Love yourself. Forgive yourself for things you didn’t know at the time. The most important relationship in the world is your relationship with yourself. Morally, the more power you have over someone, the greater your duty is to use your power benevolently. Who is the one person in the world you have the most power over? It’s your future self. You hold your life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Ryan.
Kelly Ryan is founded Anchor Meditation in 2019 with the intent of sharing the benefits of mediation with others. Kelly is a Certified Meditation Teacher, Breathwork Facilitator and Reiki Practitioner and has trained more than 300 new meditation teachers. Her meditation studio is based in San Francisco, but her classes and practice are now available virtually (due to the closure of the studio); she has provided meditation services to more than 5,000 people in-person and is guiding more than 5K virtual mediations for members post-COVID-19.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My career had been firmly in commercial real estate for about 16 years. While I enjoyed my work, there was some lack of meaning in my day to day lifestyle. I am married with two wonderful children, but I still felt something was missing. I also began to suffer heavily from the effects of psoriatic arthritis. In an effort to help with my arthritis, I traveled to Miravale Resort in Arizona and had an epiphany during some meditation sessions with some amazing teachers there.
I began my journey as a student of meditation on that trip in March of 2017. As I continued to learn more about meditation and feel the positive effects on my own sense of purpose and my arthritis, I wondered why meditation wasn’t more widely practiced, spoken about, or offered. I realized that San Francisco, a city which I have always considered “cutting edge” did not have any non-secular meditation spaces or offerings. Meditation was cloaked in religion or in exclusive faraway places on the coast, but not available and easily accessible as far as I knew at the time for “a normal” person like me.
As I healed, I became very focused on finding a way to offer meditation in all its forms to everyday people. I spent over a year researching meditation studios in New York, Los Angeles and retreats like Spirit Rock, and 1440 Multiversity. I started Anchor Meditation in February of 2018 as a pop-up with a few classes per week. Then in October of 2018, I found a space to build out a full time meditation studio. The studio did well and Anchor’s offerings spanned a wide range of regular classes, special events, teacher certifications and workshops. Anchor was thriving and then COVID-19 changed our reality. Anchor has transitioned all our classes and workshops to digital formats. The expansion into digital is a significant advancement in the business, and we hope to begin growing our physical studio business again as we enter 2021.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The most interesting story that happened to me is my personal growth. Entrepreneurship is a great teacher, and I didn’t realize how many lessons I’d learn on this journey!
I have learned that meditation is so much more than quieting your mind. In fact, you don’t have to quiet your mind in order to gain the benefits meditation offers! I’ve learned to be less reactive and able to respond from a centered space of calmness. I’ve learned to build resilience and mental focus. I’ve increased my ability to self-regulate negative emotions.
I have experienced an increasing ability to accept what life is showing me with trust and without resistance. I have learned to be the master of my mind and not a servant. I have learned to be led by my heart and intuition, rather than fear. I have learned to express myself with love in uncomfortable situations.
I have learned to turn towards myself and to be curious about the lessons life is showing me. Most of all, I’ve learned to love myself, and this allows me to experience greater freedom and authentic happiness.
I have learned that meditation is an exceptional tool for navigating challenging circumstances. It has helped me navigate 2020 and all of its lessons with a greater sense of ease and an ability to be happy at the same time I am experiencing tons of uncertainty.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to grow in my relationship with myself, and I am committed to make meditation simple and accessible to everyone so they can learn to love themselves and life. We do this by teaching meditation and mental well-being in a nourishing (online) environment with world-class certified meditation teachers.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started the business, I was unsure if I would ever teach myself. I was confident I had what it takes to operate a business, but I was not confident about my own knowledge and ability to share meditation with others.
I began searching for meditation teachers because I was meditating using an app, but as often happens when one is new to meditation, emotions I had not “dealt with” arose. I felt I could use some support, because I recognized that some negative self-talk and stories of wishing the past was different or better than it was, and that was preventing me from experiencing the fullness of life. I was especially motivated because I want to be an example of what’s possible to my kids, and hope that in pursuing my passion and happiness I will give them permission to embrace their own.
I began to find teachers from various backgrounds and traditions, and each of Anchor’s teachers embody a different aspect of qualities I admired, but needed some guidance on how to embody it myself. Because I love and admire each teacher so much, there were many times along the way I found myself in a repeated pattern of “being disappointed” by some of them along the way.
I believe life is reflecting back to us what we need to learn, so when I noticed a repeated pattern of disappointment, I asked “what is this hear to teach me?” When I turned towards myself with curiosity, I realized that I was putting the teachers up on a pedestal! Thinking that they were “further on their journey” than me, and therefore “above me” in some way. I have come to realize that we are all human, and we are all learning different lessons. We are all teachers and students to one another.
Recognizing this helped me have more compassion towards myself, and gave me hope that perhaps I could one day become a teacher myself! I realized didn’t need to be perfect or completely enlightened to be a teacher, and I could still help uplift others by sharing what I do know, and have learned that’s helped me. Now I teach the lessons that I needed to learn along the way, and each of the other teachers do the same! There are so many wonderful meditation practices based in ancient wisdom and modern science, and I am thrilled to be part of our incredible team of teachers who are making meditation accessible so more people can experience the same benefits we have!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am eternally grateful to my teacher Mandy Trapp. Mandy is the Lead Educator at Anchor Meditation, and the Founder of Lifestyle Meditation. I admire her for many reasons; she is exceptionally open-hearted, authentic, knowledgeable and unconditionally loving.
