The Downtime Agenda

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  • Words — Samantha Dick
  • Images — Marnie Hawson

Arran Russell, co-founder of wellbeing and meditation school, The Broad Place, knows a thing or two about the value of downtime. His kind and loving sensibility makes him the ideal ambassador for their philosophy of ‘Creativity, Clarity and Consciousness.’

Arran Russell, finding calm.

What do you do to unwind?

If Jac and Marley are home, we’ll go for bush walks with Honey (the dog) and walk down to the beach. If it’s summer, we swim all day at either the Pittwater side of Palm Beach, where we can take Honey, or the Beach side of Palm Beach without Honey. If the surf’s working, I’ll surf.

How important is downtime to you and what happens when you don’t get enough of it?

It’s so important for me. I’ve been self-employed from the age of 21, so it took me a long time to actually take some downtime as I was always “on”. Jac taught me to slow down and relax. When we first met, I hadn’t had a holiday in 10 years! This could be why I was always tense and short-tempered.  I need to get downtime to keep me calm and relaxed and creative. Jac pulls me up straight away if she senses any slight tingling of stress. She calms me.

What stresses you out and what strategies do you have in place to effectively manage that stress?

I used to be highly stressed in my past careers as I was dealing with several time zones and production facilities around the world in broken English. Jac introduced me to Vedic Meditation and the stress pretty much stopped straight away. I now meditate every day and don’t really get that stressed any more at all. We are very fortunate to love what we do, so nothing seems like stress any more. We would look at potential stressful issues and deal with it from another angle or look at the positives in it and not let any negativity get involved.

Tell us about The Broad Place.

We are bringing a modern approach on Eastern philosophy into practical uses for our everyday lives, and showing that meditation can be used by everybody, including professionals and creatives.

The biggest misconception about meditation is that you need to be sitting on a mountain top in a hemp sack get-up and not shower for months on end and eradicate all thoughts. This is far from who we teach and what we teach. To break it down, we’re a school for ‘Creativity, Clarity and Consciousness.’ That means we:

– teach 4-part live courses in Vedic Meditation to bring you greater clarity and creativity in your daily life;

– work one-on-one with individuals wanting to upgrade their personal or professional life;

– work practically on tools to improve communication, retrain your mindset and free yourself to be better;

– host monthly practical Philosophy evenings called ‘The Broad Place Gatherings’ that are open to the public and are a wonderful community night where like-minded people gather to hear inspiring talks on a range of topics, from The Art of Acceptance to Mind Nutrition, and How to Decrease Stress and Increase Happiness;

– customise innovative and productive Workplace Programs for teams looking to improve their output as well as their sense of wellbeing;

– create meaningful, purposeful and luxurious products to bring a sense of special occasion to every day;

– immerse our students in transformative experiences throughout Australia and in India at our annual two week discovery of a lifetime trip; and

– write effective and powerful online programs and books for those wanting to practically explore their inner world independently.

We have a range of offerings depending on where you’re starting out and what you’re trying to gain.

How has meditation helped you? 

It has helped my creativity and decision-making immensely and has given me so much clarity in all aspects of my life. I generally feel healthier and happier compared to how I felt before I learnt meditation. It’s amazing to see people you know after they have learnt meditation and how much they have changed. They are generally so much clearer and happier.

What do you say to those who are skeptical about meditation? 

Nothing. When they are ready they’ll come around.  As soon as everyone learns, they all wished they learnt earlier. I was the biggest skeptic and it took me a while to want to take it on, despite seeing the benefits on Jac. You have to want to do it and be ready.

Do you have any daily rituals?

I start my day by tongue scrapping, then meditating for 20 minutes. After that, I read for 20 minutes and try to exercise, whether that’s going for a run, surf or following a program that a friend of ours made for me. It doesn’t have any fancy equipment or weights to go with it. Because we travel so much, I need something that I can do in hotel rooms.

What are you reading / listening to at the moment?

I don’t really listen to anything – I’m not into music. I’m reading several books at the moment depending on what mood I’m in and how much time I have. I’m currently reading Barbarian Days A Surfing Life by William Finnegan and Happy, by our good friend, Amanda Talbot. It’s such a great book. It asks whether great design can bring you happiness and how great design has affected people and their environments. That doesn’t do it justice.

Another book I’m reading is Tools For Grassroots Activists, which I bought in the Patagonia Store in Byron. I love all the books they publish or endorse.

I’m also enjoying A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art by Erling Kagge

We know you love Japan. What are your top three recommendations for downtime there?

It’s so hard to get it down to three, but:

1. T-site in Daikanyama is the most amazing bookstore in the world. It’s comprised of three buildings, with two levels in each filled with every magazine known to man, as well as massive art and design sections that I could spend days in. There’s a cafe upstairs that is full of beautiful, large, leather lounges to sink into for a coffee before you get stuck into it again. This is where I usually find Jac hyperventilating.

2. Walking the streets of Daikanyama, Ebisu Nakameguro. It’s always so peaceful and quiet at any time of the day or night. Jac and I are constantly inspired by what we see here.

3. Riding bikes around Naoshima and Teshima visiting galleries. These tiny fishing villages are so tranquil.

Describe your perfect day off.

I do my morning ritual, then walk down to The Boathouse (our local) for breakfast. After that, I surf with Marley and Jac, then a home cooked light lunch by Jac in our backyard. I laze around reading on the grass whilst Marley and Honey run amuck, then I go for an afternoon swim with the girls and Honey. I collect some firewood on the way back from the beach and make a fire that evening.  It’s not that exciting to most, but I’m at my happiest when I have all three of my ladies with me.