The Temples of Shodoshima

 

Candace Rose Rardon shares the journey behind her latest Sleep Story. 

 

A little over four years ago, the opportunity arose for me to visit Japan for the first time, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about it. While I was growing up, my uncle was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Navy for several years and I loved being pen pals with my aunt, whose letters always arrived on colorful Sanrio stationery. Sometimes, there were even gilded sheets of origami paper tucked between the pages.

 

My aunt’s descriptive stories of their life in Japan filled my mind with its first real images of the wider world beyond my childhood home, and they played an instrumental role in stoking the wanderlust I already felt as a child.

 

Finally getting to plan my own visit to Japan thus felt like I was preparing for a fitting full-circle journey — a trip that would honor one of the first countries that had inspired me to become a traveler. Key cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto were natural stops on my itinerary, but there were also about ten days in my journey that I didn’t immediately know how to fill or where to spend them.

 

And so I decided to dig deeper in my research and look for a Japanese version of the places I have always been drawn to in my travels: Islands.

 
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One of my favorite things to do when looking for an island to explore in a new country is to open Google Maps, find a stretch of coastline or body of water nearby to where I’m already planning to be, and zoom in until I can see the names of any islands that might have popped up on the map. Then it’s just a matter of researching the islands and figuring out how to get to them — and, of course, what I’ll do when I’m there.

As I began this process for my trip to Japan, I narrowed my focus on the Seto Inland Sea, the 9,000-square mile body of water separating three of the four principal islands of Japan. The sea also serves as a waterway connecting the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean, and is home to almost 3,000 islands, many of which are uninhabited. To an island-lover such as myself, this sounded pretty much idyllic.

 

The first island I saw on the map, Awajishima, is also the largest in the Inland Sea, but then I read on Wikitravel what the island is primarily known for: Onions. This didn’t exactly fit with what I was hoping to experience in Japan — especially after so many years of dreaming about the country from afar — so I decided to keep searching.

 

Next, just a little to the west of Awajishima, I spotted the second largest island in the sea, known as Shodoshima. Again, I visited the Wikitravel page for the island and read that what onions are to Awajishima, olives are to Shodoshima, even giving the island the occasional nickname of “Olive Island.” But as I kept reading, something else caught my attention — that in addition to olives, Shodoshima is also home to a smaller version of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage also found on neighboring Shikoku Island.

 

As my heart begin to race with anticipation, it was then that I knew — I’d found the island for me in Japan at last.

 

 
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As I recently shared in my newest Sleep Story for Calm, “The Temples of Shodoshima," the history of pilgrimage in Japan reaches back centuries into the past — more than a millennium, in fact. And arguably one of the most well-known Buddhist pilgrimages in the country is the 88 Temple Pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, which spans around 750 miles and can take up to two months to complete on foot.

 

While I would have loved to complete such a storied pilgrimage, I sadly wouldn’t be in Japan long enough — and so to discover Shodoshima and realize a smaller version of the pilgrimage existed on the island seemed like the perfect alternative.

 

Instead of taking two months like the Shikoku circuit, the shorter 88 Temple Pilgrimage on Shodoshima takes only about a week to complete its 100-mile route. But despite the great difference in their lengths, the two journeys still have much in common — and they offer those who travel their sacred paths many of the same rewards.

 

Throughout the eight days I spent walking the pilgrimage, slowly circling my way around Shodoshima, I felt these rewards on every level. First, there was simply the reward of pushing myself physically, moving at my own momentum through a foreign country and witnessing so many stunning natural landscapes I never would have seen had I not been traveling Shodoshima on foot. There were mountains and bamboo forests and incredible vistas when the trees parted to reveal the Inland Sea glittering below.

 
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There were also cultural rewards, as my knowledge of Japan grew deeper with each day I spent on the trail. Visiting up to a dozen temples a day, not only did I get to know more about the country’s rich traditions and history of pilgrimages, but I especially enjoyed seeing local life unfold around me. At times, the path led me directly through someone’s back garden, and I loved waving hello to islanders as they looked up from their work.

 
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But the greatest rewards I discovered on Shodoshima were those I felt on an emotional and spiritual level. As soon as I crossed the threshold of each temple, I felt the strongest sense of rest and repose wash over me, as though I were deep in meditation.

