!

Jessica Alba, Jared Leto and Ryan Seacrest are all investors in the app. How did they get involved? 

We are very fortunate at Headspace, not only to have such an awesome community, but to have some brilliant minds that want to help us achieve our mission of improving the health and happiness of the world. There are too many investors to mention them all, but mostly people reached out through mutual friends, to ask if they could invest. Jared was a little more direct and DM’d me on Twitter suggesting we Skype!

If you’re already having a stressful day and no downtime due to transit and time constraints, any tips for resetting on-the-go?

Absolutely; included on the Headspace app are mindfulness exercises for commuting, walking, eating and even exercising. These are so helpful as they require no extra time and can simply be folded into an otherwise busy day.

Do you believe that the foods you eat factor into your stress and anxiety levels? What foods help to alleviate those issues? 

It seems to be that way for sure, but I think it’s such a personal thing. We are all so different and so it’s impossible to come up with a one size fits all approach. Personally I believe in a mindful approach to nutrition – explore it, be interested, be present and notice how different foods make you feel. Bottom line though, we can have the best diet in the world and still struggle with the mind, so it’s important to meditate whatever your pleasure.

What’s your personal diet like? Are you health-minded?

Yeah, I’ve always been really sporty (time in the monastery aside) and so nutrition has always gone hand in hand with that. I’m conscious that I’m incredibly fortunate to live where I do though and to have access to that kind of produce. Living in California – LA in particular – makes eating healthy so much easier. A few years back, I got cancer, and so my wife and I went full-on raw for a year or so, with nothing but alkaline foods, as recommended by my doctor. It was really interesting and had a very positive impact on my health. My wife is an amazing raw food chef, so that helps too!

What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants to do you go to in each? 

I tend to steer clear of well-known restaurants and enjoy eating where the locals eat – it’s nearly always the best food. Having spent so much time in Asia, some of my favorite places are over there. Bangkok is always a winner and some of the street food is incredible. The Himalayan region is always fun as it’s often a fusion of Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and Pakistani foods. Tibetan vegetable momo’s in Dharmsala is still one of my favorites. Another favorite is Moscow. You have to know where to look, but there are some real gems in the local markets.

How do you start your day? What is your typical breakfast? 

If it’s post-gym/surfing and I don’t have much time then it is inevitably a plant-based, dairy-free protein smoothie. If I have a little more time, then I will either have oatmeal with some superfoods sprinkled on top, or some granola with fresh berries and either coconut or sheep’s yoghurt on top.

What is your perfect smoothie comprised of? What is your perfect salad comprised of? 

Smoothie: Blended plant protein powder (cocoa), freshly sprouted almond milk, banana, spinach, blueberries.

Salad: Quinoa, farro, corn, sun dried tomatoes, apple, carrot, arugula, black olives, spinach, cashew nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

What’s the best advice you have ever received? The worst?

The best: “Be present, be patient, be gentle, be kind…everything else will take care of itself” – One of my tibetan teachers at the monastery

The worst: “Don’t drop out of university to become a monk, you will regret it for the rest of your life” – My head of year at university

In the same vein as what is the new black in fashion, what’s the new potato right now?

The new black is meditation…the new potato is taking care of your mind.

Also see our interview with health guru Kris Carr, and click here to read about our chat with Yogi Tara Stiles. 

*Andy Puddicombe, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann