- How has meditation changed your life?
After I discovered different forms of meditation, yoga, and other introspective practices following an existential crisis in 2014, every aspect of my life has changed, including but not limited to how I approach and interpret my conscious thoughts, relationships, career, projects, art, travels, seemingly mundane moments, humanity as a whole, and far more.
Also, I have more clarity on my life’s trajectory and purpose than I did before I began a daily meditation practice, I am exponentially more introspective, I have more patience, and I am less reactive. I am far more in touch with my conscious thoughts and emotions, I am far less prone to grasping onto thoughts and emotions -- a skill that stems from the mindfulness and metacognition that comes from meditation, I have more physical and psychological resilience, and my intuition has never been sharper.
In short, meditation has changed every aspect of my life for the better, and I cannot think of a single downside to practicing meditation, whether it be mindfulness meditation, Japa meditation, metta meditation, or body scan meditation.
Finally, meditation inspired me to join many mindfulness-based communities, and it also inspired me to become a mental health advocate. As such, I now work with many impactful organizations within the mental health space, including but not limited to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Calm, Thrive Global, Project Healthy Minds, and Operation Prefrontal Cortex.
- Tell us more about Operation Prefrontal Cortex
I am the Art Director for Operation Prefrontal Cortex, which is an organization and program harnessing the power of mindfulness and meditation to help reduce the incidents of gun, mass, and police violence in Toronto, co-founded by Julien Christian Lutz, professionally known as Director X, and his longtime friend Danell Adams.
My role involves working closely with Operation Prefrontal Cortex's producer to shoot and edit photographs and videos, to write copy, and to manage our organization's social media and other aspects of our digital marketing strategy. I also engage in public speaking and lead guided meditations on behalf of Op PFC.
Our organization is in the process of implementing our mindfulness-based programming throughout the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Police Services, and elsewhere — a process that has involved many conversations with city councilors and other politicians, school principals, police constables, and so on.
Finally, Toronto’s recent rise in gun violence has become alarming, and 2020 will be the most violent year in Toronto’s relatively short history, as far as gun violence is concerned. In response to this significant problem, Operation Prefrontal Cortex now has a petition to bring Advance Peace to Toronto. Advance Peace is an organization that ends cyclical and retaliatory gun violence in urban neighborhoods, reducing firearm assaults causing injury or death in Richmond, California, by more than 85 percent between 2012 and 2019. Our petition now has more than 85,000 signatures.
- How has REALthings cushions helped your practice?
I first discovered REALthings cushions while practicing meditation with The Quiet Company, and I was amazed by the craftsmanship that went into each cushion, and how comfortable they were.
In fact, my initial experiences with REALthings cushions inspired me to visit the company’s founder Julie for a cushion consult, and soon after, I had a meditation cushion made, which completely changed my daily meditation practice for the better.
The generic cushion that I previously owned was no longer sufficient, and the comfort of my new REALthings cushion instantly took most of the physical discomfort out of my daily practice, which made the act of focusing my attention on my breath or a specific thought or object far easier than before.
- About Ajani Charles
Ajani Charles is a Toronto-based professional Photographer, Director, Producer, Mental Health Advocate, and Canon Canada Ambassador with a background in fine arts who specializes in creating impactful stories about the human condition, self-actualization, and mental health.
Ajani is also a public speaker and a journalist for publications such as Thrive Global -- an American company that provides behavior change technology and media to support individuals struggling with stress and burnout, and he counts among his many and varied commercial clients H&M, Universal Music Group, Bridgestone, Christian Dior, Calm, and the UFC. His work has been featured in publications such as Complex, Jay-Z’s Life + Times, and Vogue.
Furthermore, he has worked with numerous icons and public figures in various capacities, including the likes of Arianna Huffington, Drake, The Weeknd, Pharrell Williams, Wu-Tang Clan, Janelle Monáe, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Slash, Kanye West, Akon, Gene Simmons, Spike Lee, Director X, Dana White, and Commander Chris Hadfield.