 

Every temple slowed my breath, focused my attention, and calmed my busy mind. There was a singular beauty in the bell that always hung at each temple; in the scent of incense and the gentle curl of its smoke as the fragrant sticks burned; and in the smile of each priest and temple volunteer, who always greeted me with warmth and kindness.

 
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More than realizing my childhood dreams of traveling to Japan, and even more than exploring a beautiful island in the Inland Sea, peace was the true gift that my time on the pilgrimage gave me — and as you listen to my new Sleep Story about Shodoshima, I hope it brings you some of the island’s serenity as well.

 
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About the Author

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Candace Rose Rardon is a sketch artist and storyteller with a passion for connecting with the world through art. She is also the founder of Moment Catchers, an art and travel blog and global community of artists. Originally from the state of Virginia, she is now based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

To connect with Candace or join the next Moment Catchers monthly sketching challenge, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Calm College

Move over, Snapchat. There’s a new app taking over the college scene, and the only filter is a warm and radiant smile.

 
 

The name is Calm College, and our big, audacious goal is to introduce every college student in America to mindfulness meditation.

 

Here’s a thought exercise: how would college campuses look different if every student practiced meditation? How would classrooms change if professors incorporated mindfulness into their teaching? And how would the world be different if cultural leaders all embraced the virtues of purpose, presence, and compassion?

 

So far, over 100 colleges are currently involved in the onboarding process to participate in Calm College, with seven schools (Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU and UPenn) leading the initial launch this Fall semester. By starting our beta-program with these universities, we’ll learn what it’ll take to ultimately get mindfulness #trending on campuses across the country.

 

 
 

Students, faculty and staff at Calm College partner schools will have free access to all of the app's features, including 100+ guided meditations, 60+ Sleep Stories, Calm Music, breathing exercises, and our brand-new College Collection: an inspiring series focusing on how to practically apply mindfulness into the college lifestyle. These meditations are designed to help students manage test anxiety, stay focused in class, and find more restful zzz’s. The topics of these sessions include:

 
  • Introduction to Meditation
  • Stress
  • Concentration
  • Balance
  • Sleep
  • Self compassion
  • Purpose
  • Study Break
 

Throughout the year, these colleges will be sharing Calm all around campus: freshman dorms, counseling and wellness centers, classrooms, libraries, athletic departments, and anywhere else students can benefit from a mindful moment. In company with our partner universities, Calm College is also collaborating with national collegiate mental health organizations such as Active Minds and The JED Foundation to make Calm affordable and accessible to students around the country. For those not affiliated with our partners, a Calm Student Discount is also available.

 
 

Science departments have not to worry. There are 3,000+ clinical studies on mindfulness, with over 75 proven benefits! Meditation can enhance focus, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and augment working memory — all pretty important for the modern day scholar.  Better yet, Calm is coordinating scientific studies at Ohio State University and Arizona State University to provide empirical evidence for just how life-changing a Calm mind can be.

 

So, why are we doing this? In recent years, mental health has become a growing concern, especially for students at the collegiate level. Approximately 95% of college counseling centers say that student psychological problems are on the rise, while half of college freshman today rate their own mental health as poor. And for the first time ever, depression and anxiety are now recognized as the top impediments to student academic performance.

 
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The fact of the matter is, college stress isn’t going anywhere. There will always be exams, weird roommates, and half-off wings that just don’t live up to their Yelp review. Through developing mental habits of balance and non-judgement, we hope to promote a culture of resiliency for generations of college students to come, while covering new ground in the emerging intersection of mental health and technology. By introducing mindfulness to students around the nation, we're hoping to re-define what it means to get a college education.

 

Who knows? In years to come, we may just hear students talking about the Daily Calm on the campus quad, or practicing deep breathing during a stressful test. A mindfulness journey lasts a lifetime, and this one starts right here.

 

 

If you have questions, comments, or would like to get your campus involved in Calm College, send us an email at college@calm.com.

 

 
 

Start Meditating

Use the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed.

Calm is beginner friendly and offers programs for all levels of mindfulness experience.

 

The World's Happiest App

 
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According to a study of 200,000 iPhone Users, Calm is the World's Happiest App! 

We're blushing! It's such an honor and in perfect alignment with our vision to make the world a happier and healthier place!

