Will Williams, has taught hundreds of people to meditate from Kate Winslet to Take That. We sent GTG editor Victoria Woodhall, and her inner control freak, on his weekend retreat. Boy did she need it – and probably so do you
There’s nothing like a meditation retreat for meeting your inner control freak. Yes, the thing that pretty much runs your diary, the invisible friend/frenemy that’s always your plus-one and probably your closest relationship. If you’re so used to control freak running the show that you can’t even remember how it got there, on a Beeja weekend, you’re about to find out.
Two weeks before the March lockdown, I signed up for a three-day retreat in an old country house in East Sussex with Will Williams, founder of Beeja Meditation. I’d read about Will, a cheeky and charismatic ex-music industry party boy, and a one-time adrenalised insomniac like me, who’d turned his successful but chaotic life around through meditation. I’d heard that he’d introduced hundreds of people to a regular twice-daily practice, from members of Take That to actresses Kate Winslet, Cressida Bonas, ITV news anchor Tom Bradby, singer Natalie Imbruglia and Jasmine Hemsleyin including 1,000 new people online over lockdown. His jargon-free approach to meditation makes it accessible to anyone and everyone. He’s definitely more Jamie Oliver than Deepak Chopra. Everything is “pukka” or “golden,” and “absolutely dollars”. But that doesn’t mean that this is meditation-lite. Will spent years on an around-the-world meditation odyssey meeting Sufis and shamen in far-flung places to discover the most effective and authentic technique that could save our frazzled 21st-century souls. He went on to found World Meditation Day annually on 21 May.
As I was to find out, Beeja isn’t fluffy towels and beatific smiles. It’s boot camp for the soul.
Victoria with Will Williams
Not that I was entirely prepared. I thought it would be a chance to have a room to myself for a weekend away from my kids, away from frightening talk of Covid and the news, a chance to catch up on a few movies and maybe a few emails and chill out with some nice food and interesting people, perhaps even a celeb or two. (Will, I can hear you snorting).
What happens on a Vedic meditation retreat?
When I arrive at the family-owned manor on a Friday evening, it’s clear this is a home, not an ‘at your service’ hotel. A log fire roars and 20 of us sit on mismatched sofas and floor cushions and help ourselves to herbal tea. Two of the participants have come from Romania after reading Will’s book The Effortless Mind, someone else has flown in from Sri Lanka (don’t they have meditation over there?) purely for this. There’s a young woman who wants to understand the cause of her PTSD and a cancer doctor with young children who’s overwhelmed. Many like me just want to learn a bit more about meditation or get their practice back on track. One brave soul is using the isolation to…