It's not often that you will find me at an event before 7:30am, but an invitation to an interview with Huffpost's very own Arianna Huffington was certainly a strong enough draw. And I am very glad I made it.
Organised by Red Events (of *Red* magazine), the event was held at the rather glamorous premises of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. This was the second Red Event I have been to and I have to say that I rather like the formula. The hosts offered free-flowing coffee and mini-croissants, and a presumably super-healthy green juice concoction, before we took our seats in the auditorium and claimed our goody bags.
During the interview with Red Editor Sarah Bailey, Huffington explained her concept of the third metric as expounded in her new book Thrive: that a full and healthy life is based on the four pillars of wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving. This could possibly sound trite were it not for the fact that Huffington herself experienced a major life-changing moment brought on by overwork, and throughout the interview clearly and persuasively made the case for a healthier approach to work/life balance.
There is no doubt that this is a topic of the moment- and an important one as we, as a society, become permanently switched on to devices and ever-connected. It was gratifying to see such a high-profile and successful figure propound the benefits of yoga, mindfulness and meditation - tried and tested tools that have been used effectively for centuries.
As a yoga teacher and publisher, I am increasingly aware of how every day stresses impact people's lives, including my own. Our systems are in permanent stress mode, with our fight or flight responses activated- appropriate for us thousands of years ago when facing physical threats, but less so now as we react in the same way to perceived rather than real threats.
Tools such as yoga and meditation have been proven to promote the parasympathetic nervous system (or relaxation response) rather than the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response). They are an essential reminder of the gap between trigger and response and help to teach us which behaviours are helpful to us and which no longer serve us. Patterns of behaviour which turn up on the mat in a yoga class (for example, are you someone who feels annoyed or competitive when another student practises a challenging pose with apparent ease?) can be a useful instruction to life outside the mat. In addition, as Huffington mentioned in the interview, meditation, mindfulness and yoga can have the effect of stopping time- everything slows down when you are no longer stressed and are able to be more fully in the moment.
In the context of the corporate world, Huffington argues that there is no trade-off between healthy employees and the bottom line, and advocates increased awareness of one's own 'battery' levels. She advocates mindfulness and meditation as tools for being fully present in the moment, and contended that there is no such thing as multi-tasking- what was once considered multitasking is now regarded as switching tasks. She also alluded to the inner critic (her "silent obnoxious room-mate") - arguably particularly pertinent in a room mainly full of women. Sleep is a cornerstone of the message in Thrive and Huffington urges busy people to sleep longer or nap to recharge and refresh.
Questions from the audience extended our time with this elegant, charming and persuasive example for us all before she left the stage to start the book signings (one giant queue) downstairs. I have my copy - unsigned, but still very much valued.