That’s Not My Age Podcast Episode 10: Meredith Gunderson on meditation & staying calm at Christmas
‘I’d be a human puddle without meditation,’ says spiritual teacher and expert in mindfulness and meditation Meredith Gunderson. Born in Buffalo, New York, Meredith first started meditating on a solo trip to Edinburgh in the late 1990s and has been practising ever since. Moving to London just as Brit Art went pop Meredith, a graduate in Art History, took a job at a small independent gallery. It was around this period of career-building, complete with obligatory private views and parties, that she picked up her first book on Buddhism and began working on some yoga moves. After several years in the art world, Meredith moved into a more philanthropic role, fundraising at Chelsea College of Art. Then a surprise pregnancy in 2006, ‘My daughter Georgia loves the fact that I was partying when she was just a month cooked in my belly and I was blaming jet lag for my late period,’ led to the flexibility of freelance life. ‘It was busy,’ continues Meredith discussing her new, more varied role, including: consulting at the Garden Museum, organising various pop-up exhibitions, artist representation and working as a cultural philanthropy expert (connecting the dots between art and business), ‘ and looked exciting and glam but by 2012 I got a bit meltdown-y and was ready for a change.’
After 18 years in the art world, Meredith decided to press the reset button. ‘I had overcome a range of challenges,’ admits the 43-year-old, ‘from depression and anxiety, to battling with self-doubt and perfectionism, making peace with the voice that cries, “not good enough”’. Simultaneously, her husband Ross who had been working as a headhunter in the city, wanted to explore becoming a priest. All change at the Gunderson household. Starting with six months on a small island in the Outer Hebrides; the family then moved to a theological college in Cambridge. It was here Meredith trained to become a yoga teacher and set up her own practise, Modern Meditation Movement. ‘I loved the teaching, I loved what I was doing, but starting a business was as hard as shit.’
This is not my usual podcast but as it’s Christmas, I thought it would be good to talk about peace and calm. Meredith introduced me to meditation at the BlandBadger creative retreat in Italy and I’ve been making a cack-handed attempt to chill out ever since. I liked that Meredith was straight-talking, surprisingly sweary, and smart. She discussed Vipasanna the predominant Buddhist meditation with its roots in mindfulness practice and present moment awareness, and the importance of non-judging wisdom (the difference between responding and reacting). ‘ It’s important to me because it’s powerful. It points to how we choose in every moment – and if we fuck up, we will get another moment to choose again.’
Over the course of the year I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring the holiday vibe into everyday, so I’m interested in meditation for the same reasons as Meredith: finding calm in a hectic world, training my brain to stop whirring around like a washing machine on a 24-hour constant cycle and wanting to feel more contented (I like Meredith’s floating cork analogy HERE). As Meredith says, ‘Meditation is the best place to get centred and reconnect to ourselves.’ And she knows, having changed career, set up a business and moved home five times in six years….
NOTE: There will be another BlandBadger retreat in 2020 and I will be teaching writing skills, again. More information HERE. In the podcast Meredith mentions a Harvard Business Review report ‘ Why We Do What We Do’, and this is a link to the Thrive piece ‘Put the Joy back into the Festive Season’.
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Producer and audio engineer: Linda Ara-Tebaldi
Host: Alyson Walsh
Guest: Meredith Gunderson
Music: David Schweitzer
Artwork: Ayumi Takahashi
Coordinator: Helen Johnson