Fabric, in London’s Clerkenwell, is famous for its vibrating dance floor and late-night partying. But on Tuesday the nightclub will play host to an altogether different mind-bending experience.
More than a thousand people are expected to gather at the venue, where pumping beats will by replaced by deafening silence for what is being billed as the biggest group meditation ever held in Britain.
Self-styled meditation guru Will Williams is staging the event to launch his new book, The Effortless Mind. The aim, he says, is to attract a new generation to “the inner joys of meditation”.
Fabric epitomises the “old hedonism”, he says – a drink-and-drugs-fuelled dance scene from which people traditionally stagger home at dawn. “I want to bring a new hedonism into its space. It’ll be a dynamic, energised night but we’ll all wake up the next morning feeling fantastic,” he says. So it will be mocktails, not cocktails, on the menu.
Williams knows only too well the pain of the morning after the night before. A former booking agent for bands and musicians, he used to “indulge in every bit of debauchery you can think of”. But, a decade ago, his life changed after a friend persuaded him to try meditation. At first, he saw it as a means to conquer insomnia and a “brilliant cure for hangovers”. But he was soon hooked and moved to India to study with “the masters” for three years. Experimenting with different types of mindfulness, he kept coming back to vedic meditation. “It doesn’t involve chanting, religion, or uncomfortable sitting positions,” Williams says. “It’s easy, it’s cool, it works.”
But he didn’t stop at his own personal enlightenment. Williams calculated that taking the art of ancient eastern meditation and turning it into a thriving western business was the lucrative way forward.
He now runs meditation studios in two venues in central London (a three-day course costs around £300) and plans to expand across the country. Williams has no shortage of converts to what he describes as a path to “deeper fulfilment”. One of his newest is Take That’s Howard Donald. After two decades of dismissing “the whole joss-stick-burning thing” that other members of the group embraced, Donald says he now swears by it.
“It’s helping me be more creative, but without the drugs,” Donald, who has just turned 50, said. “The thoughts and colours are amazing, the golds, the reds, the blues – I don’t know what they mean, but the visions you get in your mind, they’re beautiful.
“The song ideas are flowing even when I’m in the middle of a meditation – sometimes, I just want to cut it short and get the dictaphone out,” he says.
“You get emotional sometimes. But that’s good, it’s about letting stuff out, clearing your body, bit by bit.”
While grateful that Donald is positive about his experiences, Williams is keen to distance himself from the meditation and celebrity love-in. He worries that it can inspire some, but make others cynical. “We need to show that wisdom, meaning, joy, purpose – it’s about you, me and everyone. We’re all going through the same emotional challenges, whoever we are,” he says.
“Meditation is a vehicle, a drug if you like, and a really powerful one.”
• To order Effortless Mind by Will Williams for £12.74, go to guardianbookshop.com