How To: An Intro to Meditation

It's no secret that I've been doing yoga for years, and in 2009, I lived in an ashram and studied yoga for 6-weeks.  To say it was a "life changing experience" is an understatement.  A small group of people wanting to study yoga lived in a bubble -- no TV, we cooked all of our meals, no coffee (tea only), no sugar and yoga/meditation twice a day.  Not a sustainable lifestyle, at least not for me, here in DC, but it taught me to be present, everyday and in every moment, patience and stillness. 

Years have passed since I lived "off the grid," and the further away I get from that time, the more I've let the craziness of daily life get in the way of serenity and a peaceful mind.  For years, literally, I've been telling myself that I at least need to get back to daily mediation.  There's a soothing, quiet hum that envelopes my body and mind that I've missed. 

I know, I know.  Mediation sounds a little hokie, but there are several studies that have come out touting it's benefits from everything from weight loss to OCD to recovering from addiction.  Many a celeb -- think Oprah, Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Aniston, Hugh Jackman, Russell Simmons -- say meditation helps calm their nerves, find success and grounds them in their hectic lives.  

There are several kinds of meditation and a variety of different ways to meditate, but I simply wanted to get back-to-basics: sit quietly, (try to) let thoughts vanish as quickly as they popped into consciousness and find that stillness I'd discovered so many years ago. To be honest, I've downloaded a few apps, as well as a book on Transcendental Mediation and here are the things I've found the most helpful.

  1. If you want to try it, just do it.  There's no better time than now.  Of course it's going to feel weird -- you're trying something new!  But if it's something from which you believe you'll, then give it a chance. 
  2. Decide on a time. Morning's are the best, but evenings, before bed, work as well. If you work in an office, it's more challenging to carve out time in the middle of the day, but whenever is best for you, plan it as if it's a meeting that you can't miss.  If I'm really stressed, I'll put in my earphone and listen to a quick guided meditation -- in the bathroom, at my desk, almost anywhere. 
  3. Pick a spot in your home. It doesn't have to be an elaborate set up, but make sure you can stay seated, comfortably, for the entire time. You don't want to fidget and struggle to find comfort. 
  4. Guided or quiet. Choose which works best for you.  Better yet, try both.  Guided is nice, because it gives you something to focus on, but you might find the voice irritating (guilty). Quiet is nice, but I find it more challenging when I was new to the practice.  If you go with quiet, try not to judge your thoughts, rather acknowledge them and then let them go.  Easier said than done, but with practice it works. 
  5. Start small. Start with 3 or 5-minutes.  It will seem like an eternity, but it's doable.  Download an app (like Mindfulness or Simply Being) which has a timer or select one of their guided meditations.  

Another easy way to ease into meditation is simple mindfulness.  What does this mean? In simplest form, being present in every moment.  For example, when riding the bus or metro to work, notice the things around you -- the sights, sounds and people, instead of playing CandyCrush.  Focus on the food in front of you during lunchtime instead of answering emails, posting on Instagram and eating as quickly as possible.  Make sense?   

Something that works well for you? Are there any apps that you like?