In more than 15 years as a meditation practitioner and trainer, Light Watkins has heard or given every excuse there is to avoid the practice.
I don’t have time.
I don’t really need it.
It’s very hard.
My mind is too busy.
He decided to write a book to help people overcome those excuses, but he knew it would open him up to criticism. In some circles, the concept of learning how to meditate from a book is heresy.
“I welcome the backlash,” Watkins said in a recent phone interview. “My mission is to change the conversation because the biggest problem with mediation is people making their minds the enemy.”
In “Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying,” (Ballantine Books, $24), Watkins offers the keys to getting unstuck and freeing your mind.
Watkins, who grew up in Alabama, primarily serves clients in New York and Los Angeles. But the wellness bubble from the coasts is quickly drifting to cities like Atlanta, he said, in part due to the number of transplants in the city and the burgeoning entertainment industry.
His roster of clients has included celebrities ranging from soon-to-be royal Meghan Markle to former volleyball pro Gabrielle Reece, but Watkins is quick to note that celebrity status offers no protection from the struggles of life.
“Famous people can’t sleep just like regular folks can’t sleep. It doesn’t matter how famous you are, stress doesn’t care. It will treat you just like everyone else,” he said.
During in-person sessions, Watkins teaches Vedic meditation, but for readers he has developed the E.A.S.Y approach based on principles taught by ancient meditation gurus without the misleading guidance of well-intentioned trainers.
Misconceptions tend to flow from one trainer to the next like the blind leading the blind, Watkins said. From the posture you take while meditating (crossed legs are not required) to constantly reminding yourself to focus (wrong again), Watkins debunks the myths of meditation and offers a step-by-step action plan for a practice that will lead to that ever elusive bliss, but only if you are committed.
Though he calls the approach E.A.S.Y. (Embrace, Accept, Surrender, Yield), it does demand something in return. Unlike other books on meditation, Watkins asks that anyone using Bliss More as a guide offers the same exchange an ancient meditation guru would require -- a donation of time, money or something that reflects your commitment to the practice.
“I have never seen a mediation book that asks people to make an exchange, not with me, but in some way, in the name of your practice. That is the missing component,” he said.
In addition to making an exchange, Watkins expects readers to make a commitment of time. Anyone hoping to find success with his approach should plan on meditating consistently for at least 90 days.
“People want to get all the benefits of meditation in one minute. They have gone 40 to 50 years accumulating stress and they want to get rid of it in one minute,” Watkins said.
While his book isn’t for everyone, Watkins hopes those who are struggling as he once did will find it to be a useful tool.
There are two things that happen when you start a meditation practice, he said. You are developing a new habit at the same time as you are breaking an old habit. And that old habit is a lot more formed than most people can appreciate, he said.
“The old habits bombard the brain with all the reasons you shouldn’t be doing it,” Watkins said. “You need someone like me to remind you that this isn’t the way it should be.”