It turns out that Calm landed just ahead of Google Calendar, but well ahead of such other happy apps as Amazon Music, Kindle & Spotify! Meanwhile, the new study ranks Facebook, Tinder, and Instagram among the apps found to make users most unhappy.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the apps that help us to organize our lives, educate us, and provide a soundtrack for our daily activities provide the most nourishment.

Interestingly, the study noted that our feelings about apps depend on how much time we spend using the app. Apparently, the apps that we spend less time on left us with more positive feelings towards the app.

Be aware! Notice when you're allowing an app to steal time from you. Instead, be intentional about what apps you use and how you want to invest your time.

Here are three nutritious ways to use the Calm app ...

1. The Daily Calm 

Time investment: 10 minutes a day!

We serve a fresh new 10-minute guided meditation every day in the app called The Daily Calm. Each session is unique and includes a different theme to help you develop your meditation practice and invite mindfulness into your life. Many Calm subscribers credit the Daily Calm as the essential ingredient to maintaining a regular meditation practice. 10 minutes a day can change your life.

 
 
 

2. Sleep Stories

Time investment: 2-20 minutes a day! The exact timing depends on how fast you fall asleep.

We created a natural sleep aid, in the form of bedtime stories for grown-ups called Sleep Stories. These sleep-inducing tales mix soothing words, music, and sound-effects to help you wind down and drift off to dreamland. Most people never hear the end of the story as they have fallen asleep far before the narrator gently speaks his or her final words. We're recording new Sleep Stories every week so be sure to explore our library regularly. 

 
 
 

3. Breathe Bubble

Time investment: 30 seconds!

This simple breathing exercise is designed to settle your nerves and help you to reconnect with your body. It's kind of like a reset button. A short pause to focus on your breath has the power to leave you feeling calmer and recharged. All you have to do is watch the Breathe Bubble and the breath will follow.

How to Meditate in Eleven Steps

 
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When you’re learning how to meditate, you’re learning how to transform your life. In fact, meditation is scientifically proven to help people, which is why it’s recommended by top psychologists and mental health experts. Not to mention, the thousands of notes we’ve received from people all over the world crediting mindfulness as the key to finding relief from everyday stress, burnout, insomnia, anxiety, addiction, depression and chronic pain. In addition to feeling relief, people are also noting the benefits of cultivating compassion, gratitude, kindness, focus, joy and self-love through their meditation practice.

Mindfulness wakes you up to your life by teaching you how to build awareness, pay attention, face discomfort, be present, and surf life’s ups and downs. With greater clarity, you make better choices, build stronger relationships (including the one you have with yourself), and begin to notice the beauty that’s been right in front of your nose.

Meditation can also help increase our ability to focus and concentrate. It can help us recondition our minds to break unhealthy habits. In the age of distraction, it’s your superpower.

Meditation has physical benefits too. With regular practice grey matter in the amygdalae (part of our temporal lobes and believed to play a key role in our emotions) shrinks, in turn reducing anxiety and stress. This lowers blood pressure and enhances immunity and the body's ability to heal.

While meditation can be honored as a practice that came out of traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism, today meditation is a universal and secular practice. It can be practiced by anyone at any time in any place.

There’s just one catch: meditation takes practice, which means it takes patience. Think of it in the same way we think of physical fitness: it takes more than twenty sit-ups or running a single mile to get lasting results. The longer you stick with it the easier it becomes and the more benefits you’ll notice.

The best way to learn how to meditate is to do it. The ideas will only get you so far, it must be experienced. If you’ve been meaning to try, start now with these eleven steps. We’re cheering for you.

1. Find a quiet place.

Find a comfortable way to sit on a chair, couch, bench, or cushion in the most calming place you can find. It’s also okay to lie down if that works better for you (for many people, bending their knees as pictured below will offers support to the low back).

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2. Set a timer.

Set a timer for somewhere between one and thirty minutes. We recommend beginners start with five to ten minutes. It’s helpful to remember that you have the rest of your life to build up your time if you choose to make meditation a lifelong practice. In the meantime, it’s amazing to note how much can change when you shift your attention for just a few minutes. 

