“What do you do to relax?”
This is a question that Dr. Lipman always asks patients, and they often get a deer-in-the-headlights look on their face, and have some trouble coming up with an answer.
Because so many people don’t have a relaxation practice, we often encourage patients to meditate. According to Deepak Chopra, the health benefits of meditation are vast: “stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular function, improved immunity, and the ability to stay centered in the midst of all the turmoil that’s going on around you.” But the million dollar question is: If you want to learn how to meditate, where should you begin?
Here are some of our favorite resources for learning how to meditate, whether you have 10 minutes or 10 days to learn:
1. Watch this Video:
Meditation: 10 Tips on How to Do It and 5 Reasons Why You Should
This video by Brian Johnson of Philosophers Notes is super-practical. Watch this especially if you’re not clear why you should bother to meditate in the first place! He explains how meditation is like a magic pill that provides a relaxation response and “strength training for your brain.” The video quality is not great, so you might want to listen to this as an audio, but it’s really worth a listen.
2. Read this Article: Getting Started
A wonderful article from meditation teacher Norman Fischer about how to do a 2-week trial to start your meditation practice. He covers everything from how to keep from hitting snooze when the alarm goes off early for meditation in the morning, to where to sit and what to do if your spouse is not supportive.
3. Try this App: Headspace
I’m including Headspace because it’s available on iOS, Android and on the web. The Headspace approach is practical and non-religious, focusing on bringing the tangible benefits of meditation to people’s lives, outside of a spiritual or religious context.
4. Watch this Video: Mindfulness/ Awareness Meditation
This ten-minute video by Pema Chödrön, the best-selling author of When Things Fall Apart and Taking a Leap, offers simple instruction in the basic practice of meditation. She teaches to use the breath as the anchor for your attention in your meditation practice. I love how she teaches that sitting with your back straight allows you to have an open heart.
5. Read this Book: Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions
Matthieu Ricard is a molecular geneticist turned Buddhist monk, and his bestselling book Why Meditate? is a helpful guide that goes more into depth about the theories of meditation, the benefits, and how to actually meditate. The book comes with a 60-minute CD as well.
6. Take this Course: Vipassana
If you have the opportunity, a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat is a wonderful way to learn meditation. After months of trying to learn meditation, I did a 10-day course in India last year, and this deep dive into meditation boot camp was completely life-changing. Vipassana is a meditation course in the Buddhist tradition, but the teachings are non-sectarian. For the ten days you will be completely silent and not have access to phone, computer, email or any other distractions of modern life. The course is completely free, and is offered all over the world. Get information at www.dhamma.org.
A word of advice as you start your meditation journey: don’t be too hard on yourself about getting it “wrong.” In our busy over-stimulated lives, simply spending 20 minutes sitting still and paying attention to the breath is tremendously beneficial.
One more tip: there are a lot of great iPhone apps where you can download a meditation timer that will make a nice chime sound for you at the beginning and end of your session! The one I use is called “Meditation Timer Free.”
Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of wonderful resources of meditation that are available. Please share: do you have any great resources for learning how to meditate?