So goes the sound of my newfound hobby: meditating. After years of tentatively reading about it and dabbling in it here and there at yoga classes, I think I’ve finally become one of those people – those people who meditate. But those people are weird, right? How do they have time to focus on their breathing and zen out? Obviously they don’t have kids! Or so I thought. Then I became one of them.
Today as I found myself fidgeting on the couch, craving a quick meditation session, I began to think about the tips and tools and books that have planted this desire to meditate within me, and I thought I’d share a few of those with all of you, in case you’re also a dabbler or just curious about what all that ohming is about.
First, just a quick note about the benefits of meditation. It’s not necessarily about enlightenment (although it could be), but it’s actually a very medically proven tool to heal the body and calm the mind, so says the Mayo Clinic, and I’m going to go ahead and call them experts on the matter. It’s also not necessarily about ancient Eastern gurus (although it could be), but more about just quieting your mind and allowing your brain and body to sync. You don’t necessarily have to clear your mind of all thought (although you could) but can simply meditate on a thought, a Bible verse, or an inspirational quote you found on Pinterest.
The first book that really sparked my interest was – what else? – “Eat, Pray, Love.” Trekking to India to learn the art of meditation sounded divine, but definitely not in my budget. And quite honestly, I would probably break out in hives if I had to sit quietly for hours on end. My feet fall asleep! I need to move a little!
The book that made it a bit more tangible for me was “Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm Back to My Life” by Priscilla Warner. It’s funny and she’s a real person starting from scratch. This was a great intro for me into what types of meditation are out there, and why I don’t have to master any of them to reap the benefits of some zen time. That’s a good thing, because I quickly found out that I don’t have the attention span of a gnat, much less a guru.
Enter “Meditation Made Easy,” by Lorin Roche. This book opened my eyes to all the little ways we already meditate in our daily lives. All those times you just closed your eyes, felt the sun on your face, and exhaled. Those times you read a passage in a book that really resonated with you and you pondered it for a few minutes before moving on to the next chapter. Those times you wrapped your hands around a hot mug of coffee and slowly inhaled the steam, savoring the smell and comfort of your morning java. Roche explains that meditation is simply doing those things intentionally. Well hey, I can do that!
After I decided I kind of know what meditation is and roughly how to do it, I needed some help in making it a habit. Remember that fidgeting on the couch I mentioned? Yeah, I’m not a naturally serene person. I need to move. I need to think. I need to be in motion. So sitting with my legs crossed and eyes closed for more than about 90 seconds was going to be a real challenge.
Somehow I discovered a free meditation series that Oprah and Deepak Chopra do together twice a year. The theme changes, but basically you get an intro by Oprah – and you KNOW she can motivate! – then Deepak gives a little life lesson about the theme and leads the meditation. It’s a three-week series, and you only have a few days to listen to each meditation before they go away, so there’s an incentive to stay on top of it.
I also subscribe to the Meditation Oasis podcast. This is a collection of guided meditations by Mary Maddux that are so soothing they’ve proven to be better than a sleeping pill on long flights!
Finally, I just discovered the Insight Timer app, thanks to a passing mention from a friend. The app does a ton of stuff, including connecting you to the entire world of those meditating! There’s a community of app members – 1,249 are meditating at the very moment I write this! – and you can add friends to your own personal network too. There are also special-interest forums for questions or insight from other members. I’m a member of “Women Meditate Worldwide,” “Beginner’s Mind,” “Awaken,” and “Eating Mindfully” (don’t judge!). I love that after I complete a meditation, it tells me how many people were meditating with me at that same time – talk about connectivity! The app is loaded with guided meditations and a timer for your own meditations. It also tracks your progress and will send you reminders to meditate daily.
I can’t say my life has changed or I’ve suddenly discovered the meaning of the universe – maybe a few more sessions with Oprah? – but I think it’s a good thing that I want to close my eyes and just BE when the day gets hectic. Surely there’s a reason I’m beginning to crave those daily escapes.
What about you? Do you have any tips, books, or apps you use to meditate? Please share!