Almost six hundred people work together behind the scenes on Soneva Fushi to keep life on the resort flowing. There are many different streams of island life, from tailors and Ayurvedic doctors to sommeliers and butlers. But there’s one place where they all converge – the canteen. To spend an hour in the canteen is to be surrounded by not only the smells and spices of different curries and the soft thud of chapatis and puris being rolled out before going on the grill, but it’s also to listen to snapshots of different lives and cultures. It’s worlds away from my old life of London pub nights where everyone you meet works in marketing and tech, instead, you hear people talk about their journeys into callings and careers that you never knew existed until that moment.
Last week I found myself sitting opposite Yash Shekhar, a healer, a Tibetan Reiki Grandmaster, and a Vedic Astrologer. As we ate together, we discussed everything from whether healers inevitably have a ‘god complex’ to whether there were any limitations in ‘mind over matter’. For Yash, there were none, and I was most struck by his sincere belief in the need to act responsibly in who you gave these powers to, for they could be open to abuse. Affirmations and healing had never really been in my orbit and most of what he was saying sounded more like the plot of Limitless than what I considered to be eastern spiritualism. But I decided to put my prejudices and my hazy conceptions of alternative therapies aside for an hour and to join him in a ‘vibrational stillness’ session.
Vibrational stillness is a technique that combines visualisation with the stimulation of brain cells, administered through taps on the forehead. Essentially, during the healing, you maintain the sensation that usually occurs in the few minutes between sleep and wakefulness. The aim is to induce a trance state that triggers alpha frequency brainwaves, so you should end the session feeling as if you have just woken up from a full night’s sleep. Yash believed that brain frequencies aligned to a spectrum ranging from the highest frequencies correlating to anxiety and mood disorders and the lowest being equal to both a comatose and a mystic state. The aim of our session was just to lower my brain frequencies down a little way, beneath being fully conscious and alert (beta), into a trance state that was still above a hypnotic trance.
I went into the session with a healthy dose of scepticism but also with curiosity. Who isn’t thrilled by the idea that they can learn to use those submerged powers of the mind a little more? I was urged to lie back and close my eyes – the eyes process too much information for sight to be anything other than alert-inducing – and to travel through a tunnel of light and into my mind palace. The mind palace is the centre of our meditational power and needed to be shrouded in secrecy. For to let someone know what your mind palace was would give them the ability to exert too much influence over you. It could be anything from a special room to a beach, forest, or glacier. Throughout the session I definitely flicked through a few – a library, too cliché; a lagoon, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d ever actually seen one – until there bubbled up an image of a long-unthought of place in my childhood.
I think perhaps going in completely blind while attempting to open up my third eye was a mistake. I had no idea what a trance really was and had unrealistic expectations of floating above my body, completely detached from the physical realm. Instead, I lay there feeling the goose flesh rising on my legs as the air conditioning breathed down on me and was completely unable to focus on my mind palace as thoughts flashed across my brain and I felt very, very conscious. In fact, it felt exactly like struggling to go to sleep and I could feel my brain resisting and a dull ache building in the back of my head from being pressed down on the spa bed. Though Yash had explained that the intention of this was not to go into a hypnotic state – which I think is most likely what I misconstrued a trance as – I didn’t feel that I was being open enough to this. I could feel my snarky Londoner brain resisting all this island sensibility.
But then there was a moment. Possibly more of a glimpse behind a curtain than an actual trance state. With no real warning or implication of anything different about to happen, I was suddenly unable to think of anything other than my breathing. It was as though part of my mind simply no longer existed and as if I could suddenly breathe underwater. My consciousness was taken up purely by the mechanisms of my lungs. The closest I’ve ever been to a state like this before was at the beginning of a panic attack or a fainting fit. But that makes it sound too negative and I didn’t have any of the accompanying fear or anxiety. Rather than my belief that a trance would see me divorced from my body, it was almost as if, for a couple of breaths, my mind was completely taken up with my body. My consciousness no longer lived in my brain but instead infused my whole being in the collapse and expansion of my chest. Then just as suddenly I was back in the room with a buzzing brain and cold benumbed toes.
