When Julianna came to LA in the early 90s she wrote a TO DO list which included getting a record deal at a major label. One year later she was signed to Warner Brothers and the future looked bright. 3 years later she was waitressing again. A therapist suggested meditating as a way to relax and as they say, the rest is .....Julianna has been training students privately and in groups for over 12 years. She trains students in the system of Basic Mindfulness.

Tell us how you got into meditation?

I got into meditation as a way to reduce anxiety. I was trying to avoid taking medication and a therapist recommended it. I knew it was a long distance run so I gave it 3 months of daily practice to see what it could do for me. That was @ 18 years ago! I could never have imagined how it would transform my experience.

How does it help in your daily life?

Meditation has radically changed the way I experience daily life. I like to draw the analogy of defragmenting a computer. As you practice meditation, you’re defragmenting your attention. With high continuity and clarity of attention, you discover that the impression of solid self and solid world and the experience of being separate, is an illusion. This has the effect of making more and more ordinary moments of life, extraordinary. Think of the oneness you feel in a loving hug or when you’re doing a hobby or sport you enjoy. Meditation is designed to develop skills which enable you to discover that sense of oneness, completeness, satisfaction, or fulfillment in any random moment, in the course of your day. This makes daily life a rich inner adventure. And the rewards are physiological. After years of practice, bliss is now a regular part of my daily diet. Does that erase my problems and challenges? No way! But meditation helps you perceive even those moments as opportunities to deepen your sense of connection and strengthen your ability to make a contribution.

How do you believe it will help others in their lives?

In my experience, there is nothing in this world more revelatory or fulfilling than the joy and relief of penetrating the illusion of separateness. We are all walking around in cages of our own making, not realizing we are caged. The moment you get a taste of true liberation, the cage drops away and you can see the burden you have been carrying. 

When you lift that burden, even for a moment, you are in a better position to live your life in a healthier, happier way and contribute more fully to other people’s lives and to the world at large. You can discover what I’m speaking about during peak experiences, without meditation and there are some people, like Eckhart Tolle or Krishna Murti, who have instantaneous, permanent awakenings.

But, most of us are going to have to work at it. Especially if you want those peak experiences to have a lasting impact on your life. There is tremendous value in reaching your goals and finding satisfaction in the material side of life. Meditation offers a more complete way to know satisfaction and fulfillment and a profoundly useful tool for when things don’t go as planned.

What are your top 3 tips for someone who has never meditated before?

  1. Find a practice you are interested in or enjoy, to stay motivated.
  2. You can practice for as little as 10 minutes a day to get into the habit. Give it 3 months.
  3. If you're struggling to stay consistent, get support from a teacher you respond to, or a group.

How did meditate with music come about?

“How to meditate with music” was born from my two areas of expertise. I’ve been a professional singer/songwriter since the early 1990s and I’ve also been a mindfulness trainer for the past 12 years. I’ve noticed that people have two big challenges with practice, which can both be helped by meditating with music. For people just getting into practice, it can be really hard work! So, there can be a lot of resistance to practicing. But unless you practice consistently, you’re very unlikely to see results. When you meditate with music, you’re working smart, by using something you enjoy to break through your resistance and give practice a chance to take hold. For experienced practitioners, the goal is to bring meditation into daily life and music is a great intermediary for that. So it’s useful at any stage of practice. Also, it’s my personal goal to break through cultural stereotypes about meditation. I want people to know that meditative music doesn’t need to have wind chimes or pan flute! Any kind of music (yes ANY) can be liberating, when you listen skillfully. I’ve done a couple of fun collaborations with artists Ben Lee and Rufus Wainwright. For the artist, there is nothing better than having a crowd of meditators listening to you, because people are listening with their whole selves and without judgement. I can’t imagine a better audience. 

And your relationship with Rufus Wainwright?

Rufus and I have been dear friend since he came to Los Angeles in the mid 90s to make his first record. We were both signed by Lenny Waronker (me on WB and him on Dreamworks) so we had that in common. But much more than that, we had a true simpatico. I remember what a breath of fresh air it was to talk to him and how blown away I was by his music. Listening to what he was doing inspired me to be a better songwriter. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to tour, write and sing with him at various times and it’s always a gratifying, creatively challenging and moving experience.

Was the piece of music specifically written for this or did you hear the piece and come up with the practice inspired by it?

I’ve always loved that song and when Rufus suggested it I got really excited! I knew it would be a great way for people to test drive the skills and get a sense of the practice.

Other than music do you use any other tools whilst meditating? Eg. Blanket, rugs, crystals – pillows – tell people what else is helpful.

I consider myself a blue collar meditator. What I mean is that I like to keep things simple and focus on doing the work. Nothing fancy. In my opinion, you just need to find a practice you’ll be motivated to do and then keep at it. You can meditate on a chair if sitting in lotus or half lotus is too uncomfortable. I like to fold my knees under, seiza style on top of two zafus (zen meditation cushions.) It’s a good idea to maintain good posture when you practice formally. That lets your body know you mean business. But you can practice as little as 10 minutes a day to establish a practice. Regarding what to focus on, I like Basic Mindfulness (the system I teach) because it’s designed to give you plenty of options so at any given time, you can optimize, play to your strengths and keep it interesting for yourself as your practice evolves. That said, you can spend your whole life focusing on your breath and make just as much “spiritual headway” as any other kind of practice. The individual really needs to find what works best for them.

Take us through a day in the life of Julianna? 

My schedule varies a lot but there are a few consistent elements. I like to exercise in the morning, 6 days a week. On 3 of those days I hike with friends and we do a little meditation together at the top of the hill, each in our own style. On 3 days I do yoga and get in my practice during shavasana. During the day, I’ve been going to a co-working space, Cross Campus in Santa Monica, to work on my meditation program. Usually at some point in the day I’ll offer fellow entrepreneurs a 10 minute guided meditation so we can all recharge our batteries together for a few minutes. I like to do  a day long or weekend retreat once or twice a month and I try to do formal week long retreats @ 4 times a year. As a trainer, I want to keep my chops up! :) As often as I can remember to, I implement a meditation strategy as I’m going about my day. When I’m driving, walking, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, etc. I bring intention to the activity and choose a focus strategy, to make moments that could be throwaway, or filled with preoccupied thinking, productive. I just got back from Nashville where I was making my 4th record. There are certain activities when you’re recording that really lend themselves to practice, like doing background vocals. They are repetitive and very precise in terms of pitch and phrasing. So I’m always looking for ways to bring practice into my daily life and routine.

Regarding my eating habits, I like to eat healthy because I like to feel good and take good care of myself. But my true goal is to empower people through learned skills, so they can free up their energy to contribute their unique gifts to the world, more completely. For some of us that will be in the area of nutrition, recycling, community programs, creative arts. I want to give people a set of skills they can use any time anywhere, regardless of their lifestyle choices or their unique way of serving the world. So, while I believe that it’s imperative to take good care of ourselves and our world, I recognize that each individual will go about that differently and emphasize different aspects of that process. I’m interested in supporting people in practice, so they can put their best foot forward as they cut their own unique path.

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Photos + interview produced by thebharanieffect - our talented photographer is Maclay Heriot.