I've been meditating for many years. As I noted in this blog post, I've always been a dabbler in meditation and spirituality. I meditate. I occasionally pray. I believe in a lot of spiritual stuff based on my own and other people's experiences. I believe that meditation is part of a complete breakfast, so to speak.
You don't need to be “spiritual” to meditate. You don't need to believe in any “higher power” at all. You can choose to do the sorts of meditations that connect you with angels, if you believe in that, or you can sit in silence. It doesn't have to be a new-agey thing.
Benefits of Meditation
There are many including better focus, better mood, less stress, improved ability to regulate your emotions (see this report from Stanford University's med school), improved immune system, decreased pain (see study here), relief from fibromyalgia (see reports here and here), and more. It can improve your work life, your relationships, your sex life and more.
You might see benefits immediately. Research shows that significant improvement in health happens within 8 weeks of daily practice.
How to Meditate & Where to Meditate
You don't need to follow any rituals, listen to any particular style of music or wear certain clothes. Be you. Do you.
You can meditate it anywhere, although I prefer to do it with privacy with few distractions. I used to meditate in my cubicle as soon as I arrived at work, but I was one of the first in and had a corner desk, so it was relatively private. You could meditate on public transit, while waiting for a bus or while stuck on the freeway during rush hour. You can sit cross-legged on the floor, on a cushion or not, or cross-legged or seated on the couch. You can sit upright in a chair. You can lie down. Because I can't resist, here's the Green Eggs & Ham version:
You CAN meditate on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a car, in a train, in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse, here and there and anywhere.
I enjoy meditating while camping, out in nature. A few years ago on my last day of a wellness retreat in St. Lucia I chose to do my own yoga and meditation outside on a deck under palm trees rather than join the group.
I have a favourite place at home (the living room doubles as “man cave” and my meditation room), with a favourite blanket that I sometimes cover myself with. It's red and fleecy. Red is my spirit colour. I don't know why, but I connect to it. Most often, I'm sitting on my couch sessions wearing my PJs. Other times I'm in bed. A couple of times I sat on the kitchen floor on the dog's bed because I was cooking breakfast at the same time and wanted to stay close to the stove. My dog often joins me on the couch, sometimes with her head in my lap. I posted this about a year ago, which shows just one of the ways I meditate:
A photo posted by Andrea Toole (@findinghealthwellness) on
Famous & successful people who meditate
This club includes Madonna, Katy Perry, Kristen Bell and Jerry Seinfeld (among other celebrities), along with famous business people such as Rupert Murdoch, Padmasree Warrior ( CTO, Cisco Systems), Bill Ford (Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company), Arianna Huffington and many others. Steve Jobs meditated. People say that meditation helps them be better business people and better at life.
One of my favourite meditation tools, of which I've been a user since 2015, has been Insight Timer, an app for iPhone and Android. It started as a timer but is now so much more. When I started with the app, there was a free version and a paid version and after maybe a month, I upgraded. Even though I could have used the timer on my phone, I preferred an app. Then they made it 100% free – the result of new company owners, I recently learned. Among the app's features that I like:
Stats – summaries, detailed charts, milestones. It sort of “gamifies” it, in that if you're competitive with yourself you can track your streaks and use that to motivate you.
The timer counts down by default, but you can make it count up. So, either do timed sessions (e.g. 20 minutes) or start the timer before you know how long you intend to meditate for. A newer feature is that when the timer goes off at the end of a session you can keep going and it will keep counting the “extra time”, which you can choose to log or not.
Guided meditations, which are relatively new. There are now over 3000 free guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses in the app, lead by over 900 meditation teachers, in various styles and multiple languages. I used to have go-to meditations on YouTube, but didn't like that YouTube only works with the phone is on. I have a few go-to meditations stored in Dropbox, which I use. I like that I have the option to meditate to a guided meditation in the app or not. There's a bookmarking feature that they're working on improving. The newest feature for guided meditation is playlists, which are meditations in categories generated by the app team. (No ability for users to create their own, yet.)
Other features include nearly 4000 groups, the ability see who's currently meditating worldwide and near you, and the ability to “friend” people. I have yet to find the “Find friends/”Invite friends” feature useful because the search function is limited. With “find” you can search by First name, name and location or email address to find existing users. For “Invite” it's email only. I'd like social media integration.
I've used other apps such as Calm, Headspace, Omvana and Mindroid and while they remain on my phone, I always go back to Insight Timer.
365 Days of Meditation
The CEO – or he refers to himself, “custodian” – of the app recently committed to 365 days of meditation in 2017 and invited users to join him. There are currently 38.5K people registered. Almost 40,000! I've never done 365 days of anything, except sleep and brush my teeth. I've come close with one game on my phone that I've been playing almost daily since February. According to the app, my longest meditation streak since May 2015 is 33 days. My current is 13 days, though I feel like it's cheated a bit because there was one day I didn't meditate, but falling asleep to a meditation after midnight counted for that day.
The playlist for the 365 days, which will have one new meditation added daily (Australia time, night before North America time) includes a 1-minute meditation that's part of a series. That particular series, for those who seek it out, is 20 days of meditation, starting with 1 minute and working up to 20. If you're a beginner, or are impatient, it's a good place to start. I generally meditate for anywhere 10-20 minutes, depending on what I feel I need. Some days 10 minutes feels too short, other days it feels like just enough. I don't judge myself if my mind wanders, I ask myself if my thoughts serve me and whether I need to follow their path. Sometimes I count breaths. One of the ways that guided meditation benefits me is that my mind is less likely to wander if I'm focusing on someone's guidance than it is if I'm sitting in complete silence.
If you have a half hour and want to hear more about Insight Timer and the 365 Days of Meditation, listen to this podcast in which Christopher Plowman, co-founder of the Insight Network and CEO of the Insight Timer phone app, share his vision for a kinder and calmer world where the whole world meditates every day. I heard it in the app itself (it's on the 365 Days Together playlist) and found it really interesting as a longtime user of the app.
Gabrielle Bernstein. Her website and her books. Her books often have supplemental information and meditations online. I recently finished her latest book, The Universe Has Your Back. I adore her because she defies the stereotypes of spirituality. She swears, wears makeup and heels. She talks about “losing her shit” and not always practicing what she preaches. That's my kind of girl. Human, vulnerable, accessible. It's easy to adopt someone's practices and listen to their guidance when you can related to them. So what if I don't like wearing heels? I appreciate authentic, no-bullshit people who do.
Spirit Voyage. They have a lot of 40 day Global Sadhanas, during which the same meditation is done daily for 40 days, on your own time. When you sign up you get daily emails. Read more about them here. I've done a few but haven't reached 40 days.
I like the Kundalini yoga style, which is essentially chanting with breathing. Kundalini Yoga breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras, and sometimes movement. The associated “songs”, the tunes with the chants, often pop into my head and become ear worms. Sometimes they pop into my head and calm me down. I enjoy the music, 'cause I like music, and like guided meditations, the mantras give me something to focus on even if I'm listening rather than saying them and even if I don't understand them. Some of my favourites are on Spotify playlists that I've put together – I have one list exclusively for meditations, and another list of “pick me ups” which includes songs that uplift me with a few Kundalini mantras. Another good resources to learn more is 3HO. I only recently found that site, and it's become one of my 2 main resources (along with Spirit Voyage).
So, I encourage you to start meditating, or keep meditating. Daily for a year, or a few times a week. Get the app and sign up for the 365 days, or get the app and don't. (It's a good app.)
Check out the 5-week Master Your Mind meditation course. I'm going to work through it.
I'll try to remember to check in on my progress from time-to-time.