Gary Heads
Founder of Living Mindfully

We recently posed a series of questions to one of our speakers, Gary Heads, who’s company has trained over 5,000 mindfulness participants in the 8 years since he founded Living Mindfully. 

After practising mediation for over 25 years, Gary became a mindfulness teacher in 2005 - he founded Living Mindfully in 2009, designing and delivering mindfulness programmes 

Gary has since expanded the organisation to operate across the UK, with a committed team of experienced individuals. They now  offer practitioner training and programmes within the public health and education sectors, to benefit staff and students of all ages - with the aim of making a real difference to young people. 

What inspired the business? How has it grown? What makes the training programmes unique? The challenges Gary has faced and what makes Living Mindfully a successful business, in his eyes. 

Mindfulness in your life:

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from introducing mindfulness to your life?

That the present moment is really all we have.  

Who has most inspired you on your mindfulness journey?

There are many people I could list here, but perhaps the most influential in terms of my mindfulness journey would be Ajahn Chah. His wonderful books and talks inspired me to begin my practice.

Growing your business:

What was it that first encouraged you to set up Living Mindfully?

In 2009 Living Mindfully was set up to raise public awareness of the benefits of mindfulness-based approaches. The strong interest from the general public and encouragement from Public Health and Jobcentre plus led to the company developing year on year.

How have you built your business?

Living Mindfully has been built by getting the basics right at the very beginning. Having the correct policies and procedures in place, becoming an approved NHS service provider, and training our staff to the highest standards possible. When the opportunity arose to work with Public Health everything was in place to make the mindfulness service successful.  This is our blueprint as we develop our practitioner’s programme, and take mindfulness into educational settings. 

What challenges have you faced as you have up scaled your business?

Scaling up a business always carries a certain degree of risk, especially if you are working in the public sector. However, by spreading your client base, and delivering services across different sectors the risk can be minimised. The biggest challenge has been finding the right mindfulness teachers.  We work as a strong team, and have similar thoughts about how mindfulness might expand in the coming years.  Sometimes you just have to go for it, in the last 6 months we have moved premises, opened a training room, and added to the team.

What have been your successes?

The fact that thousands of individuals have been able to access mindfulness by referral from a health care professional.  Now, that same opportunity is being offered to Primary and Secondary schools.

What lessons have you learnt?

That the individuals who attend our courses hugely influence the growth and development of the company.  Mindfulness is not something that is easy to promote, it is through recommendations that our client base has expanded.  If you are looking to attract new clients especially in the private/public sector offer a place on an 8-week programme.

Living Mindfully Training Programmes:

What is unique about Living Mindfully & your programmes? 

Our mindfulness practitioner-training programme is in line with UK Network Guidelines and we believe covers all aspects of delivering an 8-week mindfulness programme.  The training is also based on our experience of working with large numbers of referred participants over the last 8 years.  

What effects have you seen in others?

Participants find their own journey, so mindfulness unfolds in many ways. What stands out for me is the arising of compassion, especially compassion for oneself. The ability to bring kindness to one’s experience whatever that happens to be is always a key step in developing practice.

What are the key benefits your programmes can offer teachers?

The mindfulness practitioners training programme delivered over 12 months has been developed in line with the UK Network guidelines. In addition to the theory, rationale, and teaching practice, the programme benefits from our experience of teaching over 5,000 participants in the last 8 years. All elements of teaching a mindfulness-based programme are covered in depth.

How will the programmes challenge teachers?

The attention to detail and programme curriculum is demanding, however those who have attended tell us the training is both practical and inspirational.  The commitment to studying, teaching, home practice, and journaling is a powerful combination - challenging, but well worth the effort.  

What is the most inspirational story that you have from your teaching/programmes?

This is a testimonial received from one of our past participants:

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20 years old, and have suffered from chronic joint pain since I was a teenager. 

I have tried lots of different ways to help manage my pain, and so when the mindfulness programme was mentioned I was quite cynical, but I thought I would give it a go.  It has been transformational: the biggest thing has been the way it has changed my relationship with the pain; so I need to accept it – even build a friendship with it.

On bad days, it can be scary; but my mindfulness practice has helped me to just be in the moment. I can find a degree of self-acceptance and of being kind to myself. That was a massive shift.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a teacher looking to improve their practice?

I think it’s important to remember that practice is a journey and, like any journey, sometimes things run smoothly - at other times we get a bit lost.

The key is to keep going, find others to support us, and apply gentle discipline.  I recommend being authentic in what we practice - it's personal.

What is the best thing about running Living Mindfully?

Being able to spend my days teaching mindfulness and running the company does not feel like work.  I am passionate about developing the business and our team.