Meditation 101: Let’s Make This a Little Less Daunting
More like 1 Ohm 1 am I right?
Everyyyyone is meditating. That sounds healthy and cool. The thing about the notion that “everyone’s doing it,” of course, is that everyone’s doing it well. Everyone’s figured out how to reap the benefits, sit on the floor without their butts falling asleep, make time in their days (some people, twice-a) and chant without feeling like a ding dong.
I have tried at least five times to stick with a meditation practice; at my best I was proud that I sat still for some minutes without a phone. At my worst I woke up startled from an accidental nap wondering, “What the hell?!” Turns out meditating is not something you’re “good” or “bad” at — at first, you’re clueless, but this isn’t really an inherent skill. It’s something you work on. It’s something that apps can facilitate, but may be more beneficial with the help of a teacher. It’s called a journey for a reason: you’ll get there so long as you don’t stop believin’….
Because the 80s rock band was unavailable, I sought the help of professionals at MNDFL. It’s a NYC-based studio that offers guided meditations by men and women who are trained in the art of meditation. The gist of what I wanted to know: can a “normal,” stressed, non-enlightened person who sometimes forgets to recycle actually get into meditation — and how? Answers, tips and feel good realness below courtesy of MNDFL’s founder, Lodro Rinzler.
Guys, you/me/us/we can do this.
Top 5 things you recommend for a beginner to get started?
Take a class. It’s easier to stick with the habit of meditation if you have someone guiding you through it for the first couple of classes and helping you build a foundation, like with yoga. After that, then you can try the apps apps. (Ed note: Don’t know of any classes near you? Meditationfinder.com looks cool!)
Work with an instructor trained within a lineage or tradition — not someone who made up a practice on their own. Just as you would with a doctor, it’s important that your instructor’s teachings are based off an an existing framework of knowledge so that it’s not just coming from his or her own experience, but from information that has been time-tested over hundreds of thousands of years.
Pick up a good meditation book. I recommend Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s “Turning the Mind into an Ally,” or “Start Here Now: An Open-Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation” by Sarah Piver.
Build it into existing routines like your getting up in the morning routine or your getting home from work routine.
What about some don’ts?
Don’t expect that you will automatically feel the benefits after three times. Meditation takes time for it to have an effect on you. In the same way you wouldn’t go to the gym three times and get disappointed that you didn’t lose 10 pounds, you can’t get disappointed if you don’t feel complete peace after three times of meditating.
Don’t study with someone who made up their own meditation – even if it works for them, that doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
Don’t expect to feel a certain way after meditation. However you feel is fine.
How would a beginner with no access to a guided meditation begin her practice?
What’s the least amount of meditation time necessary for someone to feel the benefits?
I recommend 10-20 minutes a day, but try to do it every day. In the same way you would pick up a musical instrument, the consistency is what allows you to progress over time.
Is there a limit? Can you overdo it?
I say this a lot, we hear this a lot. Help: “I am very busy! I already wake up earlier than I’d like for the gym, I work non-stop, don’t take a lunch hour, barely get up to pee, work late, then come home and go to bed. I DON’T HAVE TIME TO MEDITATE.”
Not to sound insensitive, but we all have ten minutes a day. I work with students who have full time jobs and three kids and they get up early to meditate for ten minutes. Clearing the time for meditation actually allows me to be more productive and discerning with the rest of my life and I imagine if you give it a chance it will have a similarly transformative effect. You will be equally impressed with how much more time you have in your day.
K, well, I do yoga, is that meditating?
Nope, those are two separate things. That said, some meditation teachers also teach yoga and some yoga teachers will occasionally lead a meditation at the end of their yoga class.
What if I fall asleep?
Meditation is a way of becoming familiar with all of what’s going on with you. If you fall asleep you will at least notice that you are tired and that you should probably get more sleep. That’s good information for you to have!
I hate sitting on the floor with my legs crossed, it hurts my back. What can I do?
You can also sit in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. That said, a lot of the issues that come with sitting crosslegged go away with practice over time.
How do I not fall asleep?
I recommend simple stretches before you sit and meditate or having a cup of tea or glass of water.
How do I “wake up” from a meditation without ruining it?
You should take a few minutes to stretch and re-enter your day. Don’t immediately grab your cell phone and answer emails or texts.
Can you really, actually reap the benefits of meditating from doing three minutes on the subway/at the bank/while walking? Can you meditate while walking? While driving or sitting in traffic?
Over time, sure. But you need to have a strong foundation of regular meditation practice before you are able to do that sort of thing or you will get frustrated. It’s for this reason that I recommend allowing a lot of time for meditation in your home or at a studio before attempting these things.
I have read a lot of stuff touting the benefits of meditation, but what actually are the benefits of meditation? What can I look forward to?
Studies have shown that after a few weeks of consistent meditation there is increased gray matter in the hippocampus and more activity in the ACC. This translates into better memory, more focus and productivity and less stress. Other benefits include normalized sleep, boosting the immune system and feeling more energetic overall. Again — this stuff takes time to develop, so be patient!