Isabella Beresford is 26 and lives in the South West of England. She teaches meditation and runs a female empowerment clothing brand called, Indigo Lily; using her platform to share important messages on the female form. I interviewed her about the impact of meditation, women’s bodies and female empowerment.
How and why did you turn to meditation?
I found meditation at a time when I was so tightly wound; experiencing some pretty severe anxiety and depression. If it hadn’t been for the moment I hit rock bottom with my mental health, I wouldn’t have started meditating. So in hindsight, I’m grateful for those dark places I experienced.
A pretty magical flow of synchronicities led me to my first meditation class. I was fortunate to experience in that very first session a place beneath my everyday mind; feeling like I’d arrived home. I’d never felt more myself! It was like coming back to a long lost friend. At the same time I started listening to A New Earth by Eckharte Tolle and this also completely changed my perspective on life.
I started taking ownership for every problem in my head, and realised I didn’t have to look at my life in that way. I felt empowered to say no to the anxiety that had controlled my every move. I’m not saying this is for everyone, but I was so strict with myself. I religiously practiced for one hour in the morning and one in the evening, as well as every time I had an anxiety attack. I would go through the methods I trusted to keep myself present, and created a tiny space between myself and the anxiety. As I started to separate myself from it in moments of need, overtime that gap got bigger. Sometimes things still make me anxious, but I don’t let it rule my every being. I see it coming and sort of say “oh hello”, and hold that space until it passes.
I think it’s the confusion of feeling so tangled in anxiety/depression/stress, and perceiving it as part of us that keeps us trapped. We aren’t taught about that connection between thoughts and body, or how to separate them. For me, I had to be strict and meditation taught me how to watch my mind.
I look back with huge amounts of gratitude for what I experienced because without it, I wouldn’t have the depth of understanding to help other people going through the same thing.
Why do you feel meditation is so powerful?
I personally believe there is so much more to experience within each one of us than modern society gives weight too and almost like harnessing meditation, can be the key to unlocking the door within us that holds some of the answers we are looking for.
Meditation is a way to train our mind to rest from incessant thinking. Constant thinking isn’t the only way to experience life, yet this way of life is so normalised. Most people bring the external inside themselves and don’t cultivate this state of balance within. Meditation can give the chance to harness this, giving one the chance to get to know oneself away from the outside world. When I turned to meditation, it gave me the sense of home inside myself I hadn’t experienced before.
It allows an individual to find their own point of centre; rather than looking out, you look in. For me, it removed the victim mentality in relation to anxiety, and allowed me to find a sense of strength; to take ownership of every perceived problem in my life, and visualise my reaction to it. Once I waded through the stories I attached to myself for many years, and let go of the past and my negative mental loops, I started to experience much more – this is why I love it so much.
I really believe it can help people with physical and mental conditions. I can only speak from my own experience with my own mental health, but starting a regular practice was the best gift I have ever given to myself.
You say: “We live in a system which encourages us to play smaller than we are. It restricts our bodies, our minds and ultimately our evolution.” How do you feel women are treated in wider society and in your opinion, what needs to change?
I feel like, while women’s bodies are so overly sexualised – whether we are naked or not – and this will always inhibit true gender equality. Personally, I feel like porn adds to this, as it places a woman as an object of male lust; a means to an end and something to gratify male desire. It also then spills out into the way that society largely views female nudity and defines it as something pornographic; which to me is nuts. When nudity is reported on social media, the reason is always “pornographic nature” which does make me sad. How can our power house bodies be reduced to something pornographic just because we are naked? We were naked in tribal communities long before porn existed. If you look at many of these untouched tribes, women often have their breasts out and that isn’t a problem because the female body hasn’t been tainted in the same seedy Western way.
I think porn consumption needs to change. Young boys first impression of female nudity is often through porn, so therefore this an imprinting in their minds at a young age nudity = sex. In my opinion, we need to encourage change by educating people on the female body and undo the conditioning that nudity is purely sexual. I love being naked in nature, I feel so free and at home, but if someone was there sexualising me, I would feel violated. I have male friends that are naked around me when we go swimming and it just feels so natural. I never sexualise them and I expect the same treatment for me.
How do you feel women are represented on social media?
