WIN a Meditation Session & read our Interview with Sam May, Bristol Meditation Teacher & Acupuncturist

sam mayMeditation we believe is a really important and positive part of well being, balance and training for the Energised One!  Read on about what Bristol Expert Sam has to say, and scroll right to the end to enter the Free Session with Sam, good times.

Hi Sam, with some wonderful qualifications and experience, you must be
one of the most most varied and experienced practitioners I know in Bristol. Let’s take things one at a time
and talk about your journey into teaching mindfulness. Where did it start and where has it
taken you on both a professional and personal level.
It’s difficult to pinpoint a starting point – it seems there’s a beginning less chain of intentions
and experiences involved with this kind of thing. As a teenager I was philosophically and
spiritually curious. I decided to pursue Philosophy at University and before embarking on that
I went travelling with a friend in the Himalayas, which is where I started to practice
meditation. This led to a deepening interest in Buddhist meditation in particular, which I
immersed myself in for the next 14 years, and began teaching also quite early on (1994). I
then embarked on my second degree, in Chinese Medicine, and working at The Natural
Health Clinic in Bristol. There the Clinic’s Co-Founder Tony Harrison suggested to me that
meditation would be a useful addition to the therapies offered at the clinic, and so I began
teaching meditation and mindfulness in a clinical setting, alongside my Chinese medical
practice. It was around this time that ‘mindfulness’ was coming into the mainstream of
healthcare in the UK. In 2009 ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’ (MBCT) was
recommended by NICE for NHS patients suffering from depression and anxiety. Working in a
clinical setting can be quite different to the more traditional settings I’ve worked in, but I find
it to be a valuable complement to the other therapies and treatments that people receive for
a variety of conditions. For example sometimes people come to see me for acupuncture
treatment for a physical condition, but it is clear to me that there is significant emotional
aetiology, which the meditation and mindfulness techniques can help with considerably. It is
fulfilling to me personally to be able to facilitate healing to patients on all these levels.
You always strike me as an extremely rational person, how concerned are you with the
neuroscience currently backing up the efficacy of mindfulness?

It’s good to have scientific evidence to support the practice of mindfulness, especially for the
more sceptical among us. To some extent I think it is the growing evidence-base that has
brought it into the mainstream, and to the attention of the NHS in particular. Personally I
know that mindfulness meditation works to improve health and wellbeing because I have
seen my own clients and patients getting better from it. What’s actually going on in our
brains on a neurological level isn’t of great interest to me, but I appreciate that such research
may help to validate the process for a lot of people.

What studies have you paid attention to?

One study I like, conducted in the early 80’s, showed that those practicing meditation for
more than five years were physiologically 12 years younger than their chronological age,
measured by reduction of blood pressure, better near-point vision, and auditory
discrimination. Short-term meditators were physiologically five years younger than their
chronological age. [International Journal of Neuroscience 16 (1982)]
As a married father of two with a busy practice, what advice would you give people who find
it difficult to fit meditation into their lives?

In general I advise people to start with something manageable. For beginners I recommend
a 15-minute meditation session (as indicated in the title of my book 15-Minute Meditation for
Health and Wellbeing), and if it’s too much to do it daily then just start by trying to do it once
a week for example – then if you manage to do it more than that it’s a bonus, rather than
feeling bad whenever you miss a day. Choose a time of day that works for you – there’s no
set rule here. The issue then is making time for it, and this all comes down to how much of a
priority it is in your life. Try writing a list of your priorities one day and see where meditation
(or even just your wellbeing) sits on the list – if it’s not there at all, then ask yourself why.
Often the basic problem is that we don’t value our own wellbeing enough. It doesn’t matter
how much we’ve got going on in our life. It’s a question of priority.
What is your approach in teaching mindfulness to groups and individuals?

My general approach is to give people the confidence and experience to practise on their
own at home. For this reason I prefer to introduce people to it over a longer period than just
a day or weekend. My group courses are spread over 6 weeks, and I find this gives people
enough time to build the confidence and experience they need to make it part of their lives.

What are the possibilities that exist through practicing mindfulness in terms of depression,
anger issues and anxiety?

The basic practice of mindfulness involves learning to let go of thoughts without judgement.
Cultivating this non-judgemental attitude towards our thoughts and our selves leads to a selfacceptance that can be profoundly healing on an emotional level. We also learn in
mindfulness meditation to be fully present, and this can free us from dwelling on the past and
worrying about the future. I believe that ultimately all emotional problems can be resolved
through the practice.

Can meditation be utilised to help with physical ailments and what type of results have you

There is considerable research showing that meditation can be helpful for a variety of
physical ailments, including high blood pressure, heart disease, circulatory problems, chronic
pain, and headaches. I have personally seen good results for patients presenting with some
of these complaints, especially those with chronic pain.

What advice would you give to someone starting out on their meditation journey?

Start where you are. Let go of any judgements of your self and any expectations of what you
think you should be experiencing. Embrace your starting point and know that, for as long as
you’re trying, you’re making progress.

Are there any inherent limitations in using meditation for psychological disorders?

I generally don’t like to think of pyschological disorders as being inherent to anyone, and as
such I believe that there are no limitations to pyschological change and transformation –
whether through meditation or other mental health practices. I am wary of ‘labels’ that people
are given by the medical profession or attribute to themselves.

You are also a highly qualified, experienced acupuncturist – do you blend meditation in with
this when working with clients and tell us a little about how this works?

I often combine these therapies in the same treatment session. Acupuncture lends itself well
to this, as there is a period of about 20 minutes where the patient rests with acupuncture
needles inserted, during which time it is possible to guide them through a meditation. I find
this combination works very well, as it appears to deepen the relaxation they experience
from the treatment and I believe that the two therapies are mutually supportive – the
acupuncture can trigger an energetic shift which can result in a mental-emotional shift, and
the meditation can help the patient’s energy (‘qi’) to flow more smoothly which can enhance
the effect of the acupuncture treatment.

Where can people see you for treatments or to learn meditation?

I practice at clinics in Bristol, in Southville and Clifton – details online via my website
( For meditation, people can either come and see me privately,
on a one-to-one basis, or sign up for one of my group courses.

Anything else you would like to add?

Meditation and mindfulness is a way of life – it’s not just about sitting still for 15 minutes a
day. It’s about learning to be present in every moment, with an open heart and mind.

* To Enter the Prize-Draw:
Send an email to with ‘Energised’ in the subject line. The winner
will be selected at random on 15/6/13, with the prize being a 1-hour meditation session with
Sam either in person or via Skype.