do something for yourself
When you consider the benefits (reduced stress, better sleep, sharper mind), it’s no wonder that so many rhapsodize about the transformative power of Meditation. But despite its immense popularity, the ancient practice can still seem intimidating. Well, you can exhale. Meditation is easy to begin and simple to maintain, and it can readily be integrated into our busy lives.
NO, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE A VOW OF SILENCE
What’s older than Buddhism by thousands of years? Meditation. But for something so ancient, it’s remarkably adaptable. “The word used to come with this baggage of being part of a religion, but today that’s just no longer the case,” says Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk who runs Headspace, a health and meditation website. Corporate figures, athletes, and tech executives have taken up the practice, attracted by the promise of stress reduction and enlightenment.
STICK TO THE PRESENT TENSE
“When we’re not in the present moment, we’re lost in the past or worrying about the future,” says Diana Winston, the director of mindfulness education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. “We’re planning, catastrophizing, or wishing we had done something differently. Learning to be in the moment takes us out of this state.”
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH
Sit comfortably anywhere you want – on a mat, a cushion, a chair. (Just don’t lie down, since you could fall asleep.) Close your eyes, or leave them slightly open and rest your gaze on a spot in front of you. “Bring your attention to the sensations of breathing in and out,” says Sharon Salzberg, a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.
CAN YOU FEEL IT?
“It isn’t supposed to feel any particular way,” says Winston, though people often report feeling calmer and more at peace both during and after meditation. Paula Tursi, director of Reflections Center for Conscious Living and Yoga in New York City, calls the feeling comfortable, “like sitting in the hot tub at the end of a long day…”
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
Like many newcomers to meditation, you may be inclined to ask, “Seriously, I’m supposed to do this every day?” Ah, but you might want to. As with the body, exercising your mind is all about consistency, and results can be swift.
TAKE IT EASY
The only wrong way to meditate is to create impossible expectations, criticize yourself for not living up to them, and then give up altogether. Saying, “I couldn’t make my mind blank” or “I couldn’t have only beautiful thoughts” doesn’t matter; truly, it’s all about moving on and beginning again.
FREE YOUR MIND AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW
You’ll likely notice changes in your day-to-day life during the time you’re not meditating. “Some first signs are sleeping better at night, feeling calmer and less anxious during the day, and staying focused and less scattered”, states Bob Roth, the executive director of David Lynch Foundation, which offers Transcendental Meditation training to schools, prisons, and homeless shelters. You may not feel a thing; friends, family members, and colleagues are often the first to notice that you’re less snippy or more attractive during conversations.
VOICES IN YOUR HEADPHONES
Just checking out of your routine is a fine way to start meditating. But a little instruction can help too! Check out these APPS and let you’re smartphone be your first guide to mediation.
1.Meditate This! -(podcast; free)
2. Headspace -(app; free) Puddicombe’s ‘Take 10’ series offers easy-to-follow ten-minute guided meditations in his soothing English accent
3. Simply Being- (app; $1.99) Founders of the popular Meditation Oasis podcast, provide a choice of timed, guided meditations, with options for no music, spa music, or nature sounds
4. Breathe2Relax- (app; free) Straightforward tutorials on deep breathing from The National Center for Telehealth and Technology
5. The Mindfulness App- (app; $1.99) This stress-reduction app offers guided and silent meditations, daily reminders and a meditation timer
6. Omvana- (app; free) This app lets you play DJ, with a mixing board you can use to infuse your meditation with audio tracks, soothing sounds, and relaxed beats
7. Zencast– (podcast; free) weekly Buddhist talks from experts
*Excerpts reprinted from “Burnt Out? The Busy Girl’s Guide to Meditation” by Meirav Dewash;
Allure Magazine, December, 2014.