We could all do with a little inner peace at the moment, and Ali Epstone founder of Mindwave Meditation is the ideal guru for those seeking post-lockdown peace – although he wouldn’t want you to call him that. He’s quite possibly the chillest person we know, and with his easy northern charm, funny tales of his journey to meditation master, and lack of pretentiousness, he instantly puts you at ease. After our one-to-one session of breathing exercises, coping mechanisms and meditating, we wanted to ask him for some tips on getting through the pandemic and more.
‘Now is the time to be the best version of yourself. Now is the time, more than ever to shift those negative habits and let go of what’s holding you back.’
Please give us a brief overview of your background and how meditation has helped you.
Hi K&C Review. In a nutshell…as a dyslexic child, I was struggling through life due to lack of self-worth and self-care. This brought an array of problems and issues to deal with while I was pursuing a music career and trying to ‘find myself’ in the process of that whirlwind. Now that I’ve overcome my own anxiety, depression
and addictions, I feel compelled to share everything I’ve learned that worked for me. This is why I created MindWave Meditation. Meditation among many other practices and techniques has completely transformed my life, everything from my career to my relationships with others, but most importantly with myself and my outlook on living.
How does someone get started when it comes to meditation?
A great introduction into meditation has always been a guided relaxation audio or to find a local class. This will help one to relax and understand the true importance of resting. However, this is just a stepping stone into meditation. Students and seekers alike will inevitably yearn for more and tend to want to learn a much deeper practice to enjoy and explore in their own time. A deep, personal practice will always be more beneficial, especially for deeper healing and to further explore their inner world.
In what ways does meditation help us both mentally and physically?
The very act of mindfulness and meditation is to focus one’s attention on the present moment. Whether you follow your breath or use a mantra, this technique trains one to focus on one thing only for an extended period of time. The mental act of repetition essentially teaches the meditator to learn how to concentrate. Concentration, focus, discipline and patience all follow suit when practised regularly. These become the building blocks for mentally being able to achieve your goals and desires. On a physical level, when you actively pursue and reach a deep state of relaxation on a daily basis you are allowing yourself to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to heal itself and manage stress. The body will start to cultivate more serotonin and other chemicals to increase and encourage growth over decay. The body will always try to heal itself if the mind allows it. So a tranquil coherence of the mind/body connection is imperative in this day and age.
How long do you think it takes for meditating to have a noticeable effect?
You are always just one thought away from meditation and freedom from the memories of the past and the anxieties of the future. So instantly would be the short answer. To really notice a change in behavioural patterns and ‘bad’ habits, it’s purely down to the commitment of the individual. But anyone who meditates on a daily basis will absolutely, no doubt see and feel great benefit in their lives from the moment they return to reality after sinking deep into stillness. The act of meditating is very profound and a very individual experience. On a collective level, the effects of mass meditation are outstanding and I highly encourage exploring this.
How best can someone still self-isolating in their home build meditation into their routine?
A meditation practice is probably the greatest activity one could do in a self isolating environment. Not only will it help you with all the aforementioned but it will help you to feel calm and safe within your own being. Changing the inner environment will ultimately change your outer environment and create a more peaceful mindset. Learning meditation or doing activities like yoga with the family, will only also encourage a healthier and more harmonious environment to live in too.
Do you have any tips for staying calm in the face of Covid anxiety?
I created a YouTube channel for sharing weekly tips, tools and advice to help us through this moment in time. So I’d encourage your lovely readers to pop by and say hello over there. I’d recommend starting with anything that you connect with or the simple breathing tools and go from there. As a species, we’ve done incredibly well at shifting, adapting and evolving through hard times. I have absolutely no doubt that 2020 is just the pan boiling, so to speak, and there’s a lot of change that needs to be made. We’re currently just experiencing a new reality, so stay calm and breathe, slowly, deeply, calmly. Your smile is your anchor, so use it as much as possible. Also I find that having a clear goal helps you to focus on a positive present and get you out of bed. As ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says, ‘If you are depressed you are living in the past, If you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace you are living in the present’.
What’s a good way of moving away from some of the unhealthy habits you may have picked up during lockdown?
I know a lot of people who were very fearful and questioning a lot of things in their life and formed some negative habits in lockdown. So first of all, be kind and compassionate to yourself and let yourself off the hook a little. These have been unprecedented times that nobody was prepared for, so now is the time to pick yourself up and shake off anything you want to shed. Now is the time to be the best version of yourself. Now is the time, more than ever to shift those negative habits and let go of what’s holding you back. The world is throwing so much at us right now that we really can’t afford to be anything but the best versions of ourselves. I truly believe that is what’s needed right now. A good start is to simply be aware of your daily habits. Just observe yourself and witness yourself in action going through the motions. What are you thinking about? What are you consuming? Where is your life going? Is it in the direction you want it to be? Taking 100 per cent responsibility of one’s self allows you to take control and become the boss of you. This is the starting point. Awareness is the first key to change.
What advice would you have for someone finding it hard to focus while working from home?
