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How to Make Meditation a Part of Your Life
To find peace.
“Meditate Schmeditate,” my mother-in-law, Dora once said to her son, my husband, Mark, as he set off one summer day in Long Beach to find a quiet bench on the boardwalk to engage in his twice-daily meditation practice. From that day on, every time Mark sat down to meditate, he would say to me, “I’m going to go meditate-schmeditate,” and we’d both laugh about it.
Twenty minutes a day, twice a day for over thirty years. Rarely did Mark miss taking time to do his meditation practice. When he was a teacher in the New York City Public Schools, he would get up 45 minutes early to meditate, then shower, shave, get dressed, make his coffee and peanut butter sandwich (for the energy he needed in his stressful -very- hectic- job as a school principal) and then pack an apple, a few clementines and some almonds. He would then get into his car to drive to East New York, Brooklyn. In my eyes, Mark was a true enlightened warrior.
Mark trained at TM in Manhattan in the early 1970s. Once, when I asked him what meditation was to him, he said something like this: “It helps me focus. Meditation calms my mind. It helps me relieve stress. It helps me come up with solutions to problems. I get more done..”
I often noticed that he seemed happier and more relaxed when he finished his daily meditations. I admire how he stuck with it day in and day out.
When I asked him if meditating meant turning off his thoughts, he said, “No, the opposite, what it does is I just notice my thoughts and let them go while focusing on a mantra .” A mantra is a syllable or sound to keep your mind from wandering to making lists and looking forward to the busy day ahead.
Meditation has become a bit of a buzzword. In a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y, Ariana Huffington talked about the many CEOs who meditate, including most famously the late Steve Jobs.
MRI studies have shown that the brains of Tibetan Buddhist monks who meditate daily and for long periods of time have brains with increased gamma wave activity, which helps with many cognitive functions, including increased compassion, improved memory and test-taking abilities. Simply put, Gamma brain waves are what get you “into the zone”.
There are also health benefits. Science has shown that meditation can reduce stress, help lower cortisol, adrenaline production and in turn lower blood pressure.
In a recent New York Times article, The path meditation center in Manhattan is focused on networking for fashion and tech millennials through meditation. According to the article, many post-meditation appointments have been made and jobs found. In Los Angeles, “Drybar” style meditation centers are popping up.
If you ask me, meeting your true love or business partner is more promising through meditation than over cocktails at the latest trendy bar. At least you know the person is in the moment.
In addition, another article showed that meditation has the potential to help students increase their scores on major tests such as the SAT and ACT exams.
Looks like Mark was really on to something so many years ago. Meditation served him well throughout his life, working in some very complicated situations in the school system, and when he lost his battle with cancer, meditation helped him stay centered and not complain, even when I know he just wanted to scream.
It was because of Mark that I began my thirty year journey into yoga and meditation. As someone who is high energy, active and needs to move, I found that in order to meditate I had to do a little yoga or dance around the living room, go for a walk or just move in seated circles to relieve and release excess energy. Then I could sit and enjoy the silence. I am grateful to Mark for starting me on my yoga path. He used to say, “I have good instincts. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, which taught me a lot about people.” And I appreciate him sharing it with me.
Being a social person, my favorite way to meditate in a group with my fellow yoga practitioners is where the practice really unfolds for me.
But it is at my own home, it will be something else. To do the exercise is to commit to grace for a few minutes each day. Even for just 5 minutes to give my busy monkey mind a break. Productivity increases when I rest my mind and body.
For those who want to give meditation a whirl, there are many places to see. There are many different types of meditations to try on YouTube.com that you can practice in the comfort of your living room.
Do your best not to judge yourself. According to meditation teacher and American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfeld, it takes many lifetimes to master meditation, so why not just enjoy it? There is no right way to do it. Just sit and it will unfold.
The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center is a great place to get some free training and introductions to meditation, marc.ucla.edu and look for the link to free guided meditations. Or look on iTunes for both free and paid meditations.
There are also several APPS available to help you learn.
Although when I think about it, the whole concept is a bit of an oxymoron. Meditation app. A bit like the old “jumbo prawns”. The idea is to turn down the noise in your head. If you can do without checking text messages, putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, here are some apps you can try, some are free and some charge a fee:
Breathe2Relax helps you practice working with the breath,
Buddhify 2 short to long meditations and information,
Omvana has music, lectures, guided meditations and much more. Search your APP store to see what’s available. Read reviews try a few different types of meditation.
I have had great success being consistent with yoga nidra meditations I listen to on YouTube.com Google: yoga nidra and many variations will come up
Yoganidra has been one of the building blocks of my recovery after losing my beloved husband Mark to cancer. Grief can be overwhelming. Yoga nidra let me be okay.
One thing I know for sure, meditation is neither strange nor complicated. It can be as simple as finding a quiet place, closing our eyes and asking our mind to follow the breath. I tell myself, “breathe in, breathe out” until I don’t have to say it, I just follow it.
My best suggestion is to find a meditation center or yoga studio that offers meditation practice.
Some, like Yoga Nanda in Garden City, NY offer free community meditation each week.
Or just find your calming spot by simply doing what Mark has always done: put on a cozy hoodie and sit wherever you are.
Follow your breath and give your mind a break.
Notice your thoughts as they roll by and let them go.
Keep following the breath for 5 minutes or longer. Make a date with your peaceful self.
Go find your calming place, I bet you’ll be glad you did.
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