I am so happy to have been a student in the 200 hour meditation teacher certification she led at Anchor Meditation. She is the most unconditionally loving person I have ever been in relationship with. She has mentored me, encouraged me to grow, been an example of choosing love over fear in every situation (not to mention surrendering and being led by her heart!) and stood by me and demonstrated extreme generosity and friendship.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I know we have made a large difference in many of our students’ lives. We have many anecdotes from students about how meditation has helped them overcome so many of life’s challenges. Our hope is to grow Anchor to a much larger audience to offer meditation and be a guide to accessing the great benefits of the practice to as many people as possible.
In digital formats we have met and offered meditation services to students as far away as Chile, South Africa, the United Kingdom and many states across the U.S. The majority of our members reside in Northern California, but we hope to grow our memberships to be as large as possible worldwide, because meditation is good for everyone!
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
While some of these tips may seem simple, there is a reason they are so often emphasized in mental health. They work! You just have to do them on a consistent basis. Like a workout, you can’t just do it for a few weeks and hope for an immediate six-pack. You have to integrate mental health into your routine on a daily basis.
- Breathe: Breath is free and always available. Breath is your anchor to the present moment, and a bridge that connect you from the external world outside of you (all its demands, other people’s opinions, and information overload) to the world inside of you that is invisible and formless, but powerful. Science demonstrates that slowing your breath to 6 breaths in and out each minute has a remarkable impact on your well-being. That’s breathing in through your nostrils to the count of 5, and out through your nostrils to the count of 5.
- Meditate: Meditation helps you notice how your mind works when you’re not looking. It allows you to observe which neural pathways you’re strengthening on a daily basis. By learning to sit quietly, you start noticing your mental habits. This opens up a space from which you can change them. When you realize that you can change the conversation inside your head, you discover a tool that can be used to transform your whole life — the power to consciously direct your attention.
- Keep a gratitude journal: Gratitude has been shown to positively affect well-being. In one study, participants who wrote letters of gratitude for three weeks reported significantly better mental health 4 and 12 weeks after their writing exercise than those who didn’t write at all or wrote about negative experiences. So how exactly does gratitude improve your mental well-being? It takes your brain’s attention away from the “potential threat” that your mind is so stressed about and places it on what is already good in your life. This relieves stress and creates a space from which you can see things in a new way.
If you don’t feel like keeping a physical gratitude journal, consider downloading a gratitude app.
4. Spend time in nature: The benefits are tremendous and helpful in restoring balance. It only takes 10 minutes of being in nature before your stress levels start dropping. Take a short walk or just sit outside in a natural setting for a few minutes — even if it’s in your backyard!
You can benefit from reduced blood pressure and heart rate while also improving your mood! As you step outside, decide to be more present by noticing your environment with all your senses. Tune into the chirping of the birds. Feel the sun on your skin. Notice the different shades of green amongst the trees and plants. As you take in all of this refreshing sensory input, feel what it means to be alive in your body in this exact moment.
5. Connect with others: Research shows that social connection improves our ability to recover from illness and increases life expectancy. The opposite is also true. Isolation and loneliness puts us at a greater risk for early disease than smoking! Connecting with others helps us know that whatever we’re going through, we’re not alone. As soon as our mind recognizes that there is hope of going beyond the current “problem,” it feels relief. This relaxation helps flush out some of the neurochemicals of stress.
Interacting with others can also help us see our problems from fresh angles. We may be able to uncover a solution to a problem that we ourselves would have never thought of. We are wired to help one another heal — not just physically, but also mentally.
Integrating at least one of these practices into your life on a consistent basis can help boost your well-being as your stress levels go down. Anchor Meditation offers a FREE Sunday evening class every week — it’s an easy way to integrate at least two of these practices into your daily routine.
Join us at Anchor Meditation for daily live online meditation classes. Sign up for a FREE Sunday evening class here so you can get your calm on today!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Anchor Meditation is on the path to becoming a movement itself. Our goal is to make meditation less intimidating, easier to access, and easier to understand for anyone who is seeking the benefits of less stress, better sleep, more focus and a clearer understanding of our own minds. We believe that Meditation can greatly reduce the world’s stress and anxiety and we hope Anchor can provide a pathway or doorway for people to access all these great benefits of meditation.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
There is so much I wish I knew before I started:
1. Done is better than perfect. I can’t recall where I learned this. This simple mindset shift helped me see the benefits of completing projects without worrying about perfectionism.
2. “Everything is figure-outable” — I took a great course called B-School by Marie Forleo, and she shared this motto she learned from her mother. So much of entrepreneurship involves figuring out how to do something new, and having this on repeat in my mind has been a tremendous help!
3. Love yourself. Forgive yourself for things you didn’t know at the time. The most important relationship in the world is your relationship with yourself. Morally, the more power you have over someone, the greater your duty is to use your power benevolently. Who is the one person in the world you have the most power over? It’s your future self. You hold your life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental Health is at the center of meditation and one of its key benefits. Meditation provides a range of tools to help deal with the world around us, understanding people and how their actions can affect our moods, focus and motivations. Meditation can help us appreciate, focus in the now, and not be stuck mentally in the past or in the future.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!