3. Close your eyes... or keep them open.

This is up to you. Both options have benefits. Most beginners find it easier to close their eyes so they’re not distracted by what’s in front of them. However, if you’re tired or tend toward daydreaming, keeping your eyes open, still and softly focused can help you stay in the present moment. We recommend choosing one and sticking with it for your entire meditation. Over time, you can experiment with both and decide what’s best for you.         

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4. Bring your awareness to your foundation.

Your foundation is all of the parts of you that are touching the ground. Notice how you’ve landed. Does one side feel heavier than the other? Feel free to make small adjustments to create more balance in your foundation. Sometimes this happens just by noticing, sometimes your body isn’t ready to shift and that’s okay too. Come back to your foundation often. When the mind gets busy, we forget that we are in a body so it’s helpful to think about how your body is touching the ground.

5. Once your foundation is set, get grounded.

The act of grounding has two components. The first is to reach down to the ground as if you trying to grow roots. Notice how when you press into the ground into the ground with your foundation it helps you to sit up taller!? The second is to allow yourself to be held by the earth. In other words, stop working so hard.  It’s reassuring to remember that even on the hardest of days, the ground is supporting you (allow yourself to feel it).

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6. Bring your awareness to your spine.

If you're sitting, straighten your spine until you feel tall and dignified. The structure of the spine, when it’s properly aligned, is designed to support you with minimal effort. If you’re not used to sitting like this, it’s natural to feel tired as you re-train your muscles to hold this posture. Do your best each time that you sit and we promise that it’ll get easier.

If you're lying down, find a comfortable position for your spine and allow your body to settle. 

7. Concentrate on your breath.

Concentration is a fundamental tool of meditation because it cultivates focus. We often choose the breath as the object of our concentration because it’s reliably there for us. Notice the rise and fall of every inhale and exhale. There is no need to change the way you’re breathing, though you may notice that the very act of paying attention to your breath will change it. That’s okay. Just stay with your breath. Notice the texture of your breath...is it smooth or jagged? Notice the length of your breath...is it long or short? Notice the balance of your breath...is the inhale longer than the exhale? Notice where you can feel the breath most predominantly...is it most noticeable in your belly, chest, nostrils, or just outside of your nostrils?

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8. When your mind wanders, return to the breath.

It’s natural to start thinking about anything but the breath, so rather than beating yourself up over it, gently invite yourself back to the breath. Over and over. This is the practice. You may need to bring yourself back sixty times a minute. This is how your capacity for concentration builds. The act of noticing that your mind wandered is what we call mindfulness. Many of us spend much of our life on autopilot. We get tangled up in thoughts and stories and we don’t even notice that our mind is spinning, as if it were trapped on a hamster wheel. The power of mindfulness is that we can interrupt the wandering of our mind into unhelpful territories.

9. Hang out in the present moment

Q: Where’s the best place to hide something precious?

A: In the present moment.

Ha-ha! That’s a favorite joke among meditation teachers. The reality is that we often find ourselves ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, and telling stories about ourselves, rather than being here now. The senses are our gateway into the present moment. Be with your senses and notice what you hear, taste, feel, smell, and see. Associations and stories related to the information that you receive through your senses will come up. Resist following that train of thought and just stay with the experience of the senses. That’s how we stay in the present moment. It’s very embodied. It’s not something to think about, it’s somewhere to be. If it becomes too difficult, return to the breath; it’s the anchor of your meditation practice. This radical act of being sweeps the mind of clutter and invites clarity.

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10. Repeat steps 7 through 9 until your timer goes off.

When your timer goes off, gently wiggle your toes and your fingers to shift out of stillness. Take a moment to thank yourself for devoting time to your health and wellbeing. Transition slowly back into your day (waiting a minute or two to jump back into checking messages, etc.), stretch a little, and invite the mindfulness you cultivated to stick with you.

11.  Make time for meditation again the next day.

The benefits of mindfulness and meditation come from consistency. Challenge yourself to meditate every day for a week to discover the gifts that mindfulness will bring into your life. If you like, try our 7 Days of Calm for free. If you choose to use our guided meditations, our Meditation Instructor, Tamara Levitt, will take you through the steps outlined above and more!

Wishing you a beautiful journey.

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Looking for more guidance?

Use the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed.

Calm is beginner friendly and offers programs for all levels of mindfulness experience.