I created an audio, aptly named FOCUS for this very problem. It’s a free audio you can download that helps keep the mind focused while engaging in activity. This audio was designed to help you tune in to the task at hand and commit to that one thing for an extended period of time. The track is soothing and uplifting to help keep you stimulated and in a positive mental state. There is also a breathing pattern you can try, which helps to oxygenate the body while eliminating stress. Alongside this I highly recommend watching out for distractions. Use your awareness to spot these triggers. To take it one step further I encourage committing to one activity at a time and even setting a timer for 20/40/60 minutes to stick to. Make this non-negotiable and get focussed. Really discipline yourself and achieve the results you truly desire.
What are the general mistakes people make when they’re trying to meditate? Is there a wrong way to go about it?
A great question. Simply showing up to the class, the lesson or your sitting practice at home is the first big step. Commitment, patience and having no expectations are the following steps. It certainly is a journey, which you should process along the way and enjoy. Giving up because you didn’t feel transcendental results on the first go would be a great shame. Nurture, empower and inspire yourself by showing up each day with the intention of becoming a better person. ‘Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.’ A great quote and affirmation from Emile Coue. Having a coach to guide you on the journey is ideal and that’s what I offer through the videos, one-to-one sessions and courses. So deciding to learn, show up and practise daily with a positive intention would be my advice.
Do you think wellness practices have become more accepted into the mainstream – and why do you think this is happening now?
I believe any negative associations with wellness stem from a lack of understanding or fear of the unknown. The Sixties hippie’s had the ideals but didn’t possess the core values of self-care as a foundation for long-term change. We got great music, philosophy and art from that generation but it’s not until recent years that we’ve started to blend ancient wisdom with modern science. Now, science has caught up with what the ancients have been telling us for millennia.The heart, mind and body connection is the key to the growth of the individual. We’ve moved past the Newtonian standard of what we can physically measure to be reality. Scientists working with quantum physics, neuroplasticity and neurobiology and other noetic sciences to name a few are all creating massive waves as to how we approach living in this new era. We are now acknowledging and readdressing these once termed ‘woo woo’ practices and techniques for our benefit and future generations too.
Which supportive practices have you found to help foster a sense of calm alongside meditation?
My personal approach would be to look at the mind, body and spirit as three pillars to work on simultaneously. So create a vision to aspire to and achieve, then I’d encourage daily positive thinking, a healthy diet and regular movement, water and exercise. A daily check in on your thoughts and learning to let go of the past and the future are high priorities. Meditation, breath-work, yoga, Qi Gong and walks in nature are also key. Having said all that, all these are merely to keep one tuned, relaxed, aligned and focused on remembering to enjoy life, right here and now. The breath is really the portal to peace – this alone will help you to feel calm and at peace while you take on the day ahead.
What do you tell people who are perhaps a little skeptical about the benefits of meditation?
I learned a long time ago to not spend any time on trying to convince the skeptics. I am a skeptic myself by nature, I personally believe it’s a healthy approach to life. There’s plenty of BS to avoid. So my note to the skeptics is to follow what rings true and resonates with you. Dive in and try it for yourself before you judge. There is no better experience than experience itself. Also, on that note, don’t allow the over the top, incense-loving hippie sorts deter you from a great meditation or yoga practice. Simply look for another class or another teacher. Don’t shoot the messenger and just keep following your intuition.
You’re in a band, so have a good ear, what music have you found works best for meditation?
As a kid and all through my teens and twenties I found deep solace in punk rock and heavy metal. These days I like to listen to classical music while preparing breakfast and then mantra based music in the evening or to relax and sleep. A recent favourite is Mahamrityunjaya Mantra by Sacred Sound Choir. An ancient chant for healing and peace.
However when I meditate I enjoy the silence. Learning to find peace and stillness within the silence is important too.
How do your transformational coaching courses work?
I’ve actually just released a mini video coaching course called ‘Dare To Discover?’ It’s over two hours of practical tips, tools and encouragement to help you figure out your goals and take the first steps towards making them a reality. I’m so excited to be able to share this for those who are a little lost or maybe just in need of a big nudge. For those who are ready to fully invest in themselves and transform their lives, the six- and 12-week one-to-one coaching courses will help you to overcome your obstacles, learn to balance and manage life and make the steps to fulfil your life’s purpose. You’ll learn to meditate as a starting point and through weekly video coaching calls and missions I prepare, we embark on a wonderful, transformational journey together. It’s such a wonderful experience watching people’s lives transform.
Lastly, do you have any parting words of wisdom for anyone struggling with stress/trauma currently?
Yes of course. In the year 2020 we are absolutely so blessed to be able to speak out and ask for help and to receive it. There’s so much available out there, so much knowledge, wisdom and care. So my advice is to make these first simple steps. Forget about ‘the hows’, no need to worry about that. Myself and many others out there will take care of that part. Opening up the conversation with oneself about overcoming the stress, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, pain or lack of motivation, to name a few, is the very first step. So go and look in the mirror and ask yourself these three questions:
1) Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired? 2) Am I willing to make a change in my life to experience a better future? 3) Am I 100 per cent committed to making a change for that future?
If the answer is yes to any or all of the above, then seize the day. Realise that you have one life to live and goals and dreams to fulfil. No matter how big or small. Your time is now and I encourage you to take the leap, honour yourself and seek help. You got this! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to smile and breathe slowly, deeply and consistently. I hope today brings you all the joy you can allow yourself to receive.