From the outside, meditation can look passive. You sit quietly with your eyes closed and take a deep breath. But anyone who has spent time meditating knows how active and deliberate it can be. In silence, your heart rate slows and your cortisol levels – the stress-related hormone – decrease. Regular practice can help with depression, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia. It's like stretching, but for your mind.
How to start may be unclear: should you be sitting on the floor? Use app? Sing or even come up with a mantra? And how long is long enough? If you don't read further, the main takeaway from meditation teachers and psychologists is that if it works for you, it works. (And if you want more specific tips on how to get started, you've come to the right place.)
There is no right way to meditate.
When you think about what meditation looks like, what do you think about? A lotus position, a yoga mat, a beautiful wood-lined room? If this is how you feel most comfortable, that's great. However, some people prefer to lie flat on their back, while others choose to sit in a chair. The key is to find a position where your body can feel strong, yet neutral.
Toni Blackman, an artist who puts together hip-hop mixes to change her mind and energy, was initially reluctant to think about her music-based practice meditation. "There's that stigma," she said. "Using the word" meditation "without using the word" prayer "can feel airy and fairy."
After long conversations with friends, Ms. Blackman, who lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, decided to record her own music and use it to teach meditation classes.
"Hip-hop is about being open," she said. “Getting open means that you are in a trance, you are in a zone, you are in the zone. Your body starts to take over and you surrender to what is going through you. “Now she sees every activity as an opportunity for meditation, from running to cooking.
Meditation is an exercise, not a sprint.
"It's difficult for everyone when they start practicing," Ellie Burrows Gluck, co-founder and executive director of MNDFL, a New York meditation studio, wrote in an email. "When you go to the gym or learn to play an instrument, you can't lose 10 pounds or play Mozart in a single session."
Create a framework for yourself by first choosing a time of day and a place to meditate. You should also start slowly: if you were training for a marathon, you wouldn't start with a 10 mile run.
“Ten minutes is great. Five minutes is great, ”he said Sara Lazar, the director of the Lazar Lab for Meditation Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. "There is no" should "."
Use caution if you have a history of mental illness or are going through a difficult time. People with post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder should work with a meditation guide or teacher, said Dr. Lazar.
Create your space.
Set up an area devoted to meditation in one corner of your home. Some people call this an altar and add plants, stones, or candles to it. If that's your thing, you've got full speed ahead. If not, just choose a place in your home that is quiet and makes you feel calm.
"I don't think people have to do anything special," said Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center and author of The Little Book of Being.
A separate room is important, however, said Tony Lupinacci, a 35-year-old yoga and meditation instructor who leads retreats and trainings around the world. "This is not your bed, maybe not even your couch," he said.
Try an app.
This may seem counterintuitive – phones are often the enemy of calm. However, working through your first few meditation sessions with a guide can help you find your groove. (The same article written a few decades ago would have suggested that you get some good meditation tapes.)
This is because meditation doesn't sit still for a few minutes. It is part of a broader philosophy with thousands of years of history and education.
Mr. Lupinacci has been against apps for a long time and still prefers to work directly with his students (and his own teacher). But he really enjoys Calm, which offers a seven-day free trial and then an annual subscription fee of $ 69.99.
There is also Insight Timer which is free and popular too. Or contact Wirecutter, a product recommendations website for the New York Times that recently updated their guide to meditation apps. Headspace (which costs $ 69.99 per year after a free two-week trial) comes first.
And just let go.
They do this for you to make you feel more solid in yourself and in the world. Just get immersed in what your practice is for the day.
If you don't want to use an app, you can try Visualization like imagining yourself in a calming and beautiful place. Or just breathe in six times and exhale six times. Take care of your body – where your legs hit the floor, what your spine feels like – and listen to yourself.
Chris Toulson, a 35-year-old meditation specialist who runs the @meditation_and_mindfulness Instagram account, warned not to expect too much from a session. "Every day will be different simply because you went through different things that day," he said.
"It doesn't clear the mind so much because it's impossible," he continued. “Our brain is not designed to be empty. We cannot control what goes into our head. What we can control is how we deal with it. "
Mr. Toulson, who lives outside of London, suggests treating your thoughts and feelings as clouds: when you meditate, imagine yourself looking up at the sky. Sometimes the clouds are light and fluffy. Sometimes they are dark. Either way, you're downstairs, watching them, feeling the grass under your fingers and watching the world go by.