Holiday Phillips is a meditation teacher and blogger based in London. Holiday calls the style of meditation that she practices, teaches and writes about–“soulfulness”, meaning mindfulness with soul. She aims to fuse the practice of mindfulness – living in the present moment with the soulful practices of compassion, affirmation and gratitude – which teach us to love ourselves and our lives. As someone who has known Holiday for many years, watching her set off on this journey into the world of meditation has been incredibly inspiring and I am thrilled to have had the privilege of interviewing her for my readers.
What inspired you to get into meditation?
For most of my life, I suffered from feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. Instead of dealing with those feelings, I distracted myself from them with partying, alcohol and drugs. On the outside I was the quintessential party girl who looked like she was having a fabulous time, but on the inside I was lost. During my early 20’s, I tried to be proactive about changing those feelings, and started flirting with different ideas of wellness. I tried out yoga and meditation, and read about different elements of spirituality. However, I found myself stuck in a cycle of trying to do something good for myself, and then going right back to the self-destructive behaviors, which in turn left me feeling worse. When I was 26, I broke up with my boyfriend of 6 years, and plummeted into one of the lowest points of my life. I felt depressed, my self-worth was through the ground and I found myself unable to feel happy about anything. I felt awful about myself: not good enough, not pretty enough and not interesting enough. I felt like I had reached rock bottom and woke up one day and decided that I’d had enough. I had to do something about it so I sought the advice of my mother, a mindfulness teacher herself, who suggested I sign up for a mindfulness course.
Shortly after finishing the mindfulness course, I felt like the turbulent train I was on completely halted and changed directions. I stopped drinking and taking drugs, and I enrolled in another course called Mindfulness Based Self Compassion. That course was eye-opening and changed everything for me and lead me to two major epiphanies. One, I realized that there are plenty of other people who felt like me and that negative thoughts and feelings are just part of being human – I didn’t need to be so scared of them. And two, I realized that when I had those self critical thoughts, I didn’t have to believe them – I could simply let them be there and then pass.
Learning about how to access self-compassion and how not to listen to my inner critic was life-changing. I began meditating every single day, I went on retreats and immersed myself in learning everything I could about mindfulness and meditation. Eventually, I started offering 10 minute, guided meditations at my then work place. At first, only a couple people showed up, but after a few months I had 30+ people coming. I didn’t follow a script or prepare for the guided meditations, I would just talk about whatever came up at that moment. I was simply sharing what I had been learning. I was hooked.
I can relate to growing up with a critical inner voice. In fact, that critical voice of mine is what I believe gets in the way of me sticking with a consistent meditation practice. How did you get past that?
I can totally relate to this! When I first started meditating, I quickly realized that meditation was becoming yet another area of my life to beat myself up in—“I’m too busy to find the time”, “I bet I can’t do this either”, “I’m not meditating right”. So I decided that that meditation could be an opportunity to work on challenging that inner critic. Whenever I heard my critical inner voice mid-meditation, I used it as an opportunity to practice self-compassion. If I only had 3 minutes a day to meditate, then I told myself that was enough. I realized I didn’t need to prove anything to myself or beat myself up over it, I just needed to do it. Meditation consists of finding a balance between compassion and discipline – if you can find that balance, you will be able to stick to a meditation practice.
In what ways has meditation impacted your life for the better?
Meditation has helped me learn who I am as a person. It has allowed me to become aware of all of the feelings I had spent years burying and avoiding. I realized I was going through the world, being myself somewhat, but with a filter because of the ways I thought other people wanted me to be. Spending hours sitting with my thoughts made me aware of habitual patterns I had, such as judging myself or trying to make myself look or be a certain way. Becoming aware of this forced me to fully see those parts of myself and meet them with acceptance and self-compassion rather than push them away. Meditation has also allowed me to become vastly more compassionate and so much less judgmental. As a result, the way I react to the world is much different. I am more understanding of peoples pain now that I’ve sat with my own. I am less wrapped up in myself which allows me to be a better human being—more generous and thoughtful to others. Most importantly, meditation has changed my perspective on how I thought I should live. I realized that it doesn’t matter what I do in the world—have a high-paying job or look the “perfect way” —if my inner self is not at peace, then nothing external will fix that. Now, my number one priority is coming into balance in my own mind and being a kinder person to myself and to others. Whatever I do externally must come second.
Do you have any advice for those thinking about getting into meditation, or for those who struggle to find the time?
Some practical advice I give is to start smaller than you think you should! If you were to start working out, you wouldn’t go to the gym and bench press your own weight immediately. You must start small and build up to it. The same thing applies with meditating. Start off by doing a 3-minute meditation every day for a month. Once you can keep that consistency, you can start increasing the time. Try not to be discouraged if you don’t immediately see the benefits. Back to the working out analogy—you can’t go to the gym once and expect to look any different. You must go consistently and build up slowly. It’s the same with meditation. I suggest keeping a journal and documenting how you feel after you mediate, or even as you meditate, so that you can look back at your progress. However, I think the biggest piece of advice I could give is to not just meditate when you are feeling down, or else you may associate meditation with painful thoughts. You should meditate when you are feeling good as well.
What does your daily routine look like?
This is something I spent years trying to perfect. I’ve probably googled “perfect time to wake up” and “the best routine to start your day” a thousand times! It was exhausting and became yet another way of judging myself. Now, my daily routine is pretty free. I always do a morning meditation when I wake up—sometimes it’s shorter and sometimes its longer. It all depends on how I feel in that moment, but on average it’s probably 30 minutes. I like to do some form of exercise or a yoga class. I normally try to go to beautiful places, such as a park or library, to work on preparing my workshops and creating online content. I also make sure to set time aside a few evenings a week to spend time with family and friends. As a full time meditation teacher now, my days are no longer packed full. However, for the first time in my life I feel fuller than I ever have and my day isn’t even 50% as full as it was. I think that says a lot.
If you could go back and tell your 16-year-old self something, what would it be?
Honestly, I feel like I had to go through everything exactly the way that I did in order to be at the place I am now. However, if that wasn’t the case I would want to tell my 16-year old self that she is worthy and enough. I’d want her to know that she doesn’t need to be more popular, or skinnier—she is enough, and always will be enough, exactly as she is.
For those looking to get into meditation and self-compassion work, what resources do you recommend?
There are so many resources out there and it doesn’t need to cost a thing either! I used YouTube a lot at the beginning. I would watch the works of amazing spiritual teachers such as Sharon Salzberg, Ekhart Tolle, and Marianne Williamson. I also release lots of free resources on my website and Youtube channel such as guided meditations and videos on how to live a more mindful and compassionate life, and I do weekly Instagram live meditations that you can tune in to too!