Laura on The Vista

Photo by  Alexander Klein

Here’s an interview I did about meditation and India with Julia Ashwood from The Vista… a unique travel guide for the modern nomad. The Vista is a beautifully styled showcase of inspirational people, unique destinations, carefully curated travel guides (check out their Bali guide!) and holiday style… follow them on insta @the_vista. Enjoy x

THE VISTA: Tell us about your connection with India. 
What calls you there?

LAURA: India feels like my mother… calling you to experience something deeper, to go within, open your heart, let go of fears, challenge what you think this world is all about, and show you the divine is everywhere, and in everything. India is so culturally rich and full of paradoxes that it breaks through any mental conditioning that might be holding you back. 

It’s also the homeland of the Vedic tradition from which I teach, so there are connections to ancient lineages and Masters that are still alive and continue to inspire and teach me the ‘science of life’. I honestly can’t remember how many times I have been there over the years… maybe 7? After your first few times you tend to stop counting, as it feels like India never leaves you, and you never leave it.

THE VISTA: In which towns and cities did you reside?

LAURA: My first trip was to Rishikesh in the north of India… a beautiful ancient city on the banks of the holy Ganges River and the foothills of the Himalayas. The name ‘Rishikesh’ translates as ‘The city of Rishis’. A Rishi is a ‘seer’ or one who perceives the truth of reality. It’s no surprise then that Rishikesh is the hometown of yoga, with ashrams, asana and meditation schools all along the river. It’s also a vegetarian and alcohol-free city. My favourite part of Rishikesh is ‘Mother Ganga’ as the Indians refer to her, also known as The Ganges that flows down from way up in the Himalayas. If you go to Rishikesh, it’s a must to take a bath in her everyday! It’s a powerfully purifying, invigorating and special experience.

Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Benaras, is another wildly ancient and beautiful city on Ganga, south of Rishikesh. This place is otherworldly, with one part of the city over 2000 years old. It’s like the sun is literally kissing the whole city as it rises over Ganga. The light is truly magical. If you wake up early, you can take a rowboat and float down Ganga as the city wakes up and morning rituals are performed along the banks. It’s a photographer’s heaven.

The places I visit most are in the south of India. Pondicherry, Vellore, Bangalore and the whole state of Tamil Nadu. The south is so different to the north, they even speak a different language! In the south, I stay at ashrams and visit lots of ancient temples. It’s a personal time of deep spiritual growth. I call it ‘Temple Running’ as it’s common to visit over 10 temples, covering hundreds of kilometres in a car over a few days. The south of India is hot (including the food), with coconuts galore, powerful spiritual sites and many saints to meet. I love all of India (in case you couldn’t tell) and would suggest you go where your heart takes you and always be open to a change of plans.

THE VISTA: For those that don’t yet know, what is 1 Giant Mind?

1 Giant Mind is a global non-profit that was founded over 4 years ago to combat the negative impact of stress and stress-related mental health conditions, by delivering free ‘Learn to Meditate’ programs. Being meditation teachers, we saw first hand the positive impact a regular meditation practice can have on people’s lives. We wanted to be able to take what we know to scale, so everyone can experience meditation for free. That’s why we built an app.

We’re just about to launch version 2.0 of our app, where we’ve taken all the feedback from our first beta version and redesigned it to give users the most effortless experience of learning to meditate. You can download our current app for free on both iPhone and Android, just search for ‘1 Giant Mind’. The updated version will live in the next couple of weeks! 

THE VISTA: Tell us a little about the journey on which you found meditation and the journey it is now taking you…

LAURA: My interest in yoga and meditation started when I was a teenager and at the age of 20 I learnt Vedic meditation as the stress of university life was taking a toll on my health. Although I was very efficient and successful in my work and study, I was experiencing low energy levels, digestive problems and ranging degrees of anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Basically I couldn’t work out how to turn my mind off and as a consequence, my body was in a constant state of stress.

After learning Vedic meditation, I saw such a profound shift not only in my health but on a personal level too; feeling happier, more connected, less overwhelmed and more self-aware. I had found something I could do by myself, everyday, no matter where I was or what I was doing, that helped me manage my stress levels and get the deep rest my body needed to function in its optimal state.

I then dived deep into the Vedic knowledge, which awoke within me the desire to study the Vedas – the teachings from which this 5,000 year-old body of wisdom is derived. Over the years I trained intensively with teachers and masters in Australia, India and the United States, and naturally became a teacher myself. 

I’m now based in Melbourne teaching the simple and effortless art of Vedic meditation, and also travel to teach in Sydney, India, USA and Bali. The journey is never ending and full of incredible growth and experiences. I could never have imagined what was in store for me, and I’m in awe each day of the infinite potentiality of this life. My desire is to share this ancient wisdom with everyone, and to give people the tools to experience full wellbeing and awaken to their greatest potential.

THE VISTA: How do meditation and travel go hand in hand?

LAURA: Meditation goes hand in hand with everything! Your mind is involved in everything you do, so of course meditation is always relevant. When I travel, it’s usually to teach, or for my own spiritual and personal growth. India and Bali are my favourite destinations, with our India retreats fusing travel and meditation into one incredible experience. Meditation is also a really great way to get deep rest… something that is needed when you’re doing lots of travel! I’ve written a blog post about this you can check out here. 

THE VISTA: What is it that you love most about travelling and your career path?

LAURA: It’s always changing and always new. I love travelling as it challenges your worldview and opens you up to new perspectives. Experiencing different cultures makes you appreciate the diversity of life, and meeting new friends makes you see the underlying unity of being human. 

THE VISTA: And finally, away from work or commitments, what does your perfect holiday look like?

LAURA: No computers. No internet. Lots of sun and warmth. Coconuts. Temples. Lots of meditation and rest. Swimming. Motorbike rides. Laughing. Loving.