Years before Meghan Markle was dealing with the pressure and expectations of preparing for a royal wedding, she was already learning the tools to help her relieve stress before her big day. The soon-to-be royal began meditating with instructor Light Watkins back when she was an actress on Suits and quickly took to the practice, incorporating not one but two sessions into her daily routine.
“I met Meghan through a mutual friend of ours about five years ago. This friend of ours is in the wellness space, and I think she had been working on some diet stuff with him,” Light Watkins, author of Bliss More ($16; amazon.com) told InStyle. “She’d been obviously familiar with the practice and had been doing it on her own and she was really intrigued by the fact that I was a meditation teacher and I do these trainings.”
“Maybe a week or two after that, she came by my home studio and we did a little private meditation session. It’s four sessions over four days. So it’s kind of a one-time deal. You come and see me for four sessions, four days. I teach you how to meditate. You become self-sufficient in the practice,” Watkins explained. “So I took her through it and she had wonderful experiences. She really appreciated the training and getting structure. And then I think we connected a couple times. She just kind of checked in and said, ‘Hey, things went well. I’m meditating every day twice a day—it’s wonderful. Once in the morning for 20 minutes, once in the afternoon for 20 minutes.’”
“I didn’t get the sense that she was overly stressed out or anxious or anything like that, it just seemed like she was already on a wellness path, so working with my friend she had already been for years eating a very clean diet and exercising and stuff like that, so I think she just saw meditation as just another tool that she could use because she has the resources and I guess the time to explore,” he explained. “I think it ended up being a lot more profound than she originally thought. It seems like she was in a relatively good space beforehand and in a better space afterward.”
In fact, Markle was so impressed by her instructor that she featured him on her now-shut down blog, The Tig. “A couple of years ago she said, ‘Hey look I’ve got this new wellness blog and I want to introduce more people to the things that I’m benefiting from and one of the key components to my wellness program is meditation. Would it be okay if I mentioned you along with what you do?” Watkins told us. “She was wonderful to work with. She seemed very appreciative.”
Since Markle because a royal-to-be, she’s obviously become less reachable, though she does find ways to connect every now and again. “I send out this daily dose of inspiration, so it’s a daily email. Every morning I send it out at 6 a.m. PT and it’s just like a minute read of just an inspiring anecdote or maybe a story, and she responds to those from time to time. So I know she’s still getting something and I’m pretty sure she’s still meditating,” he said.
If Markle is still continuing with the practice, she’s likely enjoying the benefits it offers, like better sleep and boosts to immunity, reproductive and digestive health. Of course, the stress relief can’t hurt either. “If you don’t have a way of releasing that pressure on a daily basis it’s like a pressure cooker. It just keeps building and building and building and then eventually it explodes, and when it explodes, that’s when you start getting your physical diagnoses and ailments,” Watkins explained.
Luckily for us, his meditation principles are a lot simpler than you might think. “There’s such a build up around meditation these days. Everyone’s talking about it and reading studies about it but you sit down and you get on the floor and cross your legs and it feels like torture,” he joked. “It has a high tendency to turn people off very quickly.”
Instead, he advocates for a much more laid-back approach. “One of the biggest challenges with starting is that people have meditation up on a pedestal. Like it’s got to be this very precious thing, it needs to be the perfect quiet environment. The reason I wrote my book [Bliss More] is to onboard people to a practice that they can do anywhere that they can sit down and close their eyes, and it’s actually preferable to be comfortable and have back support, which is again busting another myth of meditation: that you should do it with a straight back. So I would say stay away from the more rigid approaches because it’s not going to be enjoyable and you’re probably not going to do it long enough to feel the tangible benefits.”
“You actually can do it in your bed, back supported, and you can achieve very deep experiences literally after an hour,” he explained. “When you close your eyes, your mind is going to be incredibly busy. The technique in my book is based off of an acronym: easy. Easy stands for embrace, accept, surrender to, and yield to. And what I’m referring to are the very things that people tend to resist in meditation. It’s very counterintuitive.”
“We resist our mind, we resist our thoughts, we resist noise. We usually try to will away any itches in the body, or we don’t want to change positions to stay comfortable. So you’re basically going to do a 180 and do the exact opposite of what you think you should do in meditation. Let your mind go to any thought that it wants to go to. Move, shift your body as much as you want. Scratch what you want to scratch. Invite all the noises in and let that be a fun part of the experience. Celebrate the mind. This is basically the path to stillness. So the path to stillness is going through the noise, not resisting the noise. And that’s what most people get wrong about meditation.”
If it works for Meghan Markle, it’s definitely worth a try. Pick up Watkins’s guide, Bliss More, at bookstores now.