The topic of ‘employee wellbeing’ is already creating a buzz this year. Si’s Dave Gray spoke to Graham Doke, founder and narrator of meditation app Anamaya, which introduces the idea of mindfulness in the workplace and why it should play a vital role in the corporate world.
What is ‘digital wellbeing’?
It’s pure irony! The digital economy has brought with it a deluge of information and demands - the requirement for instant accessibility and response 24 hours a day has led to a rise of anxiety and stress - both of which have an extraordinarily adverse effect on our health. Ironically, digital wellbeing uses the electronic world to try to remedy this. However with the Anamaya app, it is somewhat of a digital Trojan horse. It involves no activity, no records, uploading or comparisons. We quietly and secretly wheel tranquillity into the digital area.
Are you up against cynics in the corporate world? Why are they wrong?
I come from a background of working in the city – I was an investment banker for 12 years. I know the impact that those highly stressful and demanding careers can have on a person’s wellbeing. I do encounter resistance from people who still see meditation as a thing of monasteries, ashrams and retreats. Yet, when I start to speak to them about neuroscience and of Harvard, UCLA and Oxford research and institutions like the Mind Life Institute, they start to change their views. A little discussion on the effect of stress and adrenaline on the cognitive capacity usually quickly sharpens their attention. And it is difficult to maintain a cynical view when presented with an fMRI report!
Is there a difference in attitude in the UK vs. the US?
We can adapt the old adage, when the US sneezes, Britain catches a cold. Mind science is very much on the management agenda in the US - and it is very much on the agenda here.
What’s next for Anamaya after the app?
We have our next release scheduled in a couple of months, which will make the App not only a comprehensive meditation tool, but a comprehensive tool for self-development. We have psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and international athletes contributing extensive audio modules on self-development, subjects as diverse as ‘Motivation’, ‘Overcoming Adversity’ and ‘Relationships.’
Then we look even further ahead. We are working closely with a large creative firm in London to develop a web-based centre… I cannot give details at this stage but it is a web-based centre on matters close to Anamaya’s heart: mental and emotional health and development.
How big is the market for competitors?
I was talking to Matthieu Ricard (dubbed the ‘world’s happiest man’ by scientists) recently about the tidal wave of meditation and mindfulness that is sweeping the world - not all of it, of course, either ethical or helpful. It is wonderful to be in that part of the wave that is there to help people to a better way of being.
Speaking of the competition, how does your app compare against headspace (what do you offer that it doesn’t)?
As it stands, we offer a meditation course that grew from a clinical practice: we see city people coming in through our doors at the Anamaya Centre in Kensington day after day, all seeking help. We identified their needs simply by listening to them; we have developed our meditations based on what those clients needed, utilising the latest advancements in clinical psychology as well as respected ancient techniques. On a technical level, we also offer certain esoteric meditation practices not normally offered to the general public.
With the release of 1.1, we will no longer really be operating in the same market as Headspace. Although we will still be offering the same unique meditation course as we do now, we will also be offering a totally new and unique product for mental and self-development.