A simple guide to meditation
I’ve been meditating for about three years now, and it’s amazing how tangible the benefits have been–especially when I think about how stressed out I get without it. When I’m regularly meditating, I feel more relaxed and less stressed. I sleep better. I wake up more refreshed. I have fewer headaches, fewer body aches, fewer fits of shortness of breath. Essentially, I just feel better when I meditate.
More than anything, I find meditation to be a really valuable mental and physical escape from the constant sensory overload of everyday life. It’s a chance to take a break from the screens and devices, to turn off social media and the to-do lists. Even if the term “meditation” is a little too hippie-dippie for you: I highly encourage taking a few minutes every day to close your eyes and take out your headphones and just be. Because if you don’t make it a habit, it won’t happen–and it’s a little bit scary to think how dramatically technology affects our every waking second these days. With that in mind, here’s an overview of my favorite meditation tips, tricks and methods.
A few general tips:
- Meditate in the morning. My general morning routine: wake up, shower, meditate, get ready/make lunch/etc. I turn my phone on airplane mode before I go to sleep, and don’t take it off until I’m dressed and ready to go. I also like to sit and meditate after I shower so that my hair can dry naturally a little before I blow dry and straighten.
- Find a comfortable seat. I like there to be a comfortable balance between sitting up straight and tall, and not having to work too hard to maintain my posture. I either sit cross-legged on a pillow on a yoga mat on the floor in my room, or I sit cross-legged on my bed leaning against a pillow on the wall. No matter where or how, just find a seat that you can maintain comfortably for the length of meditation.
- Wear stretchy clothes. Or at the very least: don’t wear anything uncomfortable or too tight.
- Find the time. Now that I’m practicing TM, I meditate for 20 minutes twice a day (once in the morning before I go to work, and once late in the afternoon in my company’s wellness room or on the High Line). I used to meditate for 10 minutes every morning, and what I realized was that I can always find 10 minutes in the early morning: I’m lucky that I can be 10 minutes “late” to work and no one notices. It’s more about establishing priorities than not having the time.
- Listen without labeling. You’re never going to find a distraction-free space: in my apartment, I can hear the traffic on the BQE and the birds chirping and my roommate making coffee in the next room. I try to accept that these are all just sounds: not good sounds or bad sounds, and concentrate on my inner self more than the outside world.
Focus on the breath
This is one of the easiest ways to start meditating: simply pay attention to the breath. Inhale and exhale through the nose, feel the breath move up through the nose and down the throat and into the lungs and back out. I like count to four as I inhale, hold the breath for a count of five and exhale for a count of six: extending the exhale to be longer than the inhale can be especially powerful. Whenever you lose focus, come back to the breath.
Focus on a mantra
Similar to focusing on the breath, you can focus on a word or a set of words or an inspirational quote or a sound or a chant. You repeat and repeat and repeat until all of the external distractions are gone. I find it sometimes helpful to combine the mantra with the breath, to say one word on inhale and one as I hold and one the exhale.
Ideal life meditation
This isn’t necessarily an everyday meditation practice, but I love the occasional guided meditation–and they’re so easy to get access to with the internet these days! Insight Timer app has a few wonderful guided meditations, but one of my favorites is from my acupuncturist and friend Erin: this one on Your Ideal Life can be a really powerful way to cut through the clutter and figure out what you desire (especially recommended if you’re in a bit of a crossroads). Make sure your journal is handy!
6 phase meditation
One of the most awesome perks about working at Vimeo is the like-minded people–so much so that I’m even in Klub Med, a meditation group that meets once a week. We’ve done this 6 phase guided meditation in a group before, and while I think it moves a little fast, it still sets up a really nice framework that you’d be able to use in your own personal meditations.
Metta loving kindness meditation
Metta meditation is a way to evoke a “boundless warm-hearted feeling” through reciting specific words and phrases. There are myriad variations but I’ve always practiced it like this: starting with myself, then on someone I love, then on an acquaintance, then on someone in my community, then on the world at large. The sequence is: “Let me (or my boyfriend, or my coworker, or the lady who does my dry cleaning, or on a bus driver I had once in Thailand) be safe and protected from harm. Let me (etc.) be healthy and strong. Let me be happy and peaceful. Let me be at ease with the conditions in my life.” You finish with such a warm fuzzy feeling and so much increased happiness and patience toward the world!
Although I find it necessary to incorporate a daily solo meditation into my everyday routine, it can be really nice to supplement that practice with a group session. I’ve taken part in group meditation on yoga retreats and yoga studios; it’s worth checking into your local yoga, meditation or Buddhist center to see if regular group meditation is offered. Dharma Punx is a great option in the NYC area!
I only started TM last week, but it’s already been substantially life-changing. The method itself is just insanely easy and effective: you can start meditating at a deep level almost immediately after learning the technique. In the intro, they compare it to getting to the stillness of the ocean floor when your regular daily mind is like the constant crashing and whirling of the surface waves. The caveat: it’s expensive, and honestly, can feel a little cult-like. Alas! If you’re looking to really change your meditation practice or if you are a complete beginner and want to get started, I think TM is a really awesome option for many walks of life. At the very least, it can’t hurt to attend an intro session! (Side note: I’m not an affiliate for TM, but I honestly believe in the method.)
Do you meditate? Have you ever considered it?