 

 

The Black Pearls of Tahiti

A new sleep story for Calm

 
 
 
 

When the opportunity arose to write travel-inspired Sleep Stories for Calm, I jumped at the chance to share my journey as a volunteer on a Tahitian black pearl farm many years ago.

More than seven years have gone by since my trip to French Polynesia, but I’ll never forget how I felt when I first discovered the pearl farm. I had an overwhelming sense of curiosity and anticipation, as I wondered, What exactly is a black pearl farm anyways? I was living in New Zealand at the time, but before heading back to the U.S., I wanted to spend a little more time in the South Pacific.

During my year in New Zealand, I’d heard about an organization called WWOOF, short for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The idea behind WWOOF (besides its rather comical acronym of a name) is that farms around the world can host volunteers, who perform light tasks for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. To me, it sounded like the perfect way to dig a little deeper into a place, and to form connections I might not have made if I had simply been passing through as a traveler.

I bought a membership for WWOOF and began looking through the different volunteering opportunities that were available — and that’s when I stumbled across a listing in French Polynesia that immediately caught my attention. The listing was for a family-owned black pearl farm called Kamoka, built on a tiny coral atoll called Ahe in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Despite Ahe’s remote location, it was only a short flight away from the country’s capital, Papeete, on the island of Tahiti.

As I stepped off the small Air Tahiti plane at Ahe’s airport and onto its single dusty runway, I knew I was in for an adventure.

 
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The farm, I discovered, was a square wooden building set up on stilts over the lagoon. A narrow, rickety bridge connected the farm to the atoll itself, where a collection of bungalows had been built among the groves of coconut trees. I was delighted to be given my own bungalow to stay in during my three weeks on the farm. The bungalow’s bright blue walls were nearly the same shade of turquoise as the lagoon, which was now only steps away from my new front door.

As I stood inside my bungalow and gazed out the door, the view that filled its frame was everything we always associate with paradise: wide blue skies, an even bluer lagoon, and graceful palm trees, their verdant fronds shimmering in the balmy tropical breeze. But here’s what I enjoyed most about my stay on the pearl farm — instead of being a passive observer of paradise, I loved getting to be an active participant.

For the first time as a traveler, I had a job to do.

 
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Once you have a chance to listen to the new Sleep Story I wrote about my time on Ahe, The Black Pearls of Tahiti,  then you might hear (if you're not already asleep) the scene where I describe going out on the lagoon in a silver, flat-bottomed jon boat. I wrote about the men who work on the farm and how they free-dive meters below the lagoon’s surface to where the oysters are grown, kept inside long wire baskets.

During my first two weeks on the pearl farm, I woke up at sunrise every morning, had a simple breakfast of coffee and crackers, and then went out with the men in the boat. While some workers put on flippers and dove below the surface, I stayed behind to help heave the baskets into the boat and then lower them down again into the water, when they were transferred to a different location in the lagoon. This process went on day after day, morning after morning, as the oysters were tended and cared for — and hopefully, as the pearls inside them continued to grow.

Finally, during my third and last week on the pearl farm, it was time for the harvest, which I also wrote about at the end of my Sleep Story. Again, I had a job to do, and this time, it was drilling holes in up to 200 oysters a day — after they had been grafted with a new nucleus of mother-of-pearl shell and were ready to be hung again in another basket, before being lowered back down into the lagoon.

 
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I loved having a job and feeling like I was a real part of the harvest, but every now and then, I would sneak away from my post to watch another aspect of the harvest unfold. It just so happened that there was a pearl buyer named Kristin on the farm that week, who owned a pearl business in Canada and had traveled all the way to Ahe to buy pearls directly from Kamoka.

At the end of each day during the harvest, Kristin would slowly sift through the pearls that been harvested that day, pausing to consider their size, sheen, and how they might fit together in sets and strands. It was mesmerizing to watch Kristin at work, and to think about the journey that each of these pearls would take — from the oyster to the grafter to the designer, who would soon carry them thousands of miles away to their final destination.

 
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Seven years later, I’m also now a world away from the pearl farm (in both time and distance), but I’m grateful to still be in touch with Kamoka’s owners. Every time I see them share new Tahitian black pearls that are available for sale, I can’t help but smile and remember the time I got to see such pearls at their source.

