Get Some Headspace: Q&A with Andy Puddicombe

If you’re unfamiliar with meditation website Headspace then you really are missing a trick. We got in touch with Andy Puddicome, the genius behind it all, to find out all about the man and the vision, meditating, surfing and health, and (of course) the beach.

What was it that made you decide to launch Headspace?
Headspace is a project designed to demystify meditation. Using the wonders of science and technology, we make it easy-to-learn, fun-to-do, and relevant to your everyday life. We’re on a mission to get as many people in the world as possible to take 10 minutes out of their day, to practice a simple and easy-to-learn meditation technique.

When I was in Moscow, expats started to come to the meditation centre where I was teaching. These were senior people in oil companies and banks in Moscow. I could see they were benefitting from the exercises but they didn’t really relate to the whole Buddhist thing.

One of them – who was very senior in BP Oil Company – said, “I’d love for you to come do some work with the execs at the office.” But then he said, “You know what? Coming in dressed like that to an oil company in Russia, it’s just never going to work.” And he was right.

It got me thinking, “Am I passionate about being a monk, or am I passionate about teaching meditation?” The answer was clear.

I spent about three years putting the content for Headspace together before I met Rich Pierson, who’s the co-founder, in 2009. Rich comes from a creative background – new brand development.

We started off as an events business. We looked for places where people wouldn’t expect to find meditation, like high-end places in London and New York. We’d bring 300 people together about once a month.

People started asking, “How can we continue afterwards?” So we started recording parts of the event and posting them online. There was such a strong response that we quickly moved to an online subscription business and the concept has just grown from there!

Why do you think meditation is so important? and what does it mean to you?
Meditation and mindfulness allows us to live life fully… fully aware, fully awake, fully alive. It is in living this way that we find peace of mind, happy relationships, and our place in the world.

In a nutshell, meditation is the practice of paying attention and focusing awareness – in short, being fully conscious of the here and now. Headspace teaches a practical set of tools and techniques that anyone can use to learn to meditate, promoting physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. The result? More clarity and less stress. Meditation the Headspace way is a straightforward, incredibly useful practice, designed to fit in with your schedule and improve the quality of your daily life.

How do you make sure meditation is always a part of your life?
I have studied throughout my life and am still learning, its inseparable from every aspect of my life, it’s part of who I am. On a practical level – I meditate in the morning every day. I wake up very early, meditate for about an hour, then surf. It is the best start to the day I could ever wish for.

What made you decide to leave the UK and head to LA?
I have always wanted to live in California. Apart from the obvious appeal of the sunshine and surf, it’s a very forward thinking place so moving here worked for both business and personal reasons.

What are the most important activities that keep your mind and body healthy?
Apart from meditation… juggling is a great way to distress. It reminds me of an inner playfulness and allows me to express creativity in a tangible way and enjoying the simple things in life. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or where I am I always try to appreciate the nature around me. Coasts, mountains, deserts and forests are my favourites. It grounds me and reminds me of what is important.

We know you love surfing, where is your favourite spot?
I prefer warm weather surfing, but if the surf is good, I’ll go anywhere. The Canaries is one of my favourite places to surf.

What is your favourite beach to whirl away an afternoon?
There’s a secret little Bay near where I live in Venice Beach where I get to see the same seals and dolphins every morning.

Apart from surfing how do you stay fit and healthy?
As I’ve aged, I would say that my attitude to health has changed greatly, primarily defined by my motivation. As a teenager I saw health as ‘big muscles and washboard abs’ with the intention of attracting the opposite sex. In the early days of being a monk I thought of health in terms of the relative calm, clarity and contentment of the mind. Later on I thought of health as being the ability to be less caught up in my own stuff and more focused on the happiness of others, a kind of altruistic health maybe. These days I would say that I have a much broader and more well balanced attitude to health and I find that by bringing a balanced approach to every area of life, good health is maintained.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?
I love travelling – Paris is a big favourite of mine – but currently life feels a little like a holiday here in LA. They say you get bored of the sunshine every day… I’m not so sure about that.

Is life really better at the beach?
Life is what you make of it – but I am very happy I have chosen to make mine at the Beach now, as is my wife!

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