Slowly guided by Yash into the room, I lay there unsure of how to categorise this experience. I still can’t decide whether it was successful or not, and by what metrics was I judging it? Had I really managed to tap my brain calm? But then when I stood up, I did truly feel different. My body felt light and floaty, no longer tight with strain or heavy with tiredness. I felt freer and I looked refreshed. The lightness lingered over the afternoon and I could feel my brain was soothed. I reacted to stressful thoughts differently - it was as though my mind was slightly more remote from the usual frantic listing of tasks. Ultimately, all I can say is that for a moment, I experienced something that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to fully define. It was a truly private moment between my body and my self. For someone who always lives in their head and tries to pin everything down with language, it’s remarkable to have experienced something truly indescribable.
Some Fantastic Meditation-Inspired Reads
Exhale - Richie Bostock
More energy, less stress, better sleep, happier lives. Isn't that what we all wish we had more of? Well, the solution is, quite literally, under your nose: your breath.
From leading Breathwork practitioner, Richie Bostock, comes Exhale - a guide to learning the transformative power of breathing to help you lead a happier, healthier life.
Exhale will help you master your physical, mental and emotional state in the comfort of your own home. Whether you're looking to reduce stress, improve creativity, tackle back pain or treat chronic ailments, conscious breathing has benefits for everyone.
With over 40 exercises, experience the life-changing effects of Breathwork and cultivate your own breathing toolkit. With techniques inspired by traditional Sufi meditation and practices implemented by the Navy SEALS, Richie's Breathwork plan will help you find the solution to life's everyday challenges, in as little as ten minutes a day.
Greater health and happiness is just a few breaths away.
Three Japanese Buddhist Monks - Saigyo, Kamo no Chomei & Yoshida Kenko
I have relinquished all that ties me to the world, but the one thing that still haunts me is the beauty of the sky
These simple, inspiring writings by three medieval Buddhist monks offer peace and wisdom amid the world's uncertainties, and are an invitation to relinquish earthly desires and instead taste life in the moment.
Abundance - Deepak Chopra
An enlightening guide to success, fulfilment and wholeness by the world's master of modern meditation, Deepak Chopra
Discover the keys to a life of success, fulfilment, wholeness and plenty.
We live in a time of fear and insecurity, wrapped up in a mindset of lack, scarcity and limitation. Too often we focus on the things we don't have and allow our egos to drive our thoughts, actions and reactions, preventing us from reaching something greater. Now is the time for change, to reset our focus and strive for life's unbounded possibilities.
In Abundance, master of modern meditation Deepak Chopra illuminates the path to abundance, helping readers become agents of change in their own lives. Demonstrating how to work past self-generated feelings of limitation and fear and providing meditations to help you focus and direct your attention and intuition, this is your guide to a life of stability, prosperity, insight, creativity, love and true power.
Living In A Mindful Universe - Dr Eben Alexander & Karen Newell
What is the relationship between the mind and the brain?
In Living in a Mindful Universe, Dr Eben Alexander, author of the international phenomenon Proof of Heaven, shares the next phase of his journey to understand the true nature of consciousness and how to cultivate a state of harmony with the universe and our higher purpose.
When eminent neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander experienced a startling near-death experience, he was plunged into the deepest realms of consciousness and woke a changed man, certain of the infinite reach of the soul and a life beyond death.
In Living in a Mindful Universe, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven shares the next phase of his journey to understand the true origins of consciousness and uncover ways to cultivate a state of harmony with the universe and our higher purpose. Questioning, thoughtful but also practical, Living in a Mindful Universe demonstrates how we can tap into our greater mind and the power of the heart to enhance many facets of our lives, including healing, relationships and creativity.
The Psychedelic Experience - Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner & Richard Alpert
The Psychedelic Experience, created by the prophetic shaman-professors Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzer and Richard Alpert, is a foundational text that serves as a model and a guide for all subsequent mind-expanding inquiries. In this wholly unique book, the authors provide an interpretation of an ancient sacred manuscript, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, from a psychedelic perspective. The Psychedelic Experience describes their discoveries in broadening spiritual consciousness through a combination of Tibetan mediation techniques and psychotropic substances.