Relaxing is something we often hear people mention when they visit us at Hitchin Lavender but never more so than after attending a workshop run by local meditation teacher, John Harrigan.
John is a writer, director and performer. He is a founder member of theatrical
company, Foolish People and is one of the earliest pioneers of immersive theatre.
He has performed in venues throughout London and the UK, toured internationally
and received commissions from clients including the BBC and Secret Cinema. Oh,
and it’s probably worth mentioning that John is Dad to five children.
This all sounds very exhausting but thanks to his mastery of another kind of art, that of meditation; John is able to bring balance to his busy lifestyle, as well as to lives of other people. His antidote to the everyday stresses that seem to go hand in hand with the hectic schedules that are fairly common place these days, is to offer weekly meditation sessions at the farm and specially extended classes to coincide with the full moon each month.
If you think you could use a little time out or help to de-stress, read on to see how one of John’s sessions might be just the tonic you need.
Why should people meditate?!
There are numerous benefits to meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, to improve sleep and mental clarity. Over time, meditation can reduce the risk of heart disease. It can increase performance at work or school. Studies have also shown that it can help tackle different forms of addiction such as smoking and alcoholism.
Personally, I think the most important benefit of meditation is that it helps participants to find their own truth and direction in life.
In my classes, I encourage each individual to consider why they’d like to develop a meditation practice and what they hope to achieve. Are they looking to alleviate anxiety and stress? Or would they like to find time to deepen their spiritual connection to their own life story? Either way, I feel that it’s important that people don’t approach meditation as a chore.
What drew you towards a career in holistic coaching?
Health and wellness have always been part of my working life. In the past I’ve worked for charities such as Turning Point and Sense. I’ve also trained as a drama therapist and a large part of my practice as a writer is focused on ritual and the role it plays in health and society. Over my career, I’ve taught and run workshops in meditation and creativity for organisations such as the Royal College of Art, the BBC and the ICA.
Your other passion is immersive theatre which sounds a world away from meditation – how do you reconcile the two?!
My work as the founder of FoolishPeople.org, and the immersive theatre we create has its roots in the earliest forms of ritual theatre and shamanism, which were very much investigating the same numinous realms that meditation allow us to access. The ritual performances and films we create aims to aid our audience to experience the same form of connectedness, peace and consciousness that meditation can offer- what we call a numinous experience.
For me personally, meditation is vital to all areas of my life and work.
What’s the difference between a normal meditation session and a full moon one?
My full moon meditation workshops are longer and perhaps more intense in the direct experience during the meditation portion of the evening, the landscape of Hitchin Lavender comes to life in a different way. Meditation outside under a bright moon is an enriching and powerful experience.
During the full moon, a great deal of us experience a rise in powerful emotions within ourselves and family/friends around us, so our anxieties and stress can often increase. However these openings in our conscious and unconscious mind allow us to use meditation to alleviate deep trauma and stress that has accumulated over time, so the full moon meditation is a perfect time to start the journey.
The moon itself has a long history as an active component in many different forms of meditation practice, since the earliest traditions of shamanism and meditation. The full moon aids us to powerfully connect to the truth of our own stories and to initiate powerful change for participants, opening doors within our mind and imagination.
Do you have a favourite class that you teach at the farm?
Each class is so different, so I don’t have a favourite. I feel utterly blessed every time I facilitate a class or workshop at Hitchin Lavender; it’s such a special landscape and it’s an honour to be a small part of the Hitchin Lavender story.
How does our location enhance the experience of one of your sessions?
Landscape is critical to the form of the meditation I teach as so often, meditation is taught as a way of closing down our connection to the natural world around us.
Meditation can also be a way to open oneself to the magnitude of the universe we exist within. Anyone who has meditated to the gentle hum of the bees at Hitchin Lavender will tell you how this simple sound, can help you dive deeper during meditation and the aroma of the lavender during the season helps aid relaxation, and even outside of the season, the landscape has a very calming energy.