So, too, do I remember life on the pearl farm — all those early mornings on the lagoon, the long work sessions during the harvest, and how it felt to come home to a bright blue bungalow every evening. I remember the postcard-worthy vista from its front porch, where I would sit for hours each night beneath a sky blazing with stars and listen to the rhythm of the waves only steps away. Long before I discovered a meditation practice of my own, Ahe taught me what it means to slow down, breathe more deeply, and live in greater harmony with the natural world around us.

It was an honor to try and capture some of Ahe’s peace and presence in my first Sleep Story for Calm, and I so hope you enjoy listening to The Black Pearls of Tahiti.

 
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Candace Rose Rardon is a sketch artist and storyteller with a passion for connecting with the world through art. She is also the founder of Moment Catchers, an art and travel blog and global community of artists. Originally from the state of Virginia, she is now based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

To connect with Candace or join the next Moment Catchers monthly sketching challenge, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Sleep Mist

Bedtime just got better.

 
 

We’re delighted to introduce Sleep Mist, Calm’s new pillow spray that we've been developing over the last year. Inspire your senses and drift off to sleep with this dreamy elixir of lavender, chamomile, frankincense and clary sage essential oils.

 

We designed Sleep Mist to be the perfect pair to Sleep Stories, our sleep inducing bedtime tales for adults. Think aromatherapy meets audio-therapy. While both are powerful on their own, their combined value is greater than the sum of their parts, especially when looking to improve sleep and overcome insomnia. In order to drift off to sleep, the busy mind needs to settle into the present moment. Although the here and now is often considered quite elusive, the quickest entry point is through the senses. What do you hear, smell, feel, taste and see. Blending scent with sound is an innovative way to invite yourself into the moment so that you can let go of the day, release tension, and relax your mind.

 

We aim to transform your sleeping environment into one of the most relaxing and soothing places on earth. All you have to do is spray Sleep Mist on your pillow and press play on one of Calm’s 40+ Sleep Stories. We experimented with 1000 different blends and put many pillows to the test while perfecting Sleep Mist's formula. It was worth our time and energy to ensure this soothing scent would invite instant relaxation and linger through the night.

 

We recommend trying Blue Gold, or Lavender Valley, both of these Sleep Stories were inspired by Sleep Mist’s essential ingredient, lavender. Stephen Fry, the British actor, comedian, and writer, whose many credits include providing the voice-over for all seven Harry Potter audiobooks, narrates Blue Gold, set amid the famous lavender fields and sleepy villages of Provence in southern France. Tamara Levitt, Calm’s beloved Meditation Instructor, narrates Lavender Valley, a relaxing journey to discover the source of a heavenly scent.

 

Whether your home, at a hotel, in a tent or on the train, Sleep Mist plus Sleep Stories is a powerful all-natural sleep aid that you can use to ritualize bedtime wherever you find yourself.

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Rest easy knowing that Sleep Mist is cruelty-free and contains no parabens, synthetic fragrances and colors, sulfates, and phthalates. We believe that you and your pillow deserve the best and most natural ingredients!

 

DULLEST MOVIE EVER? WE HOPE SO: BAA BAA LAND IS "ULTIMATE INSOMNIA CURE” 

BREAKING NEWS: Monday, September 18th, 2017: The world premiere of Baa Baa Land will take place at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End on Wednesday, 27th September.

Sheep will grace the red carpet outside the cinema, on the same day that Calm releases the full, eight-hour epic to a global audience via Calm's social media channels.  

For those who lack the time to sit through this unique, eight-hour epic, the occasion will also include the premiere of a five-minute, condensed version of the full-length film, which is unveiled here for the first time. 

 
 

We’re delighted to unveil the poster and trailer for Calm’s first feature film – an eight-hour, slow-motion epic entirely starring sheep and called ... Baa Baa Land

 
 

An eight-hour slow-motion film with no plot, dialogue or actors will have its red-carpet premiere and global web debut this September.

Baa Baa Land is a contemplative epic, entirely starring sheep. It is also our first movie, making Calm, as far as we know, the first app ever to produce a feature film.

The film is itself a meditation, a dream, an enchantment ... a tonic for the soul.

It is also an example of “Slow Cinema”, a genre of art films known for long takes, slow pace and lack of action or narrative.

