It was an intimate experience. His accent, the way he paused, how he breathed. You may have heard his voice before. But did you let him in your head? Maybe like many others, you too, have been intimate with Andy Puddicombe, the Headspace guy of course.
What is Headspace?
If you haven’t already joined the meditation and mindfulness revolution, Headspace is an award-winning meditation app that Andy co-built, along with Rich Pierson in 2012. Since then, the two have grown to employ a team of over 100 staff, with offices in both London and Los Angeles.
Consider Headspace your own personal trainer to help you train the mind anywhere, anytime. On a mobile and tablet, users can listen to Headspace on the go and download sessions to use offline. By introducing some of the fundamental principles of meditation, Headspace’s sessions are designed to encourage users to become more self-aware and to look at a situation with more clarity, ultimately enhancing everyday life experience.
Valued at a reported $250 million, life at Headspace keeps getting better. Earlier this quarter, the company raised $37 million for expansion and global initiatives. As Headspace is fast becoming a leading health platform for mindfulness, can Andy bring the benefits of meditation to a mass audience and help build a healthier world?
Is meditation some marketing fluff?
In showing how meditation can bring health and happiness of the world, Andy says, “You slam a door in someone’s face, maybe unintentionally. That ruins their morning, and they go on into their office and shout at somebody. That tiny moment has a powerful ripple effect.” He goes on to say, “So if you’ve got millions of people being more mindful of tiny moments like that in their day, the world will look slightly different.”
Man behind the movement
So how did Andy get into meditation? Born in England, Andy dropped out of a sports science degree from university after he lost a few loved ones within a short span of time. “My mind was busy, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. And one afternoon, I just got a gut feeling. I couldn’t ignore it. I knew I was going to be a monk.” Without hesitation, he entered the monastery which turned into a decade-long journey that led him across the globe – from India, Nepal, Myanmar, Australia, Scotland to his very last stop, Russia.
Towards the end of his 10 years abroad, Andy was asked to speak about meditation to a group of Western expat oil executives. “A Buddhist monk? In an oil company? In Moscow? It’s not going to work,” one of the executives told him. That was a triggering point for Andy. “It got me thinking, without losing the authenticity, what if mediation was presented in a way that people could get a handle on? That’s when I saw the potential.”
Andy returned to London in 2004 and was determined to bring meditation to the wider world. In 2006 he started a private clinical practice and to further build on the big idea – to create a modern approach to the age-old practice of meditation. It was also at the clinic where he his future business partner, Rich. At the time, Rich was feeling burned out and left his career at a major marketing agency. The two quickly bonded and Rich offered Andy marketing tips for his meditation business in exchange for private mindfulness training. “We both thought how could we present meditation in a way that our friends would genuinely give it a try? Rich had all these creative skills, and I had the experience as a monk. The ‘aha moment’ led to the birth of Headspace” Andy explains.
Getting millions to rediscover meditation in a meaningful way
Next comes the question of how. How does one bring relevance to an age-old practice like meditation for millions to rediscover in a meaningful way? Lifting up his iPhone, Andy says, “This can be used for good or bad. What excited me was the opportunity to use it for good, to interrupt some of the negative habits that seem to be developing quite quickly around technology.” As one of his teachers used to tell him “Meet people where they are,” and online was the place to be.
Fortunately for Andy, success came early. In 2011 Virgin Atlantic added an inflight Headspace channel and in 2012 a big name retailer on Oxford Street partnered with Headspace for a “No Noise” initiative that offered a variety of mindfulness exercises in-store. With 18 hours a day for 10 years of meditation experience under his belt (you do the math) and a unique story, Andy quickly became the face of the platform. To top it all off, Andy’s easygoing demeanor and warm smile was perfectly suited to the be-here-now message of mindfulness to the world.
When asked about how felt about the company changing over time, he replied in true Andy spirit, “you have to let go.” Having modernized the practice he described “ancient and musty, reeking of saffron and patchouli,” Andy is now contemplating the development Headspace 3.0 – a fully rounded wellness platform to take the company one step closer to improve the health and happiness of the world. He acknowledges “We certainly don’t have all the answers. But we do think we have a role to play in starting to get the public to reframe how they think about health.”
With an overwhelming amount of noise in a fast paced world, people are looking to incorporate more balance in their lives. Though mind health remains relatively taboo, Headspace’s goal is to continue to encourage more and more people to experience the benefits of meditation. In the hopes that someday, mind health will be normalized. What is your take on mind health and meditation? What is your experience with Headspace or similar mindfulness apps been? I’d love to hear from you!