Digital Detox Diaries: Meditation With Maude Hirst
An interview with EnergyRise founder, Maude Hirst, why switching off has helped her to rediscover her identity and find calm amongst the chaos
Maude Hirst is a London-based actor turned yoga teacher and founder of EnergyRise, a meditation app designed to make mindfulness accessible to everyone. After two stays at our cabins, Monty and Gruff, we spoke to Maude about why switching off has helped her to rediscover her identity and find calm amongst the chaos.
I was in a TV show called Vikings for five years before I discovered yoga and meditation. I was in a good place at the time – I had the career, the partner, the house. But then all of a sudden, the show finished, my relationship took a turn for the worst and I had to get out of my house really quickly. I had two options. I could either go into the chaos or take time to figure out what makes me happy.
I had been acting since I was 10 years old – now I was nearly 30 – and I never stopped to think, who is Maude? I did a very cliche yoga retreat where I met this fantastic teacher who helped me become comfortable in my skin. I was so inspired after the retreat that I trained as a yoga teacher. It opened so many doors to understanding who I was behind the characters I was playing. I decided to tell other people what I’d experienced and how it changed me. That was my transition into teaching and setting up EnergyRise.
I thought I did acting because I wanted to be creative. But I discovered I was doing it because I needed external validation. Yoga taught me to be comfortable with the person I am, not hidden behind characters and scripts. It enabled me to be vulnerable and stand in front of people as me. I was amazed at how much deeper and more joyful that experience was. It's changed me forever. I feel like I know myself now, and I'm confident to be around everyone as Maude the person rather than Maude than the actor.
Can you describe the moment you realised you had found your calling? Was it challenging, or did it come naturally to you?
I describe it like layers of an onion that gets peeled away. Every time you do a bit of work on yourself and get to know yourself more, it feels unsettling at first because you are relearning yourself. But then you know yourself a little bit more, and you realise you’ve understood something much deeper, you feel confident in this area of your life where you never did before, or maybe the relationships in your life are changing. For me, relationships have been a huge part of this. I came from a destructive relationship to being surrounded by wonderful and healthy relationships. It’s not all plain sailing, it’s more like a constant wave of ups and downs. But the highs always outweigh the lows.
Mental wellbeing and meditation are intrinsically linked. How much has your practice impacted your mental wellbeing, and why do you think that is?
The shift has been profound for my mental wellbeing – I didn’t realise I had anxiety before. Whenever people asked me how I was doing, I would always say, "I'm fine,” regardless of how I was actually feeling. It took a few self-aware people around me to say, "I don't think you are fine," for me to realise, maybe I should look into this. Meditation and breathwork have been key learnings for me.
When you're in an anxious state – which, looking back, I was quite a lot of the time – your breath gets short and shallow, which leads to more feelings of anxiety. When you learn to sit with your feelings and control your breath, you become so much calmer. I now know how to manage my anxiety levels. It's not like I never feel anxious because I'm human. But I can feel what is happening when anxiety builds, and I can train my body and mind to come back into a place of balance.
My best piece of advice is start small. Often people think you need hours of free time to meditate. But that feels unachievable for all of us, so we are less inclined to do it. But just 5-10 minutes a day can change unsettled breath into long, coherent inhales and exhales. If you say you don't have time to meditate, you're exactly the person that needs to dedicate time to stillness. I actually get time back in my day when I meditate because it helps me prioritize and it makes me more settled.
You can view a 5 minute meditation session on Unplugged’s Instagram.
Yoga was originally designed as a practice to prepare your body for long periods of stillness doing meditation. It has the same effect when you transfer this preparation to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. Not only does it make you feel more comfortable in your seat, but it also helps to relieve any tension in your hamstrings and lower back.
Yoga is a beautiful practice of breathing and moving at the same time. So when you bring those two things together, it gets you out of an overthinking mind, making you feel calm and present. Starting your working day with yoga is proven to make you much more structured and focused, rather than feeling like there are 1,000 things to do and not knowing where to start.
I booked it because it's the dream! Life had become really busy. Even though I work in the wellness space, I still forget to prioritise switching off sometimes. It’s hard to close all stimulation in the world around you in your day to day life – to get off your phone for longer than a few hours and be out in nature. So for me, going to the cabins was an opportunity to switch everything off and completely immerse in nature. It's the most amazing reset that you can do.
How would you describe the benefits of switching off from the external world? How did you feel during your stay?
It felt like slowing down to a natural pace – nature has its own heartbeat that we don't tap into when we're in any busy city. When immersed in nature, you breathe deeper without trying to because there's nothing around to put you in the anxious state that we live in most of the time.
I was so much more present at the cabin and the conversations I had were so much deeper than they usually are. There was a focus on being truly in the moment rather than expecting something external to stimulate us. It was just beautiful.
So much of what we do everyday is just a repeated behavioural pattern. Switching off from that in an entirely new space is so nurturing. It feels like a gift to yourself, a special opportunity to fully let go surrounded by nature without distraction from the familiarity of normal life.
Maude has created a series of Unplugged five-minute meditations to help you switch off, breathe deeper, regain a sense of calm here. To find out more about her mindfulness app, EnergyRise, please visit: https://www.energyrise.co.uk/
Interview by Harriet Osborne // @harrietosborne
Featuring Maude Hirst // @maudehirst
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