“It’s better than any sleeping pill – the ultimate insomnia cure”, says Alex Tew, Baa Baa Land’s executive producer and co-founder of Calm.

Is it also the dullest movie ever made? “We think so”, says Peter Freedman, its producer. “We hope that audiences will too.”

Like the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies before it, Baa Baa Land is financed with American money but made in the UK by mainly British talent. It was shot entirely on location in Essex, a few miles from London. 

“We’re in discussion about U.S. and wider distribution and in talks with an American TV channel”, says Michael Acton Smith, its other executive producer and Calm’s other co-founder..  “We don’t expect it to break box-office records but believe there is at least a niche audience for it.”

“In a world of constant stress and information overload, of anxious days and restless nights ... comes the chance at last ... to pause ... to breathe ... to calm our racing minds and fretful souls... to sit and stare ... at sheep."

 
 

“Baa Baa Land is the first screen epic entirely starring sheep. A cast of hundreds... all of them sheep. Count them if you can – but don’t stress if you can’t. Sit back, wind down, drift off ... to sheep.”

Baa Baa Land has no car-chases, explosions or star names. All it has is sheep and fields.   

Long, loving takes – some up to an hour long – show the sheep in question, standing around in fields, doing very little.  

“Nothing happens ... for eight hours”, says Acton Smith. “Glorious!”

While the average camera shot in Hollywood action movies like The Bourne Supremacy lasts two seconds, the average shot in Baa Baa Land last over 30 minutes.

Apart from some music over the film’s credits, the only soundtrack is the sound of sheep making ... the sort of noises that lend the film its name. 

Baa Baa Land is no relation to La La Land, the recent Hollywood hit with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Its poster, however, does pay an affectionate tribute to La La Land’s and to a line associated with the latter, declaring, “Here’s to the ones who dream ... of sheep”.

It is, if anything, more of a hommage to the films of Andy Warhol, the late American avant-garde artist and film-maker. “Many laughed at Empire, Warhol’s eight hour, slow-motion movie of The Empire State Building on its first showing in 1964”, says Acton Smith. “But it’s now considered a classic.”

 
 

Baa Baa Land was conceived by its producer, Peter Freedman and directed, shot and edited on a “modest budget” by Garth Thomas, a British director of arts films.

Baa Baa Land features the Welsh Half-Breed sheep of Layer Marney Lamb near Tiptree in Essex. The farm’s sheep graze on local parklands and water meadows at the low density of three ewes per acre.

“No sheep were harmed – or consulted – in the making of this film.” 

Baa Baa Land’s length of eight hours may put off some but it makes the film only the nineteenth longest film of all time – five minutes shorter than Empire, Warhol’s 1964 film, and the same length as his 1967 work, The Imitation of Christ.

The longest movie ever made is Logistics, a Swedish experiential art film made in 2012, and lasting 857 hours or 35 days and 17 hours.

Baa Baa Land’s rivals for the title of the dullest film ever made include Paint Drying, a 10.5 hour movie about drying paint, classified last year by the British Board of Film Censors as “suitable for all”.

 
 

Stephen Fry's Exclusive Sleep Story

 
 
 

We challenge anyone to stay awake for all 24 minutes of this sleep inducing masterpiece by Stephen Fry

Sleep Stories have been a huge hit in the Calm app but we think that Blue Gold, narrated by Stephen Fry, is the best one yet. Listen to the two minute audio trailer above or enjoy the full Sleep Story in the Calm app

Stephen Fry is a national treasure in Britain, an Emmy winner, and the narrator of all 7 Harry Potter books. If you've yet to hear his soothing and distinctive voice, you're in for a treat.

Close your eyes and let Fry take you on a mellifluous journey through the lavender fields and the sleepy villages of Provence.

"Lifting your hand towards your face, once more that spellbinding scent fills your nose, slowing your breathing, relaxing every single muscle in your body. You long to stay, but know you cannot. But no matter. For, from now on, every time you smell the reassuring scent of France’s blue gold, you will be instantly transported back to this site. Back to the sunset where the fields truly do glow in an almost impossibly deep tone of purple haze, in these the rolling foothills of ever-peaceful Provence" — Phoebe Smith

Access the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed. You can download it here.