When I started Indigo Lily, I felt sad at the way many women treat each other. I feel like we’re almost encouraged to be in competition with each other, and judge each other’s appearance. I also feel social media heightens that. It can encourage judgement through the like button, and can leave people feeling like they are not good enough based on how many likes they get on a photo. This can be really toxic, especially when it’s a picture of themselves. The whole process of putting up a photo where you feel nice, but you get a low amount of likes and it can leave you questioning yourself; judging your own appearance because of that; is really sad. There are definitely a few “in” looks which are seen and upheld as “perfect” by the beauty industry and the media; leading to people feeling that they aren’t good enough because they don’t look a certain way. I’ve definitely been through that and it’s horrible. There is a lot of editing, a lot of fakeness on social media which paints an unrealistic image for girls and women.
I want to use Indigo Lily as a platform to encourage girls and women to be kinder to each other. Frankly, the way someone else chooses to dress or make themselves up, is none of anyone else’s business; in my opinion, as long as it isn’t harming anyone in anyway.
I’ve felt pressure to post what’s “in” or considered “perfect” in the past, but now I’m really conscious of posting the raw images, cellulite and all. This whole process has also given me far more self acceptance. I’m not trying to change myself in any way.
I suppose in general, Indigo Lily has given me the confidence to just be me, no matter what anyone else says. As long as I feel it’s having a positive impact either on myself or others, then that’s right for me. I post a range of pictures, but find the naked form as incredibly multilayered. It all comes down to the intention of the image and only the person posting it can honestly say whether they genuinely feel empowered with what they are sharing, or whether they are looking for external validation. It’s when we rely on social media to get that validation that I see a problem. Judging yourself on how many likes you got or relying on this to boost your confidence isn’t good.
I think social media can be amazing, but I have to check myself with it regularly, take breaks and only follow accounts which I feel align well. I unfollow anyone or anything that causes me even a tiny mental stressor because it’s not worth it.
How does it make you feel when the female body is censored/taken off Instagram?
Honestly, a bit sad. It’s so reductive to see nudity as pornographic. I think people need to move away from seeing the naked female form as purely sexual. However, I understand it’s a huge part of sex so it is quite hard for instagram to see whether it’s a pornographic image or someone just enjoying their body. Again I do think it all comes down to the intention: Are women trying to gain external validation by showing some skin? Or are they showing it as this is a way they live their life? I understand the instagram stance, but it needs to change.
Talk to me about Indigo Lily. What was your inspiration for ‘My Feminine. My Choice’? Why did you create it?
I started Indigo Lily with my first “My Feminine. My Choice” t-shirt.
I never really thought about starting a clothing company, but what I did want to do was share messages about the female form. I thought this was the most powerful way I could do that because it made it tangible and a conversation piece. I was so fed up with women being sexualised and objectified and wanted to normalise natural female nudity in all shapes and sizes.
My desire to do so stems from a bad situation I had with a boss; largely around being sexualised. It led to a bit of a break down. At the time, so many other males were witness to what went on and no one did anything. The lack of support hurt and led to huge amounts of mistrust in male characters. Now I look back and see that Indigo Lily was the start of my own healing journey. I re-learnt how to feel about my body; how to experience it without caring what anyone else said. I want to empower other women and let them know, that no matter what they wear they should never experience any kind of unwanted sexual comments or advances.
I also want it to get to the stage that men call out other men for that sh*t!
It was weird, when I was first editing the boobs I was conflicted as to whether I should show my boyfriend or not, but it’s been amazing for both of us as. Now we are so comfortable with nakedness in the opposite sex. I feel I’ve witnessed, first hand a complete change and evolution of male perspective.
You have so many other beautiful designs, can you talk me through your inspiration for them?
My inspiration for every design was to share a message I think is important. For example, the Luna Goddess is centred around women realigning to our natural cycles and the cycles of the moon. This can be hard in the modern world as we are pressured to always be producing, and working 5 days a week; not able to move through the energy that each phase of our cycle holds. In ancient times, when women would bleed they would go to the Red Tent and take the time to go within, receive prophetic visions and dreams which they would take back to the men to inform them with. Modern society has done a good job of driving out any weight to this kind of spirituality, but I feel the time is here for this knowledge re-emergence and I wanted to add to this by putting a design that represents it on a t-shirt.
What does female empowerment look like/feel like to you?
It’s radically loving yourself for who you are and how you look regardless of societal pressures to conform. It’s knowing your worth, not taking sh*t, and speaking up for yourself from a place of calm. Also taking the time to educate people around you that have a patriarchal mindset; we can’t blame those who haven’t explored another perspective, so try and teach them.
When women learn to step out of competing with each other and start to come together more, I believe this will progress our evolution physically and spiritually.
You can follow Izzi on instagram below and check out Indigo Lily!