We met with Cardiff based meditation coach Siwan Reynolds on a bright and frosty Sunday afternoon to find out more about the story behind her entrepreneurial venture. Walking around the windswept Llandaff Fields, Siwan opened up about her deeply personal and inspiring journey into meditation and why it is important to focus on cultivating a mindful mindset. Later on, we took refuge from the biting cold at Loofkin Coffee, where Siwan confidently talked us through her daily meditation practice and shared with us her dreams and ambitions for the future.
For those who do not know you, who is Siwan Reynolds? Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Cardiff. Welsh is my first language. I went to Ysgol Pencae Primary School and Ysgol Plasmawr High School. After a year out, I went to The University of Exeter to study Psychology. I then moved back to Cardiff in 2016, worked in a coffee shop for a while then started up my businesses, Cardiff Meditation (Mindfulness and Meditation for Schools in Cardiff) and From Then to Zen (mindfulness and meditation for individuals who want to become their greatest-selves).
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Making cereal on a Saturday morning with my older brother. Such an exciting time! When Mum and Dad were still asleep, (I'm sure it was really early in the morning) Owain, my brother, and I would sneak downstairs, he would climb up on the kitchen top to retrieve a box of cereal (usually sugar puffs, Frosties or Weetabix) from the top cupboard and we'd prepare our breakfast. It would usually be a mix of more than one cereal. Such a simple event but so magical and precious.
How did you get into meditation? What was your journey like?
I got into meditation at 20 years old as I was looking for a healthy holistic way to decrease my number of seizures. Anything other than increasing my medication. I had enough of hiding seizures under tablets that were making me feel tired, forgetful and slow at thinking. I was diagnosed with epilepsy during my teenage years. Meditation not only decreased my number of seizures but it also changed my life in a range of other ways. I became a happier person, I learnt to love myself, relationships with family grew stronger and I became more confident alongside loads of other benefits!
What inspired you to start Cardiff Meditation?
I was inspired to start From Then to Zen as I wanted to help other people achieve their own goals through meditation.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meditation teacher?
Seeing people improve various aspects of their lives and as a result, begin to enjoy life even more. Seeing people's smiles after their meditation!
How can meditation help people to deal with the stress of everyday life?
Meditation can help with stress in various ways. It can help quieten down our mind's chatter, improve our sleep, reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and it can also shrink the amygdala which is the part of the brain that controls fear and anxiety. Less fear and anxiety translates into less stress.
Can you share some good tips to help us recharge during the day?
Yes. Whenever you feel like you need to calm yourself down or bring yourself out of your busy mind and into the present moment, follow these 3 steps. Step 1: Bring your attention inwards. Focus on your body, the way it feels, if it’s light or heavy, or if it's hot or cold. Step 2: Bring your focus to your breath and start breathing from your belly. Step 3: Experience the world around you as if it was your first time on Earth. What colours do you see, what do you hear, what can you smell? Step 1: Body. Step 2: Breath. Step 3: World.
What would you say to someone who thinks that meditation isn’t for them?
Make sure they've had a fair crack at the whip before they give up on meditation altogether. They could be letting go of something that could change their lives. Most people give up on meditation because they think they can't do it. Everyone can meditate. However, not everyone knows that meditation takes practice. Most people don't 'get' meditation straight away. Therefore it needs to be practised over and over until you begin to understand it more and get into the swing of things. I would advise beginners to start by meditating for a couple of minutes every day (and extend the length of their practice over time). I would also advise beginners to use guided meditations (where a voice leads you through a meditation). The trick to improving your meditation practice is to be gentle on yourself, to praise yourself, to be patient and persistent.
What is your definition of healing?
Moving further from dis-ease. Or becoming more balanced in a certain part of your being.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When you fail, you fail forward.
What is your recipe for good living?
1. Having work-life balance 2. Topping up your gratitude cup. 3. Looking after your mind through meditation and healthy self-talk. 4. Looking after your body by enjoying eating nourishing food.
What is your daily ritual?
Wake up. Think of 3 things that I'm grateful for. Fist pump the air and say 'YES' 3 times. Drink water with apple cider vinegar. Meditate for 20 minutes.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in Cardiff?
Insole Court on a starry night and Anna Loka for yummy food.
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
My dream is for every primary and secondary school to include effective mindfulness and meditation practices into their daily routine. Another is for my online community From Then To Zen (found on Facebook and Instagram) to have over a million members/followers worldwide.
And now a Max Frisch question: What are you grateful for?
I'm grateful that I have the freedom to follow my heart. I'm also grateful for chocolate.
Can you recommend us:
Book: Meditation Made Easy by Stephanie Brookes.
Song: To Zion by Trevor Hall