Rohan Gunatillake is the entrepreneur and author behind the company Mindfulness Everywhere. Rohan has been described as one of the most original and creative voices in modern mindfulness and meditation. His company are the creators behind the best-selling app buddhify, an app that has topped the charts in over forty countries, as well as Kara, Sleepfulness and Cards for Mindfulness. On top of this, Rohan Gunatillake is also the author of upcoming book Modern Mindfulness which is due out in January of 2017. Wired magazine recognised Rohan’s potential, when they named him in their Smart List of 50 people who will change the world. As a big fan of the mindfulness movement, interviewing one of the leading minds in Rohan Gunatillake was a real pleasure. Please enjoy my interview with Rohan Gunatillake…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I make meditation apps.
I am currently reading Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, as I am a big fan of fantasy. I’m also reading No Drama Discipline by Tanya Bryson and Dan Siegel which is a brilliant parenting book for this new dad. Finally, I’m also reading The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla, a collection of essays about what it’s like to be not white in Britain.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Going Solo by Roald Dahl. The more I think about Dahl, the more I realise how much of a literary genius he was. Flying Solo was one of his autobiographical works, covering his time as a WWII pilot. I love his stories and this book (together with Boy) gave me an insight to the man behind the stories.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Not a doctor. Children of Sri Lankan parents will know why that is!
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I’d be amazed that a girl liked me enough to marry me and have my child.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
The Majjhima Nikaya by Budda Gotama. It is perhaps the most important collection of the Buddha’s teachings and contains a universe of things to discover, from the hilarious to the very profound.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I am a big audiobook user and will listen to them in the late evening before bedtime. Being a new father means I have less time for reading than I used to. I do however have a favourite chair for reading physical books and I very rarely, if ever, read e-books.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, mainly because of the central idea of decoupling the relationship between time and income. Having been a consultant for many years, the idea of making products which earnt me money while I was asleep was very compelling.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
My late father wasn’t much of a reader at all but out of nowhere he got really into the works of the wonderful Indian writer R.K. Narayan. Narayan’s comic but poignant stories of Indian life are totally timeless and when reading them I think they made my father remember his early life growing up in Sri Lanka.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The book I’ve recommended the most is Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It’s a perfect and very short introduction to meditation.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I prefer fiction.
Do you think reading is important?
Yes. And in particular making the effort to read books outside of your comfort zone.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
The best book I’ve read in the last 6 months is Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. The world that Mieville creates is quite remarkable – fantastic but utterly believable.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
All books are real. But I prefer audiobooks and those made of paper over those on screens.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
No book should have to be read by law. Apart from perhaps the Highway Code.
If I had to pick a single book that has had the biggest impact on my life, I would select The Famished Road by Ben Okri. It ignited a love of fiction in my early teenage years that opened me up to new worlds.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al. I don’t have much of a background with comics but reading this series a couple of years ago blew me away.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Probably lots more parenting books!
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Let me spell that for you. When you have a surname like mine, this ends up being one of your catchphrases!