Being based in LA means our team is exposed to all manner of kooky lifestyle fads, but recently we’ve been receiving more and more event invitations that list an evening of light bites, fresh cocktails and…group meditation. The trend has even surfaced in the Hamptons. If that’s not proof that finding your inner light has gone main-stream, we don’t know what is. But what exactly is meditation? What can it do for you? And how will you ever find the time to sit quietly for 20 or 30 minutes a day when your schedule is already so crazy? We asked both a pro and a devoted amateur for their calm, blissed-out advice.
What You Need To Know
There is no right way to meditate, but there are many ways. Try them all to find the way that’s best for you. On one end of the spectrum, mindfulness meditation has you concentrate on the immediate present through guided thoughts and measured breathing. At the other end, mantra meditation urges you to rest your mind entirely by repeating a mantra, or short phrase, until you drift off somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. Some methods require a bit of research and adherence to community guidelines, like Zazen or Transcendental Meditation (TM). Others require nothing more than a quiet space to sit alone.
Meditation requires self-discipline. “The more you do it, the more you want to do it, and for longer sessions,” says Brandie Bowman, a New York-based fit model who has practiced Vedic meditation for more than two years. “Start at five minutes twice a day, when you wake up and before you fall asleep. Every few days add a minute or two.” Can’t summon the will to bliss out first thing in the AM? Find a park bench at lunch time or an empty conference room at the office. If you can steal 10 minutes for a Starbucks run, you can find time to meditate.
Before you meditate, get the vibe right. Start with a comfortable seat on the floor with back support or in an upright chair. You want to feel relaxed but not so reclined that you fall asleep. Some practices, like Zazen meditation, encourage a lotus pose with straight back and hands resting on the knees. Others, such as Vedic meditation, prefer both feet on the floor so you feel firmly grounded. If possible, dim the lights and turn off any distractions like music or the TV.
Find your meditation tribe. Nearly every discipline has teachers and gurus available to guide you—alone and in groups. And with the exception of TM, which is notorious for its exorbitant entry fee, nearly all those lessons are free or low-cost. A “teacher” can be as low-maintenance as an app on your phone. (We love Insight Timer.) If you know you want to commit, instructors such as Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation in New York, teach multi-day courses, in which you learn the history and science behind meditation and gain access to ongoing support, as well as a community of like-minded meditators.
Let meditation guide you, not the other way around. You probably won’t reach the fourth state of consciousness in your first session. And your mind will often wander, even with your eyes squeezed shut and “OM” racing through your mind. “Thoughts will pop into your head,” says Bowman. “Let them come, and then gently let them go. Don’t fight them.” The point of meditation is to give your mind a break—from stress, from obligation and even from focus. Just close your eyes, and take a deep breath.