Meditation has always weirded me out.
So, when I overheard one of my colleagues talking about their “zen” Weekend Meditation Retreat the other day, I almost did a double take.
Because in my mind, people who Meditate also wear Birkenstocks, have blonde dreadlocks, and read Jack Kerouac. Last time I checked, Meditation was not “cool” and “refreshing” to 20-somethings.
…Did I miss something here?
To me, Meditation was a practice that always circled a bit too close to the edge of Kumbaya magic. Like Yoko Ono shit or something Steve Jobs was into circa 1972.
But, after I overheard my colleague explaining how renewed she felt after this Zen Weekend, I figured I would try it out. What could be the worst that could happen, right? If Famous People do it, there has to be some merit — unless it’s like Scientology, or something…
So, after incorporating Meditation into my daily schedule, I have to say, I’ve become a Belieber.
Meditation really does work.
I noticed a couple of changes right off the bat when I started meditating for 10 minutes a day (10 minutes!! — how long it takes you to get out of bed), like these:
- Better focus: As I’ve been getting old(er) I’ve been mildly nervous that I’m losing my memory. Meditating helped me focus on what’s important, and let the other thoughts float away. In this fast-paced world where you can get any answer from your device, I started retaining information better in my mind.
- Deeper sleep: We’re always looking for the most efficient use of our time — and no matter how long we do it, sleep never feels good enough. Yet, meditating did make me feel refreshed (peaceful even?) when I woke up.
- Less stress: Meditation teaches you how to Let Go. Whether it’s a late train, or a difficult meeting I have been going with the flow without much extra effort.
- General relaxation & clarity: I can’t really place my finger on this one, but it feels like my mind has been cleared of all this gunk that’s built up over time. It feels…fresh.
Here are some thoughts if you should want to try this Kumbaya Magic out for yourself:
Figure out your Meditation purpose
Do you want to sleep better? Are you super stressed at work? Are you just interested in being more Zen?
Meditation can serve a wide variety of purposes. If you’re a beginner, and frankly don’t know what you want — start with something general.
Most of the time, people come into Meditation with a lot of misconceptions:
- It is not this holy, magical time to sit around and think big thoughts.
- It is not an automatic fix to sleeping better.
- It is not some Om-chanting, Dalai Lama shit.
Meditation is for being more present, focused, relaxed and happy.
But, who am I to tell you that. Figure It out for yourself.
Start with a Guide
No one expects you to be a Meditation Guru right off the bat.
There are plenty of apps, podcasts and in-person sessions that can help you through this practice. Of course, choosing the right one depends on your purpose (see #1), but here’s a few that I tried out:
- Headspace: App. Free. 10-minute sessions with British Andy who has a soothing voice, and some funny videos too. This was by far the easiest one to use as a beginner.
- Oprah & Deepak’s Meditation Experience: App. Free (kind of). A bit disappointing, especially given that Deepak and Oprah are my two biggest heroes…ever. ~20 minute sessions that are featured a bit out of order. If you’re pretty committed to Meditating, I would try purchasing a few sessions, because Deepak is just…Deepak.
- Meditation Oasis. Podcast. Free. A little on the wonky side, but if you’re just into listening to some relaxing music, and maybe a guided meditation or two, try this one out.
- Kadampa Meditation Center (NYC). In-person sessions. Free — $15. If in-person sessions are your only way to go, find a place like Kadampa. I was a bit intimidated at first, but 1.5 hours goes by pretty quickly when you’re in a room full of dedicated Meditators & a Real Life Guru a few feet away. You walk out feeling like you’re on a cloud. Trust me.
Try out different types of settings
Meditation is a constantly evolving process.
During my first couple of days, I tried out a bunch of different scenarios — before bed or right when I woke up; laying down or on the subway; in the middle of something stressful or when my mind was completely fresh.
I realized a couple of things. First, I did not do well meditating right before bed — I just ended up peacefully napping with my headphones still in. Also, I preferred being comfortable (on a couch or sitting in bed), rather than in a chair. It felt too much like “work” if I wasn’t comfortable.
But hey, this is your time. Figure out what works best for you.
Make it a habit
Like anything, the beginning sucks.
Meditating is no different. But, a lot of programs have multiple-day “challenges” that help you make this a daily part of your schedule.
My one piece of advice — don’t overload yourself.
Ten minutes per day is just fine. Starting small provides no different outcomes than long stretches of time.
Frame it in your mind as your time to take a little break from the World, bring on some relaxation and internal peace. So, You do You.
When the Everyday Grind, and the wake up-work-eat-sleep-repeat routine becomes too much, take a step back. Be Mindful. And, remember that you have control over your thoughts, your mind, and your sense of overall happiness.
We’re all in this together.
If you enjoyed this — check out my blog, On Adulting, for more observations about this weird time as a 20-something. And feel free to make the little heart green 🙂